The Three Wise Men visited Jesus and gave him three gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
That is usually how wise men are presented. However, there is much more to it than that.
The Wise Men or the Magi came from the east, which most likely would have been Persia. At this time, Persia was still a formidable power, but it was not as powerful as when we read about the empire in the Book of Daniel.
Persia had been defeated by Ancient Greece, and by the time of Jesus, the Greeks had been overtaken by the Romans.
That sets the stage for the Three Wise Men.
According to the Bible, the Three Wise Men followed the star of Bethlehem and led them to the Christ child. However, prior to meeting Jesus, they first arrived at Herod's palace to inquire about where Jesus may be found. Herod was aware of the prophecies that said a new king would be born and had already begun trying to snuff out Jesus by killing all the baby boys in a particular region.
The Magi were most likely not aware of this at this point. Otherwise, they would not have spoken with him.
They continued to follow the star, and it led them to Jesus. When they met Jesus, they gave him the three gifts and then praised him. After they were finished and slept, the Lord told them in a dream of Herod's intent. When they woke from their sleep, they went another route home.
The Three Wise Men are often spoken about during the Christmas Season, but we know very little about them. If they were from Persia, how did they know of the prophecy?
There is much to dig into when it comes to the Three Wise Men, but first, it is important to clarify the myths surrounding them.
Fact #1: There were probably more than Three Wise Men
We assume that there were Three Wise Men because there were three gifts, but the Bible never says there were three.
These men had to travel 800-900 miles across desert and through a foreign empire to arrive where Jesus was staying. It is quite possible that there were more than three that arrived.
They also would have had an entourage and would not have traveled alone. Those that came with them are not mentioned in the Bible.
Fact #2: Jesus was NOT a baby
Unlike popular scenes from the Nativity, the Wise Men were not there the night Jesus was born. They began their quest to find him after he was born.
Most believe Jesus would have been two-three years old at the time of their arrival.
Fact #3: They were Kings
The Bible never calls them kings, but rather wise men or the Magi. It is possible that they were royalty, and at the least, they were wealthy men who were well-educated in the stars.
The famous Christmas Carol is still fun to sing, but realize they were not Kings, and they were not from the Orient.
Fact #4: They Probably Were Influenced by Daniel
The first half of the book of Daniel details his life and what he went through. We know that Daniel was captured by Babylon when he was a young man, probably a teenager, and taken from his homeland to Babylon.
We also know that he won favor with King Nebuchadnezzar and served him and the Kings after him until Persia conquered Babylon.
We also know that Daniel again rose to Prominence and was well-respected and well-liked by King Darius.
The second half of the Book of Daniel speaks of many different prophecies. One foretells of Alexander the Great and of Jesus coming to the earth.
While there are many theories as to where the Three Wise Men came from, I would argue that it makes most sense that they came from Persia and were familiar with Daniel's writings since Daniel was also considered a wise man.
The Jews certainly knew of the Messiah and the prophecies that surrounded him. They lived in Persia for many years until Nehemiah was allowed to rebuild the walls. It is quite possible that the Jewish people would have spoken of Daniel's prophecy, among many other prophecies, to the Persians.
Regardless, there seems to be a connection, and it seems as if the Magi quickly recognized the star was different and connected to Jesus.
Fact #5 Tradition, Not The Bible Gives Them Names
The Bible never names any of the Magi who came to see Jesus. However, later Christian tradition assigns names to them. While it is interesting to look at the given names, it is important to understand that these were not their names.
- Caspar (Gaspar) - It is said he had brown hair and a brown beard. He wore a green cloak with a gold crown with green jewels on it. It is said he was the King of Sheba and brought Frankincense to Jesus.
- Melchoir - Tradition says he has long white hair and a beard and wears a gold cloak. He is believed to be the King of Arabia and was the Wise Man to gave Gold to Jesus.
- Balthazar - Tradition says he was the King of Egypt and was black-skinned with a black beard. He the Wiseman to give Jesus Myrrh.
As said earlier. The Bible never says that these men were kings, and it certainly does not suggest they came from different countries. This is a must tradition that was added much later.