People Who Were There
Message #4 in a series on New Testament Personalities

The Wise Men and Herod

Read: Matthew 2:1-12, 16

Text: Mat 2:11 (KJV) And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.

Theme: Wise men still seek Him.


It is interesting to me the themes that have come out of our study of New Testament personalities. Each individual that we have examined has taught a particular lesson.

From our study of Zacharias and Elizabeth we learned that God uses and blesses ordinary people who have ordinary faith.

From our study of Mary, we learned that purity, faith, and submission, were the character traits that made Mary special, and that we should strive for in our lives.

From the shepherds, we learned the right response to the Christmas message.

The Wise Men and Herod also have a clear message for us today.

Let's see what that message is:

I. The Characters QUESTION - Who are the main characters of our story today?

A. Herod (vs. 1)
QUESTION - What do we know about Herod? (List on white board)

1. History

ANSWER - According to the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, facts about Israeli history:

"In 37 BCE, Herod, son of an adviser to King Hyrcanus II and married to his daughter, was appointed King of Judea by the Romans. Although he had no authority in foreign policy, Herod was granted almost unlimited autonomy in the country's internal affairs and became one of the most powerful monarchs in the eastern part of the Roman empire. A great admirer of Greco-Roman culture, Herod launched a massive building program, which included the cities of Caesarea and Sebaste and the fortresses Herodium and Masada. He also remodeled the Temple into one of the most magnificent edifices of its time. But despite his many achievements, Herod failed to win the trust and support of his Jewish subjects."

2. Character

QUOTE Josephus - "A man he was of great barbarity towards all men equally, and a slave to his passions; but above the consideration of what was right; yet was he favored by fortune as much as any man ever was, for from a private man he became a king." (Antiquities 17.8.1)

QUOTE Unger's Bible Dictionary, pg. 471 - "He was a heathen in practice and a monster in character. During his administration as king he evidenced himself to be exceedingly crafty, jealous, cruel, and revengeful."

3. Acts

- Architect

(built cities such as Caesarea, treasures like the temple in Jerusalem, and fortresses like Masada)

- Murderer

(Of his own family)

QUOTE Unger (ibid) - "He had nine or ten wives, and on the merest suspicion put to death his favorite wife, Mariamne, and also her brothers, Aristobulus and Alexander, and at last, when on his own deathbed, just five days before he died himself, he ordered his son, Antipater, to be slain."

QUOTE Augustus Caesar "It is better to be Herod's hog than to be his son."

(Of Jewish children - our text)

- Had a terrible disease in old age

- Ordered principle men of Jews slain at his death

(To ensure that somebody mourned his death, for he knew nobody would.)

B. Wise men (vs. 1)
SONG "We three kings of orient are, bearing gifts we traverse afar, field and fountain, moor and mountain, following yonder star..."

QUESTION - What is wrong with this song?

QUESTION - What do we know about the wise men? (List on white board)

QUOTE Unger, pg. 679 "The term magi was used as the name for priests and wise men among the Medes, Persians, and Babylonians. It is with such men that we have to think of Daniel and his fellow-exiles as associated."

QUOTE Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament "MAGOS = a person or Babylonian priest or 'wiseman' who is especially acquainted with the interpretation of stars and dreams as well as with other things."

C. Chief priests and scribes (religious leaders) (vs. 4)
QUESTION - What do we know about these people? What is clearly told us about them in this passage? (ANSWER - That they KNEW about the Christ, and knew exactly where to look for Him.)
D. Child (vs. 11)
QUESTION - What do we learn about this child from this passage? (ANSWER - That He is worthy of the worship of those who seek Him.)

II. The Action

QUESTION - Before each point ask, "Did they seek Him? Why or why not?")

A. The Wise Men sought him to worship him. (vs. 2)
SONG (vss. 2-5 of We Three Kings):

(vs. 2) Born a king on Bethlehem's plain, Gold I bring to crown him again, King forever, ceasing never Over us all to reign

(vs. 3) Frankincense to offer have I: Incense owns a Deity nigh; Prayer and praising all men raising, Worship him, God on high."

(vs. 4) Myrrh is mine: its bitter perfume Breathes a life of gathering gloom: Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying, Sealed in the stone-cold tomb.

(vs. 5) Glorious now behold him arise, King and God and sacrifice; Alleluia, Alleluia! Sounds through the earth and skies.

QUESTION - Did the wise men believe these things? Does this song accurately depict why they sought him?

B. Herod sought Him to destroy Him. (vs. 16)
QUESTION - Based on what we have learned of Herod's character, why do you think he wanted to destroy Jesus?

NOTE - One source I found in my studies suggested that Herod's motivation for building the temple in Jerusalem was simply to gain access to the genealogies stored there, so that he might destroy them, and with them the promise of the messiah.

QUESTION - Is it possible to believe in who Jesus is, and be against Him totally, seeking to destroy Him and His message? Are there people like this today? Who?

C. The religious leaders did not seek Him at all. (vs. 5)
QUESTION - Of the three groups we are studying today, the wise men, Herod, and these religious leaders, which group would you consider most likely to be seeking Christ?

QUESTION - Why did these who knew most accurately the truth of the Messiah NOT seek Him?

QUESTION - Does this have application to us today?

1. The ones with the knowledge are not always the ones who are truly seeking Christ.

2. We can become complacent to the truth of God's word.

QUESTION - How do we guard against this condition, and remain true seekers of the savior? (ANSWER - Prayer, study, corporate and private worship)


The lesson from the wise men and Herod is clear:

Wise men still seek him.

But it goes beyond that.

Wise men seek Him to worship Him.

Wise men seek Him to heap upon Him the honor He so richly deserves.

Wise men guard against the tendency to stop seeking Him.

May we, this Christmas season, be as the magi.

May we never stop seeking and worshipping Jesus Christ.

Please direct questions, comments, and submissions to William E. Johnson
Copyright 1996 William E. Johnson.