What are Frankincense and Myrrh ?

What are Frankincense and Myrrh ?
The Magi went searching for the newborn King Jesus, to worship Him and to give Him gifts. They brought the best that they had, gold, frankincense and myrrh. They were precious gifts, worthy of a King. We know about gold, but what are frankincense and myrrh?

  • In Hebrew, it is lebonah, pronounced lev-ow-nah.
  • Frankincense is an aromatic resin derived from trees.
  • In Bible times, it was imported from Asia and Arabia, but it also may have been grown in Israel.
  • It was used in the temple offering by the priests. In Exodus 30:34, God gave Moses a recipe including pure frankincense to make a fragrant blend of incense. It was used in front of the Tent of Meeting where He would meet with Moses. It was considered holy; to be used only unto the Lord.
  • Incense was a symbol for prayer. David asked that his prayer be set before the Lord like incense. Psalm 141:2
  • In Revelation 5:8, golden bowls were full of incense that represented the prayers of the saints.
  • The frankincense used by the Jews in the temple services is not to be confused with the frankincense of modern times. The ancient kind was probably a resin from the Indian tree known to botanists by the name of Bowellia Serrata or Thurifera, which grows to a height of forty feet. Modern frankincense is the resin from the Norway Spruce fir. The resin is harvested by cutting into the trunk of the tree and letting it ooze out, much like harvesting Maple syrup. The hardened resin is ground and used to make frankincense.

Another of the gifts of the Magi, was myrrh.
  • Myrrh is the dried sap of the Commiphora tree, native to the eastern Mediterranean. Its name is Arabic meaning bitter and it was of higher value than either the gold or the frankincense.
  • It was a custom of the Jews to give those who were condemned to death by crucifixion "wine mingled with myrrh" to produce insensibility. This drugged wine was probably partaken of by the two thieves, but when the Roman soldiers pressed it upon Jesus, He refused it.
  • It was often used in Rome at funerals to mask the smell of corpses and also as an embalming ointment.
  • In Exodus 30:23, God instructed Moses to use liquid Myrrh as an ingredient of sacred anointing oil to be used in the Tent of Meeting.
  • It has varied uses today, being used in ointments and treatments for mild throat and mouth inflammations and as a fungicide in cases of athletes foot. It is found as an essential oil and in herbal supplements.

Frankincense was highly regarded and expensive, making it a gift worthy of a King
It could be that the gift of Myrrh at Jesus' birth was to symbolize His death or it may have been simply another precious gift for the King.

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