When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. (Matthew 2:9–11)
Matthew was one of the twelve apostles. He also wrote the first book of the New Testament. In that book, he recorded that the birth of Jesus was accompanied by an extraordinary celestial event: a star led the magi (the “wise men”) to Jesus. This star “went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was” (Matthew 2:9). What was this star? And how did it lead the magi to the Lord? There have been many speculations.
Explanations for the event include a supernova, a comet, a massing of planets, a triple conjunction of Jupiter and Regulus (a bright star in the constellation Leo), or the astonishing conjunction of Jupiter and Venus on June 17, 2 BC. Although each of these events is truly spectacular and may have been fitting to announce the birth of the King of Kings, none of them seems to fully satisfy the details of the straightforward reading of Matthew 2. None of the above speculations fully explain how the star “went ahead of” the magi nor how it “stood over where the child was.” Indeed no known natural phenomenon would be able to stand over Bethlehem since all “natural” stars continually move due to the rotation of the earth. They appear to rise in the east and set in the west, or circle around the celestial poles. However, the Bible does not say that this star was a natural phenomenon.
Of course, God can use natural law to accomplish His will. In fact, a biblical definition of natural law is the way that God normally upholds the universe and accomplishes His will, but God is not bound by the laws He created; He may (and does on occasion) temporarily suspend those laws when He has an important reason to do so. The Virgin Birth itself was a supernatural event; it cannot be explained within the context of known natural laws. And it should not be surprising that the birth of the Son of God would be accompanied by a supernatural sign in the heavens. The star that led the magi seems to be one of those incredible acts of God—specially designed and created for a unique purpose.
Find out more about this amazing heavenly portent in “The Star of Bethlehem.”