Monday, December 20, 2010

Celebrating Christmas—The Gift of Myrrh

The second 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 and then hardens is 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 the myrrh bush which has long, spiky thorns which can’t help but remind one of the crown of thorns placed upon the Savior at the time of His death.

Thus myrrh is a symbolic reminder that this little baby would grow to suffer and die for us.

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