Is the star of Bethlehem a planetary alignment or something else?
The idea of an alignment of planets or stars does not make any sense when one reads the story of the birth of Jesus and keeps it in its biblical context.
At Christmas time we see manger scenes that combine two different events, the wisemen bringing gifts to a baby in the manger. The shepherds and the Wise-men never met, their visits to the savior are separated by nearly two years. The shepherds visited the manger right after he was born (Lk. 2:12, 16). The Wise-men first saw the star as the savior was born and they began to travel to Jerusalem, finding him in a home, not a manger.
Mt. 2:1-9: “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, "Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him." When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. So they said to him, "In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet: 'But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are not the least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you shall come a Ruler who will shepherd My people Israel.'" Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, "Go and search diligently for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also." 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.”
The star led them to Israel, and they went straight to Jerusalem (where the Temple is located) inquiring about the child/ king. The star they refer to as “His star,” showing there is a relationship to him. Their purpose is to worship him. When He was announced to the shepherds in the field as “an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them” (Luke 2:9) They found the child in the manger but it does not say they worshipped him. “Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child.” (Luke 2:17), which obviously did not reach Herod.
Herod gathers the Jewish religious leaders and asks them where this child would be born, their answer is Micah 5:2, but cannot tell him exactly where in Bethlehem. Afterwards, Herod, the leader of the province privately called the travelers from the east, asking them when the star first appeared in the sky to them, knowing that the Messiah was born in Bethlehem he sent them on their way trying to use them for his evil plan. Having them think he rejoiced and also wanted to worship him. They were to come back and report to him exactly where he is. The star that moved from east to west lead them to Jerusalem, they looked up in the sky and continued to follow the lead of the star to his home.
The angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David (Luke 1:26-28). Near the completion of Mary’s pregnancy they travelled to Bethlehem because a decree went out from Caesar Augustus for a census (Luke 2:1-2). “So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered.” (Luke 2:3-6). Jesus was born in Bethlehem which in the south, about 5 miles south of Jerusalem. At this time this star then moves from north to south. And the star hovers over a house where he as a young child is now living in Bethlehem.
The word star in Greek is aster (probably from the base of 4766; a star (as strown over the sky), literally or figuratively- Strong’s concordance). It is not the same property as a star which is a sun. This Greek word for star means “radiance.” Whenever God became visible in the Old Testament it was the Shechinah Glory. This star came in the familiar form of a light; the appearance of the Shechinah Glory in the sky looked like a star (the same glory that appeared with the angel for the shepherds). It has nothing to do with astrology or astronomy, it was not stars or planets aligning, they do not behave in this manner. The Shechinah Glory was visible to signal to those looking for his birth from afar.
We can assume these men came from Babylon because of the mention of wise men. Why did these men seek the sign that appeared in the heavens? Because they were trained in the scripture. It was during the captivity of Israel in Babylon that Daniel wrote his book. In it alluded to the time of the Messiah’s coming.
The King of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, had a dream that bothered him and called before him “the magicians, the astrologers, the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans to tell the king his dreams.” (Dan. 2:2) They failed and were facing execution. Dan 2:10 “The Chaldeans answered the king, and said, "There is not a man on earth who can tell the king's matter; therefore no king, lord, or ruler has ever asked such things of any magician, astrologer, or Chaldean.”
Dan. 2:12-13 “For this reason the king was angry and very furious, and gave a command to destroy all the wise men of Babylon. So the decree went out, and they began killing the wise men; and they sought Daniel and his companions, to kill them.” Daniel volunteers to interpret the dream, and does so accurately, Dan. 2:19-20 Then the secret was revealed to Daniel in a night vision. So Daniel blessed the God of heaven. Daniel answered and said: "Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, for wisdom and might are His.” Nebuchadnezzar recognizes Daniels ability comes from God. “All the wise men of my kingdom are not able to make known to me the interpretation; but you are able, for the Spirit of the Holy God is in you.” (Dan 4:18).
He gives glory to the God who made the heavens that gave him the ability to interpret the Kings dream, separating himself from the astrologers, magi, saving their lives (Dan. 4:24).
Since he correctly interpreted the dream and he saved them from execution and was eventually promoted. They came to the correct knowledge of the God of Israel. Wise men - chakkiym (Aramaic) Magi (mentioned in Dan.2:12,13,14,18,24,27,48; 4:6,18; 5:7,8,15). These converted Gentiles learned of the timing from ?Daniels writing, and this sign, the star, by reading of a gentile prophet Balaam, who was an astrologer from the city of Pethor, on Euphrates River in Babylonia (Num. 22:5; Deut. 23:4). His Messianic prophecy that pertains to this:
Numbers 24:17: “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not nigh: There shall come forth a star out of Jacob, And a sceptre shall rise out of Israel, And shall smite through the corners of Moab, And break down all the sons of tumult.”
When Balaam was paid to curse Israel he instead prophesied of the coming of the Jewish Messiah by stating a star would appear out of Israel’s lineage this would not be a literal star, as he explains in his description “a sceptre shall rise out of Israel.” (the sceptre is a symbol of a king).
Centuries have passed and what Daniel taught the Babylonian’s as to the time that “the star of Jacob” appeared. It was by knowing the Scripture’s prophecies that had them look to the heavens and prompted them to travel so far from their home in Babylon. They saw this unusual a light, (a radiance) which looked like a star appear over the land of Israel (a star, which would rise out of Jacob), was a sign that Israel’s king was born, this is why they knew what gifts to bring (Gold, Frankencense and Myrr). Gold for him as king (the ark of the covenant was covered in gold). Frankencense for deity, (the incense was burned in the tabernacle to God that permeated the structure) and myrr which is used in embalming, (for the purpose of his coming, to die for our sins).
A natural phenomenon does not describe a stars movement as it“went ahead of” the magi who were seeking the Messiah nor how it led them to him. It is described as it “stood over where the child was.” Stars continually move as the earth is in rotation, they appear in the east and set in the west. No actual star can do what this star did, to lead these watchful men from Babylon to the child that would be king. These Wise-men saw the Shechinah Glory in the sky and understood it as a sign that the King of the Jews, the Messiah, had finally been born.
Herod was a Jew by religious tradition but was actually a practicing heathen. They thought Herod would worship but his loyalty was with Rome so they were divinely warned not to go to Herod and tell him where the child is.
Mt. 2:12 “Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way.” V:16 “Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men.” So the star was seen in the heavens over Jerusalem for at least this amount of time (up to two years), this is why Herod killed all the children 2 years old and younger. He was so jealous of a competitor that he ordered a search for the Child to destroy Him, and he did not care how many male children in Bethlehem area were slain in the process. What took place in Egypt with Moses was repeating itself. But Jesus’ parents fled with Him to Egypt until it is was safe to return (after Herod died) then they settled in Nazareth, in the north.
Natural explanations cannot suffice when the star was actually a supernatural event. The sign in the heavens led the magi to the child. As much as one tries, you cannot have science prove this Bible story.