While reading about Jesus’ birth, I read that the wise men had brought gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Now, this was nothing new to me. I had read and heard this story many times. But what are gold, frankincense, and myrrh? Why are they important?
Gold is a precious metal (obviously!). Many of Yahweh’s temples were adorned with gold. Gold is mentioned throughout the Bible. It was and still is considered to be extremely valuable in most cultures. It was used to symbolize royalty and honor. Gold was the usual offering presented to kings by their subjects, or those wanting to pay respect.
Frankincense is the dried sap of trees in the Boswellia genus, particularly Boswellia sacra. These trees grow in Oman, Yemen and the Horn of Africa, including Somalia and Ethiopia. The frankincense is usually burned.The Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, and Israelites used frankincense as part of their religious ceremonies. Frankincense is a symbol of holiness and righteousness. In pagan cultures, frankincense is burned as an offering to numerous gods. Frankincense is used in burials to cover to cover up the smell of the corpse rotting.
Like frankincense, myrrh is dried sap from a tree. It is used to embalm the bodies of the dead. However, unlike, Frankincense which is sweet, Myrrh has a bitter taste to it. Some scholars say that the gift of myrrh foreshadows Jesus’ death. Frankincense and myrrh were used in conjunction with each other.
All three gifts were gifts that would normally given to a king or god to show worship and divinity. The wise men may or may not have believed that Jesus was the Son of Yahweh; however, they gave gifts of royalty to the small child.