What was the star of Bethlehem?

Was it an asteroid that soared across the sky? An alignment of certain planets or constellations? Was there a comet that year? What did the Magi see over in the region of Persia that would send them on a westward journey to Bethlehem?

Consider just a few details about “what” they saw. First, the star appeared in the sky in a position that would have “told” the Magi that a king was born in the west, in Judah. That means that the Magi in the east would have seen a star in the western sky, heralding the message, “Come over here!” Second, the star appeared but was not seen again until months later when they were heading to Bethlehem after having first arrived in Jerusalem. This means that the star was now hovering in the southern sky. Third, the star “led” them to a particular house in Bethlehem, moving around and coming to rest above that house.

So, the star appeared, disappeared, reappeared, and then hovered over the little town of Bethlehem directing the Magi to one specific, individual home.

This was no star. What was it?

“God dwells in unapproachable light,” Paul tells us in I Tim 6:16. You cannot approach Him. This is the reason that Satan is described as a bejeweled angel. He is covered in stones and jewels so that the light of God is refracted off of him so that he is able, as the book of Job describes, to walk into the presence of God.

The Hebrews had a word for this dwelling place of God, this place of immense light and brightness. They called it the “Shekinah.” The word is not used in the Bible, but it was coined as a teaching expression. The Shekinah was the dwelling place of the glory of God. Wherever the glory of God —the presence of God— dwelt, there was a glorious light. Thus, often when God showed up He manifested His shining presence, His Shekinah Glory.

Remember Moses at the burning bush? The bush was burning, but not being consumed. The Angel of the Lord (who I believe to be the Son of God, but can’t explain now) was manifesting the Shekinah glory of God, and to Moses it looked like a fire.

Remember during the Wandering when Moses would meet face to face with God in the tent? When he came out of the tent his face would glow. His face reflected the Shekinah glory!

When Jesus was transfigured on the mountain in the presence of Peter, James and John, the latter described Jesus’ clothing as if it were illuminated by lightening bolts. This was the glowing of the Shekinah glory in brilliance before them.

Now consider this:

In his prophecies Exekiel describes the glory of God leaving the Temple in Jerusalem. With the impending judgment coming at the hands of the Babylonians, God foretold that His glory would leave the Temple. His presence departed with this description: the glory of the Lord, manifested as a cloud and great brightness, rose up from the inner court and hovered over to the threshold of the Temple; then it moved over and hovered at the entrance of the east gate; then the glory flew up to the mountains on the east side of Jerusalem; then disappeared. (Ezekiel 10: 3,4,18,19; 11:23)

In this prophecy we see the glory of God, the shining Shekinah, take on a visible brightness, move with mobility, hover in one place and disappear. Just like the Bethlehem Star! Therefore, because of the unique behavior of the Bethlehem Star, I believe along with many other scholars that the Star that led the Magi was simply the Shekinah glory of God.

And where is that Shekinah glory today? Where does God’s glory dwell today? Hebrews 1:3 says this,

And He (Jesus Christ) is the radiance of His (the Father’s) glory . . .

Jesus is one with the Father and they share their glory together. And Christ is our life (Col 3:4). Therefore, since our spirits are one with Christ (I Cor 6:17), the new dwelling place for the glory of God on earth is in us. “For God has shone in our hearts to give us the . . . glory of God in the face of Christ!” (2 Cor 4:6).

Jesus called Himself the Bright Morning Star in Rev 22:16. The Bright Morning Star is our life. Therefore, we are the new Bethlehem Stars. We are the “shining ones” who now lead magi and other wise men to the Savior.

Shine Jesus Shine.

I hope you have a Merry, Merry Christmas. For all of you who went on Pure Heart Weekend this year, I hope it is your most spiritual Christmas, yet!


– Carter

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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  1. To this day I remember the first time I heard you teach on this subject, Carter, and I’ve thought about it, pondered it, each Christmas throughout the intervening years. Thank you for printing it, and may you and yours have a very merry Christmas!

    • Hey Triche. 30 years ago I dressed as the Magi and did a dramatic monologue on how the Magi interpreted the Star. I dressed in clothing borrowed from Ken Drake again this past Sunday and did it all again for my parents church in Emerald Bay (Tyler, TX) community. It was fun, and I thought much of my first time at The Chapel. Merry Christmas, Triche and Phil. God Bless.

      • I remember that monologue, too! I’ll bet the Emerald Bay community enjoyed and will remember it and the teaching, too. I hope you and your family had a blessed Christmas!