They paid homage
To the child.
They worshiped him.
Opening their treasures,
They offered him gifts
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.
“Having been warned
In a dream
Not to return
For their own country
By another road.”
καὶ χρηματισθέντες κατ’ ὄναρ μὴ ἀνακάμψαι πρὸς Ἡρῴδην, δι’ ἄλλης ὁδοῦ ἀνεχώρησαν εἰς τὴν χώραν αὐτῶν.
The magi were warned (χρηματισθέντες) not to return to Herod (μὴ ἀνακάμψαι πρὸς Ἡρῴδην) in some sort of divine dream (κατ’ ὄναρ). This led them to withdraw from this scene and return to their own country (ἀνεχώρησαν εἰς τὴν χώραν αὐτῶν), wherever that may be. They were not going to stop to see King Herod, as he had asked them to do. Thus, they went home using another road (δι’ ἄλλης ὁδοῦ), avoiding Jerusalem. So, ends the saga of these worshipping magi, magicians, wise men, or kings. Clearly, they symbolize the outreach of Jesus to other than Jewish people, but beyond that, it is difficult to say more. The idea of 3 kings does not come from the text itself. It can only be implied from the 3 gifts that were presented, but from nothing else.
“Daniel answered the king.
‘No wise men,
To the king
That the king
Daniel responded to the king that no wise men, enchanters, magicians, or diviners could show the king the answer to the mystery that the king was asking. In other words, there was no human answer. The Chaldean wise men were correct that it was humanly impossible to answer this question, no matter what powers or skills a human had.
“The king spoke
Among them all,
No one was found
To compare with
They were stationed
In the king’s court.
In every matter
What the king inquired of them,
He found them
Ten times better
Than all the magicians,
All the enchanters
In his whole kingdom.
Daniel continued there
Until the first year
Of King Cyrus.”
The Babylonian king spoke with all his new young court people. These 4 young Israelite royal students, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were very successful, since no one could compare to them. Thus, they were stationed in the king’s court. In anything about wisdom and understanding, these 4 court attendants were 10 times better than the more traditional Babylonian court magicians and enchanters. These 4 young men became the favorites of King Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel, in fact, stayed the whole time in the royal court until King Cyrus of Persia took over around 538 BCE. Thus, Daniel would have spent pretty much his entire life in the Babylonian royal court, about 70 years.
“Stand fast in your enchantments!
Stand fast in your many sorceries!
You have labored from your youth
With these actions.
Perhaps you may be able to succeed.
Perhaps you may inspire terror.
You are wearied
With your many consultations.
Let those who study the heavens
Let them save you!
Let those who gaze at the stars
Predict what shall befall you!
Let those who gaze at each new moon
Predict what shall befall you!”
Yahweh taunted Babylon by saying that they should rely on their sorcerers, their enchanters, their astrologists, and magicians. They had followed them since they were young. Maybe they will succeed. Maybe they will scare people. However, they are weary from all their consultations. Let those who study the heavens stand up and save you. Can those who gaze at the stars and the new moon predict what is going to happen to you? This is a direct challenge to the people of Babylon.
“You shall be holy to me. I Yahweh am holy. I have separated you from the other peoples to be mine. A man or a woman who is a medium or a wizard shall be put to death. They shall be stoned to death. Their blood is upon them.”
In case there is any doubt, you are holy because Yahweh is holy. He has separated you from the other peoples to be his. Any other medium or wizard shall be stoned to death. The Israelites are the chosen ones and must remain separate and holy with no one other deity except Yahweh. Any deviation by any kind of magicians shall not be tolerated.
“Yahweh spoke to Moses. Say further to the people of Israel, ‘Any of the people of Israel, or of the aliens who reside in Israel, who give any of their children to Molech shall be put to death. The people of the land shall stone them to death. I myself will set my face against then, and will cut them off from among the people, because they have given of their children to Molech, defiling my sanctuary and profaning my holy name. If the people of the land should ever close their eyes to them, when they give of their children to Molech, and do not put them to death, I, myself will set my face against them and against their family. I will cut them off from among their people, them and all who follow them in prostituting themselves to Molech.”
Once again, Yahweh spoke to Moses. This time, he is explicit against sacrificing children to Molech, as mentioned in chapter 18. Molech must have been a popular god because the punishment for sacrificing children to him is death. Stone them to death or Yahweh will put them to death. Molech appears 16 times in the biblical writings as the god of the Ammonites. He is the equivalent to the Moabite god Chemosh. The normal image was some kind of bronze calf with fire in its mouth. Human sacrifices were normal offerings.
“If any turn to mediums and wizards, prostituting themselves to them, I will set my face against them. I will cut them off from among the people. Consecrate yourselves therefore. Be holy. I am Yahweh, your God.”
There is a general admonition against magicians, but there is no death penalty just ostracization, cut off from the people. The cry is simple. Be holy because Yahweh is your God.