In the traditional church calendar, January 6 is the celebration of Epiphany, when the wise men worshipped the young child Jesus in the house where Mary and Joseph had fled to avoid Herod's cruel command that all male infants be slaughtered. In some countries, this date also denotes the last day of the Twelve Days of Christmas. I therefore thought it would be appropriate to repost the following article on gold and other treasure, and to expand on what we know about these wise men, or Magi.
Tradition has it that there were three kings, as Matthew 2 mentions three precious gifts they gave the Christ Child. However, the Bible does not specify how many there were, and refers to them as wise men rather than kings, suggesting that they were the most learned men of their time, well versed in astronomy, science, and literature including the Hebrew Scriptures.
Despite their learning, they were not too proud to seek after a young Child Whom they perceived was ultimate Truth, for Christ's wisdom is infinite. They obediently followed God's leading not only to follow the Star that would guide their journey, but also to discern Herod's true motives and to return home by an alternate route, so that he would not force them to reveal Jesus' whereabouts.
Despite their abundant wealth, they did not disdain the Child born in the most lowly of circumstances, but brought Him treasures of gold, fitting to crown the King of Kings; frankincense, for He is our great High Priest; and myrrh, foreshadowing His death on Calvary's cross to pay for all our sins, and burial before He rose triumphant on the third day.
May we, like the Magi, be humble, wise, discerning and generous, bringing Christ our greatest gifts of time, talent, and treasure!
From the beginning of the Bible, God foretold of man’s sin, His judgment, and ultimately His redemption through sending His Son as the perfect sacrifice to reconcile sinful man to Holy God. We see God’s Triune nature in His plan of creation; the three lands comprising the Garden of Eden, and even in three treasures specifically mentioned in these lands. These are gold, bdellium and onyx from the land of Havilah (Genesis 2:11-12), echoing the themes of sin absolved by God’s reconciliation and grace.
Gold, being the costliest metal known in Bible times, was offered by the people to decorate the holy furnishings of the tabernacle (Exodus 25:11-39; 26:6-37, etc.) the priestly ephod or breastplate (Exodus 28:5-36; 39:2-25), and the temple (1 Kings 6:20-35). These offerings honored God, and yet sinful man also used gold to dishonor God by making a golden calf to worship as an idol (Exodus 32:2-31), and a golden statue to glorify king Nebuchadnezzar instead of the true God Who created Him (Daniel 3).
Gold is a symbol of kingship, as in the crown placed on King David’s head (Psalm 21:3; 2 Samuel 12:30), the golden scepter extended by King Ahasuerus to Esther as a token of his favor (Esther 4:11; 5:2; 8:4), and the royal gift of gold from the wise men to the young child Jesus (Matthew 2:11), reflecting His status as King of Kings (Revelation 17:14; 19:16).
But gold also reflects God’s judgment, in that He tests us, our works, and the motive for our works by placing them through the refiner’s fire like a goldsmith burning out impurities until He sees His own reflection in us (Job 23:10; Proverbs 27:21; 1 Corinthians 3:12-15; 1 Peter 1:7).
Thankfully, our trials on this earth are temporary, and our rewards in Heaven last forever, for those who have trusted in His death, burial and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way (John 14:6). In Heaven the church is represented as seven golden candlesticks (Revelation 1:12); our King of Kings is clothed in a golden girdle and crown (Revelation 1:13; 14:14); and even the streets are paved with gold (Revelation 21:18).
The second treasure in the land of Havilah is bdellium, which is a precious resin from a tree. As the sap exudes from the tree and hardens, it resembles a pearl that may be used in jewelry. The white manna God provided in the wilderness to feed His people was the color of bdellium (Numbers 11:7).
Pearls in Scripture refer to the precious truth of God’s Word that should not be cast before swine (Matthew 7:6); the priceless kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 13:45-46), and the gates of that glorious city, each made from a single pearl (Revelation 21:21).
But pearls in the Bible also symbolize costly treasure that may be used sinfully to adorn ourselves in pride (1 Timothy 2:9), to trade in the world system glorifying Satan (Revelation 18:12,16), or to decorate the whore of Babylon. This symbol of the false church of the Tribulation is described as decked out with gold and precious stones and pearls (Revelation 17:4).
Aromatic oils in the resin of the bdellium tree are also used in perfumery, as incense and in traditional medicine, reminding us of Christ’s qualities as fragrant Lily of the Valleys (Song of Solomon 2:1), as the great High Priest after the order of Melchizidek (Hebrews 7), and as the Balm of Gilead (Jeremiah 8:22; 46:11) Who is the Great Physician.
Because bdellium oil resembles frankincense and is sometimes added to myrrh for the above uses, its appearance in the Garden of Eden also foreshadows the three gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh given to Jesus by the wise men (Matthew 2:11), signifying His role as King, Priest and Sacrifice to atone for our sins.
Onyx, the third treasure from Havilah, is a precious stone with stripes or bands of the mineral chalcedony in alternating colors, resembling agate. These stripes are often in shades of red, black, and white, representing Christ’s shed blood that washes away the darkness of our sins until we are white as snow (Isaiah 1:18; Psalm 51:7; John 1:7)., His perfect purity, holiness and righteousness are imputed to our account (Romans 4:6-24; 5:13; 2 Corinthians 5:19), for by His stripes we are healed! (Isaiah 53:5; 1 Peter 2:24)
Like gold, onyx was used to glorify God in the priestly ephod or breastplate (Exodus 25:7; 28:20; 35:9, etc.) and in the temple (1 Chronicles 29:2), and onyx (also known as sardonyx) is one of the precious stones foreseen in the foundation of the city of Heaven (Revelation 21:20). Before God expelled Lucifer from Heaven for his sin of pride, onyx and gold were included in the precious materials covering the anointed cherub (Ezekiel 28:13).
God has blessed our planet with beautiful treasures, but His truth, or wisdom, is priceless, worth far more than the gold, bdellium, and onyx found in the Garden of Eden (Job 28:12-18). May we hold fast to His truth that our sins demand His judgment, but that His amazing grace has reconciled us to Himself!
© 2015 Laurie Collett
Reposted from the archives
Indeed, there might have been more than just three wise men who travelled to Bethlehem to see the child Jesus. To my mind, a group of up to twelve could have been feasible. Considering the gifts they carried, especially gold, there might have been "safety in numbers" in the safekeeping of the three treasures during their long journey.
I also believe that the wise men were Gentiles rather than Jews, as was the possibility of the thief on the cross, as Jesus used the word "Paradise" rather than "Abraham's Bosom", so the thief would have understood.
This goes to show that God accepts anyone, not just Israel, through faith alone.
Blessings to you and Richard.
Thank you for sharing your insights. It certainly makes sense for the wise men to travel as a group for safety reasons and also to encourage one another on their arduous journey. as the wise men most likely came from the East, I agree that they were likely Gentiles, probably of Asian origin. I had never thought about Jesus referring to "Paradise" rather than "Abraham's bosom" while speaking to a Gentile, but that also makes sense. Praise God that salvation is open to "whosoever" believes!
May God bless you and Alex,
enjoyed reading your post. As the scriptures say, by grace are we saved, through faith - not of ourselves. I love the way the scriptures are spiritually discerned, and that is why God's Holy Spirit becomes our guide and teacher once we are born again and become a child of God. God bless you and yours Laurie as you journey on with our beautiful Saviour's truth to the promised land - eternity.
Amen -- we are saved by grace, not works, for no amount of good works could counteract our sin. May God bless you and your family in 2023 and until He comes again!
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