The Christian version of the birth of Yeshua is in many parts a myth. It does not match what we are told in the Scriptures, yet everyone accepts it as the way it was. The Chachamim (“magi”) were rabbi’s and sages, scholars of the Torah. They have come to Herod looking for “the king” because they have seen his “star in the east.” Anciently, the Jewish people associated a star with the coming of the Messiah (Num 24.17). They have come to do homage to the new king. In Christianity, they believe the “three kings” came two years after Yeshua was born. recent movies have shown this very thing.
The next question we may ask is “Where is the east?” Gen 29.1 says, “Then Jacob went on his journey and came to the land of the sons of the east.” Padan-Aram is Mesopotamia and is known as the “land of the east.” Later, this region was called Babylon and had the greatest concentration of Jews in the world in the first century. The Jewish community was carried into Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar. The second largest Jewish population was in Alexandria, Egypt and the third was in Judea and Galilee. Our story is different than in Christianity. We have Jewish rabbi’s coming from Babylon who knew the “star” prophecy out of Num 24.17 and are coming to Judea because they have seen this star in Babylon (“in the east”). The question is, when did they arrive? Was it two years after Yeshua was born as many teach or was it the night he was born.
We know that Joseph was coming to keep the festival of Sukkot and for the census at the same time. What do you do when it is over? You go home, but Joseph didn’t hang around Bethlehem for two years after Yeshua was born according to the Christian tradition. Why would they wait around, they didn’t live there. Herod was a notorious king and known for his brutality. He killed his brother-in-law because the people liked him as high priest, he was a Hasmonean. He also killed his wife Mariamne and he killed one child after another because he was jealous of them.
Matt 2.3 says that when Herod heard from the Chachamim that the king of Jews has been born, he was troubled and all of Jerusalem with him. According to Josephus, Herod slaughtered not only killed his brother-in-law, wife and his own children, but he killed his mother-in-law and was known to have spies throughout the land. When Herod was “troubled” so was everyone else. Augustus Caesar once said, “It is better to be a pig in the house of Herod than one of his children.” Herod kept kosher and wouldn’t kill a pig, but he thought nothing of murdering his own children. So, he had this massive “spy network” to let him know of anything or anyone who might be a threat to his throne. But we have a problem. The Levite shepherds are telling everyone about the birth of the Messiah in Migdal Eder. We have angelic choirs singing and other things going on. They are only four miles away from Jerusalem, yet Herod doesn’t even know what is going on when the Chachamim arrive.
Now, we know that Joseph and Miriam were in the Temple with Yeshua 40 days after he was born because she had a purification to perform according to the Torah (Lev 12.1-8; Luke 2.22-24). A man named Simeon was also there in the Temple (Luke 2.25-35). In addition, a woman named Anna, a prophetess, was there (Luke 2.26-38). Anna worked in the Temple for years. Everyone knew who she was and where to find her when you came to the Temple. So, the Temple and the ceremonies are a common thread here. If there was any place where anyone knew that Yeshua was the Messiah, it was the Temple. There is no way that this fact could not be known. Anna told everyone about Yeshua (Luke 2.38). If you have a child that is two years old, why hasn’t anyone heard of him in Matt 2.4-5? Herod, the Chief Priests and the Scribes haven’t heard anything about it?
What we have is this. At the time that the Chachamim arrive in Herod’s palace in Jerusalem, it was obvious that no one from the Temple or the surrounding area at Jerusalem had heard the report of the Levite shepherds from Migdal Eder, or from Simeon or Anna in the Temple. Therefore, the Chachamim must have been with Herod about the time the shepherds were visited by the angels and were viewing Yeshua. Why do people think he was two years old when they came? Matt 2.6-9 says that the Chachamim left Herod and followed the “star” to where Yeshua was because the prophecies say Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem. Now, the “star” was not a comet or some configuration of the stars. Trying to find out when the birth of Yeshua was by looking back to find some line up of planets is a waste of time. This “star” was a miracle of God. The star “moved” and stood over where the child was. So, how old was Yeshua when they arrived?
In the Mishnah, Tractate Parah 1.4, it says that some offerings offered on the eighth day after they were born are valid. A Red Heifer (Parah Adumah) is considered a heifer up to three years old, and they start counting this on the eighth day after the heifer is born and is considered 1 year old on the eighth day. One year after that is is considered two years old, and on the second birthday it is considered three years old. It is considered one year old on the eighth day after it was born. This also applied to a person because the Jews believed that life began at conception. So, with that in mind, Matt 2.16 says that Herod tried to kill Yeshua and ordered all children two years old and younger to be killed., but they were actually one year old and younger according to the Jewish reckoning. That is where people get the idea that Yeshua was two years old when the Chachamim came. Yeshua was not a toddler at two years old when they came, he was younger than one year old.
In the Whiston edition footnotes of Josephus, Book 18, Chapter 4, Paragraph 6, it says that Herod died in September, 4 BC. This is important to remember. His sons took over then. How does this apply? Herod must have been dead before Joseph and Miriam appear in the Temple 40 days after Yeshua’s birth for the purification ceremony found in Lev 12.1-8. In Matt 2.13-15 we learn that Joseph took his family to Egypt because Herod was going to try and kill the Yeshua. They are to stay in Egypt till Herod dies. How could Joseph and Miriam come to the Temple 40 days after Yeshua’s birth with Herod still alive? The news of his birth through the Levite shepherds would have reached the Temple very shortly, and to Herod very soon after that.
Sukkot starts on Tishri 15 and ends on Tishri 21. Then we have Shemini Atzeret, the “eighth” day. Is it possible that Yeshua was born on the 15th and circumcised on Shemini Atzeret, the “eighth” day? Joseph and Miriam take the child and leave for Egypt on Tishri 15, the night he was born. Joseph was warned in a dream to do so. That Chachamim had already arrived earlier that night, right after he was born and they have moved Miriam and Yeshua into a house from the sukkah. The Chachamim leave, everyone goes to bed as the news filters back to Herod. The Chachamim have a dream to not return to Herod, but go home a different way, and Joseph has a dream to take the child to Egypt. They leave and arrive in Egypt in about a week. The eighth day comes and Yeshua is circumcised on Tishri 22, a special day, a Yom Tov (Lev 23.36). Now they are in Egypt, the children in Bethlehem have been killed that were one year old and younger. They receive word from the Lord that Herod is dead, and they come back. All of this is within 40 days of Yeshua’s birth. When the fortieth day arrives, they are already back in the land and at the Temple for Miriam’s purification ceremony. If Yeshua was born on Tishri 14, this would have been Chesvan 25. Archelaus, the son of Herod, is tied up with the funeral of his father for about a month so they can come to the Temple, but they can’t stay in Judea (Luke 2.22). So, after the purification ceremony, they return back to Nazareth (Matt 2.23). In Part 50, we will pick up here.