THE THREE WISE MEN WHO CAME TO WORSHIP JESUS
HOW DID THEY KNOW TO COME?
A STUDY OF DANIEL 9:24-25
How did the Wise Men know that the star which they saw in the Heavens was so special that they set out on a very long journey on camels to go present gifts to the coming King? Wait a minute!! Who told them about a King? Further, these men were not even Jews; how could they have known anything about the impending birth of the Messiah which had been prophesied for so many years? If we jump 33 years later, we see Jesus weeping over the people of Israel, cursing them because they had not recognized Him as Messiah. Jesus said, "[these horrible judgments will come upon you] because you did not know or recognize the time of your visitation." (Luke 19:44)
We will show that Jesus had every right to expect the people would know when He would appear, because He had revealed the precious secret over 600 years before His birth to a prophet named Daniel.
The fact that Daniel was a high official of the royal government is highly significant in our study, because only high government officials or high religious leaders had access to books. There was no printing press at that time. The three Wise Men were scholars and therefore had access to the writings of Daniel. Further, the three Wise Men were Magi, which was an order of the Pagan Medo-Persian religious order of Zoroaster.(1) The Magi were ancient interpreters of dreams and were astrologers (monthly prognosticators). We see them in the Bible in the court of the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar.
Let us now consider this amazing prophecy from the wonderful book of Daniel.
We are going to study the prophecy concerning the timing of the coming of Jesus Christ, given in unbelievable detail 600 years before Jesus was born.
Daniel 9:24-26, "Seventy weeks of years, or 490 years are decreed upon your people and upon your holy city Jerusalem, to finish and put an end to transgression, to seal up and make full the measure of sin, to purge away and make expiation and reconciliation for sin, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint a holy of holies. Know, therefore, and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem until the coming of the anointed one, a prince, shall be seven weeks of years, and sixty-two weeks of years; it shall be built again with city square and moat, but in troublous times. And after the 62 weeks of years, shall the anointed one be cut off (killed) and shall have nothing and no one belonging to and defending Him..."
The remaining one week is found in verse 27, and refers to the last seven years of earth's history, the period which we know as the "Great Tribulation".
The term "Weeks of Years" was a common Jewish term. It meant literally seven (7) years. The term comes from God's commandment in Leviticus 25:3-4 to farm a piece of land for only six years, allowing it to lie fallow for the seventh. This seven-year period came to be known as a "week of years". Therefore, Seventy Weeks of Years was 490 Hebrew years.
Note this prophecy contains three parts:
1. 7 Weeks of Years (49 Hebrew Years)
2. 62 Weeks of Years (434 Hebrew Years)
3. 1 Week of Years (7 Hebrew Years)
At the precise point in history when the 7 + 62 Weeks
of Years occurred, Israel could expect Messiah to announce Himself as Messiah. What great news! This means that Israel could not miss Messiah. All they had to do was to count and be aware of the prophecy.
This study will show us several things:
1. Why the Wise Men knew the time for Messiah was close.
2. Why Israel missed Messiah.
3. How this applies to us today.
Let us now consider the meaning of the prophecy.
I. The Duration of the Prophecy
This prophecy stipulated that Messiah would be presented to Israel and would be killed after 69 weeks of years had elapsed from the starting point. When we multiply 69 times 7, we understand that the time involved here equals 483 Jewish years. Since the Jewish calender contains 360 days, we can easily see that God is talking about 173,880 days. Therefore, we can expect that 173,880 days after the prophecy started, the Messiah would present Himself to Israel as Messiah-King.
II. The Starting Point of the Prophecy (Daniel 9:25a)
In this verse , God said the prophecy would begin "from the going forth (the issuing) of the commandment to restore and rebuild Jerusalem..." At the time God gave Daniel this prophecy, Israel was a slave nation under Babylon; however, God had foretold that this slavery would last only 70 years. This 70-year period was rapidly coming to a close; indeed, non-Jewish history records that the Medo-Persian emperor Artaxerxes issued such a decree on March 14, 445 B.C. Therefore, precisely 173,880 days from this day should bring us to some significant event in Jesus' life which presented Him to the nation Israel as Messiah.
III. The Mathematics Of The Prophecy
A. The First Seven Weeks (49 Jewish Years)
If you study the book of Nehemiah, you will find the account of the Jewish pilgrimage to rebuild Jerusalem following King Artaxerxes' decree. The prophet Nehemiah assumed charge of this rebuilding effort, which was carried out in such extreme hardship and danger that the builders carried swords with them as they were building the walls. Thus was fulfilled precisely the prophecy in verse 25b,"...it shall be built again with city square and moat, but in troublous times."
This effort began in 445 B.C. and culminated in 396 B.C., exactly 49 years, just as foretold.
B. The Second Period (62 Weeks of Years, 434 years)
Daniel 9:26 foretells that the "anointed One" would come after this period and would then be killed. This wording is understood by most conservative scholars to refer to Jesus Christ, not at His birth, but at His presentation as the Messiah-Prince. (2) "There were only two events in the life of Christ when He was officially set apart. One was His baptism and the other was His triumphal entry into Jerusalem." (3) This latter event has become known as Palm Sunday. When did Palm Sunday occur? "The Messiah (Jesus) came to Jerusalem on Passover in the year A.D. 32, which was April 6." (4)
C. The two periods combined (7 + 62 = 69 Weeks of Years, or 483 Jewish years, or 173,880 days).
* When we count from March 14, 445 B.C. to April 6, 32 A.D., we have 477 years, 24 days. However, we must deduct one year because only one year lapses between 1 B.C. and 1 A.D. This gives us 476 years, 24 days or 173,764 days.
* Then, we must add 119 days to account for the 119 leap years during these 476 years (476 divided by 4). Now, we have 173,883 days.
* However, there is a slight inaccuracy in the Julian calendar when compared to the solar year. The Royal Observatory in London calculates that a Julian year is 1/128th of a day longer than the Jewish solar year. When we multiply 476 years times 1/128, we get three days. Subtracting three from our figure above, we arrive at the 173,880 days. (5)
Therefore, there are exactly 69 Weeks of Years (173,880 days) between the decree of King Artaxerxes in 445 B.C. to rebuild Jerusalem to Palm Sunday, April 6, 32 A.D.!! God foretold to the day when Messiah would present Himself to Israel as their Messiah-King. We see this event recorded in Matthew 21:1-11.
Now we come to the next point: God had so wonderfully foretold to Daniel the exact day on which Messiah was to announce Himself as King. The learned Magi surely knew of Daniel's prophecy and of his reputation of reliability in such matters. Therefore, just prior to Jesus' birth, they had to have been buzzing with anticipation, because they knew they were living within the life-time (approximately 30-40 years) of this date. If one was to announce Himself as Messiah in just 30 years, he would have to be born now. Thus were the Magi looking for a sign. The Holy Spirit was also not leaving anything to chance, and was prompting their minds to anticipation and to understanding of what they were about to observe in the Heavens.
Even the gifts which the Magi brought to Jesus suggests that they were being prompted by Daniel's prophecy. Consider these gifts:
1. Gold--Daniel said in 9:25 that the coming Messiah was to be a "prince". This term denotes royalty, a king. Gold was the perfect gift for a king.
2. Frankincense--God stipulated in Exodus 30:34-36 that frankincense was to be prepared for the "purpose of sacrificial fumigation". (6) Jesus Christ was killed on Calvary as the Perfect Sacrifice which would be acceptable to God to take away the sins of all who would accept it. Did Daniel's prophecy reveal this sacrificial aspect? Yes!! In 9:26, God revealed that Messiah would be "cut off" (sacrificially killed).
Interestingly, frankincense was also used by the priests during the service. Therefore, this frankencense gift could also point to Jesus Christ as the ultimate High Priestly, an office which He assumed after His ascension into Heaven.
3. Myrrh--The Jews used Myrrh for embalming bodies for burial preparation. (7) Again, the verse quoted above would have prepared the Magi to bring this gift.
It is extremely interesting that two of the three gifts which the Magi presented to baby Jesus related to His death and burial. The Daniel prophecy contained all the informa-tion which the Magi needed to know to bring these gifts.
The second question is why Israel's spiritual leaders missed this prophecy, when the "pagan" Magi did not. The answer is really quite simple. Several hundred years before Christ was born, Jewish leaders began to believe and prop-agate two erroneous teachings. First, they taught that the sacred Scriptures could not be taken literally because they were not totally inspired by God, and thus contained errors. Secondly, they taught that prophecies were not to be taken literally, but spiritually. Prophetic books such as Daniel were not even taught anymore because they contained so much prophecy. After several generations had come and gone, each believing this nonsense, spiritual leaders of Jesus' day were completely unaware of this prophecy. Thus, they were unaware of the "time of their visitation".
The significance of this study to today is both simple and obvious. The same wrong teaching concerning inspiration of the Bible and its inerrancy is occurring throughout this nation. Most people today are unaware that all 300+ prophecies concerning Jesus' Second Coming are coming to pass or have already occurred. These people are unaware that this has never occurred before. Therefore, many people will miss Jesus' Second Visitation, to their eternal peril.
Jesus said emphatically that we who are familiar with Second Coming prophecy would be able to know that He is close to arriving (Matthew 24:33). Jesus also told us what kind of attitude we Christians are to have as we see His Second Coming approaching; in Mark 13:37, He said, "What I say to you, I say to everybody: Give strict attention, be cautious, active, alert, and watch!" This means that each of us should be actively witnessing to our co-workers and friends, we should be very alert to world events as they are occurring, and we should watch our Scriptures daily so the Holy Spirit can keep us true to Jesus Christ as we enter this deceiving time.
We are so very close to the time when Jesus returns for His Church to take them away from the Great Tribulation. If you are not looking forward with anticipation to His Rapture maybe it is because you are not truly saved. Get your heart right with Him today.
1. "Dictionary Of The Bible, edited by William Smith, The S.S. Scranton Company, Hartford, CT, 1904, p. 501.
2. John MacArthur, Jr., "The Future of Israel", Word of Grace Communications, Panorama City, CA, 1985, p. 21.
5. Ibid., p. 22.
6. Loc. cit., p. 273.
7. Ibid., p. 592.