“We Three Kings (Kings of Orient)”


"We three kings of orient are, Bearing gifts we travel afar." The three "kings" come from different lands to visit the Christ Child; they offer their gifts and explain that they have been guided by a star


The basis for this song is Matthew 2:1-12. The story has been expanded and modified heavily, however. We note the following:

1. There is no reason to believe that there were three visitors. All we know is that they gave three gifts. Their names are completely unknown. They may not even have been from the east (the orient); it was the *star* which was in the east.

2. The visitors were not kings and were not wise men. They were "magi" -- Babylonian mystics and perhaps astrologers. Jews would generally consider magi to be evil sorcerers (the Greek word "magos," apart from the uses in Matt. 2:1, 7, 16, is used only in Acts 13:6, 8 of Simon Magus, a magician who claimed to be "the great power of God"). - RBW

Same tune

  • We Three Kings (The Rubber Cigar) (Pankake-PHCFSB, p. 115; DT, WE3KING2)

Cross references


  1. OBC 195, "Kings of Orient" (1 text, 1 tune)
  2. Fuld-WFM, pp. 627-628, "We Three Kings"
  3. DT, WE3KING*
  4. ADDITIONAL: Ian Bradley, _The Penguin Book of Carols_ (1999), #94, "We Three Kings of Orient Are" (1 text)
  5. BI, OBC195


Author: John Henry Hopkins, Jr.
Earliest date: 1865 (sheet music); probably composed 1857, and there is a published edition with a dedication claiming a date of 1863