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THE WISE MEN FROM THE EAST.
MATTHEW II. 1, 2.
NOW WHEN JESUS WAS BORN IN BETHLEHEM, IN THE DAYS OF HEROD THE KING, BEHOLD, THERE CAME WISE MEN FROM THE EAST TO JERUSALEM, 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.
OVER those mountains and wastes divided by the Tigris and Euphrates, a caravan shaped its way toward Jerusalem.
Departing from Persia, (according to the most approved opinion,) we see it winding its way over and around the steep, rough places of Kûrdistan, penetrating the fertile Assyrian plain, toiling through the parched places of Mesopotamia, and the deserts of Syria. It was a wearisome journey. Ezra, with a large company, and therefore travelling at a slow rate, was four months on his way from Persia to Jerusalem; so that probably not far from three months were occupied by this caravan in a journey of about fifteen hundred miles.
It was a company of Magi. They were the learned class among the people of the east, employed chiefly with the study of religion, medicine, and astronomy, including the superstitious observance and worship of the heavenly bodies, to which were assigned special influences over the destinies of men. The evening sky was to these Magi their book of revelation. Each orb and constellation had a certain character and certain influences ascribed to it; and in advising kings, in going forth with them to battle, and in directing the movements of armies, the Magi noted carefully what constellations and planets were in the ascendant. The nearness of one of the planets to the earth at the birth of a royal personage was used to foretell his character, and that of his reign.
For some time previous to the Saviour's birth, there was a wide-spread expectation among the nations, that a king was soon to be born who would rule the whole world. By means of the captivity of the Jews, their expectation of the Messiah, founded on the prophecies of their sacred books, was, of course, widely known; and these prophecies represented that Judea would be his birthplace, that he would be a benevolent king, bringing abundance of peace to the whole human race, the author of a golden age, unparalleled blessings from Heaven attending his reign, so that he became, long before his birth,