Summary: The Gifts the Wise Men brought were a symbol of Jesus’ Life - He would be our King, High Priest, and would die for the payment of our sins.
Herod was king of Jerusalem when Jesus was born in Bethlehem (means “House of Bread.”) Bethlehem, also known as Ephrath, was about 5 miles south of Jerusalem, and when wise men came to Herod asking where the REAL King of the Jews was, Herod got pretty jealous and tense, not to mention angry. (Think of how you would feel if you were the current king and another one was born to replace you. Herod was on an egotistical “power trip” here.)
The Wise Men came to Herod wondering where the King was born so that they could worship Him. After a meeting with scribes and priests, an Old Testament prophecy was remembered – He would be born in Bethlehem of Judaea (Judea).
“And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, 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.” (2:5-6)
Herod told the Wise Men to come back to him after they found the Child so that he could “worship Him also,” yet an angel of the Lord revealed his true motives to the wise men in a warning telling them not to return to Herod.
Herod had it in his heart to kill the young Child, and after angered by the Wise Men not returning, he commanded that all children two years and younger in his kingdom be killed. This slaughter fulfilled a prophecy, too, and Matthew does not fail to mention that!
“Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.” (2:17-18)
So….is this REALLY accounted for in Jeremiah? You can bet so!
Jeremiah 31:15 – “Thus saith the LORD; A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, and bitter weeping; Rahel weeping for her children refused to be comforted for her children, because they were not.”
Jesus was not in the region when Herod killed all the babies. An angel of the Lord told Joseph to take Mary and Jesus to Egypt. This fulfilled another prophecy (“Out of Egypt I will call my son” from 2:15), and they remained in Egypt until Herod died and an angel of the Lord told them they could return to Israel, although Archelaus (Herod’s son) was in command, so they returned to Nazareth (which was in Northern Israel), which was not under Archelaus’ control.
Being ‘from’ Nazareth was another prophecy fulfilled – “He shall be called a Nazarene” (from 2:23).
16 These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him:
17 A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood,
18 An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief,
19 A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.
In verse 16, that does not mean that the Lord hates only 6 things, but 7 are an abomination. That is a structure common in the Old Testament similar to English, “Not just six, but SEVEN…” So hate is not placed below abomination here. Just looking at the first three:
A proud look: Herod was ruler, and he didn’t want anyone else ‘stealing’ it from him.
A lying tongue: Telling the Wise Men that he would come and worship the Child when he really wanted to kill him.
Hands that shed innocent blood: Killing all the children under the age of two in his kingdom.
This was not a God-pleasing kingdom! Herod’s plan to kill Jesus did not succeed, either. I guess Herod didn’t consider that Jesus would be given an Everlasting Kingdom!
“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. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.” (2:9-10)
This star in the east was most likely not just your average star. God was basically pointing the Wise Men to the location of Jesus’ birth. They were very happy, to say the least, when they saw Jesus, too!
“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.” (2:11)
Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh were pretty fancy gifts! Not to mention, these gifts were symbolic of Jesus’ Life.
Gold – a Royal gift, very expensive. Jesus would be our King, and King of kings
Frankincense – Often used in Old Testament sacrifices in the Temple in perfume offerings to the Lord. Jesus would be our High Priest and also our perfect sacrifice, the proper atonement for our sins.