Sunday, December 24, 2017

Daily Bible Reading - December 24, 2017

Today's Reading:

Luke 2:1-20

Ezekiel 37

Isaiah 60

Listen to the Bible







Thoughts and Commentary on Today's Reading   

As I have shared on this blog in the past, Yahshua was born on the first Sabbath (annual) of Sukkot - the Feast of Tabernacles, which takes place in the Fall (in the Northern Hemisphere). This time has come and gone. But because our Bible reading in Luke 2 is dealing with the Birth of Messiah, I would like to add a few details about the Bethlehem star, which strip away some of the mythology which has been added to the story of our Saviour's Birth.

Before I begin, I should give you some backstory information. It is possible to calculate the Feasts of Yahweh going backward in time to any year. This is because it is possible to use astronomy software accurately calculate the position of the heavenly bodies on any given date. And knowing when the new moons are, in any given year, is all we need to know to correctly calculate the timing of the Feasts. 

Johannes Keppler, in the 16th century, was inspired to come up with the mathematical calculations to plot the courses of planets and heavenly bodies in the night sky. His calculations and mathematical formulas were so accurate that his math is still being used today, and is the basis for the accuracy of the astronomy software. 

Specifically, I use the industry standard astronomy software package called Starry Night Pro. And it was through the use of this program, that I am able to share the following details about the Bethlehem star.

Now, let's look at the story of Yahshua's Birth - remembering of course that the timing of it was in the Fall of the year 3 BC, at the Feast of Tabernacles.

There is a great deal of mythology which has been added in to our understanding of the story of Messiah's Birth. We have been led to think there were three wisemen, although there is no Biblical evidence of that (three gifts doesn't mean there were only three wisemen) - and historical evidence suggests otherwise, as I will show. We have been led to believe that the singing angels formed the star which led the wisemen to the Saviour's manger. And we have been programmed to picture the wisemen coming to worship the Christ Child along with the shepherds, on the night of His Birth...  But, as I will show today, these are details which come from traditions and are not part of the true Story.

Let's start off with our examination of the Gospel record. Let us see what the Bible actually does say about the Bethlehem star. In fact there are ten Scriptural clues given in the Gospel record to help us identify the Bethlehem Star.

1) Timing of the Bethlehem star - it was sighted in 3-2 BC - 
Matthew 2:1 tells us that the Bethlehem Star appeared around the time Yahshua was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod.
Herod died in 1 BC, as the best evidence indicates, so we should look at the years 2 and 3 BC.
The Backstory of the Magi, who sighted His Star from the east... 

Matthew 2:1 also tells us that Magi from the east saw it and came to Jerusalem.

According to historical records, at the time of Christ's Birth, there were magi (wisemen) of various schools from many locations, and some were more respected than others.  But from Herod’s reaction to these Magi (in granting them immediate audience and taking their words seriously) we can see they were respected.

Actually, the wisemen who came to worship the Christ Child were from the same school of magi to which Daniel had once belonged. These Magi were well-respect, king-makers. When they traveled, historical records show that they usually had a whole camel train of servants and valuables. They also typically had warriors with them to protect them and their valuables in their travels. It is more likely that the wisemen who came to see Messiah were traveling with a large caravan. They got attention, not because they were proud and haughty, but because they were well-known, deeply respected, and especially known for their understanding of prophecy and astronomy. 

Ancient historian Philo Judaeus wrote of this group of magi as follows:

"Among the Persians there is a body of the Magi, who, investigating the works of nature (including Biblical astronomy - which is not to be confused with pagan astrology) for the purpose of becoming acquainted with the truth, do… initiate others in the divine virtues by very clear explanations."

How did the wisemen from the East know so much about the heavens - correlating them with Bible prophecy? Remember, that Daniel was a magi and it was through Him that they came to understand the Messianic star-prophecy of Jacob and to watch for the Saviour's arrival.
Daniel 2:13 "And the decree went forth that the wise men should be slain; and they sought Daniel and his fellows to be slain. 
"The Magi were... priests, descendants of the priesthood the prophet Daniel had organized in Persia some 500 years earlier. Knowing the time was at hand (for the Messiah to come) these priests had been searching the heavens for the promised Sign of His coming..." (Grace Through Faith, The Christmas Story, part 2). 
“Parthia was a powerful kingdom north and east of Israel, a remnant of the Persian Empire that had recently defeated the Roman Legions… The Magi were among Parthia's most powerful leaders. No Parthian ruler could ascend to the throne without their blessing and indeed their political influence was felt through out the Middle East.” 
“…Because of his lifetime of service at the highest levels of Babylonian and Persian governments, Daniel had become a wealthy man. Since he was most likely castrated by Nebuchadnezzar he had no heirs, and so after he formed the Magi, he left his fortune in their care to be given to the Messiah upon His birth… The Magi's gifts of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh were Daniel's fortune, delivered to Him just in time to fund His escape from Herod's soldiers.” (ibid)
When we understand the Magi's connection with Daniel, it makes perfect sense why they were able to recognize the celestial event, which Jacob had foretold, which heralded Christ's Birth. It also makes sense why they brought such informed gifts to the Saviour. Gold is the gift to give a king (and He was King of kings). Frankincense was the gift to give to God (and He was). Myrrh was the gift to give to someone important who would die. These gifts were not only valuable, they were prescient, making it clear that the wisemen understood Messiah's Identity and Purpose.

Now let's turn our attention to the star itself. There are nine Scriptural star clues, which help us accurately identify the Bethlehem star.

2) The star indicated a BIRTH - The question the Magi asked Herod shows that the starry even indicated Someone important had been BORN.

3) The star further indicated that the one born was a KING.

4) The star connected this king with the JEWS.

How can we know the heavenly event foretold these three clues?

Matthew 2:2 - Here we find the magi's asking Herod a very “telling” question: “…And asked, "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?”

The Magi's question gives us three points for our list of qualifications for the Star. Whatever happened in the sky indicated 1) birth, 2) kingship and 3) Jews. It also gives us a clue about the Magi. 
Matthew 2:3 - Here we find an interesting detail in Herod’s reaction. “When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.”
In 63 BC, Roman historical records tell that the magi made a presentation to the Roman Senate. They described celestial portents (heavenly sky-events) indicating that a new ruler had been born. The Senate responded by ordering the death of baby boys in the candidate age range. When Herod ordered the slaughter of children in Bethlehem he may have been following a sort of Roman precedent. 
We also see the tremendous credibility of these magi. For Herod took the Magi's message as factual. Upon hearing their testimony, he immediately consulted the Jewish experts about the location of Christ's birth.
Matthew 2:4-6
“When he had called together all the people's chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. "In Bethlehem in Judea," they replied, "for this is what the prophet has written: "'But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of My people Israel."
The Book of Micah was being quoted to Herod.

5) The star rose in the east (not all celestial objects do that)
Matthew 2:2: the wisemen give us another clue. They say, “We saw his star in the east and have come to worship Him."
When the wise men said "we saw his star in the east," they didn't mean "we saw his star while we were in the East."
The Greek text here says the Star was "en anatole," meaning they saw His star rising in the east.
That's what all but polar stars do, because of the rotation of the Earth. Stars rise in the east, but not all celestial objects do that. So, that's another qualification for the Star: 4) it must rise in the east like most other stars, but it couldn't be a polar star.

6) The Bethlehem star appeared at a precise time.
Matthew 2:7: “Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared.”
7) The appearance of the star was something only astronomers would have found significant. Ordinary people didn't notice it.

Here we find that the star appeared at an exact time. Significantly, Herod didn't know when it appeared. He had to ask the wisemen, who were the astronomers. This means that the Bethlehem star wasn't an angel-star, although there is no question that the angels sang. It also wasn't a comet, an asteroid, or any other heavenly event that un-trained people will notice. The Bethlehem star escaped the notice of the ordinary people...  Only when it was pointed out by astronomers (the wisemen), did it become obvious in its significance.
Matthew 2:8-9: “He sent them to Bethlehem and said, "Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him." After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the Child was.”

8) The star remained in the sky over a considerable period of time. For the Magi first saw it from Babylon (their home), traveled to Judea and it was still visible for all this time.

9) The Bethlehem star appeared ahead of the Magi as they trekked southwards from Babylon (which helps us gain a sky direction also).

10) The star stopped... Can stars do that? Yes, at least they can visually appear to stop. 

So, what was the Bethlehem star? 

Was it a comet? - No. There were no recorded comets in 3-2 BC. Besides, if it had been a comet, everyone - even the non-astronomers like Herod - would have noticed it without help.

Was it a meteor? - No. Meteors don't stay in the sky for very long. And they don't "rise in the east."

Was it a Nova? - No. There were no recorded Nova's in 3-2 BC.

What's left?
Well, Herod had to ask when the Star appeared.
Anyone can glance up and see planets and stars. That is the nature of things in the sky. But, apparently, one could look up at the Star without realizing it. Herod didn't know of it. It took Magi to explain it. But once the Star was pointed out, all Jerusalem went abuzz, and Herod went into action.
A reasonable hypothesis is that the Star must have been something in the normal night sky which was striking when explained.

Did anything interesting happen in the ordinary night skies over the Middle East in 3 or 2 BC?

Yes, something did - and it involved the planet Jupiter and the star called Regulus.

JUPITER was originally called Tsedek, which means “The King" Star and  "YAH Our Righteousness”.
Jupiter is the largest planet of our solar system (a "gas giant“).
Jupiter is approximately eleven times the size of Earth and over 300 times more massive.
It circles the Sun far beyond Earth, in an orbit of about twelve years duration.
In ancient times, planets like Jupiter were considered "wandering stars." 

So, what happened with Jupiter in 3-2 BC? Jupiter circled Regulus (the star located between the lion's paws in the constellation Leo) three times, in a crowning and rare triple conjunction. Notably, Jupiter is the planet which indicates the King. And Regulus is the star which means "the scepter" of the King. Both of these heavenly bodies indicate a King. And the movements of Jupiter around Regulus would have been nothing short of a heavenly coronation ceremony, to the trained eye of any astronomer, as were the wisemen.

Because Jupiter and Regulus were so close during the period of this heavenly coronation, it visually appeared as if a new, brighter star had been born (which we call the "Bethlehem star"). Using Starry Night Pro, we get the following picture to see the amazing sky event which the wisemen had long awaited. Here's what happened (as is well-presented in the DVD called The Bethlehem Star):

Jupiter came into a close conjunction with the star, Regulus. In 3/2 BC, Jupiter's retrograde wandering would have called for the full attention of the Magi.
Afterwards Jupiter continued on its path through the star field. Then it entered retrograde. It visually "changed its mind" and headed back to Regulus for a second conjunction. After this second pass it reversed course again for yet a third rendezvous with Regulus, completing the TRIPLE CONJUNCTION.

A triple pass like this is more rare. Over a period of months, the Planet of Kings danced out a halo above the Star of Kings. A coronation.
But how do we know that this was the heavenly event which Daniel had told the wisemen would announce Yahshua's birth? Daniel, as a Biblical prophet, had access the parts of the Bible that were written before his time. One such was the Torah writings of Moses, which contained the Messianic, death-bed prophecy of Jacob foretelling this activity with the star between the lion's paws.

Regulus means "the scepter". So, in Jacob's prophecy from Genesis 49, we find the lion constellation described. The star between the lion's feet is Regulus - the scepter. And this star appeared to depart from between the lion's paws when Jupiter conjuncted with it. As Jupiter was in front of Regulus, the scepter star disappeared from view, exactly as Jacob foretold. This disappearance was the sign that "Shiloh" had come. And Shiloh is a Name for Christ - meaning Prince of "Peace". Not only did Regulus disappear from view, its light encircled and added to the light of Jupiter, making it visually seem that another star had suddenly appeared in the sky, being much brighter than Regulus had been (since the light of the two was now joining together to form a brighter star).

On December 28 of 2 BC as it entered retrograde, Jupiter (Tsedek) reached full stop in its travel through the fixed stars.

By this time, the Magi would have been viewing the star from Jerusalem. Remember the Magi had a long journey from Babylon. They finally arrived in Jerusalem when Yahshua was nearly two years old, which is why Herod ordered the massacre of all boys aged two years old and younger (Matthew 2:16). From Jerusalem, the direction of Regulus' starry dance with Jupiter is in the right part of the sky- the Magi would have seen Jupiter appear to be stopped in the sky above the little town of Bethlehem.

"Ancient Jewish historians record that the patriarch, Seth, gave a prophecy that in the period in which the Promised One would be born a bright star would appear in the heavens..."(Gospel in the Stars, p. 161)
Now, at that time, the lion (now called Leo) constellation was often viewed as being part of Virgo. This was because it was known that the lion (a title for Christ, who was the lion of the tribe of Judah) would be born of a virgin. 
Naturally, if a starry event of any magnitude was going on, you would expect that astronomers of the day would have written something about it. And there are many astronomers who witnessed the "Bethlehem star" and wrote about it. They record it appearing in "Virgo", because, as I mentioned, the lion was considered to be a part of the woman, since He was to be born of her.

“A new and peculiar star made its appearance in…    Virgo in the period… (immediately preceding Christ’s birth) It sparkled brilliantly above all stars.” (Ignatius) 

This star continued to remain in the sky for an extended time, which fulfills one of the Bethlehem star clues..
Ancient Astronomer Hipparchus observed the star just prior to Christ’s birth – and recorded his observations - so it happened at the right time..

Ancient Chinese records also mention this new bright star at the time corresponding to Christ’s birth.