The Arrogance of "Wise Men"

Posted by rjagilbert on March 21, 2019 at 9:55 PM

I’m looking for a word to describe what arrogance is not.

It’s not that attitude somebody gets when they’ve tried a hundred times to explain an injustice and are dismissed as “complaining”.

It’s not the frustration a thinking mind experiences when he has studied something for many years but is unable to explain it to his colleagues because they are “educated” and therefore do not have to listen.

It’s most definitely not the anger an entire village worth of mothers must have felt as they buried their murdered children—children who would have still been alive if not for the arrogance of a group of men that, two thousand years later, are still celebrated as the heroes of the story.

But oh, yes. When I try to express how they must have felt, the number one word used to describe me…is “arrogant”.

Two thousand years ago, a group of “wise” men arrived in Judea to celebrate the birth of a new king. We all know the story—at least, the story as it has been told…with all its grand descriptions of gold and myrrh and songs about “We Three Kings”. But let’s look a little further at the injustices that these Magi brought upon a sleepy, innocent little town. And let’s look at how easily those injustices could have been avoided.

Having studied the layout of the “Holy Land” in which this story takes place, it becomes immediately apparent that there was a point, between five and ten miles from their destination, where the “Wise men” would have noticed that the star was not leading them to the shimmering, splendid city of Jerusalem. It’s such simple geometry, any “star-watcher” with half an old man’s experience would have had to have noticed the difference. The humble city of Bethlehem lay beneath the star, and, unless they were arriving from Egypt (to the south and an entirely different continent), the city of Jerusalem would have been off to one side, quite obviously not the intended target of their celestial guide.

And yet they chose to go to Jerusalem.

Now some (actually, most) people will choose to defend the Magi with such suppositions as “maybe they were required to stop first in Jerusalem and get diplomatic permission to visit Bethlehem”. I’ve heard it argued that “maybe they didn’t realize the political climate within Jerusalem” or “maybe they were just tired from their long journey and wanted to stay someplace nice before that less-than three hours’ walk into the dirty little town of Bethlehem.” Some have even dared to suggest that maybe the star was lost behind a cloud that day.

In response to the first three: any “Wise” traveler would have known the particulars of the Jewish throne at that time—especially the very obvious fact that Herod, who resided within that Jerusalem palace, was NOT a Jewish king. Even were they forced to visit Jerusalem (perhaps intercepted along the road and escorted to the city against their will) they would have—no, SHOULD have—had the guile to be discreet in their true motives. Any “wise” traveler who had read half of Solomon’s proverbs would have known to keep his mouth shut. And yet they let slip their “enlightened” tongues and gave it all away.

The fourth suggestion is the most absurd. Reading further in the story from the Bible, we find that the “Wise men”, following their side-trip into Jerusalem, found the star exactly where they had left it before the shiny lights and warm inns of Jerusalem called to them. As soon as they returned their attention to it, they were led straight into Bethlehem and to the location of the King they were searching for. Obviously, the star was efficient at doing its job—that job being to guide those who sought the King of the Jews…straight to the King of the Jews. Do you honestly think God let slip with His miracles for a day, just for a few hours, perhaps, when the Wise men were approaching their destination? Do you honestly think that, at that distance, the “Wise men” would have watched the star vanish behind clouds, then turn to the city off to one side and think God had something “better” for them to discover there?

No. There is only one reason the Wise Men turned aside from their divine guidance and made a mess of things in Jerusalem. That reason: Arrogance.

After all, Bethlehem was not what they had expected.

These were the elites of the East. The “wise” men. They didn’t travel thousands of miles just to muddy their boots in a glorified sheep-farm. They were looking for a king. Kings belonged in palaces. Looking from the star in front of them to the palace off to one side, it made perfect sense to them that “God must have made a mistake”. And so they chose the option that most accurately matched their expectations.

As a writer, I have presented manuscripts and query letters to agents and publishers for more than twenty years. And for twenty years, I have had my submissions denied. Most often, I never got a response back, but sometimes, I would get a letter letting me know that my submission “did not fit the expectations” of the publisher or agent I had sent it to. In short: it was not what they were looking for.

As an indie author, I have published my own writings and presented them to the people I was never able to reach when publishers held the only path to putting my messages into print. Yet again, I have been told time and again that my writing was not what the reader expected. I am not the shimmering city of Jerusalem, and my message does not herald the birth of a king in a palace. I am like that star, patiently waiting for “wise” men to notice me again and turn away from the shiny city that is merely a distraction.

Except that Jerusalem was not just a “distraction.” It cost many children their lives. It terrorized an entire village. And yes, the “main characters” of the story escaped, and I suppose we’re all supposed to be happy with that and not bother with the rest of the body count, but that’s not how it works for those of us who actually “follow the star” without getting distracted. We notice those kinds of things.

And yet we are the ones who are called “arrogant”. Why? Because the message we teach—a message that does not present itself in the form of a shining city or a luxurious palace—is not the message others expect. Because those who opt to turn aside to that shimmering city simply MUST be right—and anybody who teaches a message to the contrary must be “arrogant”.

A time will come, when true Judgment is released upon this earth, when those of us who followed the star will have our final word against those who turned aside. And our word will not be “Arrogant”.

It will be “Damnation!”



It has also been argued that “all this had to happen for the prophecies to be fulfilled.” Of course, the prophecy referenced by this was from Matthew 2:18, which begins “A voice heard in Ramah…” Sadly, most people who do not closely study their Bibles do not realize that Ramah and Bethlehem are two very different locations.

Jeremiah spoke that prophecy against the two half-tribes of Israel (descended from Rachel through Joseph) located East of the Jordan River, which is where Ramah was located. It was fulfilled when Ramah was sacked during the invasion of Babylon and the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh were essentially lost to the rest of history.

I must add that the presence of this mis-cited scripture within the Gospel of Matthew further supports the suggestion that, even in the first century there were some who remembered this injustice…and some who felt the need to twist scriptures in a (mostly successful, unfortunately) attempt to justify it.


Categories: Politics, Religion, and Physics, Communion Meditations