Do you really know who the three wise men were?  We have all heard the song about them, but there is so much more to their history that it will amaze you.  
The three wise men took a journey that is emblazoned in our memories through song and on gift cards, but these men were not recorded accurately in our biblical history. It is time we really get to know these incredible and knowledgeable men.


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This was a group originally called the Magi. This word has no real definition, but its origin stems from the Greek word Magos. What is important to note is that they weren’t referred to as the three wise men until later on in the Bible. Back in the days before Christ, they were known as Magi.

The Magi were a tribe of people that resided in Medes. They had knowledge in astrology (which is the predicting of things to come by studying the position of the planets, the sun and the moon) and astrology (which is the study of stars, moon, and planets). They combined these together and used science (astronomy) and superstition (astrology) to form their own spirituality.

They were religious in their own right but were not of the Jewish faith They blended together science and superstition to form their religion. The Magi had special powers and abilities and most used them to help others. But, there were some who were corrupt and gave the Magi a bad reputation.


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While we learn about the wise men, we start to understand why there is a lot of conflicting information. No one really knows all there is to know about these people, but we are still trying to put it all together. Here are some key points that will help give you a better sense of who they were.


They were known as the kingmakers, which means that they were in charge of approving and crowing the kings. The law of the Medes and Persians was what they created, and they enforced. They chose not only the kings but the judges as well. Their decisions were the only ones that mattered and even outweighed those of any king. With their knowledge of natural history, architecture, and mathematics, they were not to be contended with.


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It is said that they were all men. But, there were also women that were Magi as well, for example, there was one named Lydia.  So, women were in this group of powerful and knowledgeable men. This dispels the fact that it was just three wise men that came from the east to see the newborn king.


three wise men riding the camel during night

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It is stated that there were only three wise men that traveled to the East. But, as we now know, this was not the case. There were more than three when they came into the town of Jerusalem. In fact, it was more like a cavalry. In addition, they did not ride on camels, but beautiful Persian steeds.  


This is another area that has no truth to it. Apparently, their first names were Melchior, Balthazar, and Casper. There is no data to support this, but there were three skulls found in the area and are said to be those of the wise men.


Another misconception stems from their name. They were called magicians because that is what others took Magi to mean. People thought that sorcery was another name for magic. It was just a mix up in understanding the English language.


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This particular story is one that started the Magi or wise men believing that a new king and Messiah could be possible.

 “There is a man in thy kingdom, in whom is the spirit of the holy gods, and in the days of thy father light and understanding and wisdom like the wisdom of the gods was found in him.  Whom the king Nebuchadnezzar thy father, the king I say, thy father made master of the Magi." Daniel 5:11

King Nebuchadnezzar had the Magi working with him, and they were in very high-ranking positions as advisors to the king.  But, when the king approached the Magi to help interpret his dreams, unfortunately, none of the Magi could do it. Their skills were not in this area as it seems.  It was when Daniel stepped up and did it that he got noticed by the king. Nebuchadnezzar was so impressed with Daniel that he made him master of the Magi. This was the start of Daniel sharing with the Magi the scriptures of the Old Testament. He was totally devoted to his faith, and this position over the Magi was perfect to spread the message.

This will later prove to be the reason that the Magi knew to head to Jerusalem to worship the newborn King. It was through the teachings of Daniel that they are then convinced that the Messiah was coming, and a new king would soon help fight Rome.  


The most incredible of stories is the one when they were heading to the town of Jerusalem. This has to be one to the most compelling and interesting of all. This takes place after Daniel is appointed the master of the Magi and has been worshipping to them.

When the Magi had gotten together and decided to ride to Jerusalem to see the new King of the Jews, it was a journey of hope. They wanted to have a king that would stand up and unite the region. They were dressed in very elaborate clothing and high pointed hats while riding atop their Persian steeds. This was, of course, different from that of those stories from Sunday school. But nonetheless, they rode in together and not just three of them, but a cavalry.

You would think that the town and the king, who was Herod at this time, would be glad to see the Magi coming. But King Herod, whose title was King of Jews, was more freaked out than happy. He had fought for his kingship and now this group was going to take it away from him. You see, this king was not appointed by the Magi, but by Caesar Augustus. So, in the eyes of the Magi, Herod was not the king. Herod knew that there was word around that a new king was to be born, but he was not going to give up this position easily. However, he would soon find that they were not to be battled. They are the king masters and decide who will be the new King of the Jews.

The Magi thought that it would be easy to find the new King of the Jews once they arrived in Jerusalem. But, this was not the case. In fact, no one cared and helped them locate the newborn king. This surprised not only the Magi but also God himself. How awful that he had chosen the place where he thought his son would be welcomed because he was a Jew and they didn’t welcome his son at all.  The Magi went around and around the town asking where is the new King of the Jews? But no one knew or cared. They were nonbelievers.

The Magi were upset, and rightly so, to see how Jesus’ own people were so indifferent to this new king and Messiah. They had become gentiles on this path to the king and were shocked at this behavior. They who were not even of this faith cared more for this newborn child than these people did. These stories are amazing in that they share a real perspective on the word of God. When we can break these stories down to their simplest form, it helps us form more of an understanding and get closer to Jesus our Lord and Savior.


The three wise men teach us that it doesn’t matter what faith we are; we can help others. They journeyed to worship a king that wasn’t even of their faith. They did this because he was to be not only the king, but he was also the Messiah. This is something that we all must remember when we lose sight of our own direction. Take the path that will lead you back to your faith.


When we know more about the real wise men, we can see that there was a bit of confusion as far as who they really were. They were a part of bringing the new king into our lives and making sure he was noted as such. Without the three wise men, he would have never been worshiped and cared about. We must remember the wise men and praise God for showing them where to find his son and our Savior, Jesus Christ. Now, when you sing that song about the three wise men, it will take on a whole new meaning.