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Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Wise men at the manger? 


While reading about Migdal Eder (you are reading Jennifer's "Investigating the Nativity" series, aren't you?), I ran across this timely statement:


There are several mistakes made when telling the story of the birth of Jesus that many believe to be true.

1. First, there were shepherds at the manger (Luke 2:8-10), but not the wise men. We also have no idea as to how many wise men there are. It could be 2 or 20! The Bible says that the wise men brought three gifts, gold frankincense and myrrh. It is more likely that since these were common currency items of value that each wise man, regardless of the actual number, brought a little of all three. We are not saying that there wasn't three, just that to say so is going beyond what is written.

2. Another glaring error in all the nativity scenes is that the wise men were certainly not at the manger of the inn the night Jesus was born. It says that the wise men came to Jesus' house! It seems clear that the wise men came just prior to the time Herod issued his decree to slaughter all the children under two years. The star first appeared to the wise men when Jesus was born, but it led the wise men to Jesus' house. (Matthew 2:11 "And they came into the house and saw the Child with Mary His mother")

3. The Bible doesn't say the star shone over the manger. This was a sign only the wise men could discern. The average person would miss it. The star appeared for the purpose of leading the wise men to Jesus home. The wise men started their journey when the star first appeared (at birth). Being from the "east" most likely Persian or Mesopotamia (Modern Iraq) , they completed a journey of at least 500 miles. We can get a general idea as to how old Jesus was when the wise men visited by approximating the time it would take to make such a trip at that time in history. To travel 500 miles, would take 25 days is about the earliest they could have arrived under perfect conditions.



Incidentally, here's what this source has to say about Migdal Eder:


However some suggest that the whole idea that the flocks where brought into corals during the coldest months, implying the shepherds were not out in the fields, is rejected by some who say the flocks stayed in the fields year round.

"And yet Jewish tradition may here prove both illustrative and helpful. That the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem, was a settled conviction. Equally so, was the belief , that He was to be revealed from Migdal Eder, 'the tower of the flock.' This Migdal Eder was not the watchtower for the ordinary flocks which pastured on the barren sheepground beyond Bethlehem, but lay close to the town, on the road to Jerusalem. A passage in the Mishnah leads to the conclusion, that the flocks, which pastured there, were destined for Temple-sacrifices, and, accordingly, that the shepherds, who watched over them, were not ordinary shepherds. The latter were under the ban of Rabbinism, on account of their necessary isolation from religious ordinances, and their manner of life, which rendered strict legal observance unlikely, if not absolutely impossible. The same Mishnaic passage also leads us to infer, that these flocks lay out all the year round, since they are spoken of as in the fields thirty days before the Passover -- that is, in the month of February, when in Palestine the average rainfall is nearly greatest. Thus, Jewish tradition in some dim manner apprehended the first revelation of the Messiah from that Migdal Eder, where shepherds watched the Temple-flocks all the year round. Of the deep symbolic significance of such a coincidence, it is needless to speak". (Afred Edersheim in The Life and Times of Jesus The Messiah, p186-187)



And a man who's really into numbers says this:


Later in the parsha we read of another tragedy, the early passing of Rachel with the birth of Yoseph. Immediately thereafter we are told Yaakov, called here by the name, Israel, “journeyed on and he pitched his tent beyond Migdal-eder. And it came top pass, when Israel dwelt in that land, that Reuven went and lay with Bilhah, his father’s concubine, and Israel heard. The sons of Israel were twelve.” This also begs for explanation. The obvious and the not so obvious. What did Reuven do and what is the need of stating, “when Israel dwelt in that land”?

The Targum Yonason ben Uziel writes something remarkable on these words. That from there the Messianic king would reveal himself at the end of days. We do not hear again of Migdal-eder until one of the last prophets, Micha says, “And you, Migdal-eder, Ophel of the daughter of Zion, they will come back to you.” To understand this verse, ArtScroll explains Ophel is the name of one of Israel’s fortifications. The Prophet compares the ingathering of Israel to the gathering of lost sheep. It seems we all may congregate around that point. So he dubs the Ophel as Migdal-eder, Tower of the Flock. Here, again, the Targum Yonason ben Uziel writes Migdal-eder is the Mashiach of Israel.



And here's more:


Beit Sahour (meaning "house of vigilance") seems to have been established in the mid-13th century AD, although it is not mentioned in Western literature until 1591. According to the latest census, the population of 12,300, includes 80% Christians, the largest proportion in the area. Here is a field said to be the one where Boaz saw Ruth gleaning and was attracted to her. Probably nearby, David, Jesus' ancestor and shepherd of the family flock, was anointed king by the prophet Samuel. According to Jerome, this was the site of Migdal Eder or "Tower of the Flock," where Jacob grazed his flock on his journey to Hebon after the death of Rachel. Apparently the name was derived from the watchtowers where shepherds kept an eye on their grazing sheep. The Mishnah confirms that sacrificial animals for the temple were grazed at Migdal Eder.

The prophet Micah (4:8) alluded to this place when speaking of the coming Messiah: "As for you, O watchtower of the flock, O stronghold of the Daughter of Zion, the former dominion will be restored to you; kingship will come to the Daughter of Jerusalem."

Here, too, according to tradition, the shepherds were keeping watch over their flocks when an angel told them of Jesus' birth.



From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

Comments:
Great work here! There are volumes and volumes of material to sift through, full of great nuggets of information. It’s really exciting stuff. And I never buy creches with wise men.
 
Didn't know you could buy them without wise men. I thought that you had to buy the whole thing, then hide the three wise men (it's always three of them) in a box.
 
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