Who are the wise men mentioned in the Christmas Story?
The wise men associated with the birth of Jesus in Matthew’s gospel were officially called Magi. Some Bible scholars believe they came from Arabia, but the most common origin for these influential men was Assyria or Persia. From accounts in the book of Daniel, it’s known that they were an essential part of the Assyrian king’s royal court. These magi often prophesied, practiced divination, and interpreted dreams for the king. They devoted their attention to astronomy and natural sciences.
While some may think that the Magi visited Jesus the night of his birth, that may be inaccurate. The trip that took these Magi to see Jesus may have taken weeks to months to accomplish. These men probably traveled 500 – 800 miles to reach their destination.
So how did they know when Jesus’ birth would occur? Most likely, these wise men were familiar with the writings of Daniel. Daniel 9:24-27 includes a prophecy that gives the timeline for the birth of the Messiah. Also, they may have been aware of the prophecy of Balaam in Numbers 24:17. This prophecy mentions a “star coming out of Jacob.”
One last observation. The Bible doesn’t state the number of wise men that came. We assume three because of the three gifts given, but there may have been more Magi than that.