New Defender's Study Bible Notes
2:1 Bethlehem. This statement fulfills the prophecy of Micah 5:2, given some seven hundred years earlier.
2:1 wise men. The “wise men” were actually Magi, members of the priestly caste in Persia, who were experts in astronomy and astrology, well versed also in the Old Testament.
2:2 King of the Jews. Herod considered himself “King of the Jews.” These Persian magi were very important and powerful leaders in the great Persian empire, which had never been subjugated by Rome. They probably appeared in Jerusalem with a large entourage and thus gained quick access to Herod’s court. In fact, there are some historical indications that Persia was at this time threatening Rome along the eastern boundaries of the Roman Empire. No wonder Herod was “troubled, and “all Jerusalem with him” (Matthew 2:3) at the suggestion that Persia might be about to throw its support to a new Jewish king.
2:2 his star. This “star” has been the subject of much speculation. Many have argued that it was a conjunction in 7 B.C. of Jupiter and Saturn (and possibly Mars also) in the constellation Pisces (traditionally associated with Israel). Such a conjunction, however, could not be called a “star.” Others have argued that it was a comet, but these are frequent and would hardly be associated with Israel or the Messiah. Most modern evangelicals probably take it as a special supernatural light of some kind that guided the wise men from Persia to Jerusalem. This theory, however, does not explain why they followed it at all; there was little reason to connect a sudden, slow-moving light in the sky with the promised Jewish king. The magi, expert astronomers as they were, would hardly call such a light a star.
A more likely possibility is that it was a supernova star, shining brightly for a year or more, then fading out again. Such a nova may have appeared in the constellation Virgo, and the magi, familiar already with such Scriptures as Genesis 3:15 (the promised “seed of the woman”), Numbers 24:17 (the promised “Star out of Jacob”), Isaiah 7:14 (the promised virgin-born “God with us”) since the days of both Daniel and Mordecai with their profound influence on the Persian kings could reasonably conclude that this spectacular star was, indeed, “His star,” and thus would prepare a mission to Jerusalem.