The Kings from the East

The Kings from the East


(The Gospel History, Section 12)

The Epiphany by Van Eyck

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judæa in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we saw his star in the east, and are come to worship him. And when Herod the king heard it, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ should be born. And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judæa: for thus it is written by the prophet,

And thou Bethlehem, land of Judah,
Art in no wise least among the princes of Judah:
For out of thee shall come forth a governor,
Which shall be shepherd of my people Israel.

Then Herod privily called the wise men, and learned of them carefully what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search out carefully concerning the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word, that I also may come and worship him. And they, having heard the king, went their way; and lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. And when they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And they came into the house and saw the young child with Mary his mother; and they fell down and worshipped him; and opening their treasures they offered unto him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.

The Kings from the East

(The Saviour of the World, Vol I Book I Poem XV)

Nor came the Desire of Nations all unknown,
Save to the two or three in Bethlehem
And Jerusalem to whose eyes He was shown.
There in the East—where stars are wonderful,
And men, compelled to gaze at midnight skies,
Therefrom draw omens—in the East were those
Who searched the skies for presage of a Good
Which should be unto all men—Christ of God.

And God, who answereth ever in accord
With our poor prayers, sent to those sages learned
The sign they sought: Behold, His star in the East!
They gat them up, and came in Eastern state—
Perchance, three kings, as ancient fable tells,
For should not kings to His bright Rising come?—
Seeking Jerusalem, where King Herod was:
What man so likely as the king to know
Of this new royal Birth: then, “Where is He,”
They ask, “that King of the Jews is born? For we
His star in the East have seen—and come to worship.”
Thus spake they to the king, nor feared at all.

Rumour of this strange quest spread through the streets;
Jerusalem was moved: with holy joy?
Nay; as the king, the people: fear and dismay
Troubled the peace of the easy-living folk.
Herod dissembled with the kings; would show
Him zealous in their eyes; and, gathering scribes
And chief priests of the people, asked of them
Where the Christ should be born: they answered straight:—
In Bethlehem of Judæa, thus spake the prophet:—
“Thou, Bethlehem, in land of Judah, art
In nowise least among the princes there,
For out of thee shall come a Governor,
The Shepherd of My people Israel.”

Sudden, a murderous thought o’ertook the king:
He called the wise men privily, and learned
Of them, with care, what time the star appeared:
“Go,” to the sages said he, “search concerning
The Child, and when ye have found Him bring me word
That I may also worship this new King.”

Simple, they heard the king and went their way;
When, marvellous! the star that was in the East,
Bright, saw they over where the young Child lay:
Whereat exceeding joy filled their good hearts.
Nor were they moved to find in how poor place
The Child and His mother dwelt; obeisance before
The Holy Child made they—touching the ground
With honoured brows, and, carrying His infant hand
To those same brows, swore fealty, as men
Born in the East life-long allegiance vow.
Spreading their treasures open, they offered gifts—
The myrrh of suffering, frankincense of prayer,
And regal gold; for these three men were wise,
And knew how He they worshipped should go forth
To suffer, teach, and pray, to rule—a King.

Well satisfied of heart, elate with hope,
They left, and thought to bring King Herod word:
But that night, as they slept, a counsel came:
“Return not unto Herod.” So they went,
Obedient, to their land another way.
Oh, happy sages come from out the East,
To whom the Christ of God was manifest!

St. Matthew ii. 1-12.