|MAGI OR WISE MEN |
An appellation given among the Medes and Persians to a class of priests, wise men, philosophers, etc., who devoted themselves to the study of the moral and physical sciences, and particularly cultivated astrology and medicine. They alone performed the religious rites, and pretended to communicate to men secret things, future events, and the will of the gods. See MEDIA. As they thus acquired great honor and influence, they were introduced into the courts of kings and consulted on all occasions. They also accompanied the army in warlike expeditions; and so much importance was attached to their advice and opinions, that nothing was attempted without their approbation. A similar class of men existed in Babylon, Egypt, Arabia, etc. The book of Daniel shows in what high estimation they were held in Babylon, Daniel was appointed master of the wise men; but their jealousy of his wisdom and their hatred of his religion, as well as the terms in which they are spoken of in Isaiah 47:13,14 Daniel 2:9,27, show that as a class they were destitute of true wisdom.
Not so those who came "from the East" to salute and adore the infant Jesus, Matthew 2:1-12. The captivity of the Jews beyond the Euphrates had dispersed throughout the East much knowledge of the true God; and these philosophers and astronomers, in their search after wisdom, had found and believed the prophecies respecting the Messiah, and were divinely guided to his presence at Bethlehem. See STAR. In them, the science and philosophy of the heathen world laid their homage at the feet of Christ. Compare Psalms 72:10,11 Isaiah 60:1-3.