How RICH were the Magi?

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How RICH were the wise men, also known as the Magi, who came to worship Jesus as the King of the Jews (Matthew 2:2)? Did they bring him only small containers of a few valuable commodities or did they offer much MORE than typical Nativity scenes tend to show? Did their gifts make possible Mary and Joseph's trip to Egypt and aid their large family after Joseph died? Did the rich Magi help fulfill Bible prophecy concerning the ministry of the Messiah?

The economic status of Jesus' family, before the Magi appear, is stable but it did not afford much beyond the necessities of life. Joseph, Christ's stepfather, was a skilled craftsman (carpenter) by trade (Matthew 13:55). The family was not rich by any means but rather lived (in our modern terminology) from paycheck to paycheck. After the birth of our Savior, the family travels to Jerusalem's temple to present him before God and to give the required offering. Unable to afford the more costly offering of a one-year-old lamb and either a dove or pigeon (Leviticus 12:6) they give the fall less expensive two pigeons or doves (Leviticus 12:8, Luke 2:24).

The appearance of the Magi, shortly after Mary and Joseph arrive back in Bethlehem, completely changes the financial status of the family. These "wise men" were influential and rich members of one of Parthia's two ruling classes who were willing to travel over 1,000 miles to WORSHIP (not merely honor, see Matthew 2:2) the King of Kings. Such dignitaries brought FAR MORE treasure as an offering to Christ than most people think. In his book, "The Lost Ten Tribes of Israel . . . Found!" author Stephen Collins states the following regarding the wealth the Magi gave.

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"This Parthian delegation was offering tribute money to a 'king,' and therefore would more likely have brought a whole train of pack animals LOADED with gold, frankincense and myrrh . . . The Parthians regarded Jesus as royalty, and it was the ancient custom to give a royal personage a truly worthy gift when coming into his presence. Since the Parthian Magi were directed to Jesus by an angel of God, their sense of awe likely resulted in unusually large gifts being given to Jesus" (first revised edition, chapter 9, parts 1 and 3)

Adoration of the Magi by Botticelli
Adoration of the Magi
Sandro Botticelli (1465 - 67)

After the wise men leave Bethlehem, an angel tells Joseph to take his family and flee to Egypt (Matthew 2:13 - 15). Mary and Joseph, who only recently barely afforded a temple offering of two birds, now have the financial means to not only travel to Egypt (a fulfillment of prophecy, Matthew 2:13 - 15) but also to stay there at least five months! The family, upon the death of Herod, then make a long (at least 106 miles) and costly trip to their home in Nazareth. God made sure, through the generous gifts of the wise men, that his beloved Son had the resources available in order for his life to be protected.

The possible benefits received from the riches left by the Magi do not end with the above. Joseph dies sometime between Jesus' twelfth birthday (Luke 2:43) and several years before his ministry starts at the age of thirty. Joseph and Mary, before his death, produce at least six children other than Christ (see our article on "Did Jesus have brothers?"). The natural question is how did Mary, as a widow, afford to raise and feed SEVEN children? Could it be that the gifts of the wise men were instrumental in sustaining the family after Joseph's death? Stephen Collins writes the following in this regard.

"the Parthian Magi had lavished gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh upon Jesus when they had visited him shortly after his birth . . . Jesus (as the first born son and head of the household after Joseph's death) could have tapped that wealth to provide for his family's needs without having to work as a carpenter." (ibid. page 399)

The wealth freely given by the wise men may have also made possible the prophetic ministry of Jesus. There is no hint in the gospels that Christ ever asked for donations to help fund his ministry. Judas regularly stole from the group's money bag (John 12:6), which he carried (John 12:6, 13:29), and which would be easily noticeable had the group had little or no cash. We also have indications that the group regularly gave money to the poor (John 12:5, 13:29). Jesus had enough finances not only to take care of his disciples but also to give to the less fortunate. It is entirely possible that the rich Magi gave enough in their worship of Jesus to fund his public preaching of the gospel!

Additional Study Materials
Can a rich person enter God's Kingdom?
Journeys of Mary and Joseph Map
What does Proverbs teach about wealth?

How RICH were the Magi?

Holy Bible, a Faithful Version
Lost Ten Tribes of Israel . . . Found!

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