Many theories abound concerning the star of Bethlehem. Was it a complicated alignment of planets or could the answer be something much simpler ?
Matt. 2:1-2 says
“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 Magi came to Jerusalem because they were looking for the king of the Jews – because a special star appeared – a sign, and Jerusalem was the logical place to go. The Jews in Babylon (the East) would have been expecting the birth of their King at that time, from the Daniel 9 prophecy (see 70 Weeks Prophecy). Nothing is said about the Magi following a star to Jerusalem – just going there in search of the King of the Jews. When they arrived at Jerusalem they were told to go to Bethlehem – it’s while they’re on their way that they encounter the star again –
“After they had heard the king, they went on their way. And the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.” Matt. 2:9-10
It sounds as if the Magi hadn’t seen the star since they were in the east, but now it leads them towards Bethlehem. This is a star that behaves very oddly. How can a star lead people then stop over a specific person? Why isn’t a special star recorded in the Luke version which talks of the shepherds in the field ?
“And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:8-12
The sign for the shepherds isn’t a rising star – it is finding the king of the world in a simple animal manager, a sign amazing for its lowliness.
There’s no star in the Luke passage – but there is a bright light in verse 9
“The glory of the Lord shone around them“
This was God’s special glory that lit up the sky and surrounded the shepherds. It is very likely the light the watchers in the East saw on that special night which prompted their long journey. (Perhaps they were in a select group who saw the light as Paul saw a light in Acts 9 but his companions only heard a sound). Perhaps it was even the shepherds who had experienced that glory who met the Magi on their journey to Bethlehem and took them to the place where Jesus was.
Daniel 5:7 tells us that ‘the Magi’ were among the wise of Babylon –
The king summoned the magi, Chaldeans and astrologers. Then he said to these wise men of Babylon
God gives many signs but sometimes only those looking for them ‘see’ them –
‘None of the wicked will understand, but the wise will understand.’ Daniel 12:10
May God’s glory shine around all those waiting and watching for the return of His Son
“The wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness will shine like the stars forever and ever.” Daniel 12:3
STARS AS SIGNS
A star was the sign for those in the East watching for the birth of Jesus. There are also signs in the stars for those watching for Jesus 2nd coming – See Signs in the Sun, Moon & Stars – For the signs of Jesus’ 2nd coming
See also: The Magi – Who Were They?