I REMEMBER FROM MY TEENAGE YEARS hearing a well-loved pastor talk about the “three kings from Orient are.”
Seminary is the reason I remember it.
That’s the first time I figured out that “Orient are” is not a place. It’s part of the lyrics of a song with a bad break in the poetry.
The song reads,
We three Kings of Orient are
bearing gifts, we traverse far.
I’m not a poet. I certainly know it.
But how about making things a bit clearer?
We three Kings from the far distant East
Walked long miles on goat cheese and yeast.
Still, that might pose other problems for the Christmas cantata.
But I think it would preach better.
The wise men are on my mind because I’m scheduled to lead Sunday’s Bible study on the topic of what the wise men had to say about the birth of Jesus.
The class is part of an Advent series on what different people had to say about the birth.
So I’m beginning to look at some of the research.
I generally start with the easy stuff, working my way up to the more industrial-strength academic resources.
I just looked at three short paragraphs I wrote about this topic in a book called Stephen M Miller’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary (page 511). And no, I did not think up that title. I resisted that title. Not hard enough.
LIKE PROPHETS AND PRIESTS, wise men were their own snowflake – a unique class of people recognized for their wisdom. They led tribes, settled court cases, taught school, and advised rulers.
Babylon’s King appointed the prophet Daniel “chief over all his wise men” (Daniel 2:48).
The most famous wise men of the Bible were the ones who came to Bethlehem to worship baby Jesus. The Bible doesn’t say how many there were. One tradition says three, perhaps because they brought three gifts: “gold, frankincense, and myrrh” (Matthew 2:11).
Another easy place to start is a YouTube video I did several years ago.
Here’s the link, in case you have to prep for a Bible study chat about the wise men and the star of Bethlehem. The video covers both of those topics.
Steve’s YouTube video about the Star of Bethlehem.
Wise men “Magi” were known to travel in big groups, certainly more than three! The Scriptures tell us that “Herod was scared and all Jerusalem with him.”
Steve, why don’t you print your entry on “Jerusalem” from your “Illustrated Bible Dictionary” – you did such a good job and this might shed some light on recent world events.
Stephen M. Miller
Thanks Wayne. I should have added something about the number of wise man. I appreciate you doing it for me. I’ll take a look at the Jerusalem suggestion. It sounds like a really good idea, and extremely timely.
Julie H Brown
i love your clips, and posts.