According to the second chapter of Matthew, wisemen brought the Christ child gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh because there were three gifts, we often assume there must have been three wise men, but the Bible does not actually tell us the number. These three gifts were extremely valuable in ancient times, and we’re likely the main financial source for enabling Joseph and Mary to flee from Bethlehem to Egypt in addition to their great value. Each of these gifts are highly significant in their symbolism and relationships.
Have various titles of Jesus Christ and to ancient temple worship.
Gold was often seen as a symbol of wealth, worldly power and kingship.
Gold was also extensively used throughout the ancient structures of worship to the Lord, becoming a symbol of divinity or the presence of God.
Within the tabernacle of Moses.
The walls were covered in gold as well as each of the pieces of furniture within the holy place and holy of holies.
The beautifully carved walls of Solomon’s temple were likewise overlaid with gold as well as the floors and inside furniture. Herod’s temple, the temple at the time of Jesus, also used gold throughout, including large golden plates that adorned the interior walls. Gold was also woven into the fabric of the clothing of the high priest, as well as on the crown, the setting of the 12 stones and the bells on the hem of the blue robe.
The fact that the wisemen brought gold as a symbol of kingship, temple worship and divinity can point to the titles of the Savior as the King of Kings and the great high priest who intercedes on our behalf. Frankincense and myrrh are both tree resins from two types of trees that grow mostly in the Arabian Peninsula. Both instances were very valuable and were known for their healing powers and were often combined with oil and other spices to create healing bombs.
Both incenses are harvested by wounding the tree, by cutting and removing a small portion of the bark. The tree resin then drips or bleeds out, after which it is allowed to harden before it is removed.
Frankincense is known for its sweet and pleasant smell when burned or used in perfumes in ancient times, few bathed on a regular basis or had multiple pairs of clothing to change and wash.
This means that any pleasant smells such as frankincense that could mask the many unpleasant smells had great value in temple worship.
Frankincense was placed on the table of show bread and burned by the priests every Sabbath. In addition, it was combined with other incenses and burned every morning and evening on the altar of incense. According to Psalms, burning incense represented the prayers of Israel ascending to the Lord before the veil of the temple. It was here at this altar where Zacharias had the vision of the Angel Gabriel foretelling the birth of his son, John the Baptist, who would prepare the way for the Messiah.
MYR was used as an incense, medicine and perfume in temple worship, myrrh was added to the anointing oil by heating it and then combining it with olive oil. This sacred anointing oil was used to anoint the priests at the Tabernacle and later Jerusalem temples.
Myrrh was also often used in the burial process, wrapping it within the folds of the bound deceased body, helping to mask the smell of the decaying flesh. According to the Gospel of John, Nicodemus brought 100 pounds of myrrh and other alloys to wrap the body of Jesus, a massive amount fit for the king of kings on the cross. Jesus was also offered wine mixed with myrrh, probably to help decrease the excruciating pain. However, Jesus refused the mixture, likely preferring to bear the full weight of suffering.
Just as the frankincense and myrrh trees are cut and bruised so that they can bleed out precious resin used for healing incense and anointing so to the suffering and blood of Jesus brings forth power of healing and redemption, it is through his suffering that comes healing to our souls, anointing power and answers to our prayers through personal and temple worship.
It is because of his blood shed in Gethsemani that allow us to mask the sting of death through his triumphal resurrection.
The title of Jesus Christ as the Tree of Life truly gives beautiful meaning to the words of Isaiah, that through his stripes we are healed.
It is remarkable that each of these three gifts of the wisemen, gold, frankincense and myrrh have so much symbolic significance teaching us that all things point to and testify of the ultimate mission of Jesus Christ, his suffering atonement and resurrection from the dead.