THE ORIGINAL WISE MEN
The only other book in the Bible to mention “Magi” is Daniel. About 600 years before Christ, the Babylonians started to take Jews into exile. A young Hebrew named Daniel was among the first to go, and his story in Babylon is where the Bible introduces us to the Magi (THE ORIGINAL “WISE MEN”)
Daniel’s life is fascinating because of the extraordinary extent to which revelatory dreams and supernatural prophetic activity opened doors for him. As a man with the prophetic Spirit, Daniel became influential in the highest places of power – even advising the ruler of Babylon, King Nebuchadnezzar, himself.
One night, that king had a dream:
“Now in the second year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; and his spirit was so troubled that his sleep left him. Then the king gave the command to call the magicians, the astrologers [in Greek, “magi”], the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans to tell the king his dreams. So they came and stood before the king. And the king said to them, ‘I have had a dream, and my spirit is anxious to know the dream.’ Then the Chaldeans spoke to the king in Aramaic, ‘O king, live forever!
Tell your servants the dream, and we will give the interpretation.’ The king answered and said to the Chaldeans, ‘My decision is firm: if you do not make known the dream to me, and its interpretation, you shall be cut in pieces, and your houses shall be made an ash heap. However, if you tell the dream and its interpretation, you shall receive from me gifts, rewards, and great honor. Therefore tell me the dream and its interpretation.’” Daniel 2:1-6
This passage mentions the Magi for the first time in Scripture (THE ORIGINAL “WISE MEN”). They appeared in King Nebuchadnezzar’s court when he called his spiritual advisors to decipher his mysterious dream. In the Greek translation of the Old Testament, those called “astrologers” above are Magi. Theirs was one of four groups called together to create the king’s spiritual advisory board.
The king was serious about getting the authoritative interpretation to his dream, so he put them to the test. Any pretender could fabricate an interpretation for a dream. But if these groups truly had supernatural insight, they would have to demonstrate it. If they could first tell the king his dream, then he would believe their interpretation. But each of the four groups – including the Magi – failed. So in his fury, the king planned to kill them.
“For this reason the king was angry and very furious, and gave the command to destroy all the wise men of Babylon. So the decree went out, and they began killing the wise men; and they sought Daniel and his companions, to kill them. Then with counsel and wisdom Daniel answered Arioch, the captain of the king’s guard, who had gone out to kill the wise men of Babylon; he answered and said to Arioch the king’s captain, ‘Why is the decree from the king so urgent?’
Then Arioch made the decision known to Daniel. So Daniel went in and asked the king to give him time, that he might tell the king the interpretation. Then Daniel went to his house, and made the decision known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions, that they might seek mercies from the God of heaven concerning this secret, so that Daniel and his companions might not perish with the rest of the wise men of Babylon. Then the secret was revealed to Daniel in a night vision. So Daniel blessed the God of heaven.” Daniel 2:12-19
Daniel’s Leadership and Legacy in Babylon
Of all the wise men in Babylon, no one had the power to discern the king’s dream except for Daniel, the Lord’s prophet from Judea. After Daniel told the king his dream and its interpretation, Nebuchadnezzar promoted him to a high rank of political authority that included jurisdiction over all the wise men of Babylon – including the Magi.
“Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell on his face, prostrate before Daniel, and commanded that they should present an offering and incense to him. The king answered Daniel, and said, ‘Truly your God is the God of gods, the Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets, since you could reveal this secret.’
Then the king promoted Daniel and gave him many great gifts; and he made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon, and chief administrator over all the wise men of Babylon. Also Daniel petitioned the king, and he set Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego over the affairs of the province of Babylon; but Daniel sat in the gate of the king.” Daniel 2:46-49
So some of the “wise men” in Daniel’s charge were the predecessors of the Magi we see hundreds of years later in Matthew, travelling from the east to worship Jesus. They had a revelation from God and came to Jerusalem to honour the true King. Yet their pedigree was decidedly heathen. The “wise men” in Daniel’s day were pagan astrologers and diviners and even practised magic and fortune-telling. THE ORIGINAL WISE MEN
But can you see God at work? He sent a true prophet to these false prophets! Because God used Daniel to give a powerful revelation to King Nebuchadnezzar, he rose to the place of influence over these practitioners of false religion and dark arts.
God sent His witness into this dark corner of the world to shine the light of His Kingdom. And as Matthew’s Christmas story shows us, Daniel’s light in Babylon became a legacy for the magi’s descendants. It began a story that would become a great prophetic sign to Israel and the world.