Two Kings Not Three

Jul 19, 2020

Two Kings Not Three

Passage: Matthew 2:1-6

Preacher: Jeff Crotts

Series: We Need a King

Category: Sunday Morning


Matthew 2:1-12 Two Kings Not Three

I am not sure if you have noticed but there is a lot of fear in society today! 

  • All you have to do is go shopping to see this.
  • People are thinking about what they might lose.
  • I am not sure people fear death as much as what they might lose in their lifetime.
  • Great loss can come in an instant.
  • We all know we are one phone call away from tragic news.
  • Wealth.  Loved ones. 
  • Fear can easily grow into paranoia.

Your fear level is a diagnoses of your spiritual condition. 

  • Whether you are following God’s lead or Satan’s lead.
    • There is God and there is “the god of this world.”
    • There is Christ and there is anti-Christ.
    • Prince of Peace and the Prince of the power of the air.
    • God is light and there is the angel of light.
    • The Truth and counterfeit.

ESV  2 Timothy 1:7 for God gave us aa spirit not of fear but bof power and love and self-control.

ESV  1 John 4:18 There is no fear in love, but aperfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not xbeen perfected in love.

  • You can boil everything down to the battle waged between good and evil.
  • Jesus has come to give life, Satan has come to steal, kill, and destroy.
  • Holiness and Joy versus unbridled sin and despair.
  • Truth versus lies.
  • Freedom versus bondage.

This is one great power struggle. 

  • To crown either God or Satan as King.


This leads us to Matthew 2. 

Another “Christmas in July” sermon which has little to do with a holiday and everything to do with our world and personal events, today. 

  • Most center on the story of the “wise men” literally “magi” [magoi] (v. 1).
  • The Christmas carol, “We three Kings” might come to mind.
  • It does now, right?

Two errors right of the bat with this song. 

  • We have no idea how “magi” there were.
    • Three presumed from three gifts offered Christ (v. 11).
    • No idea if there were three or a crowd (20?).
    • At least more than one.


  • Second, the Bible does not call them Kings but magi.
    • I will describe them later but they were not Kings.
    • However, please do not miss that there were Kings in this story.

Kings are the main point of the story.    

  • We have two Kings not three.
    • “Herod the king” (v. 1) and the “king of the Jews” (v. 2).
    • One who has “his star” (v. 2) and again “Herod the king” (v. 3).
    • Herod versus “the Christ” [“the anointed” or “the messiah”] meaning, King.
    • “A ruler” (v. 6) verses “Herod” (vv. 7) “the king” (v. 9).


  • One worldly king credentialed by Rome - Another by 2,000 years of genealogy - tracing this King through David’s line.
  • Who fulfills with precision, over 350 prophecies.

Two Kings means two roads.  Two options. Wide or narrow.  Good or evil.  True or false.  Life or death.  Right or wrong.  Fear or faith. 


Two Kings make for three reactions. 

1. Hatred (vv. 1-3)

Herod is the picture of hatred for Christ.  “…he was troubled” (v. 3).  A disturbed person.      

Who is Herod? 

Herod “the Great” the first of several Herods mentioned in the Gospels. 

  • Julius Caesar appointed his father, Antipater over Judea and Antipater appointed his son Herod to a lower level – a prefect - where he rose to power.
    • Quelling Jewish guerilla bands where fighting existed in the Middle East within Palestine and Parthian, Far East invasions.
    • Military success won promotions under Octavian and Antony (Roman senate) declaring Herod “king of the Jews.”

Herod was half Jew and half Idumaean, Edomite blood in his veins, never a pure Jew. 

  • Esau was the progenitor of the Edomites - Jacob versus Esau reloaded.


  • Herod appointed governor in 47 B.C. he wielded power for over three decades, up to the birth of Christ.


  • Like most stories, things began well.
    • Herod had success keeping the peace, bringing order where others could not.
    • A great builder (theaters, arenas, auditoriums for entertainment, he assumed the reconstruction of the Temple in Jerusalem.
    • The second Temple after return from exile.
    • Generous regarding tax relief during a national famine (25 B.C.).
    • Personally melted down his own gold (plates) to buy corn for starving people.

However, Herod had a terrible flaw, he was insanely suspicious. 

  • The older he became the more suspicious he grew!
  • He was an Edomite, not a full-blooded Jew. Loyal to Rome. 
  • Untrusted by the nationals.
  • He had a military history against Far East Medio-Persian countries.
  • Into his 70’s and 80’s he fell into full-on paranoia, tin foil hat, conspiracy theories abounding.
  • Called: “A murderous old man.” All rivals must be eliminated. 
  • He was married 10 times.

Married Mariamne, a Jewish heiress with political clout to make himself more acceptable to Jews.  It didn’t work. 

  • Suspected her brother, the high priest Aristobulus as a threat, had him drowned (pretended to weep at the funeral) and then murdered her along with her mother Alexandra.
  • Assassinated his oldest son, Antipater, and two other sons.

Augustus, the Roman Emperor, said, “It is safer to be Herod’s pig than Herod’s son.” 

  • When he was sick leading to death, from his warped nature, he had dignitaries – citizens of Jerusalem arrested on false charges, imprisoned, and ordered their execution the moment he died, because he know no one would mourn his death.

We know the story of how he like Pharaoh would order infanticide of “all male children” in Bethlehem and broader regions, two years and older! 

  • In sum, a slaughterer who put to death half of the Sanhedrin, 300 court officials, executed his wife and mother-in-law, three sons, and notable men of Jerusalem.  

Herod’s paranoia was Satanic.  Herod is the picture of Satan.  A ruthless, insane, murderer, who’s mission was to snuff out his chief threat.  Jesus the Christ. 

With this background, let’s dive into the story. 

  • “Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea” distinguishing this location from another “Bethlehem” (v. 1).
    • A small village on the southern outskirts of Jerusalem. 5 miles away. 
    • Rachel’s burial place and King David’s birthplace.

“Who were the wise men?” 

  • The title “wise men” is magi [magoi] where we get the word “magic” (v. 1).
    • We do not know much about them but fill in details from the Bible.
    • “Magoi” were from Babylon.


  • Modern-day Bagdad, some 500 to 700 miles east of Jerusalem.


  • They find their history in the book of Daniel where both the Chaldeans or Babylonians had “wise men” (Dan. 2:12-14; 24, 27, 48; 4:6, 18, 5:6-8, 15).
    • Zoroastrian stargazers originating from the Medio-Persia region.
    • Magicians of sorts, a false religious system.
    • Counterfeits of God’s power much like Pharoah’s magicians who confronted Moses (cf. Ex. 7:11).


  • Sorcerers or wizards who divined dreams.
  • Think also in Acts Simon Magus, “Simon the Sorcerer” (cf. Acts 8:9-24).
  • They used math, science, religion, and magic to discern the future.
  • Demon inspired, forbidden by Levitical Law.

Magi who under Nebuchadnezzar’s court from the book of Daniel gives us a clue for how/why these “Magi” resurface 500 years later.

  • The storyline of Daniel is one where he along with his college-aged friends were captured, taken into captivity to be brain-washed in the university of Babylon.
    • Science, Math, Philosophy, Religion.
    • Daniel chose not to eat their food or believe their false teaching is indicated in Daniel 2 where Daniel, one of the hand-picked students, put in the king's court, was able to do what the Magi could not.


  • Nebuchadnezzar had a terrifying dream that he forgot.
    • Nebuchadnezzar ordered the wise men and others to tell him the dream or die!
    • Only Daniel could see and interpret the dream of saving everyone’s life.
  • This account along with the other strong impressions (cf. Daniel 5) made by Daniel and his friends built credibility for the God of Israel and God’s Word.
    • They were missionaries where foreigners believed, many Jews stayed and intermarried even after the exile.
    • So, though this was a dark region of the world, there were believers.

At the same time, anyone coming into Jerusalem from the East, modern-day Bagdad, posed a threat to Israel. 

  • Remember Herod fought off Persian aggression decades before.
  • Nearly every previous world empire stemmed from Assyria, Babylon, or Medo-Person empires all from the east.
  • Alexander the Great had conquered as far east as the Indus River (Pakistan) in 323 B.C. stopping before India.          

So, these “wise men from the east” symbolized a threat to a paranoid, “troubled” king. 

  • They arrived no doubt with a procession of pomp and show, dressed in wizard’s clothes with cone-shaped hats.
    • Not on camels but Arabian steeds, traveling with a small army.


John Milton “On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity” calls them Star-led Wizards.” 


  • Herod’s own army being tied up with the census ordered.

Verse 2, says these “king-makers” were asking around town, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews?”

  • What prompted their 500-mile trek and what was fueling this inquiry?


“For we saw his star when it rose and we have come to worship him” (v. 2). 


  • Okay, so piecing together that they were “magi” from Babylon with what brought them there we can assume God’s Word was involved.


  • These stargazers are drawn by what they interpreted as “his star” (v. 2).
    • Not just any star.
    • Scholars have called this a comet or some kind of lunar phenomenon where Jupiter and Saturn aligned within the constellation of Pisces (the sign for Christianity?) to make this work.
    • However, this star moves so we should surmise that what caught their attention was a supernatural “star” like the shekinah glory that lead the Israelites to the Promised Land.
    • The Shekinah that enveloping the angels as they announced Jesus’ birth to the Shepherds.

The “magi” tie together this supernatural sign with Numbers 24:17. 

  • Balaam’s prophesy.
  • King Balak’s false prophet whom the Lord used to speak to wandering Israel.
  • Ironically Balaam, himself a sorcerer of sorts.

ESV  Numbers 24:17 aI see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near: ba star shall come out of Jacob, and ca scepter shall rise out of Israel; it shall dcrush the forehead1 of Moab and break down all the sons of Sheth.


“What is Herod’s response to God’s Word?”  Anger! 

  • The wise-men have “come to worship” and Herod is moved to rage.
  • Gentiles coming into faith! Herod moving into homicide. 

Of the “wise-men” JC Ryle said, “We read of no greater faith then this in the whole volume of the Bible.” 

[Ryle] “True servants of God are in places where we should not expect to find them.  The Lord Jesus has many hidden ones, like these wise men.” 


  • Examples of “spiritual diligence” going house to house, asking, “Where is he?
  • Where is he who has been born king of the Jews?” (v. 2). 

Their passion was to “worship!” [propkunew] – to bow, pay homage, and kiss toward! 


Herod’s heart hardens up.  He is paranoid!  Freaked out and “troubled” (v. 3). 

  • How much? So much that “all Jerusalem [was troubled] with him” (v. 3). 
    • How wide is Herod’s “troubling” influence?
    • Left undefined - the media spread was expansive.


  • Why was “Jerusalem” stirred up?
    • Were they afraid of the “magi?”  
    • They were afraid of their maniac King Herod.


  • “Will Herod go on a murderous spree!
  • “Will his paranoia lead him into rash homicidal behavior?”

Reading to the end of chapter 2 we know it does!

This leads to the second reaction to Christ the King.

2. Indifference (vv. 4-6)

Herod’s paranoia led him to pull together, “…assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people” (v. 4). 

  • Herod, though king of the Jews, had no knowledge of Scripture.
    • The chief priests were made up of, active and ex-high priests.
    • Priestly aristocracy, of select families.


  • He knew the Jews would know the meaning of this and so he pulls together their leaders.
    • The chief priests and scribes are experts.
    • Scribes were “teachers of the law” who knew their stuff, spending all day meticulously copying Scripture.


  • This question was “Bible Trivia for 100.”

Verse 6 marries together Micah 5:2 with 2 Samuel 5:2. 

  • These Bible scholars, steeped in Scripture, connect Bethlehem with David’s birth and reign and line to the Messiah.


  • Not surprising they knew the answer what is shocking is that they did nothing about it.

Pagan raised, Gentile Wizards walked miles and the chief priests and scribes (and “all Jerusalem) will not travel 5 miles to see if this Shekinah star is fulfilling prophecy.

ESV  2 Timothy 3:7 always learning and never able to aarrive at a knowledge of the truth. (2Ti 3:7 ESV)  

The chief priests and scribes are the picture of indifference and apathy. 

  • Engrossed in their Temple ritual and legal discussions, completely disregarding Jesus. He meant nothing to them.

Which is worse, rage and hatred or indifference and apathy? 

  • Modernize this for a second.
  • Fear versed faith in a paranoid culture.
  • If you are paranoid, you act out either in introversion or extraversion.
  • You either go into your shell or rush out on the attack.

At this point, Herod, all Jerusalem, and the religious leaders are act in apathy. 

  • The wise men act in faith.
  • They are the steady ones.
  • Herod conspires to kill Jesus, saying, “You guys go and I’ll catch up!” He goes crazy later. 

Spiritual indifference is not okay. 

  • People around you are going backward and it is up to you to pursue Jesus.
  • To talk about Jesus out loud and around town.
  • We are fools made wise. Blind men who now see.


Our only response to our King is to pay homage in worship.  Let’s finish this epic story next time. 

 3. Worship

The wise men are the picture of worship.

Who are they?

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