Is it Scriptural or tradition that lets us believe there were three Wise Men? There’s that song about “We three Kings of Orient are… traveling…” But, as far as I know, there is nothing in the Bible that says there are three or that says how many Magi actually came. Surely, they had an entourage, so there would have been more than three men in their caravan: servants, cameleers, baggage handlers.
The kings, called magi, also referred to as magicians, astrologers, or astronomers, were likely followers of Zoroastrianism, a monotheistic belief with an uncreated Creator called the Illuminated Wisdom. It was this supreme being who fought evil, with the help of men leading a family- oriented, good life through good works and deeds.
Isaiah 60:3 says, “And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising” KJV. “Kings….shall offer gifts. Yea, all kings shall fall down before him…” Ps. 72:10b-11a KJV.
What about the kings is legend? That there were three; their races (black, white, yellow); their names (Melchior, Balthasar, Gaspar); their ages (young, middle-aged, old). We tend to place the wise men and the shepherds all together in the manger creche, but it is calculated from Scripture and history that the wise men arrived about two years after Christ’s birth.
Other than being expensive gifts, the gold, frankincense, and myrrh have interesting and important meanings. Gold honors kings. Frankincense is incense used by priests. Myrrh was used as a burial spice for anointing. Jesus Christ is King of kings; He is our high priest; He offered His life an atonement for our sin, was buried, and rose from the dead. All of the gifts were symbolic and prophetic of Christ’s life and death.
What shall we give Jesus for His birthday? Often, we ask Jesus what He wants each of us to give Him for His birthday. He could tell us through His Holy Spirit. Would you ask Him, this year, what He wants you to give?
Further references of interest: I Kings 10:1-2 and 14-21. Daniel 3:1-5. Isaiah 60:6b. Song of Solomon 4: 13-14. Exodus 30:23-25. John 19:39. Mark 15:23.