Q. I am having an issue with the Magi saying they had “seen his star in the East.” If they were indeed the Parthian priests descended from Daniel’s group, which I believe they were, they would have been east of Bethlehem when they encountered the star, meaning they should have seen “his star in the west” when looking back toward Bethlehem. What am I missing? Are they meaning to say that they were in the east when they saw the star in the west?
A. Matt. 2:2 reads, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.”
The confusion comes from the fact that the Greek word translated “east” in Matt. 2:2 actually means “rising”. It became associated with east because that’s where the sun rises. The Magi were literally saying they saw the star when it rose in the east, like the Sun. (No matter where you are in the world you will see the Sun rising in the east.) Then they followed it as it led them to Bethlehem. This is the main reason I have trouble believing that the Star of Bethlehem was a conjunction of planets or some other explainable astrological event.
The star they saw was unique. They were able to plot their course by its movement in the sky over a period of time that could have lasted for months. Its direction was so clear to them that it actually led them to Jerusalem, then waited in the sky while they conferred with King Herod, before taking them to the place in Bethlehem where the Lord was, where it stopped (Matt. 2:9).
This was much more than a rare conjunction of planets. I believe it was a supernatural phenomenon designed by God specifically to bring the Magi to the very house where the Christ child was living (Matt. 2:11) so they could bear witness to the fact that He was Israel’s promised Messiah King.