Why Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh?
Before I begin to talk about the gifts that the wise men gave Jesus, I think it’s important to first set the stage. I’m going to read from Matthew, Chapter 2. Matt. 2:1-13
So we know that King Herod wants to have Jesus killed and Herod has asked that the wise men let him know where Jesus is so he can “worship” him…we know he just wants to know his location so he can kill him. Of course the wise men are too “wise” for that and never return to King Herod to tell him where Jesus is.
After following the star the wise men find Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus. It’s interesting in verse 11 that as soon as the wise men find Mary and Joseph they enter the stable and immediately begin to worship Jesus. As soon as they saw the baby they wanted to worship Him. Why? Because they knew that he was the King of Kings… and the gifts they then gave him was further credit to that. It’s interesting to note that we never find out what the names of the wise men were. Although they were giving Jesus these rare and expensive gifts they had no desire to be known, they just wanted to be sure that he received them. So why did they give these 3 gifts? I mean frankincense and myrrh is not one of those gifts that you would say “Oh, I got frankincense and myrrh for Christmas!…Yes!”
These type of gifts were typical back in those days to give to kings. In 1 Kings when the Queen of Sheba visited King Solomon she brought him Gold and spices. Gold, Frankincense were rare, valuable and precious items and many wanted to give their best for their king.
The wise men…recognizing Jesus as King of Kings wanted to give their best as well. Each of the three gifts given had both a symbolic meaning and a practical use.
Let’s start with the easy one first…Gold
- Gold, as it is today was very valuable. To find gold you have to dig underground and find which was very difficult back in Bible times because you didn’t have the tools you have today.
- Gold has always been a means of exchange…something that for Mary & Joseph would come in handy as they would soon travel to Egypt and would need food, clothing and shelter.
- Symbolically Gold represents kingship. The King that Christ is for us. It also represents the purification process we go through in our trials as a Christian.
- Gold is one of the only metals that when heated with fire will not lose anything of it’s nature, weight, color, or any other property. Genuine faith is the same way. Gold is used in scripture when talking about the strength of someone’s faith. Job refers to gold after he has been through all his trials. Job 23:10 Jobs says, “But he knows where I am going. And when he tests me, I will come out as pure gold.”
- Frankincense is made by cutting a tree named “Arbor Thurisfrom” found Persia, Arabia and India. It’s like a sap that is gathered and then dried for 3 months and becomes a like a hardened resin or gum.
- Frankincense is used as a perfume but mostly it was burned as a sweet incense during worship. During the Exodus Aaron would burn Frankincense at the alter as a sweet offering to the Lord.
- Practically Frankincense would be a familiar smell to baby Jesus as this was the same God that was worshiped in the Old Testament. It would also help it getting the stable smelling better with all those animals in there with them. You could say that Frankincense was kinda of the Yankee Candle of that time.
- Symbolically Frankincense represented the divinity of Christ because as mentioned Frankincense was burnt as an offering to God.
- Myrrh, like Frankincense, also is the sap from a tree that is hardened and then used. However, unlike, Frankincense which is sweet…Myrrh has a bitter taste to it.
- Myrrh was mostly used to embalm the dead because it had the property to preserve. It was also used as a perfume, an ingredient of holy ointments mentioned in Exodus but it’s most practical use for Mary & Joseph would be it’s medical uses. Today Myrrh is used today in toothpaste, mouthwash and make-up.
- Lastly, Myrrh represents the bitter cup that Christ had to drink in suffering for our sins and the healing for us that his death brings.
This Bible Study was prepared by Jason Forthofer of PlanetHoly.com.