The winter solstice just passed a few days ago, December 21, the shortest day of the year. On that day there also appeared in the sky a planetary conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn. There was a lot of hubbub about it because it’s so rare, occurring about once every 800 years. There were lots of articles in newspapers, magazines, and the visual media hailing it as the Star of Bethlehem.
I personally don’t believe it was the star of Bethlehem. Rather the Bethlehem star was a conjunction of Jupiter and Venus which appeared in December, 2 BC, over Jerusalem as viewed from the East, modern day Iraq or Iran, ancient Persia, making it the brightest star anyone alive had ever seen.
There is something in the human psyche that both loves and loathes mystery. We want to know all we can, and yet we are attracted to the unknown. We like to puzzle things out for ourselves and we like to learn from what others have puzzled out.
Signs in the Sky and Wise Men from the East
I think that Rick Larson got it right in his 2015 DVD titled “The Star of Bethlehem.” He is an attorney, and after reading the biblical account in Matthew chapter 2 came up with nine clues about the star as evidence to what it might have been. That’s what lawyers do. Then he purchased some astronomy software that allows one to view the actual sky and stars on any given date and time from any point on earth. What he discovered is what makes this presentation so riveting.
He contends that in September, 3 BC the king planet Jupiter made three close passes or conjunctions with the king star Regulus, in the constellation of Leo the lion. Many theorize along with Larson that this rare astronomical event, or sign in the sky, may have been anticipated and handed down to the magi from the chief of the magi, Daniel the Hebrew prophet, when he served the kings of Babylon and Persia who in their time ruled the whole known world.
And that the magi made preparation at that time, then followed the king planet Jupiter nine months later as it arrived at it’s conjunction with Venus, and that would lead them to the location of the most famous King who would ever be born, the King of the Jews.
On December 25, 2 BC, the star (Jupiter) was over Bethlehem, 5 miles south as viewed from Jerusalem, and appeared stopped (in retrograde.)
The magi followed it, along with new information from the Hebrew Scriptures provided by Herod’s scribes that Bethlehem was the place of the Messiah’s birth. They went to worship the King, who was a toddler by that time, then returned secretly to their home country, with great joy!
The conjunction a few days ago was unusual because of its rarity, but it wasn’t that bright, and even with the naked eye one could see a little space between the two planets.
What did the wisemen see in the stars that sent them on their journey? It appears that it was the king planet coming very close to the king star, three times in rapid succession, in the constellation of the lion. The lion is the animal representation of the tribe of Judah in Israel. A prophecy that Daniel and the Magi would have known is that the Messiah would come from the tribe of Judah. (Genisis 49:10) And following that, Jupiter coming in conjunction with Venus, stacked to make them appear as one, very-bright star.
I wonder what the sky looked like to them when they started their 700 mile trek, full of anticipation, awe, and intrigue?
“After hearing the king, they went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.” Matthew 2:9-10
To watch the best YouTube video of “The Star of Bethlehem” click here, and the information for ordering the DVD with better resolution and bonus material is listed below it. Enjoy!