It is not known who these wise men were. Their names and dwelling-place are alike kept back from us. We are only told that they came "from the East."
Matthew 2:1-12 shows us that there may be true servants of God in places where we should not expect to find them. The Lord Jesus has many "hidden ones" like these wise men. The grace of God is not tied to places and families. The Holy Spirit can lead souls to Christ without the help of many outward means. Men may be born in dark places of the earth, like these wise men, and yet like them be made "wise unto salvation."
These verses teach us, that it is not always those who have most religious privileges, who give Christ most honor. We might have thought that the Scribes and Pharisees would have been the first to hasten to Bethlehem, on the lightest rumor that the Savior was born. But it was not so. A few unknown strangers from a distant land were the first, except the shepherds mentioned by Luke, to rejoice at His birth.
These verses teach us, that there may be knowledge of Scripture in the head, while there is no grace in the heart. Notice how king Herod sends to inquire of the priests and elders "where the Christ would be born." Notice also what a ready answer they return him, and what an acquaintance with the letter of Scripture they show. But they never went to Bethlehem to seek for the coming Savior.
The conduct of the wise men described in this chapter is a splendid example of spiritual diligence. What trouble it must have cost them to travel from their homes to the place where Jesus was born! How many weary miles they must have journeyed!
It would be well for all professing Christians if they were more ready to follow the wise men's example. Where is our self-denial? What pains do we take about our souls? What diligence do we show about following Christ? What does our religion cost us? These are serious questions. They deserve serious consideration.
Last, but not least, the conduct of the wise men is a striking example of faith. They believed in Christ when they had never seen Him - but that was not all. They believed in Him when the Scribes and Pharisees were unbelieving - but that again was not all. They believed in Him when they saw Him a little infant on Mary's knee, and worshiped Him as a king.
Adapted from The Gospel of Matthew by J.C. Ryle (Chapter 2).