Angels & Fiery Guides

Matthew’s star — the one that led the magi and “stood over the place where the child was” — has a long history of being interpreted as an angel. The language in Matthew of a star stopping in some way over the location of the holy family raises questions. How could a star so high in the sky indicate the exact location of a few people? This morning I was reminded of a parallel story while reading Exodus 14.

Exodus 13:21 says that during the day God led Israel through the wilderness by a massive cloud and at night by a fiery pillar. 14:19, however, refers to the guiding presence as the angel of God. Early interpreters of Matthew’s star weren’t just making things up. Exodus refers to a divine guide in one place as a blazing fire (similar to a star) and in another place an angel. There is precedent in scripture for understanding fiery guides as angels.

Dale Allison explains the history of interpretation in “The Magi’s Angel,” which you can check out via this Google Books search. Start with page 17 and you should be able to see the whole article.