Why the Magi Came Two Years Late to Bethlehem

Published on by Vincent Ragay under
What’s wrong with this painting? (“Adoration of the Magi” by Rembrandt, 1632)

Herod the Great ruled Judea from 37 to 4 BC, his wicked reign serving as the bloody stage for the coming of the Promised Seed – Yahusha Masshiak. We all know the greatest story ever heard by children and adults as well. Yet there are several proven facts that have been hidden or twisted that we ought to know and understand.

The birth of the Son of Yah was a truly Universal – no, Heavenly – event, as the Creator Himself left His throne in its glorious estate to become a human like us. It was also a global event as wise men from the East “saw His star” and travelled to worship and offer gifts to the Infant King.

So, from the time those learned men, who had been waiting for the arrival of the Seed left the East (when the star appeared), a substantial period of time had passed when they finally saw the majestic Child. It must have been over a year or about 2 years. Several facts will bear this out.

When the Bible speaks of the East, it does not merely mean the direction to or from a place but, more often, the exact location of the place itself. Isaiah refers to the East as the “ends of the earth” or where the “coastlands of the sea” are found, referring to the group of islands east of India, China and the Malay Peninsula. (Isa. 24:14-16) Look for a people who love to “lift up their voice . . . (to) sing” and you will find what the prophet was referring to.

For certain, there were, as there are, wise men everywhere; but those wise men came from a specific place. The gifts they brought – gold and spices – by themselves alone already tell us the region where they lived. For it would be those same products from the colonies that will launch the Age of Navigation in the 15th to 16th century. Specifically, the Portuguese would colonize Malacca and the Spice Islands and, later on, the Spaniards would establish the Manila Galleon Trade to ferry gold and other precious goods to Mexico.

How sure are we that the Far East is where the magi travelled from?

Let us trace back the history of the gold in the Bible.  In Gen. 2:10-12, Moses describes the gold of Havilah as being “good”. The prophets would also write of Ophir gold as the gold chosen for the Temple which King Solomon built in Jerusalem. They are one and the same gold; for Havilah, Ophir, Sheba and Jobab were brothers who, along with their relative, Tarshish, inherited the land bequeathed by Noah to his eldest and most-blessed son, Shem. In fact, it was the Queen of Sheba herself who would gift King Solomon with 120 talents (about 4 tons) for the Temple, aside from the 420 talents (over 14 tons) she had sold to King Hiram who traded Ophir gold on behalf of Solomon. In I Kings 10:22, we are told that once every 3 years, Hiram’s fleet of ships and that of Solomon carried shipments of gold, silver, ivory, apes, peacocks and other goods from Tarshish.

In short, it took over a year or so to travel from Ophir or Tarshish (the East) to Jerusalem. The magi, who were guided by the star, thus, reached Jerusalem after that long journey westward. So, by the time they arrived, the Child Yahusha would have been back in His parents’ hometown in Nazareth, Galilee – already a grownup boy playing around the neighborhood. This explains why the magi had to go and inquire of Herod himself about the newborn King, because the star had ceased its appearance when they reached Jerusalem which was close to Bethlehem. For why did they not just proceed to Bethlehem and to the manger where He was born? Because He was no longer there.

Herod, in fact, asked the magi when they had first seen the star; and the king reckoned that from the time they saw it and failed to report back His location, almost 2 years had passed. Hence, Herod had all males aged 2 and below to be killed. Which also means, Herod’s final year as ruler, 4 BC, was not the exact time Yahusha was born but 2 years earlier, that is, 6 BC. Likewise, our common belief that shepherds worshipped the Child in the manger, along with the magi from the East, is not quite accurate.

The advisors of Herod did tell the Magi that Bethlehem was where the Seed was to be born. We know He was nowhere to be found in that town for when the Magi left the palace, the star “which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was”. (Matt. 2:9) Some say Joseph had relatives in Bethlehem; but, remember, they had been looking for an inn earlier on, meaning, they would have had returned to their hometown instead of having stayed in Bethlehem where they had no dwelling of their own. And there are compelling reasons why it was necessary for them to have done so.

Had the Child been in Bethlehem until the time the Magi arrived, He would not have escaped the attention of Herod and his men during the 2 years that He stayed in the town, especially when the Magi supposedly came to visit Him. Such an entourage of men carrying precious goods in a long caravan would have been an easy target for the king’s spies. But that did not happen. Yes, the Child was born there but left immediately after to live in another town – Yah knew His enemies would kill Him the moment He appeared on Earth. But who can outwit Yah?

Let us say, it took a few weeks or even months before the Magi finally met the Child; perhaps, almost 2 years had indeed passed, and, after that, they returned home by another route to avoid Herod’s men. They must have sailed back on another ship to Tarshish on the same route that the Queen of Sheba had taken a long time ago. The East and the land of Israel were tied both historically and culturally through the many years of reign under King David and King Solomon, almost 80 years straight. The Queen of Sheba herself was a wise leader who had subjected Solomon with difficult questions to prove his extraordinary wisdom. Once she was convinced, she offered 120 talents of gold – a gift offering for the Temple of Yah. Moreover, she brought home the wisdom of Solomon and the faith of the ancient fathers. The same wisdom remained treasured by the wise people of the East.

Almost a thousand years later, those wise men would make the same journey the Queen had taken with a similar but more glorious mission. How much gold did they offer to the Child King? The Queen had given 120 talents or 4 tons for the Temple that Solomon had built! Those men were offering gold and gifts to the Son of Yah – Immanuel Himself on Earth – in the flesh. Did they give only a couple of gold bars and some boxes of spices? Perhaps, to Herod they did, as it was a common practice to give tribute to dignitaries. But certainly not to the Promised Seed Whose star had beckoned them to come and worship at His feet. The Promised Seed was not only King at His birth; He was much wealthier and more glorious than Solomon, as He Himself claimed later on. (Matt. 12:42)

Where did Joseph and Mary hide their enormous gift of gold worthy of a true King? The volume alone also explains why they could not have received the same in Bethlehem where they had no house. 30 years prior to His ministry, Yahusha needed to prepare for His great mission while supporting Himself and His family, as well as others who needed help among the destitute in Galilee. The Temple’s glory came from Yah’s Presence on behalf of the people; but it had departed a long time ago when wicked idolaters took over the Temple. Yah’s Presence was now real and real-time through Immanuel. But His glory would only manifest 30 years later. Meantime, He worked and shared His bounty to prepare the nation for His majestic appearing. Any King would need the logistics to launch His glorious Kingdom to come. Yahusha Masshiak needed no less material and human support for His mission that would involve hundreds of people.

Illustrations of excavated underground pits in Nazareth (Check site link below)

Nazareth was the best place for the Promised Seed to live in. From archeological diggings, the out-of-the-way, tiny, village was literally a bypassed place populated by a few families who carved out underground caves in the chalk bedrock which they used for hiding goods and rebels during turbulent years. (Visit this site.) It also produced large vats and jars used for storing water for purification rites, similar to the ones used in Cana for the first miracle Yahusha performed at a wedding. It seems that many of those folks built multi-leveled underground networks under their houses primarily for hiding goods in order to avoid taxation. Could Joseph and May have hidden their gold in the same manner; thus, preserving the wealth they needed to support the expected difficult work the Child was meant to accomplish? The couple eventually raised a big family and must have trained the whole brood to be ready for the eventual time of His revelation. In fact, it is said that when the couple fled to Egypt right after the Magi had left, they spent another 2 years as exiles in that foreign land. Without any reasonable means to start a new life in a strange land, they would have had a more difficult time surviving; but the Magi had supplied the King’s need by Yah’s wisdom and guidance. Just as Joseph had been blessed in Egypt centuries before to save his father Jacob and his family during the great famine.

The gold of Ophir that Yah has prepared from the beginning would play a major role not just in the history of Yah’s redemption of the world but also in the history of world exploration and exploitation to this very day. The reason the Magi came late to Bethlehem was because that gold would have been lost and wasted if it had fallen into the hands of a wicked king. So far, in fact, the gold of the world has mostly been held by the hands of wicked rulers for millennia and millennia. The gold in the Temple served ceremonial and religious purposes in the communal worship of the Israelite nation. The cherubim carved out and hammered with gold over the Mercy Seat of the Ark of the Covenant gave the people a vision of Yah’s glory and power. We can even assume that the gold Solomon used for those cherubim had been the gifts from the Queen of Sheba herself – a freewill offering and not bought with any material goods. But why gold of Ophir?

Because that is where Adam and Eve had dwelt after they had been driven from the Garden. The same place where Noah had dwelt in and which he bequeathed to Shem. The wise men had come bearing gold of Ophir and spices, this time not for any ceremonial use but for practical and significant purposes. Those who claim the frankincense and myrrh were for Yahusha’s burial use must have been thinking again of jars or vials of those precious spices and not vats and vats of the same. It was not for the child alone but for a whole family and community, if not a whole nation. Leaders who keep thinking of the Savior’s death even after He had resurrected fail to see the significance that whether He lived or died, He came to give life and abundance. And you cannot give goodness if you have nothing good and substantial to offer. He lived among the poor but it did not mean He was destitute.

People today are understandably often allergic or ambivalent with regard to talks about gold or wealth. And they look at it as inherently evil and those who have it as being greedy, ambitious or wicked. Often, they think anyone who has gold is a thief. Remember, Yah owns the gold and gives it to whom He pleases. We now know those who have been truly greedy and stole the gold of Ophir. They still have to own up to their evil deeds and return the gold to their rightful owners.

But Yah has set a time for the restitution of all things in the end. Just as He had received gold offering from the Queen of Sheba and from the Magi of Ophir, He will reclaim all the gold He had ever owned in order to pave the streets of Heavenly Jerusalem with “pure gold, like transparent glass”. That is, after all things will have been burned and tested in fervent heat, so that only the pure – gold or spirit – will remain in His glorious Temple in the Eternal City, New Jerusalem on high.