Parthia is also mentioned in the Bible. In Acts 2:9, on the day of Pentecost, we find that devout worshippers from throughout the Parthian empire were in attendance.
In early Christian art, the Magi are depicted in Parthian dress (belted tunics, full sleeves, Phrygian cap, and trousers). Eastern traditions say that twelve Magi went to Judea to worship the Messiah. Many Christians believe that since three gifts were given to Jesus - gold, incense, and myrrh - there must have been three Magi who visited to pay homage. This number, however, is only an guess based on a one gift per person assumption. The Bible nowhere gives us a count. An interesting story is told of the Basilica of Bethlehem, originally built by Constantine. When the Persian armies swept through the Holy Land, they spared this church because it had a mosaic representing the magi as Persians.
An ancient prophecy of a star
Were the Magi following the star prophesied in Numbers 24 by none other than Balaam, a prophet of Midian who was paid by Balak to CURSE the children of Israel? Could it be that the people of Midian preserved this prophecy from the time of Joshua until the coming of Jesus? We know that Moses' father-in-law Jethro was a priest of Midian, which later was absorbed into the Medo-Persian empire. The Bible prophecy is:
"I shall see him, but not now: I behold him, but not near. A Star shall come out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and batter the brow of Moab, and destroy all the sons of tumult. " (Numbers 24:17)
Paying a visit to Herod
The Magi go to Herod first. Apparently they believed that as ruler of Judea he might have known where the Messiah was located. Herod, however, is troubled by the news and consults with the chief priests and scribes, some of whom were probably members of the Sanhedrin. Matthew 2 says:
"And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. So they said to him, 'In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet . . .'" (Matthew 2:4-5)
This group publicly and officially proclaims that the child would be born in Bethlehem; by inference they recognize "Jesus is the king of Israel." Herod knew the Messiah was there or he would not have ordered the slaughter of all male children two years and under (Matthew 2:16). The last thing he wanted was another legitimate descendant of David - and there were thousands at the time - laying claim to his throne.
It's a pity that people do not understand the great drama of Jesus' birth and those who were involved - angels, shepherds, Magi, kings, priest, etc. etc. It was not the accidental birth of a child from a noble Roman family that ushered in world peace. It was the foreordained birth of a man from another noble family -- that of David -- but belonging to a despised and downtrodden race.
The professing Christian world has conditioned our minds to think of His birth as being connected to snow and ice and sleigh bells. It has trivialized Jesus' appearance as a human being, portraying him as a helpless baby, with only animals and humble people in attendance to Him. It has accepted an erroneous date completely foreign to Jesus' Jewish roots. His birth was not a time for celebration as we understand it today. It was a momentous political event that electrified the people of Judea and rulers of other nations because it signified the BEGINNING of the END of man's dominion over this earth. Let us never forget that Jesus was born to be King of Kings and Lord of Lords, and that one day every knee will bow to Him. This is the real story of the nativity and who were the Magi.