The "Star Prophecy" (or Star and Scepter prophecy) is a Messianic reading applied by radical Jews and early Christians to a text from the Book of Numbers 24:17:

I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh: There shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab, and destroy all the children of Sheth.(KJV)

which was often employed during the troubled years that led up to the Jewish Revolt, the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem (70 CE) and the suicidal last stand of the Essenes at Masada in 73 CE. The Star Prophecy appears in the Qumran texts called the Dead Sea scrolls. "This was the prophecy that was of such importance to all resistance groups in this period, including those responsible for the documents at Qumran and the revolutionaries who triggered the war against Rome, not to mention the early Christians"[1]

The Star Prophecy was applied to the coming Messiah himself in contemporary radical Jewish documents, such as the apocalyptic War Scroll found at Qumran. In a pesher applied to the text from Numbers, the War Scroll's writer gives the following exegesis:

…by the hand of the Poor whom you have redeemed by Your Power and the peace of Your Mighty Wonders… by the hand of the Poor and those bent in the dust, You will deliver the enemies of all the lands and humble the mighty of the peoples to bring upon their heads the reward of the Wicked and justify the Judgement of Your Truth on all the sons of men.

The star has been externalized as an actual star in the sky, the Star of Bethlehem, in the narration of the Gospel of Matthew. The fulfilled Star Prophecy is one of numerous instances of the asserted fulfillment of prophecies that are a main theme of this text.

The Romanized Jewish historian Josephus, in The Jewish War (3.399ff) applied the prophecy —perhaps in retrospect, like most successful prophecies— to Vespasian, who was campaigning against the Jewish Zealots in Palestine, and who was to come out of Palestine and rule the world, his flatterer asserted.

The prophecy was also applied to Simon bar Kokhba, messianic leader of the Second Jewish Revolt of 132, whose adopted name bar Kokhba means "Son of a Star" in Aramaic.


  1. (Eisenman 1997 p. 23.
  • Eisenman, Robert, 1997. James the Brother of Jesus: The Key to Unlocking the Secrets of Early Christianity and the Dead Sea Scrolls (VikingPenguin).
  • The Messiah and the Star of Bethlehem.

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