Matthew 2:2

ESV saying, "Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him."
NIV and asked, "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him."
NASB Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.'
CSB saying, "Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star at its rising and have come to worship him."
NLT Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.'
KJV 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.
NKJV saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.”

What does Matthew 2:2 mean?

In the previous verse, Matthew identified the place and timing of Jesus' birth. He was born in Bethlehem, not far from Jerusalem. He was born during the reign of Herod the Great, king of conquered Israel, installed under the authority of the occupying Romans.

Scripture described the arrival of wise men—or "Magi"—in Jerusalem from the east. During this era, the Greek word magoi described men educated in astrology, magic, dreams, and esoteric wisdom. Now Matthew reveals their quest: These wise men are looking for a newly born king of the Jews. They expect to find Him because of seeing a specific star rise in the night sky, and they believe Him to be an important king. They have come to worship and revere Him.

Most of the traditions surrounding this group of wise men are only that: traditions, not details from Scripture. Tradition suggests there were three of them, but the Bible never specifies a number. This assumption is probably due to the three gifts that are mentioned later (Matthew 2:11). It is likely they traveled with a larger group of servants, in any case. Contrary to the common theme of miniature nativity sculptures, these men do not arrive on the night of Jesus birth (Matthew 2:16).

Tradition also came to suggest that the wise men were kings of a sort. This may be assumed by some, because Old Testament passages speak of Jesus being worshiped by kings (Psalm 68:29; Isaiah 49:7). However, the Gospels do not describe these men as "kings."

Some scholars speculate the wise men came from the region of Babylon, as there was a Jewish community there. The men were likely Gentiles—non-Jews—themselves, but they seem to know Jewish Scriptures and may see this event as the fulfillment of prophecy about the Jewish Messiah. They may have connected the rise of this star with Messiah's birth, in part, because of Numbers 24:17, which says, "a star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel."

Much speculation has been made about the nature of the "star" the wise men tracked. It's crucial to remember that modern people use different categories than ancient cultures. The term "star" in that day applied to virtually any bright point of light in the night sky. As a result, it's possible that whatever the wise men saw to inspire their quest was a conjunction of planets, a supernova, or a comet. Scripture does not specify what, exactly, these men first saw.

Later, these same men follow what appears to be a re-appearance of this "star," which leads them directly to Jesus (Matthew 2:9). That occurrence, at least, appears to be explicitly supernatural. We simply cannot know for sure, since the Bible does not say.

Ultimately, such details are beside the point. What matters is that these men were looking for a prophesied king that had already been born. They followed signs and found Him. That connection to prophecy is what spurs King Herod to take terrible action in the following verses (Matthew 2:16–18).
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