The Magi arrive (Mt 2:1-2:1)

“Magi

From the East

Came to Jerusalem.”

 

ἰδοὺ μάγοι ἀπὸ ἀνατολῶν παρεγένοντο εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα

 

Now we have some magi (μάγοι) arrive (παρεγένοντο) from an eastern area (ἀπὸ ἀνατολῶν) into Jerusalem (εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα), the capital, where Herod would have been living.  Who were these wise guys or magi?  The word “μάγοι” appears in both the Old and New Testament.  Ordinarily this word is translated as a magician or sorcerer in the sense of illusionist or fortune-teller, except for here in the Gospel of Matthew.  Magi originally were the followers of the Persian Zoroastrianism or Zoroaster.  These priests paid particular attention to the stars and gained an international reputation for astrology, which was regarded as a science.  Their religious practices and use of astrology caused derivatives of the term magi to be applied to the occult in general.  Obviously, this led to the later English term magic or magicians.  These magi also had an interest in astrology and other esoteric studies.  However, the more common use of magi was to describe magicians, or practitioners of magic.  Thus, the magicians have come to town.  These magi have been popularly referred to as wise men or kings, but there is nothing in this account that implies that they were rulers of any kind.  This story of the magi only appears in Matthew and not in the Luke infancy story.

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Like the grasshopper locusts (Nah 3:15-3:17)

“There the fire

Will devour you.

The sword

Will cut you off.

It will devour you

Like the locusts.

Multiply yourselves

Like the locusts!

Multiply yourselves

Like the grasshoppers!

You increased

Your merchants

More than the stars

Of the heavens.

The locust sheds its skin.

Then it flies away.

Your guards are

Like grasshoppers.

Your scribes are

Like swarms of locusts,

Settling on the fences,

On a day of cold,

When the sun rises,

They fly away.

No one knows

Where they have gone.”

A fire would destroy Nineveh, while the sword would chase people away.  The city would be decimated, as if a swarm of locusts had come through there.  They would have to multiply themselves like grasshoppers or locusts, as their merchants had done in the past.  These commercial envoys of Nineveh were as numerous as the stars.  Just as the locust sheds its skin, so that it can fly away, the guards at Nineveh would be like grasshoppers, hip hopping away.  Their scribes were like swarms of locusts sitting on a fence on a cold day.  However, when the sun came up the next day, these scribes would fly off, where no one would know where they went.  As this was going to happen to Nineveh, no one would know where in the world they went.

The future resurrection (Dan 12:2-12:3)

“Many of those

Who sleep

In the dust

Of the earth

Shall awake.

Some shall awake

To everlasting life.

Some shall awake

To shame,

To everlasting contempt.

Those who are wise

Shall shine

Like the brightness

Of the sky.

Those who lead many

To righteousness,

Shall shine

Like the stars

Forever and ever.”

Here is the first explicit mention of an afterlife resurrection in the Biblical writings.  Once again, Gabriel was explaining to Daniel what the end times would be like.  Notice that not all people would raise from the dead, only many.  Some will awake to an everlasting life, while others will awaken to shame and everlasting contempt.  The wise ones and the righteous ones would shine like the brightness of the sky and the stars, forever and ever.  Perhaps, this is an indication of a glorified shinny body.

The blessings of the heavenly bodies (Dan 3:40-3:41)

“Bless the Lord!

Sun!

Moon!

Sing praise to him!

Highly exalt him forever!   

Bless the Lord!

Stars of heaven!

Sing praise to him!

Highly exalt him forever!”

Just like the heavenly beings with God, so too the sun, the moon, and the stars of heaven were to sing praise to God and highly exalt him forever.

No hope for the sorcerers of Babylon (Isa 47:12-47:13)

“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

Stand up!

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.

The stars (Sir 43:9-43:10)

“The glory

Of the stars

Is the beauty

Of heaven.

There are

A gleaming array,

In the heights

Of the Lord.

On the orders

Of the Holy One,

They stand

As ordered.

They never relax

In their watches.”

Sirach indicates that the stars show the glory of the heavens. They glow in the heights as ordered by the Lord. They stand there fixed by the Holy One as they never relax. Once again, we see a static view of the universe with everything in their fixed place according to God.