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Why Myrrh?

A myrrh plant

A myrrh plant

Another royal gift given to the baby Jesus by the Wise Men was myrrh. Like frankincense, myrrh is harvested by cutting into the trunk of the myrrh bush and letting the wound bleed. The sap that oozes out hardens and is then picked from the tree and used for perfumes, incense, and embalming. The principle species is Commiphora myrrha, but a related species Commiphora gileadensis is referred to in the Bible as the “balm of Gilead.”

The word myrrh comes from the Aramaic word murr which means “bitter.”

Hundreds of years before Christ, myrrh was used and valued for its powerful fragrance. It was also used to heal wounds, but the most famous of its uses was that it was the principal ingredient in ointments used in embalming mummies in Egypt. At the time of the Savior it was used in Palestine to anoint dead bodies in preparation for burial. Because of all these uses, myrrh was often as valuable ounce per ounce as gold. As a matter of fact, sometimes the price of myrrh rose higher than that of gold.

The most interesting thing to me, however, is that the myrrh bush has long, spiky thorns. Thus the myrrh branch foreshadows the crown of thorns placed upon the Savior at the time of His death. The gift at his birth was a symbol of His royalty—The King of Kings. But at the same time it reminds us that at His death the people would reject their King. Instead of crowning Him with gold and jewels they would crown Him with thorns.

Thus myrrh is a symbolic reminder that this baby would be rejected, would suffer and die, but being the true King, he would overcome death and make eternal life possible for us,

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2 Responses so far.

  1. Alece says:

    I just had a thought about both Myrrh and Frankincense. Both are harvested by first wounding the tree, and then collecting the sap once it has hardened. Christ was wounded for our sins. I think, beyond all the other symbols of these two resins, that this might also be a symbol of Christ’s atonement.

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