Were the wise men present at Jesus’ birth? The following explains the reasons why I believe the wise men were not present at the manager; in Bethlehem, on the night of Christ’s birth.
Matthew 2: Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem
Did the wise men leave the moment they saw the star or did they wait a bit; watching for a while, to make sure it was really the prophesied star?
Whether they pondered on it or not, they had to prepare for the long journey and following that they had the travel time from their country to Bethlehem.
The wise men couldn’t have travelled from a distant country in the East to Jerusalem all in one night or even in a number of nights. How do we know they were from a different country?
Matthew 2 : says – “and being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed to their OWN COUNTRY another way”.
As for the shepherds… Luke 2: “And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.”
The Shepherds were right there in Bethlehem and able to get to the manager right away.
REASON # 2 – Audience With King Herod.
With this delay, even if they had arrived in Israel on the day of Jesus’ birth, they wouldn’t have been present when the shepherds were there.
As we will see, King Herod keeps them for a time.
REASON # 3 – The wise men ask about the new king but King Herod (in the dark about these matters)
Matthew 2: “Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.”
Herod obviously had no prior knowledge of the prophecy telling of the “King of the Jews” born in his kingdom.
Herod was at a great disadvantage and most likely very embarrassed with the situation. He had to delay the Magi while he searched for answers from his chief priests and scribes.
REASON #4 – How long were the Magi kept with Herod while he searched for answers?
Matthew 2: – When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.
The scripture tells us that ALL were troubled in Jerusalem about what King Herod would do.
Therefore the wise men must have been in Herod’s presence at least long enough for the news to spread throughout Jerusalem.
Matthew 2:[4-5] And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet,
The Priests and Scribes found the scripture which prophesied the coming of the King of the Jews.
Micah 5:.  But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.  Therefore will he give them up, until the time that she which travaileth hath brought forth: then the remnant of his brethren shall return unto the children of Israel.  And he shall stand and feed in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God; and they shall abide: for now shall he be great unto the ends of the earth.  And this man shall be the peace, when the Assyrian shall come into our land: and when he shall tread in our palaces, then shall we raise against him seven shepherds, and eight principal men.
(Part of scripture has been quoted here in Matthew 2:6)
Matthew 2: “And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.”
REASON #5 – King Herod needed more information from the wise men.
After receiving information from his chief priests and scribes, he turns back to the Magi to fill in the gaps.
Matthew 2: “Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared.”
King Herod asks with a persistently constant effort (diligently) to know when the “Bethlehem” star first appeared to them, which would actually reveal the child’s age. He now gets exact information from the Magi of when they first saw the star and where the child was living.
Matthew 2: And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.
This information was not so he could bless the child, as he tells the wise men, but to kill the child.
From the scripture of Micah 5:2 and of the wise men, Herod now knows the approximate date of Christ’s birth and the area of his birth (Bethlehem)
Herod sends the Magi to find the “young child” (not the baby) in Bethlehem.
Reason #7 – The Star Reappears, Leading The Wise Men To Jesus
Matthew 2: “When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.”
Side note: Many people ask how the wise men followed the star in the “east” as they lived in the east and travelled west. In those days, Greece literally named the neighbouring land east of Greece, “East”. So they were not travelling in the direction “east” but to the place called “east”.
Matthew 2: When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.
Once outside the star now reappears. As Herod was not able to give them much help as to where the child was, they were overjoyed that the star reappears and they are able to follow it and find Jesus.
REASON #8 – Jesus In A House As A Young Child
Matthew 2:11 “And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh.”
This scripture tells us the star lead the Magi to a house not a manger.
The wise men went into the house and saw the young child. Jesus is not referred to as a babe. They bowed down to the young child.
The Magi saw Jesus and Mary but Joseph is not mentioned.
Whereas at Jesus’ birth:
Luke 2:12. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manager.
Luke 2:16. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph and the babe lying in a manager.
The shepherds saw the baby in the manager, wrapped in baby blankets. They visited Jesus, Joseph and Mary.
REASON #9 – Mary’s purification and Jesus’ presentation to the Lord
Leviticus 12:6. 6 “And when the days of her purifying are fulfilled, for a son, or for a daughter, she shall bring a lamb of the first year for a burnt offering, and a young pigeon, or a turtledove, for a sin offering, unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, unto the priest:”
Luke 2:24. “And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtle doves, or two young pigeons.”
Leviticus tells us a mother shall bring a lamb for a burnt offering AND a young pigeon or a turtle dove. Mary did not offer a Lamb – does that mean they were too poor? If the Magi had already visited Jesus, they would have had much more to offer as a sacrifice.
REASON #10 – Jesus assumed to be about 2 years old.
Matthew 2:13 “And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.”
Matthew 2:14 “When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt:”
Matthew 2:15 “And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son.”
Matthew 2:16 “Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men.”
God needed to protect Jesus, so he told Joseph to take the young child and flee, which they did.
Herod realized that the Wise Men were gone and hadn’t returned to tell him where the child was.
Sadly all of the boys 2 years and younger were killed by Herod’s order.
So my reasoning is that the wise men travelled from a long way, then stayed with Herod for a time. The baby was now a child found in a house not a manger.
Also when Mary went for her purification and Jesus’ presentation to God, she didn’t offer a lamb, so obviously the wise men had not been to worship Jesus at that point. Herod had all boy children 2 years and under killed hoping that one of them was the future king.
Father God in Heaven,
I am so happy to know that you and you alone are in control of all things.
When we break down scripture and examine it carefully, the whole story unfolds before us.
Over the years our perception of what happened the night of Christ’s birth may have been influenced a bit, by songs and nativity displays and the like.
What really matters? We see that you sent the lowly and the rich to be witnesses to the life of Jesus Christ.
And then you recorded it all in scripture that has survived centuries so that we can read, learn and believe in your Son, Jesus Christ.
These aren’t just people in a made-up story, but real people of flesh and blood, who had to endure many things to overcome the enemy of this world.
Thank you Lord for sending a part of yourself to earth so that we have the supreme opportunity of knowing you and your love, through the body of a man born of a virgin on this earth.
The GOOD NEWS is that Jesus completed His task on this earth and that through the name of a Jesus, we can find salvation and one day meet Him face-to-face.
Thank you Almighty God.
In the precious name of my Lord, Jesus Christ, I pray