As the ‘Christian’ world prepares to celebrate Christmas, and celebrates the supposed ‘star’ of Bethlehem reappearing in the heavens at this time, I would like to offer an alternative take on the whole subject. Mine is a very different understanding of the star of Bethlehem. I suspect that many of you have never even considered this way of looking at the story, but the clues have always been there, in the Scriptures. We just don’t pay attention as well as we should.
I wish to start by citing the following passage of Scripture:
Acts 2:5-12 New American Standard Bible5 Now there were Jews residing in Jerusalem, devout men from every nation under heaven. 6 And when this sound occurred, the crowd came together and they were bewildered, because each one of them was hearing them speak in his own [language. 7 They were amazed and astonished, saying, “Why, are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we each hear them in our own language to which we were born? 9 Parthians, Medes, and Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea, and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya around Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabs—we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty deeds of God.” 12 And they all continued in amazement and great perplexity, saying to one another, “What does this mean?”
Why did I cite this passage, highlight those nations and what does all of this have to do with the star of Bethlehem? Well, in order to answer those questions, I have to give you a short history lesson. Today, we like to think of the Northern Tribes of the House of Israel as being ‘lost.’ The problem with this is, the tribes were not lost; at least, not when Yeshua was borne, anyway. We know this because the Jewish historian, Josephus, who wrote around the turn of the Second Century, tells us exactly where the bulk of those tribes were residing at the time:
. . . the entire body of the people of Israel remained in that country [Media]; wherefore there are but two tribes [Judah and Benjamin] in Asia and Europe subject to the Romans, while the ten tribes are beyond Euphrates till now, and are an immense multitude, and not to be estimated by numbers. (Antiquities of the Jews, 11.5.2)
Not only did the people of Yeshua’s time know where the bulk of the House of Israel was located, they also knew that they had grown to such numbers as to be beyond counting (this is in fulfillment of YHWH’s promise to Abraham). But look closely at where Josephus said the House of Israel was located. It was ‘beyond the Euphrates.’ Well, at that time, this was where both the Scythians and the Parthians lived — both of which were nations primarily composed of people descendant from the House of Israel. Now, look back at the nations I highlighted from Acts 2:5-12. Do you see that the Parthians were named directly, and that other regions that were inhabited by the Scythians are also named? Look closer still and you will see that Acts 2 tells us these people were there to keep YHWH’s Feast and to worship YHWH. They were believers!
Now, a little more of our history lesson. Just a few decades before Messiah was borne, the Parthians had invaded Judea. They even set up their own king, and he was of the Parthinian royal house of Arsacid. This is important because the house of Arsacids can be linked directly to the House of David. As such, the house of Arsacid is eligible to reign over the House of Israel — and it did, throughout the entire existence of the Parthinian empire. In fact, many Scythian kings came from the same house of Arsacids (yet another fulfillment of prophecy).
There is one last thing we need to know before we continue. The Parthinians developed a rudimentary system of governing which would later become known as feudalism. As such, there was another house that had sway over the royal house of Arsacid. This second house mirrored what would become known as ‘the Lords’ in the feudal system. This second house was known as the house of Megistanes. These were the priests of Parthia, and they are believed to be of Levite lineage. Now we can return to the Scriptures and the story of Bethlehem. We start here:
Matthew 2:1 New American Standard Bible
The Visit of the Magi
The word we translate as ‘magi’ is the Greek word, ‘magos.’ It can mean everything found in the footnote above, but it also carries the idea of ‘magician,’ and much more importantly, of ‘priest.’ These magi were most likely members of the house of Megistanes and, if we were reading in the original language, with all the vowels removed, we would see that the words are nearly identical. In Hebrew, they would share the same root word and, in Hebrew, this means the ideas are all connected. So, what we have hidden here is an indication that the ‘wise men’ who came to visit Yeshua were of the priestly class of Parthia, which was the House of Israel. Stay with me, this gets better — I promise.
Now, let’s look at the whole of Matthew’s passage about the Magi and their visit to Yeshua:
The Visit of the Magi
2 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, [a]magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, 2 “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 And gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the [b]Messiah was to be born. 5 They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written [c]by [d]the prophet:
6 ‘And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah,
Are by no means least among the leaders of Judah;
For from you will come forth a Ruler
Who will shepherd My people Israel.’”
7 Then Herod secretly called for the magi and determined from them the exact [e]time the star appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the Child; and when you have found Him, report to me, so that I too may come and worship Him.” 9 After hearing the king, they went on their way; and behold, the star, which they had seen in the east, went on ahead of them until it came to a stop over the place where the Child was to be found. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11 And after they came into the house, they saw the Child with His mother Mary; and they fell down and [f]worshiped Him. Then they opened their treasures and presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 And after being warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, the magi left for their own country by another way.
[Note: I left the hyper-links in so you can check the expanded meaning of specific words in this passage.]
Sad as it may be — especially where such a beloved tale and tradition is involved — but here is where I part with the traditions of men. Why do I say this? Because I see that the Scriptures suggest we are not dealing with a star at all, but with an angel! Yes, you heard me correctly: the Scriptures suggest an angel, and not a star, is what guided the Magi. Here, let’s look closer, and we’ll do it together.
Matt 2:5 — The Magi declare that they know Yeshua has not only been born, but that He is to be King of the Jews. How would they know this unless they studied the Scriptures? Now, if they did study the Scriptures, then they would have already been expecting the Messiah to appear around this time in history (The ancients actually understood Daniel’s 70 weeks — but this is another discussion, for another time). If the Magi were of the Parthinian priesthood, then we know from Acts 2 that they not only belong to the House of Israel, but that many of them were still keeping TORAH. If they were keeping TORAH, it stands to reason they were also studying the Scriptures — so they could keep it correctly. That is why they were in Jerusalem at the time of Pentecost: to keep TORAH the way YHWH proscribed. This is precisely what the Scriptures say the Parthians were doing in Jerusalem at Pentecost: keeping the Feats and worshiping YHWH..
Matt 2:6 — This passage tells us that the Magi had seen Yeshua’s star, ‘in the East’ — the direction in which Parthia is located while standing in Jerusalem. From the whole of the Bethlehem story, we know that the Magi came about two years after Yeshua’s birth. This means the star may have appeared as much as two years before the Magi came to see Herod. By reason, it also follows that the star had continued to guide the Magi ever since it had first appeared. Now, look at the next verse:
Matt 2:7 — This verse tells us that Herod had not seen the star that the Magi had seen as he was unaware of it. It also means Herod’s priests had not seen the star, either — or Herod would have known about it. If the star of Bethlehem were a real star in the sky, how could the whole of Judea have missed it? Better yet, how could anyone in Jerusalem, only about 8 miles from Bethlehem, have missed such a star? And why wasn’t the star visible at that moment, when the Magi were visiting Herod? If it had been, the Magi would have had to do nothing more than take Herod outside and point to it. Now, look to the next verses:
Matt 2:9-10 These verses tell us that, upon leaving Herod’s presence, the Magi saw the star again! So, why didn’t Herod or his advisors see it? And look: the star comes to rest directly over the place where Yeshua was. If we were dealing with a star in the sky, everywhere we stood in the Holy Lands would appear as though we were standing directly under it. But none of this is what the Scriptures actually describe. Finally, we read this passage:
Matt 2:11 — This passage tells us the Magi worshiped Yeshua, the child! Only YHWH deserves worship. So, what does this tell us about the Magi? It tells us that they had more insight into Who Yeshua was than the priests living in Judea! Not only were they expecting the Messiah, but they also knew He would be YHWH made flesh! All of this is in the TANAKH, but one must not only know the Scriptures very well to see these things in the TANAKH, one must also be enlightened by the Spirit. Otherwise, it is impossible to see them in the Old Testament. However, if the Magi were the priests of the House of Israel, then we should expect them to both know the Scriptures as well as to be enlightened by the Spirit. After all, Yeshua told us He was sent, “But to the Lost Sheep of the house of Israel,” and the Parthians were the House of Israel!
There you have it: the star of Bethlehem was not a star at all, but an angel sent to guide the priests of the House of Israel to their Messiah!
When we think about all of this, none of it should be such a surprise to us. After all, angels are often referred to in Scripture as as stars (Job 38:7 comes to mind). Angels announced the birth of Messiah to the shepherds in the field. And the Angel of the Lord guided the Israelites through the wilderness. What’s more, it does not mean that there was not an astronomical event in the stars at the time of Messiah’s birth, because there was. But those signs were much more elaborate and involved than a simple star. It was literally a painting of the King being born etched into the night sky, and that is too elaborate to fit the simple description of ‘a star.’ Taken all together, the most obvious — and I believe best — conclusion is that there were both: signs in the heavens above, but also a guiding angel that only the Magi could see.
No, the notion of the star of Bethlehem being a guiding angel should be new to us. What should be new — and worrisome — is that so many of us have missed this likelihood for so long. Worse still is the sad fact that so many of us are currently rejoicing at the combination of Jupiter and Saturn on the winter solstice as a recreation of the star of Bethlehem. I am not as well versed on ancient astronomy (not astrology) as I should be or hope to become; nor am I familiar with the meanings behind each of the stars, planets and constellations in ancient understanding; but I do know enough to know that the aligning of Jupiter and Saturn on the winter solstice should carry more of an ominous feeling than an occasion to rejoice. This alignment strikes me more as a warning, and not a thing for YHWH’s people to celebrate. I could be wrong, but I don’t think I am — especially when we take the Jupiter-Saturn alignment in conjunction with all the other signs we have seen the last ten years or so. In fact, I strongly suspect I have missed a connection between the prophecies and this alignment — something big, and very important. I will certainly be studying this whole subject, and I strongly suggest all of those who call themselves by the Lord’s name do the same.