Key Concepts About the Star
Below are 15 points, which one should keep in mind concerning the wise men and the Messiah's star.
The star had a name.
The star that became a sign over Bethlehem was named Tzedek or Kochav Baal by the Jews and MUL.BABBAR by the Babylonian astronomers. (Most of us in the present know it as the planet Jupiter. The planet looks like a star to the unaided eye.) The Mesopotamians also had other names for the star.
Tzedek means "righteousness" in Hebrew. No one knows for sure exactly when or why the Jews chose to name this star in this way. However, we do read in the Psalms that "the heavens declare God's righteousness" (Psalms 97:6 and 50:6). Perhaps this concept was important in originally naming the star. The Sumerian / Babylonian name MUL.BABBAR means the "white star." It has been associated with royalty in many cultures for thousands of years.
The wise men came looking for a righteous king.
The awaited Jewish Messiah was specifically prophesied in the book of Jeremiah as a righteous descendant (branch) of King David. The Messiah was also described by the early Christians as the "Righteous One."
“Behold, the days are coming,” declares the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch; and He will reign as king and act wisely and do justice and righteousness in the land. In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely; and this is His name by which He will be called, ‘The LORD our righteousness.’ (Jeremiah 23:5-6 and 33:14-16)
“A certain Ananias, a man who was devout by the standard of the Law, and well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, 13came to me, and standing near said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight!’ And at that very time I looked up at him. “And he said, ‘The God of our fathers has appointed you to know His will and to see the Righteous One and to hear an utterance from His mouth. (Acts 22:12-14)
It is a curious thing that the "white star" MUL.BABBAR is known in Hebrew as Tzedek, which means "righteousness". Perhaps a relationship was perceived by the Magi between Tzedek and the "Righteous One".
The star was not the brightest object ever seen.
The star was and remains to this day an important visible object in the heavens. It was not the brightest object in the heavens in the first century BC. Many nova, supernova and even the planet Venus are brighter than the star that became a sign over Bethlehem. The brightness of the star did not define its meaning.
The star was involved in meaningful signs concerning the Jewish Messiah.
The star announced the coming of the Messiah in a certain context over a limited period of time. The star carried a specific royal message. Wise men were needed to discern and interpret the message associated with the star. The celestial signs announcing the coming of the Messiah involved the principal star as well as the sun, moon and other stars. It was the interaction of several heavenly objects together which created the signs in the heavens. There was one star which could be described as the Messiah's star. However, there were a variety of signs in the heavens during the time period of Jesus' conception, birth and early life. Some of these signs involved the principal star, but others did not. Examples of the signs are presented on the HEAVENLY EVENTS pages of this site.
The star was not a directional indicator.
No stars have ever moved in front of astronomers to guide them as is often depicted in Christmas cards. The star that was positioned over Bethlehem (near the zenith) did not guide the wise men. The Magi never looked to the star for directional guidance. The star was uniquely associated with heavenly signs, first in the east and later in the west. It did not guide the men anywhere at any moment. However, the star did get to the skies above Judaea before the men arrived in Bethlehem. It "preceded" them there. Even so, it was never visually in front of them at any moment.
See the parable: THE STAR AS A SIGN.
A short paper: MATTHEW 2:9, RETHINKING THE STORY OF THE MAGI
See Part 2 of the list: KEY CONCEPTS 2
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