The Epiphany (Mt 2:11-2:11)

“The Magi

Knelt down.

They paid homage

To the child.

They worshiped him.

Then,

Opening their treasures,

They offered him gifts

Of gold,

Of frankincense,

Of myrrh.”

 

καὶ πεσόντες προσεκύνησαν αὐτῷ, καὶ ἀνοίξαντες τοὺς θησαυροὺς αὐτῶν προσήνεγκαν αὐτῷ δῶρα, χρυσὸν καὶ λίβανον καὶ σμύρναν

 

This is the classic scene of the Epiphany of Jesus, with the magi, the 3 kings, the wise men adoring and worshiping the new born infant Jesus.  The magi entered the house.  They knelt down and worshipped the new child (πεσόντες προσεκύνησαν αὐτῷ).  Then they opened their treasures (ἀνοίξαντες τοὺς θησαυροὺς αὐτῶν).  They offered him gifts (προσήνεγκαν αὐτῷ δῶρα) of gold (χρυσὸν), frankincense (λίβανον), and myrrh (σμύρναν).  These were the same traditional gifts mentioned in Isaiah, chapter 60:6, gold and frankincense, an expensive spice.  Myrrh was a perfume.  So too, Epiphany, ἐπιφάνεια, means manifestation or appearance.  In classical Greek, it was a manifestation of a deity to a worshiper.  Thus, Jesus manifests himself to these worshipping magi.  The earliest references to the Christian feast of Epiphany come from the 4th century CE.  In the Latin-speaking Western Christianity, this holiday emphasized the visit of the magi, who represented the non-Jewish people of the world.  Thus, this child Jesus was considered a revelation to the gentiles.  In the middle ages, these biblical magi or magicians became the 3 kings, as a whole story developed around them.  Balthasar was the youngest one, bearing frankincense that symbolized the divinity of Jesus, representing Africa.  Caspar was middle-aged one bearing gold that symbolized the royalty of Jesus, representing Asia.  Melchior the oldest one, bearing myrrh symbolized the passion of Jesus, representing Europe.  For many years, and still in some non-English speaking countries today, Epiphany was and is a bigger feast day than Christmas, celebrating the birth of Jesus and his revelation to the world.

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The whole world (Jer 25:26-25:26)

“I went to

All the kings of the north,

Far and near,

One after another,

All the kingdoms of the world

That are on the face of the earth.”

Having mentioned all the known areas around Israel, Jeremiah now continues his world wide tour by actually going to all the kings to the north, far and near. He would go one after the other to all the kingdoms on the face of the earth.   Did he go to China or Asia? Did he go to southern Africa? Did he go to northern Europe? We are pretty certain that he did not go to North and South America or the Pacific islands, including Australia. The view of Jeremiah and his contemporaries was that the flat world was limited to what they knew.

Judas Maccabeus prays for success against Timothy (2 Macc 10:24-10:26)

“Timothy, who had been defeated by the Jews before, gathered a tremendous force of mercenaries. He collected the cavalry from Asia in no small number. He came on, intending to take Judea by storm. As he drew near, Judas Maccabeus and his men sprinkled dust on their heads. They girded their loins with sackcloth, in supplication to God. Falling upon the steps before the altar, they implored God to be gracious to them. They wanted him to be an enemy to their enemies and an adversary to their adversaries, as the law declares.”

Timothy, the head of the Ammonites, had been defeated before in chapter 8 of this work and in 1 Maccabees, chapter 5. This time he had a large cavalry from Asia and a tremendous mercenary force. However, Judas Maccabeus and his troops put dust on their heads and sackcloth on their loins. They prayed to God before his altar in Jerusalem. They asked God to be gracious to them. He wanted God to be the enemy of his enemies and the adversary of his adversaries. This he proclaimed what the law said. God was with his people and against the others. This is the great cry of all wars. “God is on our side.”

The good old days (2 Macc 3:1-3:3)

“While the holy city was inhabited in unbroken peace, the laws were strictly observed. This was due to the piety of the high priest Onias and his hatred of wickedness. It came about that the kings themselves honored the place and glorified the temple with the finest presents. Even King Seleucus of Asia defrayed from his own revenues all the expenses connected with the service of the sacrifices.”

This author reminds us of the good old days when things were peaceful in Jerusalem. The Mosaic laws were strictly observed because the good pious high priest, Onias III was in charge from 199-175 BCE. He hated wickedness. In fact, the Seleucid dynasty of kings honored this Second Jerusalem Temple with many presents, especially the Asian King Seleucus IV (186-175 BCE). Everything was wonderful because this king sent money to defray the expenses of the Temple in Jerusalem. 175 BCE seems to be the turning point here. Before that, everyone was happy.

Trypho becomes king of Asia (1 Macc 13:31-13:32)

“Trypho dealt treacherously with the young king Antiochus. He killed him. He became king in his place. He put on the crown of Asia. He brought great calamity on the land.”

About 142 BCE, Trypho killed Antiochus VI, who would have been only about 7 years old and had ruled from 145 BCE, when he was about 4 years old. Obviously, Trypho had been doing everything, as indicated in the previous chapter. He just wanted to get rid of the young child. He put the crown of Asia on his head. Thus bad things were going to happen to him since obviously he could not claim any royal blood in his family.

Trypho wants to become king (1 Macc 12:39-12:40)

“Then Trypho attempted to become king in Asia. He put on the crown. He raised his hand against King Antiochus. He feared that Jonathan might not permit him to do so, but might make war on him. Thus he kept seeking to seize and kill him. He marched out and came to Beth-shan.”

Trypho wanted to become king of Asia. In fact he put on the crown after getting rid of the young King Antiochus VI. However, Trypho was afraid that Jonathan would not permit him to do this. Thus Trypho was continually trying to seize and kill Jonathan. He went out to Beth-shan, the northern territory near the Sea of Galilee.

King Ptolemy VI defeats King Alexander I (1 Macc 11:13-11:19)

“Then King Ptolemy entered Antioch. He put on the crown of Asia. Thus he put two crowns upon his head, the crown of Egypt and that of Asia. Now King Alexander was in Cilicia at that time, because the people of that region were in revolt. When King Alexander heard of it, he came against him in battle. King Ptolemy marched out and met him with a strong force. He put him to flight. King Alexander fled into Arabia to find protection there. King Ptolemy was exalted. Zabdiel the Arab cut off the head of Alexander and sent it to King Ptolemy. However, King Ptolemy died three days later. His troops in the strongholds were killed by the inhabitants of the strongholds.   Thus Demetrius became king in the one hundred sixty-seventh year.”

The Egyptian King Ptolemy VI entered Antioch and put on the crown as the King of Asia. Thus he had 2 crowns as king of both Asia and Egypt. King Alexander was in Cilicia, which is Turkey or Asia Minor, putting down a revolt when this happened. He returned to battle his father-in-law who had taken his wife and crown away from him. However, King Ptolemy put King Alexander I to flight where he fled to Arabia. There the Arab Zabdiel cut off his head and sent it back to King Ptolemy VI. Everything was going good for the Egyptian king but then he died 3 days later. In a strange twist of fate, King Demetrius II became the king of Asia and Egypt in 145 BCE. He was the son of King Demetrius I, who had been in exile in Crete after the death of his father 5 years earlier. Thus he was a rather young man.