Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh
“And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh…” Matthew 2:11
The significance of the three gifts that the Magi brought to worship Jesus are in some ways immediately evident, and others not so much. First the Bible does not tell us how many kings came to worship Him or how many gifts each brought. Did each bring one gift or all three. It is not difficult to reason why they would have brought gold. It is a symbol of wealth and power associated most often with royalty, with kings and their rule over kingdoms. In considering the Tabernacle, God gave Moses specific instructions that nearly everything in the Tabernacle was to be made of gold, overlain with gold, or have golden threads used to create or adorn the fabrics used in it. Kings’ crowns are made of gold and adorned with precious stones. Their scepters are fashioned of gold, even the streets of the New Jerusalem are paved with gold. It is fitting then that the King of Kings should be worshipped with gold.
Frankincense is first mentioned in the Bible in conjunction with preparation for its exclusive use in Tabernacle worship.
"And the LORD said to Moses: "Take sweet spices, stacte and onycha and galbanum, and pure frankincense with these sweet spices; there shall be equal amounts of each. You shall make of these an incense, a compound according to the art of the perfumer, salted, pure, and holy. And you shall beat some of it very fine, and put some of it before the Testimony in the tabernacle of meeting where I will meet with you. It shall be most holy to you. But as for the incense which you shall make, you shall not make any for yourselves, according to its composition. It shall be to you holy for the LORD. Whoever makes any like it, to smell it, he shall be cut off from his people." Exodus 30:34-38
The High Priest would burn incense in the Holy Place and the smoke and aroma would rise up to God with his prayers for the people. Here in our story of the gifts brought to Jesus, Frankincense references that Jesus would become our High Priest, Who ever lives to make intercession for us.
Myrrh, like frankincense, is an aromatic substance with certain medicinal properties as well, that were in common use in ancient times. God instructs Moses to use myrrh as part of the compound used for anointing oil.
"Moreover the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: 'Also take for yourself quality spices-five hundred shekels of liquid myrrh, half as much sweet-smelling cinnamon (two hundred and fifty shekels), two hundred and fifty shekels of sweet-smelling cane, five hundred shekels of cassia, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, and a hin of olive oil. And you shall make from these a holy anointing oil, an ointment compounded according to the art of the perfumer. It shall be a holy anointing oil. With it you shall anoint the tabernacle of meeting and the ark of the Testimony; the table and all its utensils, the lampstand and its utensils, and the altar of incense; the altar of burnt offering with all its utensils, and the laver and its base. You shall consecrate them, that they may be most holy; whatever touches them must be holy. And you shall anoint Aaron and his sons, and consecrate them, that they may minister to Me as priests.'" Exodus 30:22-30
Myrrh was also among the spices used for embalming purposes as well. Myrrh was given to Jesus, mingled with bitter wine, when He cried out from thirst as He was dying on the cross. And myrrh was among the spices used to prepare His body for burial after He died.
"Then they gave Him wine mingled with myrrh to drink, but He did not take it." Mark 15:23
"And Nicodemus, who at first came to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds." John 19:39
Together the gold, frankincense and myrrh represented the three callings of Jesus’ ministry and of His eternal, Heavenly Kingdom rule. He was born a King to live as our High priest and to die the death of sin for us as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, then to reign forever as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.