1. Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem,Magi

Notice some of the many “Christmas myths” which are not supported by these verses. First of all, the myth that there were three wise men. No number is listed. And not only could there have been more than three, but no doubt such powerful men would have brought a large contingent of servant with them. Judging from the flutter their arrival put the people of Jerusalem in (verse 3), I would say that probably a rather large company arrived. Babylon was the major world power competing with Rome, so the arrival of a small army from there was sure to attract attention!

Secondly, that these wise men were “kings.” No such claim is made.

2. 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.”

Thirdly, that the wise men followed the star to the land of Israel. Notice that the wise men came from the East, and they saw the star in the East. So if they had followed the star, they would have gone the wrong direction!

3. When Herod the king heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.

We can imagine that a large contingent of individuals from an empire that was the leading contender to Rome would cause quite a stir in any Roman-held country at that time!

4. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.
5. so they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet:
6. ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
Are not the least among the rulers of Judah;
For out of you shall come a ruler
Who will shepherd My people Israel.’”

Notice that it was not Christians who claimed this. Rather, it was the studied opinion of the Jewish rabbis of the day.

7. Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared.

Of course, his designs were malicious, although the wise men did not know it.

8. And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search diligently for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.”
9. When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was.
10. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy.

Notice their reaction when they see the star. If they had been following the star all the way to Jerusalem, then why such an excited reaction now? No, this was the first they had seen of a moving star to guide them! The star they saw originally was in the East, and they just learned from their lore that it signaled the birth of a king in Israel. Probably this was lore passed down from the time of the greatest of the wise men of the east, the prophet Daniel.

11. And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Our next Christmas myth here was that Christ was a baby in the manger when the wise men came to worship him. He was more likely nearly two years of age! This was the age Herod placed him at judging from the time of the appearing of the star, and it was from this age and down that he had the babies of the region killed.

Our final Christmas myth is that the wise men found Christ in Bethlehem. Although Herod told them to go to Bethlehem, the star miraculously appeared to them while they were journeying there, and they followed it to a house in Nazareth, where Mary and Joseph took Jesus after his circumcision (Luke 2:39).

12. Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way.
13. Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.”
14. When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt,
15. and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt I called My Son.”

Once again disaster is averted by the sending of an angel. In fact, when we include these four verses with those that came before in Matthew, this now makes four times that Christ has been rescued by angels! This is what was meant by the verse Satan misquoted in tempting Christ (Matthew 4:6,) not that the angels would carry Him if He jumped off the temple!

16. Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men.
17. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying:
18. “A voice was heard in Ramah,
Lamentation, weeping, and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children,
Refusing to be comforted, because they were no more.”

Many people think of a terrible slaughter at this time. This is not realistic, however. Judging by the population figures that we know of for Bethlehem and its suburbs, there were probably around eight babies killed at this time. Still a terrible thing, but not really a huge massacre.

The reference to Rachel here is a reference to the wife of Israel from whom both Joseph and Benjamin were born. This prophecy thus takes in both kingdoms, Israel (Joseph) and Judah (Benjamin,) into one prophecy. This does not necessarily mean that the inhabitants of Bethlehem were descended from Rachel.

19. But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt,
20. saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the young Child’s life are dead.”

This time, an angel is sent to tell that the danger is past.

21. Then he arose, took the young Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel.
22. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea instead of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And being warned by God in a dream, he turned aside into the region of Galilee.

Now we have God warning them directly. This may still have been through an angel, however, as God could certainly warn them through a messenger as well as He could in person. However, the verse does not necessarily say that it was an angel.

23. And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, “He shall be called a Nazarene.”

Notice the quotation of fulfilled prophecies, which would be a major argument in supporting His kingship when presenting Him to the sons of Israel. Remembering the kingship theme helps us to understand why this book mentions the things that it does!

Many people get mixed up at this point and assume that “Nazarene” is the same thing as a “Nazarite” in the Old Testament. However, as we see here, a Nazarene was simply someone who comes from Nazareth.

I have heard people say that “Jesus was a Nazarene” in support of the idea that He had long hair. This is quite simply an error. Being a Nazarene had nothing to do with the Nazarite vow.

Moreover, consider that the Nazarite vow did not just include having long hair. In Numbers 6:1-21 we learn that a Nazarite had three duties. The first in verse 3 was to “separate himself from wine and similar drink; he shall drink neither vinegar made from wine nor vinegar made from similar drink; neither shall he drink any grape juice, nor eat fresh grapes or raisins.” The second is given in verse 5, “no razor shall come upon his head.” The third condition is in verse 6, “he shall not go near a dead body.”

Now if the Lord Jesus was a Nazarite, then he broke two of these conditions! For in Luke 7:14 we read of the son of the widow of Nain, and that Jesus “came and touched the open coffin.” Certainly a case of getting near a dead body! And in Luke 7:34, the Lord admits that “The Son of Man has come eating and drinking.” If the Lord was a Nazarite, then He was guilty of breaking the vow! Yet He was not a Nazarite.

The fact is that we get the idea that the Lord had long hair not from the Bible, but rather from the many popular painting of Him from the Middle Ages. Yet this idea that the long hair in the paintings comes from His being a Nazarene is a modern fable and has nothing to do with why He is depicted with long hair in the paintings. The fact is that in the Middle Ages, it was believed that men are harsh, cruel, and judgmental. God, as a man, was often pictured as a severe and vengeful Judge. Women, however, were viewed as loving, kind, and merciful. Thus the virgin Mary was often appealed to for mercy and forgiveness from sin. Therefore, when the Medieval painters came to depicting the Lord and they wanted to make Him look kind, loving, and forgiving, they decided to make Him look as womanly as possible! Thus they painted Him with long hair and soft, womanly features. This is the true origin of the fable of the Lord having long hair…they wanted to make Him look like a woman!

The fact is that long hair was very much out of style in the Lord’s day. Long hair was almost exclusively a mark of male temple prostitutes, and it is extremely unlikely that our Lord sported long hair. As for soft, womanly features…well, He was a carpenter, a manual laborer. I extremely doubt He was anything of the kind. Yet how exactly our Lord appeared physically is just not known. Perhaps it is best that way, as we can then worship Him for His attributes, not His appearance.