Gibbs, Jeffrey A. “Matthew 2:1-12: Magi Come to Pay Homage to the True King.” St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2006, pp. 115-128.
Commenting on Matthew 2:1 and the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, Gibbs is fairly confident that Herod’s death was in 4 B.C., which places Jesus’ birth in 6 or 5 B.C. (Gibbs 2006, 115). He will later discuss harmonization of the difficult dates.
The “star” seen by the Magi seems unlikely to be a natural phenomenon. It drew their attention as much as two years earlier, then pointed them very precisely to Jesus’ location (Gibbs 2006, 116).
The action of worship described may or may not have been a recognition of Jesus as the God of all. Gibbs suggests that it was a clear act of reverence and would be seen by Matthew’s readers as an indication of Jesus’ true identity (Gibbs 2006, 117).
Gibbs observes that Matthew’s citation of Micah chapter 5 is 2:6 is not specifically identical to Micah’s text (Gibbs 2006, 119). Matthew’s alterations seem intended at times to make the theological emphasis more clear. The sense remains the same, but Matthew’s changes point the reader directly to the point (Gibbs 2006, 120).
Though Gibbs recognizes the two kings - Herod and Jesus - as the main characters in Matthew 2, he also notes that the Magi are very important to the flow of ideas. As in chapter one, here in chapter two the average human will not recognize the divine presence in Jesus without some sort of miraculous message (Gibbs 2006, 121).
At the time of Jesus’ birth, Herod the Great was well known as a very competent, though power hungry ruler. On the contrary, Jesus the King of all was lowly, of humble origin, and completely dependent on others (Gibbs 2006, 122). Though Herod would have tried to locate and kill the newborn King, God intervenes using a star to direct the Magi and then he warns them in a dream not to return to Herod. Gibbs sees this as entirely consistent with God’s pattern of using people in unexpected ways to fulfill his promise to Abraham (Gibbs 2006, 123).
Gibbs, following Mark Allen Powell, notes that the Magi were not regarded as royal figures until the sixth century (Gibbs 2006, 123). They would also not have been considered as a special class of “wise men” until the 8th century (Gibbs 2006, 124). Based on Daniel’s description they would likely have been servants and possibly advisers to a pagan ruler (Gibbs 2006, 125). These, Gibbs says, fit the pattern of unlikely people to proclaim the identity of the Messiah. They are depicted as ignorant of nearly every matter of importance in identifying the Messiah. Herod, on the other hand, recognizes that when the Magi ask about a “king” he needs to look for a “Messiah.” This is the promise he considered significant (Gibbs 2006, 128).