Verse 1: Who were the wise men? The phrase “wise men” is a somewhat odd translation of the Greek word magoi, “astrologers.” It is because of this word that sometimes we refer to the wise men as “magi.” We get the word “magician” from magoi. “The east” may refer to Mesopotamia, the center of astronomical studies at the time. Compare Numbers 24:17, Psalms 72:10-11, and Isaiah 60:1-7. What do such verses suggest to us about the wise men? Why does Matthew tell us about the homage paid to Jesus by the wise men, but Luke tells us about the homage paid to him by shepherds? Why does each story emphasize what it does? For an interesting recent piece on the wise men, see: http://www.deseretnews.com/article/705364024/Ancient-manuscript-tells-of-journey-of-the-3-wise-men-text-has-ideas-Mormons-will-relate-to-BYU.html?s_cid=Email-4. Are these visitors Gentiles or might they have been members of the Jewish diaspora? What is the reaction of Herod’s advisors to the news of this birth? What might that foreshadow? Given that foreshadowing, how might this chapter be an excellent introduction to Matthew as a whole?
Verse 2: What do the wise men mean when they say that they have seen his star? Notice that, in spite of our traditions, they do not say that they have followed his star. Note also that they literally say, “We have seen his star at its rising” rather than “we have seen his star in the east.”