Why did the three kings bring frankincense, myrrh and gold to the young Jesus?
This question has been asked through the ages. Theologians and Bible Scholars have answered that all three represent the Lord Jesus Himself, from his power, deity, and priesthood to his death. These explanations just skim the surface of the reason the Magi brought the particular gifts.
In this article I am going to reveal to you the secret of the Magi and why they brought gold, frankincense and myrrh to the young Jesus and its true scriptural significance.
First of all why am I talking about the Magi on Prophecy Talk?
Because my own analysis and approach to Bible Prophecy is modeled on the Magi.
We see their recognition by Jesus Himself when he stated in Matthew 23:24, “Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city.”
Notice the differentiation from the prophets and scribes. The word for wise men means skilled experts, cultivated, learned, of the Greek philosophers and orators, theologians, teachers.
The word for men that Jesus uses in this verse means a human being either male or female. In most simplistic terms the prophets were given the word, the wise men taught it and the scribes transcribed the word. The wise men were not just teachers, they were scholars.
Herod Consulted with the Wise Men
In the Bible we see ancient governments- especially the kings of Israel- consulting with the prophets of God and sometimes mistreating them horribly if they didn’t like their message. At the time of the birth of Christ there were no prophets to consult, there was Anna but she was in the temple, so who does Herod confer with but the wise men.
The Bible does not give the wise men’s exact number and we also do not know if they were all male or if there was a female within the group. While this article mentions three kings in the title, this is purely for SEO.
What Does The Word Magi Mean in the Bible?
The word Jesus used is in this verse for wise men is an adjective as a generalized term. The word for wise men chosen when referring to the Biblical Magi who offered Jesus the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, is a noun because these Magi are a specific group of men or men and women. The use of the noun highlights these particular Magi.
How Did the Magi Possess Keen Knowledge of Bible Prophecy?
While the Magi were not prophets they studied the prophetic writings as if they were a science and came to exact location of the young Jesus. They had such a sharp knowledge of the prophetic forecasts they were able to provide Herod details the scribes and priests could not relay. The Magi possessed such acumen they came to the birthplace of Christ with one reference to the star. Herod misunderstood their findings and believed the coming King was a threat to his kingdom and issued the order for all of the boys under two years old to be killed.
In ancient society political elites consulted with the experts within their government but unlike modern society these experts included soothsayers and the prophets of the living God. In the Old Testament the Bible refers to the ancient world’s leading authorities as wise men and in the Hebrew the word includes both education and skill, or what the modern world would refer to as highly educated.
The Magi were also called Wise Men
In the Aramaic usage of the word “wise” as used in the book of Daniel, the word derives from the Chaldean (Babylonian) language and means specially a magian or magician. When we get to the New Testament the Greek word used for wise also derives from the Chaldean (Babylonian) word magus, which was the name given by the Babylonians, Medes, Persians and others to the wise men of their day. These included educated men and women such as teachers, advisers, consultants, astrologers, doctors and scientists. The Babylonians esteemed prophets, seers, soothsayers and sorcerers and interpreter of dreams within the same ranks as the intelligentsia.
The Bible refers to the Prophet Daniel as a wise man
The prophet Daniel was a Biblical wise man and Daniel also possessed the ability to interpret dreams and visions (Dan. 1:4, 17, 5:11-12).
Daniel held chief posts within two of the four world empires that existed. He acted as chief consultant to the kings. The same word is used in the Greek as the Aramaic referring to Daniel’s wisdom and that of the wise men, both are variants of Magus. Thus we can conclude that the Biblical Magi were intellects capable of being advisors to kings and we know they were astronomers who possessed great skill because they did not have high powered telescopes to aid them in finding the star but the naked eye.
The Significance of Being From the East
Highlighting the Biblical Magi’s significance Matthew 2:1 tells us they were from the east, which is not a location, we would expect to find them. We would think that they might arrive from the Temple or somewhere from within Israel to come to the young Jesus, instead they come from the east. According to 1 Kings 4:30, the east is known for its wisdom, the verse states: The wisdom of Solomon was multiplied more than the wisdom of all the sons of the east, and than all the wisdom of the Egyptians. While this this identifies the Biblical Magi with those with superior knowledge, there is another Scriptural reason why the Biblical Magi arriving to the birth place of Jesus from the east is significant.
The Gospel of Matthew is referred to as a Jewish book and as the gospel for the Jews. Matthew starts out with Jesus’s genealogical record and the birth of Jesus concludes the genealogical record started in the book of Genesis. We see the Magi only in the book of Matthew because their significance is to the Jew. This begins with the Magi arriving from the East. Why is the East important here? The garden was planted in the east of Eden with the Cherubim stationed on the east side. In Ezekiel’s vision God’s glory comes from the east and enters the temple from the east. The tabernacle’s entrance faces east. Jesus’s star is in the east.
While we see Jesus’s birth star in the east we also see His return coming from the East, “For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of man.” (Matthew 24:27 RSV) Zechariah 14:4 states,” And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east…”The tabernacle faced East because the sacrifices symbolized the coming Messiah who would come, confirmed by His star in the East as stated in Matthew 2:2.
The wise men arrive at the same time as the star and both coming from the East. This reveals a great significance to their appearance. This is a divine appearance with a divine purpose for their emerging on the scene.
The Christ child has arrived and the Biblical Magi come from the East to not only worship Him but bring him gifts. This is where error has crept in. They did not bring a gift in the traditional sense of the word where you go and visit someone and bring them a gift. The word in the Greek means more than that, it means an offering. Such as a gift offered in expression of honor, of sacrifices and other gifts offered to God.
The word used in conjunction with their gift is “presented” and the word in the Greek means as one would offer unto God. They took the offering from their treasure, which in the Greek means the place in which good things are collected and laid up. We see that the wise men are not bringing gifts to bring a gift but about to embark on a holy act that goes to the core of Old Testament teachings and reveals the Magi’s keenness and expertise of Scripture, which evidenced itself in their offering of gold, frankincense and myrrh. The gold, frankincense and myrrh provided the third combination of herbal mixtures with the first two given to Moses, and would be presented by the Magi to the Christ and would act as a Biblical coronation and confirmation and would speak volumes at His birth of his purpose and ministry.
In Exodus 30:2-38 God gives Moses two mixtures and the first is for the holy anointing oil that would anoint the utensils and alter, and priests. The second is for incense in the tabernacle of meeting where God would meet with Moses.
The holy incense represents God the father, while the holy anointing oil represents the Holy Spirt. The fiery scents of cinnamon and cassia dominate the Holy Anointing Oil, and depict the Holy Spirit, which actually appeared on the Apostles as tongues of fire. It is used to cleanse, to anoint priests, prophets and kings. Its chief ingredient is myrrh.
Whereas the Holy Incense formula represents God the father. The overpowering Galbanum in the Holy Incense depicts God the father’s all powerful nature. A dose of this sniffed too intently will injure your sense of smell. In the same way we are told that if any man looks upon the face of God he will die. Exodus 33:20 In the mixture the Galbanum overpowers all of the other herbs in the mixture. Just as a man was not to look upon the face of God, and likewise it was instructed with the holy incense in verse 38, “Whoever makes any like it, to smell it, he shall be cut off from his people.”
The Magi were acquainted with these mixtures and the one missing was the one that represented the Christ, while the first two were given to Moses, the third combination, which completed the oils representing the Trinity, the Magi would give to the Christ Child as an offering that would confirm Him as the Christ based on the Law of Moses.
The Biblical Magi thus they presented an offering of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
Gold was throughout Solomon’s temple and the offering of gold not only symbolized Jesus’s deity but that He was now the temple. Jesus stated in John 2: 19-21, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” Then the Jews said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple and you will raise it up in three days? But he was speaking of the temple of his body. Therefore, when He had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this to them, and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said.” Gold represented both his deity, his kingdom and His body as the temple. This is confirmed in Revelation 21:22, But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. In their gift of gold they also look to the picture of the Christ in the New Heaven and New Earth.
The Magi were aware of the Holy Anointing oil and Holy incense formulations given to Moses. As I stated earlier Myrrh is the chief ingredient in the Holy Anointing Oil, which was used for the cleansing of all of the utensils in the temple and for the anointing of kings, priests and prophets.
Frankincense comprised of the Holy Incense used in the Holy of Holies. Each of these two together represented the Christ and joined the other two mixtures into a completed trinity as each represents a part of the trinity.
The Magi’s act completed the triad of oil (herbal) mixtures representing the trinity and the arrival of the awaited Messiah. The frankincense and myrrh combined provides a most beautiful, regal, unusual, distinctive ancient fragrance with the oils of frankincense and myrrh known as healing oils. Even the wording of the recipe of the Holy Incense states that the frankincense shall be in equal parts to the other oils, representing Christ’s position as equal with the Father. Myrrh is the leading oil in the Holy anointing oil and it is used in the greatest amount, and is the unrelated scent in the mixture of fiery cinnamon, cassia and calamus.
In addition to the formulations there are more Biblical reasons for the Biblical Magi offering frankincense and myrrh.
In Leviticus the unleavened bread and grain offerings, which corresponds to the flesh of the Passover lamb are offered with frankincense.
The first time we see frankincense and myrrh together are in the Song of Solomon, which is a book about Christ and His bride.
In Sng 3:6, the Shulamite Woman states, “Who is this coming out of the wilderness Like pillars of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and frankincense, with all the merchants fragrant powders?
The Beloved after describing the beauty of the woman states in Sng 4:6, Until the day break and the shadows flee away, I will get me to the mountain of myrrh, and to the hill of frankincense.
Sng 4:13-14 is prophetic and we read: Your plants are an orchard of pomegranates, With pleasant fruits, Fragrant henna with spikenard, spikenard and saffron, calamus and cinnamon, With all trees of frankincense, Myrrh and aloes, With all the chief spices—A fountain of gardens, A well of living waters, And streams from Lebanon. Here we see also the spikenard that was used to anoint the feet of Jesus, and also oils used in the holy anointing oil and Myrrh and aloes which was used in Jesus’s burial.
The Biblical Magi understood the significance of frankincense and myrrh. Notice that Myrrh is mentioned several times by itself in the song of Solomon.
Sng 1:13, A bundle of myrrh is my well beloved unto me, he shall lie all night betwixt my breasts.
Sng 5:1, I am come into my garden, my sister, my spouse, I have gathered my myrrh with my spice, I have eaten my honeycomb with my honey; I have drunk my wine with my milk: eat, O friends, drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved.
Sng 5:5 I rose up to open to my beloved; and my hands dropped with myrrh and my fingers with sweet smelling myrrh, upon the handles of the lock.
Sng 5:13 His cheeks are as a bed of spices, as sweet flowers, his lips like lilies, dropping sweet smelling myrrh.
We see myrrh and aloes in Psalm 45, which describes Christ, Psalm 45:7-8, states You love righteousness and hate wickedness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You. With the oil of gladness more than your companions. All your garments are scented with myrrh and aloes and cassia. Again this forecasts to Christ’s burial.
Myrrh is depicted all over Jesus, his garments are scented with it and it drips from his fingers and is depicted on His lips.
Also notice that myrrh is never used on the alter with the sacrifice, frankincense is the oil used on the grain offerings.
This is where theologians have erred. They have taught that the significance of myrrh was because it was used in Jesus’s burial and was prophetic, on the contrary.
Myrrh is for purification. In Exodus 30:23 we see it as the leading ingredient in the holy anointing oil. Next we see it in the book of Esther 2:12 for purification. Esther bathed in the oil for six months and six is the number of man. Concerning burial the reason it was for ancient burials was for its fragrance to overpower the smell of the decaying corpse.
What has been missed is that Myrrh was used at the completion of the sacrifice that Christ made on the cross, the lamb that was slain to represent the cleansing that would now come to all who believed on him. This is why the Bride says that her beloved (Christ) is as a bundle of myrrh between her breasts. Without Jesus’s sacrifice, which cleansed us from sin we would not be united with Him. Myrrh represents the righteousness of Christ and the righteousness we have in Him.
For this reason you will notice in the Old Testament that myrrh was never used on the altar of sacrifice. This is why we read in Mark 15:23, And they gave him to drink wine mingled with myrrh: but He did not take it. The reason that Jesus did not take it is because he was righteous and without sin and did not need the purification that he now offered to those who would believe on Him.
Jesus not taking the myrrh also lined with myrrh not being part of the sacrifice in the Old Testament. Jesus on the cross was now the sacrifice. This is why Myrrh has so many of its own references in the Song of Solomon because it represents the righteousness we receive through Jesus’s finished work on the cross, which is the crux of the gospel message. This is also why it is a chief ingredient in the Holy Anointing oil, which represents the Holy Spirit because without Jesus reconciling us to God and purifying us and cleansing us in His own blood we would not receive the Holy Spirit and be made righteous in the sight of God.
Thus the offering presented by the Magi were the representation of the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ. Gold is because Jesus is now the temple. Frankincense is because He is both part of the father and the Holy Spirit and he would offer up his life to do His father’s will. Myrrh represents that at the completion of that act he would purify many.
In John 19:39 we read, And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight. Then they took the body of Jesus, and bound it in strips of linen with the spices, as the custom of the Jews is to bury.
The custom was for 40 pounds of myrrh and more depending on the person’s importance at the time of burial. Nicodemus brought 100 pounds.
Just as the frankincense had been placed on the grain offering so now would the myrrh be laid on the body of Jesus Himself, the lamb of God. The myrrh application would finalize the Jesus’s sacrifice looked forward to in the Old Testament. Nicodemus was a Pharisee before His conversion to Christ. He understood the significance of the myrrh in Christ’s burial and understood its meaning. It is no coincidence that God would now have him oversee the task: the preparation of the body of Jesus that the Old Testament sacrifices symbolized,and looked forward to. Only this was now was the fulfillment. First we had the temple veil tear in two and and now the sacrifice that ended the previous law would be prepared with myrrh. The frankincense was now followed with the myrrh.
During Egyptian burials the ancient morticians removed the entrails and stuffed frankincense into the body cavity. Those presiding over Lazarus’s burial who Jesus raised from the dead, wrapped his body in linen only. In Christ’s burial the myrrh wascarefully wrapped within the linen so that it lays on top of the body. This was similar to the application of frankincense added above the grain offering. Jesus’s body became encased in myrrh just as Song of Solomon describes, ” my beloved is a bundle of myrrh.”
Who better to oversee the task to make sure that even these details aligned with the Word than Nicodemus; a Pharisee. It should also be noted that in the account of Lazarus’s burial who Jesus raised from the dead his body was wrapped in linen only further emphasizing Jesus’s being wrapped in myrhh as a Holy burial for the Son of God.
As always Bible Prophecy lines with the events of the day. Just as the Roman death penalty of crucifixion fit so also did the burial method of the application of myrrh in burial.
How many times I read over the verse in John and missed its significance. What a beautiful picture for the believer of the broken and battered body of our Lord just after giving His life on the cross and His body wrapped in myrrh signifying the righteousness we would obtain through His death on the cross.
I looked over theologians explanations for the Song of Solomon verse that states my beloved is a bundle of myrrh. I read it was because of myrrh’s sweetness, pleasantness. No, something far greater, it represents the righteousness we receive through Him. It should also be noted that we learn of Jesus’s body wrapped in myrrh in the Gospel of John because this righteousness through Christ is offered to the whole world. Also in the Gospels we read that the disciples witness the linen cloths lying in the tomb after Jesus resurrected, but notice there is no mention of the myrrh as its presence in the tomb would erase its significance,
The Magi knew these truths of the gold, frankincense and myrrh and presented their offerings in worship and by doing provided the Jews with the Christ’s identity based on the herbal formulations given to Moses, used in the Temple and forecast in the Song of Solomon. In that they came from the east and followed Christ’s star that was in the East was to emphasize the message that east is the direction the tabernacle faced and from which the Christ would come and from where they also came to reveal to the world by their gifts exactly who He is.
What again does this have to do with end time Bible Prophecy? I have modeled my work on the Biblical Magi. Just as I have relayed to you the Scriptural reasons for their appearance and offering (gifts) I provide the same depth and analysis of current events and end time Bible Prophecy.