Gifts of the Magi: Why Frankincense and Myrrh?

Beth BryanChristmas and Holiday Ideas, Twelve Oils of Ancient ScriptureLeave a Comment

Gifts of the Magi- Why Frankincense and Myrrh?

When we reflect on the Christmas story we eventually come to the three wise men, or the Magi.

The exact time, place and number of wise men who pilgrimaged to visit Mary and Jesus is the subject of much debate among biblical scholars, but the gifts they brought are spelled out clearly for us in the Bible.

“On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.” (Matthew 2:11)

Much like today, when we go to visit a new mother and child we often bring gifts to celebrate the birth of the child.  For these wise men, this was the birth of a king. Their choice of gifts reflect that fact. 

Tradition tells us that Caspar, King of Tarsus and land of the merchants, was first in line to kneel to Christ and offered the new king gold. Melchior, a native of Arabia, gave frankincense and Balthazar, from Saba, brought myrrh.  

Via Wikipedia

Image via Wikipedia

The gift of gold makes sense; it is highly valuable, a fitting gift for a king and symbolizes virtue. But why the frankincense and myrrh? Let’s dig a little deeper in that today.


The Hebrew word for frankincense, levonah (sometimes translated as “incense”), appears in the Bible 22 times.  

“Who is this that cometh out of the wilderness like pillars of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and frankincense, with all powders of the merchant?” (Song of Solomon 3:6) 

Frankincense is an offering for a deity and symbolizes prayer. The gum resin of the Boswellia carteri tree was burned as an incense in the holy temples in ancient times and is still used in many churches to this day. It was also prized as a holy anointing and healing oil throughout antiquity. Today, it is used to support skin health for it’s calm, soothing properties. 


The holy oil of myrrh was used for purification and often used during funeral rites. Myrrh was revered historically for it’s healing attributes.  Esther 2:12 tells us that the women who were presented to the king to be chosen as his wife must undergo twelve months of “regulations for the women– for the days of their beautification were completed as follows: six months with oil of myrrh and six months with spices and the cosmetics”.

Myrrh was a regal beauty balm, but it was also used during funeral rites for purification of the body. At the end of his life, Jesus’ body was prepare for burial with a mixture of myrrh and aloes and wrapped in a burial cloth according to Jewish customs (John 19:39).

The scent of myrrh essential oil is like camphor with a hint of anise or black licorice. It is almost an astringent smell but still maintains it’s earthy aroma. Blending myrrh with frankincense essential oils together results in a powerful combination that is excellent when diluted on the skin with a carrier oil.

It’s no wonder why the Magi gave these essential oils to Mary and Christ. Every mother and newborn, even ones of such grand stature, could find benefit in their beneficial properties. At the time, these were valuable gifts that offered protection and peace to the king of kings that no poor Jewish family would have been able to afford on their own.  

Gold. Frankincense. Myrrh.

These three gifts were chosen not only for their practical benefits for mother and child and also the spiritual symbolism and representation of the kingship of Jesus. Christmas is both a time of reflection and celebration and diffusing the essential oils of frankincense and myrrh brings peace to the home and enlightenment, respect and remembrance for the reason of the holiday season.

I wrote a lot more of my thoughts on this subject over in the 14 Day Challenge post about How to use Frankincense oil.  I hope you’ll click to read more

Day3 Frankincense Oil

You can find both of these amazing essential oils included in the Oils of Ancient Scripture Kit as well as the Essence of the Season Kit,  which also contains a 5 ml bottle of Christmas Spirit and the gum resins of both. 

essence of the season

Click here and search “frankincense” or “myrrh” to shop for these essential oils. 

Looking for beauty recipes? Try these:

All-Natural Lip and Face Scrubs with Essential Oils

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