Answer: We cannot be sure how much the wise men knew about the Messiah. What we do know is that they brought three gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh (Mt. 2:11). These were the kind of gifts given to kings, but in the Hebrew Scriptures, the elements also have symbolic significance. Gold is the symbol of kingship (e.g., I Kgs. 10:10); Yeshua is the King. Frankincense is the symbol of deity (e.g., Lev. 2:2); Yeshua is God. Myrrh is the symbol of death and sacrifice (e.g., Ex. 30:23); Yeshua is the final sacrifice for sin. Whether the wise men actually understood the symbolic meaning of these three things we do not know because the gifts were commonly given to kings. So it is clear that the wise men understood Yeshua to be the king of the Jews. In light of the fact that the information they had probably came from the book of Daniel, they also would have recognized that He was destined to die (Daniel 9:24-27), but beyond that, we cannot tell.
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Arnold Answers is a bi-weekly Q & A with founder and director of Ariel Ministries, Dr. Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum.