Bible Question:

Where was Jesus when the wise men found Him and gave Him gifts? I do not think this happened when He was born since they had to travel after they stopped to see Herod.

Bible Answer:

The typical nativity scenes that are featured on Christmas cards, paintings, and in  church displays shows Jesus, Mary, Joseph, shepherds and three wise men. But this is wrong since the wise men did not visit the Christ on the day He was born. The wise men arrived long after Jesus’ birth. Here is a portion of the Christmas story from the gospel of Matthew.

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying . . . Matthew 2:1 (NASB)

This verse tells us that Jesus had already been born when the magi or wise men arrived in Jerusalem.

Wise Men and Herod

After the wise men arrived in Jerusalem, they asked where Jesus was to be born. Here is the answer they received.

In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it has been written by the prophet, “AND YOU, BETHLEHEM, LAND OF JUDAH, ARE BY NO MEANS LEAST AMONG THE LEADERS OF JUDAH; FOR OUT OF YOU SHALL COME FORTH A RULER, WHO WILL SHEPHERD MY PEOPLE ISRAEL.” Matthew 2:5-6 (NASB)

This disturbed King Herod who secretly met with the wise men.  We are told that Herod asked the wise men how long ago the star had appeared and then told them that Jesus could be found in Bethlehem. So the wise men left for Bethlehem and as they went, the star they had been following reappeared again.

Then Herod secretly called the magi and determined from them the exact time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the Child; and when you have found Him, report to me, so that I too may come and worship Him.” And having heard the king, they went their way; and lo, the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them, until it came and stood over where the Child was. (NASB) Matthew 2:9

Wise Men and Jesusd

The star was unusual because a normal star does not move in front of a person and stop. A normal star does not appear to move because it is billions of miles away in the sky. This star was a special, divinely appointed light which served as a guide for the wise men leading them to Jesus’ house.

And they came into the house and saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell down and worshiped Him; and opening their treasures they presented to Him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh. Matthew 2:11 (NASB)

Notice that we are told Jesus is now in a house. The Greek word that is translated as house is oikia. It simply means house or home. But Jesus was born at an inn, in the area set aside for animals. and not in a house.

And she gave birth to her first-born son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Luke 2:7 (NASB)

So the wise men arrived sometime after Jesus’ birth. It appears the wise men arrived sometime between one to two years later. Why one to two years? The answer is given in Matthew 2:16.

Then when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its environs, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had ascertained from the magi. Matthew 2:16 (NASB)

Here we are told that King Herod murdered all the children who were two years of age or younger. Why? Because he had been told by the wise men that they had been following the star for about two years. This reveals that the wise men never visited Jesus while He was in the manger at the inn.

Conclusion:

Therefore, the wise men arrived about one to two years after Jesus’ birth. One year is probably a better estimate since the wise men needed time to travel from the east to find Jesus. But Matthew is clear that Jesus was in a house by the time the wise men arrived. God wanted these wise men to visit Jesus. Scripture never explains why this happened, but it demonstrates God’s faithfulness and grace!

Suggested Links:

Peace With God
Was Jesus born on December 25?
Is there secular evidence Herod killed babies under the age of two?