bible

Was there an astronomical origin of the Star of Bethlehem in Matthew 2?

In Matthew 2:1-12, there are mentions of the Star of Bethlehem, specifically

Matthew 2:2

and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

Matthew 2:7

Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared.

Also, is the subject of many Christmas carols, including We Three Kings of Orient Are.

My question is, is there evidence to suggest an astronomical origin of the Star of Bethlehem?

What were the wise men?

Matthew 2 recounts the visit of the wise men to the nativity:

2:1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, in the time of King Herod, wise men 4 from the East came to Jerusalem 2 saying, “Where is the one who is born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

As they brought three gifts, western tradition numbers them at three (though some Eastern traditions, especially Syriac, count twelve).

The only indication of origin in the text is that they came from the East. Tradition holds they were kings. Matthew calls them μάγοι. This is often translated as “wise men” or transliterated as “magi.” The notes from the NET Bible state, “The Greek term magi here describes a class of wise men and priests who were astrologers (L&N 32.40).” What does it mean that they were “wise men”? Was this an official title in the Eastern realms or more of an honorific? What more has been learned of such “priests and astrologers”?

In Hebrews 12:1, what is the ‘easily entangling sin’?

In Heb. 12:1 , Paul is mentioning an ‘easily entangling’ kind of sin.

What is this meaning of this sin?

According to Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers, there is no exact answer to this.

Whatever view be taken of the one peculiar word, it does not seem possible that the phrase can point to what is known as a “besetting sin,” the sin which in the case of any one of us is proved to possess especial power.

But maybe some of you has an hermeneutic approach to this?

Did Pharaoh Not Know that the God of the Israelites was the Same as the God of the Hebrews?

In Exodus 3:18 Moses is commanded to gather the Israelite elders, go to Phara0h and say “יְהוָ֞ה אֱלֹהֵ֤י הָֽעִבְרִיִּים֙ נִקְרָ֣ה עָלֵ֔ינוּ וְעַתָּ֗ה נֵֽלֲכָה־נָּ֞א דֶּ֣רֶךְ שְׁלֹ֤שֶׁת יָמִים֙ בַּמִּדְבָּ֔ר וְנִזְבְּחָ֖ה לַֽיהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ” “The Lord, the God of the Hebrews appeared to us and now please let us go a journey of three days into the wilderness and we will slaughter to the Lord, our God.”

But in Exodus 5:1, Moses changes the words when talking to Pharaoh and says “כֹּֽה־אָמַ֤ר יְהוָה֙ אֱלֹהֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל שַׁלַּח֙ אֶת־עַמִּ֔י וְיָחֹ֥גּוּ לִ֖י בַּמִּדְבָּֽר” “So said the Lord, God of Israel, ‘send out my nation and they will celebrate to me in the wilderness.'” Pharoah responds (Exodus 5:2) by claiming ignorance of the Lord, saying “מִ֤י יְהוָה֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר אֶשְׁמַ֣ע בְּקֹל֔וֹ לְשַׁלַּ֖ח אֶת־יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל לֹ֤א יָדַ֙עְתִּי֙ אֶת־יְהוָ֔ה וְגַ֥ם אֶת־יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל לֹ֥א אֲשַׁלֵּֽחַ” “who is the Lord that I should listen to his voice to send out Israel; I don’t know the Lord and also Israel I will not send out.”

In the very next verse however, Moses reverts back to the message that God had told him to use and says “אֱלֹהֵ֥י הָעִבְרִ֖ים נִקְרָ֣א עָלֵ֑ינוּ נֵ֣לֲכָה נָּ֡א דֶּרֶךְ֩ שְׁלֹ֨שֶׁת יָמִ֜ים בַּמִּדְבָּ֗ר וְנִזְבְּחָה֙ לַֽיהוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֵ֔ינוּ” “the God of the Hebrews appeared to us and now please let us go a journey of three days into the wilderness and we will slaughter to the Lord, our God.” This time Pharaoh doesn’t deny any knowledge of God but instead accuses Moses and Aaron of distracting the Israelites from their task and being lazy.

The simple reading of the text implies that Pharaoh did not know who the God of the Israelites was but did know who the God of the Hebrews was. And unlike the God of the Israelites, Pharaoh had at least some level of respect for the God of the Hebrews.

Is is possible that Pharaoh did not know that the God of the Israelites was the same as the God of the Hebrews? Is this evidence that the term Israelite and Hebrew were not viewed are referencing the same people (i.e. that Israelites were a subset of Hebrews)?

And if there was a really a difference between the terms, why did Moses change God’s message?