Matthew 2:1–2 records the travel of the wise men from the east to Jerusalem, looking for the King of the Jews, “For we saw his star when it rose.” King Herod interrogated them as to “what time the star had appeared” (Matthew 2:7). After leaving Herod, the star apparently reappeared and “went before them until it came to rest over the place where the Child was” (Matthew 2:9). Knowing it would lead them to the King, “When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy” (Matthew 2:10).
In these verses, this star appeared once to announce a King. Herod did not see it, but the wise men did. It appeared again, led the wise men, and stopped over the house of the infant Jesus. In guiding the wise men, it went from north in Jerusalem to south in Bethlehem, not east to west like the ordinary movement of a star. What exactly was this star?
We can at least say that it was miraculous. Its multiple appearances, movement, and hovering over the house—this was no ordinary star. More than that, it may have been the Shekinah Glory of God. But what is that?
Shekinah is not a word in the Bible but comes from the Hebrew verb shakhan, which means “to dwell.” Shekinah refers to God’s presence dwelling among men, which could be manifested and described in various ways, some of which include God in the pillar of cloud and fire (Exodus 13:20–21; 14:24), the glory of the Lord on Sinai (Exodus 24:15–20), the cloud and glory that filled the tabernacle and temple (Exodus 40:34; 2 Chronicles 5:13–14), or the glory seen by Ezekiel (Ezekiel 1:28b; cf. 1:4–28). Light, clouds, thunder, angels, rainbows, thrones, and fire—one or some or all of these creatures and features could accompany Him and be together called the Shekinah or glory of God. Sometimes God Himself was visible (e.g., Ezekiel 1:26), and sometimes the glory of His presence was enough, however it was displayed.
Just as God often displayed His presence and glory with light, so also here God manifested Himself the light of this star and brought it to rest over the infant Jesus, showing that Jesus was God the Son. Indeed, since “in Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell” (Colossians 1:19; cf. 2:9), in Him “we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father” (John 1:14). “He is the radiance of the glory of God’ (Hebrews 1:3).