What was the Star of Bethlehem?
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 saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” – Matthew 2:1-2
Commonly Accepted View
The usual view with regard to the star that guided the wise men (the star of Bethlehem), has been that this was a supernatural phenomenon, a star-like object which appeared to the Magi (the wise men) in their eastern sky, and which afterwards reappeared as they journeyed from Jerusalem to Bethlehem, and guided them on their way until it rested over the house where Jesus was (Davis Dictionary Of The Bible, p. 784).
The Liberty Bible Commentary, Volume II, gives the following explanation concerning the star of Bethlehem:
The wise men naturally came to Jerusalem, the royal capital of Israel, seeking one whom they thought was to be born a king, on the basis of their calculations of the stars. What exactly this meant to them we are not sure. Perhaps, through the science of astronomy they observed a new star and for some reason correlated that with the birth of a king. Why they would associate this star with Israel is uncertain. It is unlikely that this star could only have been a natural phenomenon since it led the wise men to Jerusalem and later to Bethlehem. It almost certainly was a divine manifestation used by God to indicate the fact and place of the Messiah’s birth and the place of His reign (p. 7).
In Matthew Henry’s commentary on the Gospels, Volume 5, the following account is made:
They [the wise men], in their country, which was in the east, had seen an extraordinary star, such as they had not seen before; which they took to be an indication of an extraordinary person born in the land of Judea, over which land this star was seen to hover, in the nature of a comet, or a meteor rather, in the lower regions of the air; this differed so much from anything that was common that they concluded it to signify something uncommon (p. 10).
It should be noted, all attempts to explain the star as a natural phenomenon are inadequate to account for its leading the wise men from Jerusalem to Bethlehem and then standing over the house. Rather, it must be concluded that the star was a special manifestation used of God both when it first appeared to indicate the fact of Christ’s birth, and when it reappeared over Jerusalem to guide the wise men to Bethlehem (Wycliffe Bible Commentary, p. 932).
There have been attempts to identify the star of Bethlehem as some natural phenomenon (a comet) passing over the earth at the time of Christ’s birth. One such explanation is as follows:
The Magi were doubtless astrologers, and would attach special ideas to the positions and variations of the stars. In December, 1603, the astronomer, Kepler, noted a conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn, joined in March, 1604, by Mars, and in October, 1604, by a brilliant new star, which gradually faded and vanished in February of 1606. Kepler calculated that the planets were in conjunction in 7 and 6 B.C., and, supposing that the new or variable star had followed the conjunction then as it did in 1604, believed it to be the star of the Magi (Davis Dictionary Of The Bible, p. 784).
The simple fact is that only God could provide the “star in the east” and thus the absolute miracle associated with the star of Bethlehem. Please note that this star was a token of God’s presence with the wise men; for He is light and goes before His people as their Guide. Remember it was God who led Israel by a pillar of fire to the Promised Land, who also led the wise men by a star to the promised Christ.