Artaban, the fourth wise man

Written by Carla Maaswinkel

Artaban was the fourth wise man from Persia, who sold all his worldly possessions and purchased three precious jewels, a blue sapphire, a red ruby and a white pearl, and set out from Persia to Babylon to meet the three wise men who were waiting for him, so that together they would travel to Israel in search of the newly born king, the promised Messiah of Israel, as foretold by the appearance of  mysterious gigantic star on the eastern skies. Artaban planned to gift the three precious jewels to his king when he had the privilege of meeting him. But on his way to Babylon, at first, Artaban voluntarily parted with the blue sapphire in return for food, lodging and medical care provided by the owner of an inn, for himself and a badly injured stranger who was robbed and beaten up by thieves, and later picked up by Artaban and safely taken to the inn in a nearby village.

Artaban parts with the second jewel, the ruby.

Due to the delay caused by this incident, Artaban was not able to meet the three wise men, and he sets out on his own in search of his king. He reaches Bethlehem as he heard from the people of Israel that the new king would be born in the village of Bethlehem. But he soon comes to know that the baby king and her parents had escaped to Egypt, as King Herod had ordered the killing of all baby boys below two years of age. Soon Artaban was able to see for himself the rampaging soldiers of King Herod going from house to house in search of baby boys, to fulfil the wish of the king. The captain of the soldiers burst into a house where a young mother was holding her baby boy tightly to her chest to escape the wrath of the soldiers. As the captain was moving towards the terror-stricken woman with his sword drawn out, Artaban intervened, and offered the soldier the second precious jewel he possessed, the red ruby if he would spare the life of the woman and her baby boy. The captain accepted the offer and snatching the ruby from Artaban’s hands left the house.

Artaban parts with the third jewel, the large white pearl.

Artaban then left Bethlehem and travelled to Egypt looking for his new king so that he could present the only remaining jewel, the white pearl, to his king. He reached Egypt, but could not find his new king there. For the next thirty years he travels from country to country in the whole middle-eastern region looking for his new king. Finally, he heard that his king now resides in Jerusalem, and he was the kindest human being that ever lived. Artaban was now a very old man, and his greatest wish was to see the king and place the white pearl in his hand, before he died. He now walked slowly towards Jerusalem. On reaching Jerusalem he learnt that the Governor Pontius Pilate was about to kill his king by crucifying him, and decided that he would visit Pontius Pilate and plead for the release of  his king by offering him the world’s largest and whitest pearl. However, on his way to see the governor, he met a group of slave sellers who were dragging a young girl who had been abducted from her parents’ home. The girl was screaming and appealed for Artaban’s help. The soft-hearted Artaban again decided to intervene on behalf of the poor slave-girl and barters his last possession the large white pearl in exchange for freedom for the girl from her captors.

Artaban meets his lord.

Artaban who wandered for thirty years searching for his king was now old, frail, feeble, and penniless, having parted with his valuable possessions to help the needy, and not being able to achieve the goal of his life to meet his king. There he was on the streets of Jerusalem, alone and nearing his end. In his dying moments, he prayed to God, and sought his forgiveness in not being able to meet him personally and hand over the three precious jewels to him. Then, Artaban heard a voice from heaven, “Oh! Artaban, you have already given me your three precious jewels, when you gave them away to help people in need. I loved the jewels that you gave me.”


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