One of the clearest examples of this picture is found in Isaiah 60, a scene describing an age to come when the nations would be drawn to the glory of Israel—“nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising” (Isaiah 60:3). Myrrh has powerful antibacterial, antifungal, antiparasitic properties. History and tradition have done their part to fill in the details regarding these visitors, including their number, names, and the timing of their arrival. Though the Bible’s account of the wise men’s visit is relatively straightforward, it can be viewed from many different angles. What are frankincense and myrrh? Perhaps the best known of these is in the Christian bible, where myrrh is described as one of the three gifts given by the Magi to the newborn baby Jesus. These fragrant incense pieces come from the Burseraceae family of trees and are found across the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. The term wise men (also translated as magi) refers to astronomers or astrologers who served in royal courts throughout the ancient near eastern world. It was a spice and was used in embalming. The gift of frankincense to the Christ child was symbolic of His willingness to become a sacrifice, wholly giving Himself up, analogous to a burnt offering. The wise men may have had this connection in mind because, as described in 1 Kings 6:20-22, the walls of the Most Holy Place and the altar within it were completely overlaid with—you guessed it—gold. With no hint of a backstory, Matthew simply introduces us to the travelers with, “behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem....” But who were these men? Putting this all together, the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh that the wise men offered to Jesus symbolize giving our entire self to Jesus Christ: The gift of gold = offering the love in our hearts to Jesus. These valuable items were standard gifts to honor a king or deity in the ancient world: gold as a precious metal, frankincense as perfume or incense, and myrrh as anointing oil. A speculative parallel can be drawn between this and Jesus’ life as a pure and holy offering to the Lord. For thousands of years, practitioners of traditional medicine have valued frankincense and myrrh for their potent healing properties 1. Myrrh is native to the Middle East, Northern Africa and India. Under the Old Covenant, the Most Holy Place (also known as the Holy of Holies) was an inner sanctuary within the Temple where the priest would encounter the presence of God and offer a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people. This article is part of our larger Christmas and Advent resource library centered around the events leading up to the birth of Jesus Christ. Myrrh is also a dried resin from Arabia and northern Africa (from thorny shrubs and trees of the genus Commiphora) used in perfumes, incense, and medicines for thousands of years. ), accumulation of gold was one of the chief measures of wealth (cf. Isaiah 60:6 describes the wealth of the nations coming to God’s people through Christ. In this way, the inclusion of frankincense as a gift for Jesus may have indicated that the wise men understood that the prophecy of the newborn king carried with it a claim of deity. The story of the nativity is actually a blend of both the gospels of Luke and Matthew. We hope these articles help you understand the meaning and story behind important Christian holidays and dates and encourage you as you take time to reflect on all that God has done for us through his son Jesus Christ! Frankincense and myrrh were both highly valued in first century culture, noting a gift that was special yet also held practical value as an oil for Jesus and perhaps His family members. Myrrh can be used to make perfume, turned into oil, or used as medicine. (Matthew 2:1-12 [ESV]). It burns for a long time, with a steady flame. They also used it for embalming so it could accompany a soul to the afterlife, and because it was thought to have antibacterial properties. Myrrh is a fragrant spice derived from the sap of a tree native to the Near East. Gold, frankincense, and myrrh = our whole being. Let’s look at the Bible’s account of these travelers and their quest to meet the prophesied king: Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? ( Exodus 30:34-36) It was called frank because of the freeness with which, when burned, it gives forth its odor. This combination gives them that sweet, woody smell perfect for the winter season. History of December 25thThe Birth of Jesus: Bible Story and Scripture VersesChristmas Bible Verses & Scripture StoryChristmas Prayers, Photo credits in order of appearance: ©Pexels/Tookapic, Â©Unsplash/JackT, ©Pixabay/xbqs42, ©Pixabay/Leo_65, Â©Unsplash/GarethHarper, Â©Unsplash/JakubJacobsky, ©Pexels/InbalMalca, 10 Things Christians Should Know about Marijuana, 10 Family Movies about the True Meaning of Christmas, Just Drop the Blanket: The Moment You Never Noticed in. Burning incense at the altar was a key part of the sacrificial system prescribed by God for use in the Tabernacle and, later, in the Temple itself. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: “‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;for from you shall come a rulerwho will shepherd my people Israel.’”, Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. All of this is indicated in … Myrrh in Biblical Times . Later, during the Babylonian Empire, Daniel encountered—and rescued—a group of prominent wise men that had been called upon to interpret the king’s dream (Daniel 2:2,24). Frankincense and myrrh are oleoresins, meaning the oils from the plants are combined with its gum-like resin – essentially tree sap. frankincense definition: 1. a thick sticky liquid that produces a sweet smell when burned and comes from a tree that grows…. In the ancient near east, the cost of frankincense precluded it from being used as a common household air freshener. As with gold, frankincense may also have an implied connection with the Temple worship of the Old Covenant. Among the types of assets listed in the Bible (e.g., precious metals, livestock, servants, gemstones, etc. Log in, 11 Unusual Facts about the Magi in the Bible », 23 Yummy Thanksgiving Dips You Can’t Stop Eating, 25 Christian Leadership Quotes That Will Make You A Dynamic Leader, Grow in Faith with These 15 Friendship with God Quotes, 70+ Powerful Bible Verses about Friendship, 27 Powerful Dietrich Bonhoeffer Quotes That Will Inspire You. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. However, without venturing too far off into extrabiblical speculation, it’s reasonable to draw a few possible inferences from the gifts brought by the wise men. All three gifts reveal thought-provoking implications that related to Jesus’ life and ministry. These valuable gifts were clearly intended to honor Jesus, but it’s possible they carried deeper theological significance as well. Again, parallels to Jesus’ consecrated life and sacrificial death are immediately noticeable. Now that we know the significance of the gifts brought to baby Jesus, let's dive into the importance of the gift givers. What is Christmas? Matthew is the only gospel to mention the magi, thus the only reference we have to gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Frankincense is a symbol of holiness and righteousness. Myrrh definition is - a yellowish-brown to reddish-brown aromatic gum resin with a bitter slightly pungent taste obtained from a tree (especially Commiphora abyssinica of the family Burseraceae) of eastern Africa and Arabia; also : a mixture of myrrh and labdanum. In the book of Matthew 2:11, it reads, “After coming into the house … Israel was never intended to be the stopping point of grace; God called them to be a light for all nations. Much like frankincense, myrrh is not an herb but a resin, and appears with some relevance in a number of religious and spiritual contexts. Beyond making it clear that these were great treasures given in an act of worship (Matthew 2:11), Scripture does not directly attach any other symbolic meaning to the gifts. But this tree sap has been prized across the world for over 6,000 years. Genesis 13:2, Ecclesiastes 2:8). The word comes from an Arabic word meaning “bitter.” It has been valued for its aroma as well as for its use as an antiseptic, analgesic (topical painkiller), and other medicinal qualities. When used in concert, myrrh is "blood-moving" while frankincense moves the qi, making it more useful for arthritic conditions. Both frankincense and myrrh are derived from the gummy sap that oozes out of the Boswellia and Commiphora trees, respectively, when their bark is cut. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. The wise men and their gifts may also be seen through the lens of global missions. We’ve all heard of frankincense but what is it and how does it smell? It is produced by scraping the bark of certain native species of trees and then harvesting the beads of resin after they have dried. Compared to the Bible’s account of the royal visit, the story we tell is often padded with a bit of extra information. Frankincense speaks of the fragrance of His life. Though we don’t have a record of such, it is reasonable to think that the valuable gifts Mary and Joseph received from the wise men may have financed the family’s flight to Egypt. What Are Advent Readings & Why Are They Important? Like Frankincense, it has been used in spiritual and religious ceremonies for thousands of years. Scott James serves as an Elder at The Church at Brook Hills. He and his wife, Jaime, have 4 children and live in Birmingham, AL, where he works as a pediatric physician. Myrrh being commonly used as an anointing oil, frankincense as a perfume, and gold as a valuable. And in this case, that wealth was likely used to help the family escape to another nation. And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.”After listening to the king, they went on their way. Since they are closely related, their healing characteristics are fairly similar, with a few notable differences. A specific recipe of spices mixed with “pure frankincense” (v. 34) was to be consecrated as “pure and holy” (v.35) and was the only incense permitted at the altar. It was also sometimes … Frankincense was used lavishly in religious rites. Frankincense has a woody aroma and may offer several health benefits, including potential cancer-fighting properties. This time of year, healing is often welcome for many -- it is cold and flu season, and added stress can make people feel run down and sickly. Often an anointing oil. Dr. J. Vernon McGee makes this comment about the three gifts. He is born a King. Not gonna lie it was probably handy to have around … If you’re wondering what use an infant would have for these gifts, you’re not alone. If you’re wondering what use an infant would have for these gifts, you’re not alone. The primary significance of the gifts lay in their great value—they were indeed gifts fit for a king. 4 Ways I've Seen God's Presence in the Pandemic, 1 Thing You Never Learned about the Christmas Story, This site is a proud member of the Salem Web Network, a subsidiary of, Copyright © 2020, Crosswalk.com. Joseph was instructed to take refuge in Egypt, a journey of over 100 miles. Understanding History, Origin and TraditionsWhen Was Jesus Born? ‘By their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, they acknowledged Jesus as royal, divine, and destined to suffer and die.’ ‘I think it was rosemary and frankincense in it perhaps, that the swinging censor of incense, and I just found it all so beautiful and evocative, that ritual going on.’ When burned as incense, it creates a strong and beautiful aroma. Myrrh in a lot of ways is similar to frankincense. As we all know from our nativity sets, some very special guests attended the birth of the Jesus: wise men from the east, bearing gifts for the newborn king. Dr. Subhuti Dharmananda of the Institute of Traditional Medicine in Portland, Oregon, notes that these resins are shrouded in rich history; several cultures believed that frankincense and myrrh possessed magical or spiritual energy 1. Learn more. They are both botanically related, had medicinal value, and currency value. Like frankincense, it can be used as incense, but in the ancient world it also had wider usage as a perfume, anointing oil, and was even imbibed as a medicinal tonic. Whether or not you want to read deeper theological meaning into them, one thing that is certain is that these were significant gifts intended to show great honor to King Jesus. For a family of humble means, a trip of this magnitude would be difficult to pull off. As evidenced by the account of Simon Magus in Acts 8, such men who “practiced magic” were contemporaries of Jesus and his disciples in and around Palestine. Myrrh was also a product of Arabia, and was obtained from a tree in the same manner as frankincense. The primary significance of the gifts lay in their great value—they were indeed gifts fit for a king. Understanding History, Origin and Traditions, When Was Jesus Born? History of December 25th, The Birth of Jesus: Bible Story and Scripture Verses, California - Do Not Sell My Personal Information. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. In fact, these same three items were apparently among the gifts, recorded in ancient inscriptions, that King Seleucus II Callinicus offered to the god Apollo at the temple in Miletus in 243 B.C.E. Myrrh is a fragrant spice derived from the sap of a tree native to the Near East. Myrrh- Myrrh is a reddish resin that comes from species of the genus Commiphora, which are native to northeast Africa and the adjacent areas of the Arabian Peninsula. Frankincense is a symbol of holiness and righteousness. Myrrh is also an aromatic resin, collected from the Commiphora, another African tree. Likewise, the incarnation of Jesus heralded the presence of God—Immanuel—and the sacrifice of atonement he would make on behalf of his people when he went to the cross. Frankincense and myrrh are perhaps best known for their biblical connotations. Perhaps the wise men intended this gift as an indication of Jesus’ humanity and the manner in which he would save his people—namely, that he would die for them (cf. Myrrh is thought to unite heaven and Earth … One aspect of the visit that has largely escaped alteration is the list of gifts presented to Jesus: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 3 Reasons the 'Christmas Star' of 2020 Is Bringing So Much Hope, Amazing Children's Choir Sings 'I Can Only Imagine', The Thrill of Hope - Advent Devotional - Dec. 2, God Sees Your Value - iBelieve Truth: A Devotional for Women - December 3. And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Both frankincense and myrrh have healing properties that can help people emotionally, vibrationally, and spiritually. "At the time Jesus is thought to have been born, frankincense and myrrh may have been worth more than their weight in the third gift presented by the wise men: gold But despite their significance in the New Testament, the substances fell out of favor in Europe with the rise of Christianity and fall of the Roman Empire, which essentially obliterated the thriving trade routes that had … The method of collecting myrrh is the same as collecting frankincense.Myrrh was used as a perfume, medicine and embalming medium.Myrrh is also well-known as a gift of the Magi to the infant Jesus, signifying his death. Why Do Some People Claim That Christmas Is a Pagan Holiday? It is combined with such herbs as notoginseng , safflower petals, angelica sinensis , cinnamon , and salvia miltiorrhiza , usually in alcohol, and used both internally and externally. Since the early days of Christianity, Biblical scholars and theologians have offered varying interpretations of the meaning and significance of the gold, frankincense and myrrh that the magi presented to Jesus, according to the Gospel of Matthew (2:11). You've planned for your future. Myrrh symbolizes bitterness, suffering, and affliction. The gift of frankincense = offering the truth in our minds to Jesus. In addition to underscoring the royalty of Jesus, some have noted that the wise men’s gift of gold may have foreshadowed another aspect of Jesus’ ministry. Myrrh was a prophetic gift because Jesus would die for the sins of the world. Just like the first two gifts, there is a Temple connection with myrrh as well. It’s possible that the wise men who visited Jesus hailed from this area, which would explain their familiarity with the Old Testament prophesy of the “king of the Jews” (Matthew 2:2). He is the author of two family worship books (The Expected One: Anticipating All of Jesus in the Advent and Mission Accomplished: A Two-Week Family Easter Devotional) as well as the illustrated children's book The Littlest Watchman. The nations would come, but they wouldn’t be empty-handed: “they shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall bring good news, the praises of the Lord” (v. 6). Mary and Joseph saw a glimpse of this when they received the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. Frankincense, a vegetable resin, brittle, glittering, and of a bitter taste, used for the purpose of sacrificial fumigation. Exodus 30 tells us that liquid myrrh was a main ingredient in the anointing oil used to ceremonially prepare the priests, the instruments, the altar, and the Temple itself before sacrifices could be made. Frankincense was a worthy gift for Christ since He was the anointed One who deserves our worship. By the 1st Century AD, magi were more broadly known as men who studied sacred writings and dabbled with occult practices. Because of its scarcity and immense value, gold was particularly associated with royalty and nobility, as is seen in 1 Kings 10 when the Queen of Sheba visits King Solomon bearing great quantities of gold as a gift. The gift of frankincense to the Christ child was symbolic of His willingness to become a sacrifice, wholly giving Himself up, analogous to a burnt offering. For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. See more. Now protect it. Why Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh Were Given to Baby Jesus. Frankincense (along with myrrh) is perhaps best known in connection with spirituality. Matthew tells us that as soon as the wise men departed, an angel of the Lord came to warn Joseph of Herod’s rage (Matthew 2:13). It’s possible that their gifts were specifically intended to pay homage to Jesus’ royalty, deity, and humanity. It is a famous and crucial resin with incomparable esoteric magic virtues that is made to exude, support for every kind of magical or religious practice. Frankincense definition, an aromatic gum resin from various Asian and African trees of the genus Boswellia, especially B. carteri, used chiefly for burning as incense in religious or ceremonial practices, in perfumery, and in pharmaceutical and fumigating preparations. According to the Gospel of Matthew, the magi bring gold, frankincense, and myrrh as expensive gifts to the young Jesus. In the wise men, we see a microcosm of the greater reality that is to come: one day, people from every tribe, tongue, and nation will come before the throne of Jesus in praise and adoration (Revelation 7:9-10). The Book of Isaiah, when … Beyond that, they may have also carried Temple connotations and even a reference to Jesus’ global mission. Also by Scott James on Crosswalk: The History and Meaning of the Advent Calendar. Here are 5 science-backed benefits of frankincense — as well as 7 myths. The three gifts had a spiritual meaning: gold as a symbol of kingship on earth, frankincense (an incense ) as a symbol of deity, and myrrh (an embalming oil) as a symbol of death. Photo credits in order of appearance: ©Pexels/Tookapic. According to Exodus 30, however, not just any incense would do. Both frankincense and myrrh are gum resins that are extracted from shrub-like trees in the Burseraceae family, which grow in dry climates across parts of Asia and Africa, including India, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia and Somalia. In the end, these wise men gave what they had to show their devotion to Jesus as the new king. Because of this, they are often used in rituals to help the sick. Most notable with regard to Jesus’ life, myrrh was a key ingredient in the mixture of spices that were used to prepare bodies for burial (e.g., John 19:39-40). One aspect of the visit that has largely escaped alteration is the list of gifts presented to Jesus: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. The Magi also brought a gift of gold, symbolizing that the infant was a king. And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way. Gold speaks of His birth. And as it is today, gold was a valued commodity in the ancient world. Though present throughout the region, magi were more commonly associated with the Parthian Empire located to the east of Palestine (present-day Iran). Natural Uses for Myrrh. As was customary for royal visits, the wise men came bearing treasured gifts intended to honor the newborn king. In ancient culture, myrrh was used as an antiseptic to clean and treat wounds, help stop bleeding, and to treat hay fever. It is the starting point for any mixture you feel like doing; it is the incense par excellence. ©Unsplash/JackT, ©Pixabay/xbqs42, ©Pixabay/Leo_65, ©Unsplash/JakubJacobsky, ©Pexels/InbalMalca, 8 Interesting Facts about the Birth of Jesus, The Expected One: Anticipating All of Jesus in the Advent, Mission Accomplished: A Two-Week Family Easter Devotional, The History and Meaning of the Advent Calendar, What is Christmas? After the Babylonian captivity, remnants of Jewish culture lingered in that region and it’s likely that Hebrew Scriptures were among the sacred writings these wise men studied in their pursuit of wisdom. The frankincense presented to Jesus would have been the incense, and the myrrh would have been in the form of oil. Myrrh speaks of His death. But despite recent attempts to protect these trees, they could soon be headed for extinction. All rights reserved. Within the Medo-Persian Empire, for example, magi were regarded as valuable advisors due to their knowledge of science, agriculture, and sorcery. Thus, it’s not surprising that they made their way to Christmas stories—not to mention their roots in the Middle East and Africa, where Christianity set its roots. Myrrh is the sap of the Commiphora trees that are also native to the region around the Gulf of Aden. The gold represented Jesus’ kingship, the frankincense symbolized his role as a priest, and the myrrh alluded to his death. By bringing a gift of gold, the wise men showed that they did indeed consider Jesus a king. These valuable items were standard gifts to honor a king or deity in the ancient world: gold as a precious metal, frankincense as perfume or incense, and myrrh as anointing oil. ‘Frankincense and myrrh are made from resins from trees growing only in that area.’ ‘The nativity, a scene that invokes images of a child in swaddling clothes, gold, frankincense, and myrrh.’ ‘The story is told of Jesus being born in Bethlehem and being visited by wise men from the east that brought presents of gold, incense, and myrrh.’ Article Images Copyright ©. (Matthew 2:11) . In fact, it’s been used in religious rites and traded in the Arabian Peninsula, Mesopotamia, and the eastern Mediterranean for over 6,000 years. The ancient Egyptians burned it as an offering to Ra, the sun god. Frankincense is an aromatic gum resin that is still widely used in parts of the Middle East and Africa today. 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