The Star out of Jacob

StarJabobby Deana Chadwell  12/8/14
Christmas is almost here – we’ve put up our tree, we’re scurrying around town doing our shopping, and staring at the boxes of cards we need to get addressed. Christmas as usual, but every year I realize that I’ve learned something new about the birth of Christ – something that makes it all matter even more than it ever has. This year I am even more struck with the reality of Christ’s birth and the precise divine planning that went into that first Christmas. Christmas is not a fairytale – Santa notwithstanding. It’s a documented historical reality – documented both in writing and in the stars….

Those of us who attended Sunday School in our youth eventually came face to face with the “begats” – those long strings of genealogy filled with unpronounceable names and apparently impossible ages. Check out a few verses from Genesis 5:

21 When Enoch had lived 65 years, he became the father of Methuselah. 22 After he became the father of Methuselah, Enoch walked faithfully with God 300 years and had other sons and daughters. 23 Altogether, Enoch lived a total of 365 years. 24 Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.

25 When Methuselah had lived 187 years, he became the father of Lamech. 26 After he became the father of Lamech, Methuselah lived 782 years and had other sons and daughters. 27 Altogether, Methuselah lived a total of 969 years, and then he died… and on and on and on.

The last of the begats is recorded in the first chapter of Matthew’s gospel.  It runs from Abraham, c2500 B.C., to Joseph, Mary, and Jesus. It’s taken me many years to understand why these lists are in the Bible and what they have to do with Christmas. But now I think I have a glimmer.[pullquote]Jesus is not just some mythical figure, some legend of a really good guy who was followed by a few misfits until his untimely and grisly end.[/pullquote]

You see, most other religions have at their center beings that are not thoroughly embedded in recorded history, dramatically connected to celestial events, clearly placed in both time and space. Siddarhtha Guatama (Buddha) is thought to have lived somewhere in the East, sometime between the 6th and the 4th centuries B.C.; we know nothing about his background, his ancestors. Mohammed was born in a specific time (570 A. D.) in a specific place (Mecca), and we know he was orphaned and raised by his uncle; other than that we have no information about his lineage; he just pops into history. The Hindu gods have no human presence – no human prophets, just sages who appear occasionally and then ghost off.

But Jesus Christ is different. We can, through those interminable “begats,” trace his ancestry, without a hitch, from Adam, through his third son Seth, to Noah, from Noah’s son Shem to Abraham, from Abraham to David, and from David through two different lines (Solomon and Nathan) to Joseph and Mary respectively, the Joseph and Mary who travelled to Bethlehem where Jesus was born in 2 B.C.

Jesus is not just some mythical figure, some legend of a really good guy who was followed by a few misfits until his untimely and grisly end. His presence on earth was predicted, proclaimed, prophesied from the earliest of human existence. Adam and Eve learned of his eventual sacrifice just after they disobeyed God and lost their place in Eden. Two animals died to make that clear to them. Their second son understood the lesson they had handed down to him and expressed that understanding in his animal sacrifice. Their first son rejected that message and made two sacrifices that demonstrated that – a plate of vegetables and his believing brother, Abel. Generations later Abraham thoroughly understood and when God asked him to sacrifice his son Isaac, Abraham almost went through with it, partly because he knew that God would someday sacrifice His own son.

When the angel of death swooped down over Egypt almost a thousand years later, it was the shedding of blood, the sacrificial lamb that saved the Jews from the loss of their firstborn. Later, Moses built the Tabernacle and it was centered on the idea of the sacrificial death of the perfect.  I could go on and on like the “begats,” but the point is that since Adam and Eve left the Garden man looked forward to the arrival of a savior. They even had the idea connected to a star:

I see him, but not now;
I behold him, but not near;
A Star shall come out of Jacob;
A Scepter shall rise out of Israel,
And batter the brow of Moab,
And destroy all the sons of tumult.
  Numbers 24:17

The Wise Men, the Magi, likely a remnant of Jews who stayed in Babylon after the captivity (586-538 B.C.), knew about the prophecies, they watched for the signs — the signs that God planned into the universe since before the beginning of time. They counted Sabbath years and Jubilee years. They (Whether there were three of them, or more, no one knows.) followed the star across the desert to where it stopped over Bethlehem. Stars don’t stop – but planets appear to as they trace their own orbits across sky (retrograde motion).

Because the universe runs more precisely than a Rolex we can use modern software to trace back in time and see if there might be an astronomical event that coincided with the birth of Christ, which we can date via the death of Herod and the Roman census. An older interpretation of historical events points to 4 B.C. for Herod’s death, though recent information leans toward 1 B.C.. Herod the Great was the king who grilled the Wise Men about the newborn “King of the Jews” and ordered the killing of the baby boys. He died shortly after this decree, so the birth of Jesus had to precede Herod’s death.

According to the recent work of Jack Finnegan and Rick Larson interesting things were happening in the skies just prior to that death.  In the fall of 3 B.C., just a few days after the Feast of Tabernacles the people of the Middle East would have seen the beginning of a triple conjunction of Jupiter and the star Regulus, September 14th, February 12th and May 9th. The two bodies appeared so close together that to the naked eye they would have appeared to be one huge, super-bright star. (It’s worth noting that Regulus is the key planet in the constellation Leo and that Jesus Christ is of the tribe (back to begats) of Judah whose symbol is the Lion. Christ even bears the title “The Lion of Judah.” It is also worth noting that triple conjunctions had had historical significance for the Jews for 500 years before this event.)

Just nine months later on the 17th of June, 2 B.C. the Magi would have seen a conjunction between Jupiter and Venus. This would have been even brighter.

But what about December 25th? Did that get lost in the shuffle? No. The Magi, if they saw the triple conjunction that started in September of 3 B.C. and counted nine months forward would have been convinced come the conjunction in June of 2 B.C. that the Christ child had been born. Then they set out, probably from Babylon, and the retrograde motion of Jupiter would have led them, six months later, to Bethlehem. When would that have happened? When was it that Jupiter appeared to stand still over that tiny town? On December 25th of 2 B.C.

And so we are here on a different continent over 2,000 years later and we buy gifts, as the Magi did, and we put a star on the top of the tree and lights all over our houses, and sing about angels and wise men and shepherds, half the time giving no thought to the reality of what we celebrate: the birth of the God-Man, Israel’s promised Messiah, the Savior of the world.  There will be peace on Earth and there always has been good will toward men.

I referenced several sources in the course of writing this piece, chief amongst them are:  Allen Johnson’s pdf file “Rediscovering Ancient Chronologies” and Rick Larson’s video “The Bethlehem Star


Deana Chadwell blogs at ASingleWindow.com.
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Deana Chadwell

About Deana Chadwell

I have spent my life teaching young people how to read and write and appreciate the wonder of words. I have worked with high school students and currently teach writing at Pacific Bible College in southern Oregon. I have spent more than forty years studying the Bible, theology, and apologetics and that finds its way into my writing whether I'm blogging about my experiences or my opinions. I have two and a half moldering novels, stacks of essays, hundreds of poems, some which have won state and national prizes. All that writing -- and more keeps popping up -- needs a home with a big plate glass window; it needs air; it needs a conversation. I am also an artist who works with cloth, yarn, beads, gourds, polymer clay, paint, and photography. And I make soap.
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16 Responses to The Star out of Jacob

  1. James Smith says:

    Jesus is now that Star divine
    Brighter and brighter He must shine
    Oh beautiful Star of Bethlehem
    Shine On
    from: “Beautiful Star of Bethlehem”
    words and music: Adger M Pace and R Fischer Boyce

  2. Timothy Lane says:

    We don’t know exactly how old Jesus was when the Magi arrived. Note that Epiphany (January 6) is supposedly the date of their arrival (known as Three Kings’ Day in Spain and probably Latin America). An alternative possibility for the Star is a supernova (a concept that Arthur C. Clarke used in his story “The Star”).

    Incidentally, I would highly recommend the scene in the History Channel’s series on the Bible in which Abraham is commanded to sacrifice Isaac. That sequence, in and of itself, is enough to make the series worthwhile.

  3. Rosalys says:

    It is easy to gloss over the begats, to let the eyes glaze over, because they seem repetitive and boring. But there is no doubt that God wants the genealogies included. We think of them being in Genesis and Matthew, but the truth is there are lots of genealogies all over the Old Testament so they must be important to God. It is part of our journey as Christians to discover why. Thank you for a wonderful Christmas article!

  4. Anniel says:

    “Star of wonder, Star of might,
    Star with Royal beauty bright –
    Westward leading,
    Still proceeding – ”

    The star still guiding us “to Heav’n afar.” Thank you for the reminder of that Star.

  5. GHG says:

    God’s plan is almost too wonderful to know without emotion welling up inside.

    I’ve wondered how long Jesus, Joseph and Mary stayed in Bethlehem after the birth. Was it days, weeks, months? Did they go back to Nazareth before going to Egypt? They were poor, so they would have been hard pressed to do much of anything regarding travel, especially with a new born.

    Ah … but the Magi brought gifts, didn’t they?

    A wonderful plan indeed.

  6. SkepticalCynic SkepticalCynic says:

    Have you ever given any thought to the fact that since Christmas is a religious holiday that celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ, that only Christians should be celebrating it? To all the others such as atheists, agnostics, humanists, even orthodox Jews, Muslims and a host of others it should be just another day.

    • SC — You’d think so, but as a Christian I’d have to say, “Welcome to the party; He was born for us all.”

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Have you ever given any thought to the fact that since Christmas is a religious holiday that celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ, that only Christians should be celebrating it? To all the others such as atheists, agnostics, humanists, even orthodox Jews, Muslims and a host of others it should be just another day.

      Thanks you, SkepticalCynic, for saying something of substance. Now, I may or may not agree with what you said. But what you did not do was serve up yet another soggy waffle, which is about all this culture is able to do these days. You made a bold statement that I’m sure would cause the ubiquitous nancy-boys to scream “Intolerance!” with the reflexivity that a drunk says “I’ll have another!”

      First off, one cannot fault Deana for her answer. Reasonableness and compassion seem to be in her nature. We can’t mark down for that. And yet if Christianity is to be a reality (something real) and not just another religion (a glorified superstition), perhaps it ought not be left unattended, to be watered down into the inevitable “Winter Festival.” If it is real, it should be treated as real. Therefore perhaps agnostics/deists/theists (ADTs?) such as myself should stop trying to gain the benefits of Membership without paying the Dues. And that goes for the culture at large as well.

      The flip side of this is that if Christianity is real, and not just a religion, then it’s real for everyone. If it’s real, it’s not just a glorified Jesus Club giving special status to those who observe the special forms and rituals and whose long-term purpose is little more than getting their celestial parking tickets validated.

      I’m not a touchy-feely Unitarian universalist, but if Christianity is no more than a status club with the trappings of crosses, stained glass, and incense, then all one can do around this time of year when the subject of authentic Christmas comes up is to do as corporate America typically does and protect “the brand.” One must not have the brand’s image diluted because, at heart, there is no difference between product X and product Y other than the alligator embroidered onto the chest. There is nothing deeper than “the brand.”

      So if Christianity is real, and not a religion, then it must be taken seriously and yet not treated like a mere “brand.” It is either Christmas for all or a Faux Xmas for Brand Christ. And I can’t say for sure which one it is. But that seems to be the choice.

      • Brad — I love this response. Exactly. Christmas is either historical fact or it is nothing. In fact, this is true of Easter as well; either He rose from the dead or we might as well all go home.

        But the funny thing about Christianity is that there are no dues, no membership lists, no prerequisites. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.” Period. And in the meantime, come to the party. An atheist beside my Christmas tree does not diminish the tree or what it stands for, but merely emphasizes the fact that He came to die for us all. Accepting that free gift is all we’re asked to do. I’m speaking biblically here and am paying no attention to the 2,000 years worth of barnacles that are slowing down, weighing down the Church Universal. Merry Christmas! 🙂

        • Timothy Lane says:

          As I believe I’ve mentioned, Elizabeth hosts a table at the Christmas party each year at her church. We have some friends and her sister and her husband. (Elizabeth also has a brother here in Louisville, but his wife doesn’t want to have anything to do with her in-laws.) I’m a deist and a couple of the others are probably agnostics, but no problem. In fact, I’ve never had anyone there make me feel at all unwelcome despite my religious skepticism. To be sure, Saint Matthews Baptist Church isn’t fundamentalist.

          And Merry Christmas to you and everyone else here, too, though I’m sure we’ll be communicating again before then.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          I’m speaking biblically here and am paying no attention to the 2,000 years worth of barnacles that are slowing down, weighing down the Church Universal.

          You know how to turn a phrase, Deana. You using white-walled wide racing tires? 😀

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      Except that it is an official national holiday.

      As Brad previously mentioned, not all Christian denominations celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday . The Puritans didn’t. But that doesn’t mean the holiday has not become a part of the fabric of American society. If atheists, agnostics, humanists, Jews and Muslims do not wish to celebrate it, fine. But don’t piss on other people’s pleasure.

      By the way, most people are not Satanists or Wickens, but Halloween is very popular. Not everyone believes in God, but Thanksgiving is celebrated every year. The Easter Bunny doesn’t have a lot to do with Christ’s death and Resurrection, but children love Easter-Egg hunts. Should only Christian children dye eggs?

      It is true many holidays have their origins in religion of one sort or another, however those that have survived have generally changed somewhat over time. Cultures develop in their own ways and our culture, i.e. the Western culture as it developed in the USA, is on large part based on Judeo-Christian values, which were spread mainly by Christians. The culture of Christmas in the USA has developed beyond the purely religious to something which is celebrated by more than just Christians.

      By the way, Christmas is now celebrated all around the world. The Christmas decorations on Orchard Road in Singapore are better than one will see in most cities in the USA. Other countries in Asia also play up Christmas. This doesn’t mean they are Christian countries or even that there are lots of Christians living in them. It means that people like a good holiday and a good reason to feel happy. That it might help the retail business doesn’t hurt.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        It’s Wiccans, not Wickens. Incidentally, when Isaac Asimov (a secular Jew) worked at the Philadelphia Navy Yard during World War II, his boss (Robert Heinlein) got him to work Christmas because, after all, Asimov was definitely no Christian.

  7. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    It’s Wiccans, not Wickens

    I knew it looked wrong but just couldn’t be bothered to check.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Wicca has a significant presence in SF fandom, so I’m naturally somewhat familiar with them. There probably are a lot more Christians, but not much of an open presence, though some conventions (such as InConJunction) do have a non-denominational service on Sunday mornings.

  8. Hi Deana,

    Thank you for your well-written writeup. I’m the one you linked to at Academia.edu who researched and wrote up the astronomical details found in “Rediscovering an Ancient Chronology”. For those of you interested in investigating the astronomical evidence yourself, a more current version can be found at https://www.academia.edu/4347740/Rediscovering_an_Ancient_Chronology

    This same version is also available on my blog at http://snofriacus.wordpress.com/studies/rediscovering-an-ancient-chronology/. If you’d like to explore other astronomical details which have emerged as a result of that first study, from here you can go to the top of the blog page and browse the menu to see what’s there. Probably of most interest will be the items in the “Writeups” menu.

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