So the two main Old Testament prophecies surrounding the wise men seem to be Psalm 72:10-11 and Isaiah 60:6:

Both of these passages state the kings will come from Sheba, and Psalms mentions Tarshish as well.

In Matthew 2:1 it says the kings came from the East (of Jerusalem).

However, from everything I can find, Tarshish was in Spain and Sheba was Ethiopia. Both of which are not East. Am I missing something here?


5 Answers 5


While Magi sounds like a Persian word, Kenneth E. Bailey in Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes: Cultural Studies in the Gospels gave evidence that the Wise Men were for Arabia:

According to Matthew 2, the wise men arrived with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Rich people usually possess gold, and gold was mined in Arabia. But more specifically, frankincense and myrrh are harvested from trees that only grow in southern Arabia [Yemen = Sheba]. Wealthy dwellers of those desert regions would naturally have gold, frankincense and myrrh. Bailey, K. E. (2008). Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes: Cultural Studies in the Gospels (p. 52). Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic.

Dr. Bailey pointed out that Justin Martyr identified the Wise Men as from Arabia:

“The wise men from Arabia came to Bethlehem and worshiped the child and offered to him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.” Justin Martyr. (1963). Selections from Justin Martyr’s Dialogue with Trypho, a Jew. (R. P. C. Hanson, Ed. & Trans.). London: Lutterworth. p. 78.

He also mentioned that Tertullian and Clement of Rome affirmed the same location for the Wise Men (Brown, R. E. (1977). Birth of the Messiah. London: Geoffrey Chapman. pp. 169-70).

The following information was conveyed to Dr. Bailey through a conversation mentioned below in 1957:

In the 1920s a British scholar, E. F. F. Bishop, visited a Bedouin tribe in Jordan. This Muslim tribe bore the Arabic name al-Kokabani. The word kokab means “planet” and al-Kaokabani means “Those who study/follow the planets.” Bishop asked the elders of the tribe why they called themselves by such a name. They replied that it was because their ancestors followed the planets and traveled west to Palestine to show honor to the great prophet Jesus when he was born.

Dr. Bailey gave much more detail, but this answers your question.

Alfred Edersheim has an extensive discussion of this subject in chapter 8: "The Visit and Homage of the Magi, and the Flight into Egypt" (St. Matt. 2:1–18.) in his book, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah (Vol. 1, p. 202). New York: Longmans, Green, and Co. (1896). He gave essentially the same answer as Kenneth Bailey with additional information. He linked the Magi as diaspora to southern Arabia from Gentile wise men in Mesopotamia who became Jews by religion because of Daniel.


One interpretation about the location of Isa 60:6's Ephah, Midian, and Sheba can be found in the article "We Three Kings" Who were the Magi?.

The article argues that Midian in Jesus's time is the Nabatean Kingdom (directly east and south of Jerusalem, in present-day Jordan). Ephah was a city of Midian further south in the Arabian peninsula, which is part of the Nabatean Kingdom.

The article argues that the ancient civilization of Sheba was in present-day Yemen, which agrees with modern historians (see wikipedia).


The wise men followed a star in the east. If the star was east of them they had to be west of Bethlehem. Now I think "from the East" means the Magi were an eastern cult. That cult, a Persian one, also had settlements in Egypt. My estimation is that the wise men came from Egypt and returned there with the holy family in tow. I think God sent them to conduct the Holy family safely away from Herod. They and Joseph had the same warning in a dream. Why not at the same time?


The wisemen or magi all came from present day Ethiopia. There were at least 12 in total not just three. Three magi or people who understand how to read the stars and three kings with each of them (9 kings). The three gifts mentioned of gold, myrrh & Frankincense are the same gifts that the queen of Sheba (Ethiopia & Yemen) had taken to king Solomon a few centuries before when she returned and introduced Jewish religion in Ethiopia. Being strong Jewish believers and always making pilgrims to Jerusalem to worship it is the Ethiopians outside of Israel who were anticipating the birth of the messiah. Ethiopian kings traveled from different parts of ancient Ethiopia to present the gifts to the Christ child to fulfill the prophecy of their sages. Maṣḥaf Kebur (መጽሐፍ ክቡር), an Amharic source published in 2008/9, lists the names of the three wise men and the kings who accompanied them to Jerusalem. The first wise man was Agoja-Jabon; with him were three kings, namely Abol, Tona and Baraka. The second was Magal who had with him Kings Makdas, Awra, and Murno. The third wise man was Agabon who was accompanied by Kings Hajabon, Abulsalam and Arstatalu. The King of Kings of all the sovereigns was Atse Bazen, son of Nalk. According to the narrative translated from the Ge’ez manuscripts, it took two years for the sovereigns to arrive safely in Jerusalem. They probably met with Herod because they were a delegation of kings. Most paintings always show at least one of the three magi as a black person. After the Magi and kings visit Jesus and the parents relocate to Africa for his safety. In Matthew the use of the term " the East" could mean that nobody knew for sure where the wisemen came from or because they were good at reading stars he must have assumed they were associated with Zoroastrians who were Persians but since they(Zoroastrians) weren't expecting the birth of the messiah it is highly unlikely. Also read:The Hidden and Untold History of The Jewish People and Ethiopians by Dr.Fikre Tolassa. Pg10- 11.

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Seba/Saba was in Africa in the middle Nile and closely connected by Isiah to Ethiopia and Egypt Isaiah 43:3, Isaiah 45:14. I do not know why People will deliberately want to delete Africa's role in the birth of Christ!

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    Typically, we like to see answers with a bit more substance and exposition to them. Consider embedding a map in your answer, quoting Isaiah instead of referencing it and explaining a bit how Isaiah would connect the Wise Men from the East to Africa. The OP also notes that Sheba was in Ethopia, so you will want to explain how a country to the West of Israel satisfies the requirement that the kings would come from the East. Commented Jan 27, 2021 at 17:00

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