Why Did the Magi Bring Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh?

Medicinal uses of frankincense may help explain the gifts of the magi

Why Did the Magi Bring Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh?Were the gifts of the magi meant to save Jesus from the pain of arthritis? It’s possible, according to researchers at Cardiff University in Wales who have been studying the medical uses of frankincense.

Since the early days of Christianity, Biblical scholars and theologians have offered varying interpretations of the meaning and significance of the gold, frankincense and myrrh that the magi presented to Jesus, according to the Gospel of Matthew (2:11). These valuable items were standard gifts to honor a king or deity in the ancient world: gold as a precious metal, frankincense as perfume or incense, and myrrh as anointing oil. In fact, these same three items were apparently among the gifts, recorded in ancient inscriptions, that King Seleucus II Callinicus offered to the god Apollo at the temple in Miletus in 243 B.C.E. The Book of Isaiah, when describing Jerusalem’s glorious restoration, tells of nations and kings who will come and “bring gold and frankincense and shall proclaim the praise of the Lord” (Isaiah 60:6). Although Matthew’s gospel does not include the names or number of the magi, many believe that the number of the gifts is what led to the tradition of the Three Wise Men.

Interested in learning about the birth of Jesus? Learn more about the history of Christmas and the date of Jesus’ birth in the free eBook The First Christmas: The Story of Jesus’ Birth in History and Tradition.


Why Did the Magi Bring Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh?

The traditional gifts of the magi—gold, frankincense and myrrh—may have had symbolic as well as practical value. Researchers believe the medicinal uses of frankincense were known to the author of Matthew’s gospel.

In addition to the honor and status implied by the value of the gifts of the magi, scholars think that these three were chosen for their special spiritual symbolism about Jesus himself—gold representing his kingship, frankincense a symbol of his priestly role, and myrrh a prefiguring of his death and embalming—an interpretation made popular in the well-known Christmas carol “We Three Kings.”

Still others have suggested that the gifts of the magi were a bit more practical—even medicinal in nature. Researchers at Cardiff University have demonstrated that frankincense has an active ingredient that can help relieve arthritis by inhibiting the inflammation that breaks down cartilage tissue and causes arthritis pain. The new study validates traditional uses of frankincense as an herbal remedy to treat arthritis in communities of North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, where the trees that produce this aromatic resin grow. Did the magi “from the East” know of frankincense’s healing properties when they presented it to young Jesus?

Based on Strata, “The Magi’s Gifts—Tribute or Treatment?” Biblical Archaeology Review, January/February 2012.

This Bible History Daily feature was originally published in December 2011.


Related reading in Bible History Daily:

Did Jesus Exist? Searching for Evidence Beyond the Bible: Lawrence Mykytiuk’s full article from the January/February 2015 issue of BAR with voluminous endnotes

How December 25 Became Christmas: Andrew McGowan’s full article from the December 2002 issue of Bible Review

Witnessing the Divine: The magi in art and literature by Robin M. Jensen

Christmas Stories in Christian Apocrypha by Tony Burke

Bible Scholar Brent Landau Asks “Who Were the Magi”?

Where Was Jesus Born?

Who Was Jesus’ Biological Father?

Has the Childhood Home of Jesus Been Found?

Frankincense and Other Resins Were Used in Roman Burials Across Britain


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113 Responses

  1. […] to Matthew 2:11, they brought three gifts to the baby Jesus: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  Modern scholarship holds that the gifts hold spiritual significance: the gold for His kingship, frankincense for His […]

  2. Charles says:

    Frankincense and myrrh are well known post partum herbs to prevent haemorrhage and promote recovery from childbirth. Research it. Still used today for the same.

  3. Brian Cawley says:

    For trading on the flight into Egypt? Three wise men must have had some kind of clue that the escape would be a near-run thing.

  4. Anthony Ziem says:

    I am not satisfied with this possible fact that the Magi brought frankincense to the Lord for arthritis. It doesn’t sound right. Was the likelihood of suffering from this problem so high the Magi thought of bringing this gift? This finding is not concrete to make such conclusions. The circumstances surrounding the birth or some factor should be researched into to make it clearer for us please.

  5. A servant of the most high God. says:

    God’s Promises ????

  6. Jacqueline Sustik says:

    Gold to provide for his family while in Egypt and the other two were for his burial.

  7. Jacqueline Sustik says:

    The gold to provide for Jesus and his parents while in Egypt and the frankincense and myrrh for his burial.

  8. Christine says:

    In the extrabiblical text of Adam and Eve, when they were expelled from the Garden and were wrought with grief, says God allowed them to take three things from the garden, gold, frankincense and myrrh. These three gifts were passed down to David who then instructed his children on the stars and what to look for when the Messiah was to come and bring the gifts to him as a sign of God’s promise. The gold, frankincense and myrrh were from the garden.

    1. Joshua says:

      Wow…if I wanted to do more research on this subject where would I start? Thanks.

  9. Rose Frank says:

    Thank you for speaking the truth about who the so called wise men really we’re!
    After learning who the child was the astrolergers did not return to tell the bad king.
    The child being the long awaited Messiah.

  10. deleWeye says:

    Somehow it seems unlikely the Magi would have brought an arthritis remedy to an infant or toddler. While that may have been one of its uses, I doubt it was the primary reason.

  11. Barbara Mackenzie says:

    Can we please stop reflecting on the past now?

    ✌️???? Do we know enough to set sites on the presence of nobility, humility and humanity? Do we hold people accountable to their character in our own lives? To we even think about what makes us who we are? It seems that we are so busy looking at what’s wrong that we’ve overseen the simplicity and sacredness of what’s right. We’ve allowed this idea of segregation to divide us instead of seeing our differences and embracing what feels right in our heart. It’s new years day, 2018 and I am emotionally optimistic that a time has come- we will witness, understand & unite in his ideal and begin to hold each other accountable, to learn to love and care.

    Perhaps totally unrelated – Ie: I was just searching through a bag of 30 essential oils, ruminating on what I’d just read in this article, wondering how it can help my life… When I was done I had selected 4 that I put on the table but I had 2 in my left hand that I had unknowingly picked up to make room to sort were Frankense & Myrrh. I have no idea how it happened or what it means except those two essences feel like a messenger to me today that I followed here to this page, this consideration and this comment which adds to my sense of how the spirit of Jesus lives in me, and that is equivalent to a third gift– gold.

    Happy New Year ???? from Toronto, Canada

  12. Paul says:

    Yes, Abraham as he left Ur still believed in Mesopotamian mithology. Bible as it exist now wasn’t until 400BCE

  13. John says:

    “These three Kings…..”
    They were not three kings, first they were not kings they were astrologers and secondly nowhere does it say that there were three astrologers.
    These astrologers had three gifts for the young child (NOT baby).
    tradition says what you say,but, tradition is not supported by the Bible (Colossians 2:8)

  14. John says:

    “Researchers at Cardiff University have demonstrated that frankincense has an active ingredient that can help relieve arthritis by inhibiting the inflammation that breaks down cartilage tissue and causes arthritis pain.” (BAS)
    Hebrews 5:9 and several other scriptures indicate that Jesus Christ when on earth as a human was perfect, sinless and undefiled………which would mean that he would have had no need for medication of any sort………Jesus had to be a perfect human so that he could offer his perfect life as a ransom to offset the sin of Adam and Eve, which God required to fulfill his own laws, that he had given to Moses and the Israelite nation and of course that Law was also perfect.

  15. Ryan McGinnis says:

    Zoroastrianism wasn’t invented until LONG after Abraham and Moses. Zoroastrianism was developed by the Persians, which didn’t exist until 600BC, which is almost 1,000 years after Moses.

  16. A.H says:

    Possibly in relation to this prophecy in Isaiah (Jeshajah) chapter 60:

    Then you shall be radiant at what you see,
    your heart shall throb and overflow,
    For the riches of the sea shall be emptied out before you,
    the wealth of nations shall be brought to you.
    Caravans of camels shall fill you,
    dromedaries from Midian and Ephah;
    all from Sheba shall come bearing gold and frankincense,
    and proclaiming the praises of the Lord.
    And all the flocks of Kedar shall be gathered,
    and the rams of Nabaeoth shall come;
    and acceptable sacrifices shall be offered on my altar,
    and my house of prayer shall be glorified.

  17. Gene R says:

    Both frankincense, or olibanum, and myrrh came from resinous gum that was obtained by making incisions in the bark of small trees or thorny shrubs.
    The frankincense tree grew along the southern coast of Arabia, and the myrrh bush thrived in the semidesert countries of present-day Somalia and Yemen. Both spices were highly esteemed for their fragrance. Jehovah himself chose them in connection with his worship—myrrh was a component of the holy anointing oil, and frankincense of the holy incense. (Exodus 30:23-25, 34-37) But they were used differently.
    Frankincense, commonly used as incense, had to be burned to release its fragrance. The resin extracted from myrrh, on the other hand, was used directly. Myrrh is mentioned three times in accounts about Jesus: as a gift when he was a baby (Matthew 2:11), as an analgesic offered with wine when he was hanging on the stake (Mark 15:23), and as one of the spices used in the preparation of his body for burial (John 19:39).

  18. John says:

    “…….frankincense has an active ingredient that can help relieve arthritis by inhibiting the inflammation……” (BAS)
    Exodus 30:34-38 shows that frankincense was an additive in incense
    Leviticus 2:1,2 frankincense was used in the grain offering
    Leviticus 24:7 it was used on the showbread
    frankincense is also found mentioned in several other scriptures.

  19. Jjc says:

    More likely these items were used in consideration of the need for the family to flee the country due to a madly evil Kings

    Gold. Frankincense and Myrrh are readily transportable and highly transferrabkevwealth that would allow a refugee family to survive for an extended period in a foreign land.

    Divine providence or just plain luck it’s a matter of faith.

    Be well

  20. Tina Garlandho says:

    How are the rocks used

  21. levy says:

    Moses was told that he should Instruct his cousin Aron to make a bowel then do the Apothecary way. Exodus 30 vs 25 …portraying Jesus -Fulfilling and surpassing all including the atonement of sins as in Leviticus 16 vs 21 or vise versa(in the chapter) t
    as a vessel of honor roman 9:22

  22. Greg says:

    Stop using bce, it’s an incorrect term and offensive. Greg

  23. Cynthia Dickens says:

    Cedilla, Geoff, and Henry…bravo, I am impressed with your comments. I enjoyed reading and learning from them.

  24. Leonilo S orquilla says:

    It is hard for me to agree that gold #metal has relation to both frankincense and myrrh since these two were both herbal in nature I therefore think that is not really a metal gold but just in nature gold in color and also herbal in nature.

  25. Jessica says:

    I like Rich’s theory!!!

  26. Cedilla says:

    ok well people need to look up what essential oils are all about before commenting!
    FRANKINCENSE: Rejuvenates skin – the skin on a new born is often dry because it’s body is not in the amniotic fluid in the womb. Also helps with healing the umbilical cord and diaper rash. It is also known to support healthy cellular function. And Frankincense also promotes feelings of peace, relaxation, satisfaction and overall wellness… sounds like something a newborn needs?
    MYRRH: Cleansing properties – Mouth and throat and used in toothpaste. Babies will often have thrush on their tongues and throat. Mixed with honey or agave it will ease the stomach. And helps promote awareness and lift your mood… sounds like something a baby needs?
    GOLD: (Colloidal Gold?) Stimulating the life force and raising the level of vibration on all levels, healing capabilities for the heart and improve blood circulation… again something a baby needs!
    These are also daily needs and help through colds and disease and most of all daily child care. I use many essential oils for my children and for the whole family. And remember, these gifts were just as useful to Jesus as they were to Mary.
    These three Kings gave them what they probably couldn’t afford to care for their child Jesus. What a great gift!

  27. Geoff Cater says:

    Al comments in post #8:
    “Although Joseph was a carpenter and likely found work after arriving in Egypt, there was the expense of traveling, paying for lodging during their journey, and food, rent, and other living expenses after they arrived.
    Then there was the expense of traveling back to Israel and setting up a new home in Nazareth, approximately 80 miles (129 km) north of their former home of Bethlehem.
    Without the gifts of the Magi, it is unlikely that any of that would have been possible.”

    Leaving aside the question of whether Joseph was actually a carpenter [the Greek “tecton” (Mark) or “tekton” (Mathew) is a common term for an artisan/craftsman, in particular a carpenter or wood-worker or builder], as the value of the three gifts was no doubt considerable (fit for a King?) there is a good chance there was plenty left over after the family holiday in Egypt.
    On their return, Joseph and Mary would have been the most wealthy residents of Nazareth, and able to give Jesus a very comfortable childhood.
    Incidentally, despite Al’s concern for Joseph and Mary’s traveling expenses; nobody else in the Bible, from Paul, seems to have had such a problem as they traveled between “the four corners of the earth.”

    Alternatively, there is a chance that this didn’t actually happen.
    The birth narrative only appears in the Gospel of Matthew (one out of four) and, importantly, not in Mark; which most scholars now regard it as the earliest (hence, the most credible?) of the gospels

    Or, given that there are always three possibilities (“Yum, Yuk and Yikes”- Tom Robbins, 1980), maybe Joe and Mary, assuming they found a responsible baby-sitter, blew all the dough on partying hard in nightclubs of Egypt?

  28. Henry Cooper says:

    I came across your article and website in a search for information on gold, frankensence and myrrh. I was dismayed at your opening comment. It defies credulity. Why would cures for arthritis be given as tokens or gifts to a infant? had not Jesus robust and excellent health? Sadly your nonsense introduction negates all confidence in what the rest of the article might say. I read no further.
    Henry Cooper

  29. Doug Miller says:

    Both Frankincense (Ru Xiang) and Myrrh (Mo Yao) are used Chinese medicine as “Blood invigorating and Stasis removing herbs”.
    Both activate blood circulation and relieve pain.
    I believe that Jesus was given the gift of healing.

  30. abelf3 says:

    1.Frankincense is still used in Indian Villages – when Frankincense is powdered and put in firewood the smoke thus produced has a property of healing the baby from infection produce by cold.This is aways done after bathing.
    2.Frankincense smoke also used in Cows shed for the same -to eliminate infection caused by moisture.
    3.It is also used in temples (as smoke) to the idols.Idols are kept inside a place where sunlight is often absent. Again moisture and fungus play role.
    In all of the three uses the most common use is to remove fungus caused by the moisture.
    All three I have seen by my own eyes.I hope this info is useful for somebody.

  31. David Allen South says:

    they were not magi, they were “magistrates” ‘from babylon’, and the descendents of the disciples of Daniel; bringing the booty given to Daniel by the leaders of babylon & medo-persia that the prophet determined was for Messiah’s arrival; trip to Egypt, and maybe even his execution for er see it predicted in Dan ch 9 vs 25&26. that is why;
    for your enlightenment, education and edification >
    all the best to you and yours

  32. David C says:

    I hope someone didn’t get paid for this drivel.

  33. Joseph P. Daly says:

    John (12-16-14 ) is right. God bless him. I do the same. Al (01-06-15) is obviously a very intelligent man. I did a paper in college on the birth and death of Jesus. Much of what Al stated is true. I would seem to me that the gifts were given as gifts to a King, a Priest, and a prophet ( they were usually murdered) so death is evident in its symbolism. Great article. And I don’t think Jesus had arthritis…ever. God bless everyone.

  34. Faithful Christian says:

    This is a supposed to be a biblical site and they are replacing B.C with BCE, wow just wow

  35. Eric says:

    I had a dream recently (a very short one) regarding that there is something wrong with the Bible’s use or understanding of the terms Frankincense and Myrrh. This led me on a quest this week to discovery if I could find out that error. But during my research, I kept finding other anomalies instead.

    (1) Why does the author of the New Testament Bible Book of Hebrews write that the Altar of Incense is located within the Most Holy Place (Holy of Holies)? We find from reading the Old Testament (First 5 Books) that the only thing in the Most Holy Place is the Ark of the Covenant and the mercy seat atop it. When Aaron went into the Most Holy Place, to prevent being killed, he took coals from the Altar of Incense outside the Holy of Holies (Most Holy Place), and brought them inside the curtain to burn incense to make a cloud of smoke which God would appear within (though hidden from sight) above the mercy seat. Why would the author of Hebrews have moved the Altar of Incense within the Most Holy Place within the earthly Tabernacle of God (made by human hands)? The author of Hebrews concludes this description by saying that he cannot talk anymore about these things now. Why?

    (2) Why is Jesus Christ considered the Lamb of God and the Paschal Lamb without spot, who died for the sins of the world? Passover/Paschal lambs were not used for this purpose, to atone for the sins of the people. These lambs were killed/slain for their blood painted on the doorposts of their homes as a SIGN to the Destroyer (destroying angel) to bypass the house of the Israelites enroute to killing the firstborn of Egypt during the plague of Moses for Pharaoh having not let God’s people go. This does nothing to address the filth, uncleanness, and guilt for the sins of the people, nor make them righteous and acceptable to God.

    Yom Kippur is the Jewish holiday/fesitval for the Day of Atonement. Two GOATS are used for atoning for the people’s sins once a year at this holiday.
    One Goat is slain and the blood sprinkled inside the Holy of Holies. The other GOAT is used to confess the sins of the people on its head, then the GOAT is sent out into the wilderness alive. Why was John the Baptist beheaded? Did John the Baptist wear camel skin/hair or goat skin/hair? Was John 1 of 2 Yom Kippur GOATS? Because the sins of the people had been confessed upon his (John’s) head in the wilderness by the river Jordan, who would want their sins known by a live man who knows who you are (as opposed to the Catholic practice of sin confession to a priest behind a curtain/divider so remain anonymous). Is not Jesus Christ the Yom Kippur Goat slain for this sins of the world, one time, for all time?
    I found in the Bible (First 5 Books) that a Passover Lamb can be from a GOAT or from a SHEEP. Very interesting!

    (3) There has been a change in the priesthood from AARON/LEVITES to JESUS/Melchizedek(Melkisetek or Malki Tzedek). Jesus the High Priest within the heavenly realm no longer has to offer sacrifice for sins for himself or the people because he offered himself once (for all) being a perfect High Priest without sin himself. because of this, perhaps there no longer is need of a curtain separating the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place. That would put the Altar of Incense within the same place as the Ark of the Covenant. A New Covenant. And a Tabernacle not built with human hands that is only a copy of the heavenly. We have direct access to God through Jesus Christ, our only mediator and advocate.

    We are cleansed/purified by the Blood of Jesus and the Water of Baptism, and our sins atoned for by His blood. The Destroyer will bypass you on the Day of Judgment if you have painted the blood of Jesus around the doorposts of your heart.

  36. Tatiana says:

    The frankincense was given to Jesus as a gift for his long suffering,
    they were known to the fact or the prophesy that,
    Jesus the saviour of the world would be, physically beaten down and crucified.
    They also knew that Jesus again, being the saviour of the world would be carrying the all kinds of pain, all kinds of sicknesses(including arthritis) and all kinds of sins of the whole world in the cross.
    It was a symbolical gift given to him by the wise men, knowing that He was the one who would save the world. The Messiah, who had come to save them.

  37. Jacob Arop says:

    The star was there to tell the wise men about the newly born king Jesus. It was an usual for that star to appear at that time for them. The angel of God spoke to the wise man. The gifts tell us Jesus is the king, Prophet and priest.

  38. Judy Morley says:

    Could: the December date bring in the prophecy in Numbers 24:17
    Out of the House of Jacob

    Jacob is considered to be a Patriarch and the Sun would be transiting Capricorn or there was a star out of the house of Jacob perhaps the Nova in Aquila??

  39. John says:

    who is the artist of that wonderful painting (?) at the beginning of the article?

  40. Alizabeth Magdalena Martin says:

    All Bible Stories are Creation stories, Spiritual Journeys for individuals on a search for universal truth. A journey from the spirit in the world, through the wilderness of Kingdom builders then into Heaven on Earth to receive the Whole Spirit of God. God is a Verb and comes to life after spiritual self-examination and awareness. The process to Grace and Peace of Mind and Body in the Resurrected Soul is an experience of passion. God is Spirit, Jesus is Spirit, only in Spirit can One overcome the sins of the fathers. The gift of spirit follows after practice of the fruit of the spirit. God Speed!

  41. carlosm36 says:

    If Jesus was perfect…why would he get arthritis?! just food for thought!!!!

  42. karenc53 says:

    Jesus had NO SIN in Him, therefore no sickness. He would not have needed any medicinal treatment. Sickness and death is the consequence of sin.

  43. Marcia says:

    Perhaps they are symbolic:

    Jesus was called the great physician, he came to conquer death and he would be called King.

  44. Sharon Thompson says:

    If it was for medicinal reasons, maybe Luke the physician would have included a reference in his gospel?

  45. Deep Sorrow Turns to Exuberant Joy | Talk Wisdom says:

    […] Biblical describes the significance of what (and why) the Magi brought gold, frankincense and myrrh to the child Jesus. […]

  46. Dave Kane says:

    The gold given Jesus was white powder gold, to open his mind to his future path. Moses also made this in Exodus 32 verse 20. Today this is called Ormus. This is the gold of all life and all stone as the earth is alive.
    Substitute the “Gold of Life” for the shiny metal and things start to come clear.

  47. Gold, frankincense and myrrh… a good present for a child? | jannettehicks says:

    […] “offered him gifts, gold, and frankincense and myrrh.” According to, these valuable items were standard gifts to honor a king or deity in the ancient world: gold as a pr… The wise men were not only proclaiming Jesus as King of the Jews but also proclaiming he was God as […]

  48. Al Swilling says:

    First of all, nowhere in the Old or New Testaments of the Christian Bible is there any indication of how many “wise men” (properly translated “Magi”) came to worship the Christ child, nor do the Scriptures name them. The names were assigned to the “three wise men” based on the nations from which the three gifts most likely originated, not from any Scriptural source.The assumption that they were three in number is assumed, again, from the number and types of gifts presented to Mary, the mother of the Messiah.

    The translation “wise men” in the King James Version of the Bible is more accurately translated as “magi”. Magi were priests of the Zoroastrian religion, which sprang from the visions and prophecies of the Persian prophet Zarathustra. The Magi, in addition to studying and following the prophecies and teachings of Zarathustra, also studied the Hebrew (Jewish) prophets and prophecies. Zoroastrians and Hebrews both worshiped the Creator of the universe. Zarathustra called the Creator “Ahura Mazda”, while the Hebrews called the Creator “YHVH” (Yahveh). As a result of their studies of the Hebrew prophecies concerning the Messiah and the signs of His birth into human form for the remission of sins, the Magi were watching and waiting for the appearance of the star that would lead them to the Messiah at the time of His birth (Numbers 24:17). When that star appeared, and they recognized it for what it was, they packed gifts and the necessary gear for travel and set out on their trek to follow the star that would lead them to the young Messiah.

    It was a custom at that time among many cultures to present gifts to the parents to celebrate the birth of a prince or other child of rank. For the Magi, though, this was no ordinary child of rank. It was the Messiah; the Supreme Ruler and Savior of the world who would suffer and die as a fitting, sinless sacrifice for the remission of our sins. The Magi understood what even the somewhat complacent and arrogant Jewish priests had apparently (and perhaps conveniently?) forgotten.

    From the time the Magi began their journey from Persia to the Holy Land until their arrival was approximately two years. We know that from the account in Matthew 2 of Herod’s interrogation of the Magi and subsequent decree to slay all male Jewish children of the age of two years and under born in and around Bethlehem (later called “The Slaughter of the Innocents”)(v.16). We also, in that chapter, see the Magi arriving at “the house” (v.11) where they found “the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him…” This verse makes it clear that Yeheshuah (Jesus) was no longer an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a feeding trough (manger), but a toddler living in a house by the time the Magi arrived.

    The significance of the three gifts, “gold, frankincense, and myrrh” (v. 11) is not hard to decipher when the culture and symbolism of the era are understood. As previously stated, the Magi recognized that the child that they sought was no ordinary child of rank, but the incarnation of the King of the Universe. Knowing that, they chose the most precious and costly gifts to present to the Savior and Lord; gifts befitting a King.

    The Supreme station of this child was not their only consideration, however. In studying the prophecies, they understood that this Messiah, the King and Creator of the universe, was to suffer the weight of the sins of everyone who had ever lived and would ever live, would die in undeserved shame and disgrace, and would rise from that death to conquer sin and death itself on our behalf. Thus, the gifts that the Magi chose reflected that knowledge and their gratitude for what this child would suffer for their sakes.

    As with everything that the Creator brings about, the gifts that the Magi bestowed were to serve a greater purpose in the life of the Messiah.

    Immediately after the Magi left the holy family to go home “by a different way”, Herod announced the decree to slaughter every child born in and around Bethlehem who was two years of age and under.

    At the same time that the Magi were leaving, Joseph was also warned by an angel to take Mary and the child and flee into Egypt. Joseph did as the angel had instructed. There they remained until Herod’s death and the end of his murderous decree. Being poor people, it was the gifts of the Magi that made their flight into Egypt, their stay there, and their return to Israel possible.

    Although Joseph was a carpenter and likely found work after arriving in Egypt, there was the expense of traveling, paying for lodging during their journey, and food, rent, and other living expenses after they arrived. Then there was the expense of traveling back to Israel and setting up a new home in Nazareth, approximately 80 miles (129 km) north of their former home of Bethlehem.

    Without the gifts of the Magi, it is unlikely that any of that would have been possible.

    There are several esoteric philosophies that assign mystic and spiritual significance to the gifts of the Magi in order to romanticise or assign new prophetic significance to the gifts, but none are supported by Scripture. The one gift that may have had deeper significance for the Magi than the other two was the myrrh, which was used in preparation of the body of the deceased for the tomb. The Magi knew from the prophecies that the Messiah would be crucified, laid in the tomb for three days, and would arise the third day. The myrrh may well have been, and probably was, their way of acknowledging that sacrifice and paying their respects in advance.

    The real significance of the Magi’s gifts was that the Magi–the first Gentiles, and the first human beings on the planet to do so–gave thier gifts in adoration, because they recognized the Messiah for who he was and accepted Him as their Savior and Lord. By their presentation of their gifts and their worship to the Messiah, they fulfilled the prophecy, “I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth”, Isaiah 49:6.

  49. ♔ Ethiopian Celebration of Christ’s Birth _ Genna/Ye’Lidet Be’Al (ገና – የልደት በዓል) ♔ | Ras Tafari Renaissance says:

    […]… […]

  50. brandon says:

    I love Jesus

  51. Twelfth Night and Epiphany Jeopardy! « The Yule Log 365 says:

    […] gifts. I could name them, sure. But I forgot the spiritual purpose of each one, especially myrrh. Later, I spent some time reading about each of the gifts and how they relate to the recognition of the divinity of the baby […]

  52. Janet Hastings says:

    well, in my spirit I feel a connection between un- forgiveness and arthritis. First a hurt, or offence, the comes anger, then carrying the hurt which is un-forging which gives root to bitterness and the Word of God say is bitterness to the bones. It may be the anointing with Frankincense was the preparing for the cross, Jesus lived in human flesh which as we know takes a lot of work to keep in check. The last thing Jesus ask Father God was Forgive them. These are my thoughts on this. Thank you for everyone’s input, Janet

  53. Johnny says:

    I hate BCE. I usually move on from a site when I read it in use.

  54. Rich Morrissey says:

    How about this theory?

    1) Frankincense was / still is a common anointing oil for birth;
    2) Myrrh was commonly used for embalming the dead;
    3) Gold was / still is necessary to live.

    So with these 3 gifts the magi provided Jesus with all that is needed for each stage of life: birth, adulthood, and death.

  55. Benjamin Dover says:

    How would this be a practical gift for a baby? They would have to possess prior knowledge that an arthritic baby was being born. Or was arthritis such an ailment that they could just assume?

    And since this baby was proclaimed as the son of god, why would this son of god be born with arthritis?

    What about the “power of prayer?”

    With all the healing power of these gifts, wouldn’t the son of god have even more healing power?

    This article explains nothing.

  56. Christmas Cardology (7): The Wise Men from the East says:

    […] [5] “These valuable items were standard gifts to honor a king or deity in the ancient world: gold as a precious metal, frankincense as perfume or incense, and myrrh as anointing oil. In fact, these same three items were apparently among the gifts, recorded in ancient inscriptions, that King Seleucus II Callinicus offered to the god Apollo at the temple in Miletus in 243 B.C.E.” (Source: […]

  57. The Gift is You, Not Your Presents | My Own For You says:

    […] In addition to the honor and status implied by the value of the gifts of the magi, scholars think that these three were chosen for their special spiritual symbolism about Jesus himself—gold representing his kingship, frankincense a symbol of his priestly role, and myrrh a prefiguring of his death and embalming—an interpretation made popular in the well-known Christmas carol “We Three Kings.” (Source: Biblical Archeology.) […]

  58. Larry says:

    So, are there historically a lot of babies born with arthritis?

  59. “Gold, Weiber und Moehren” | Übersetzen und Literatur, doch nicht nur says:

    […] by Axel Hacke who collected amusing examples of mondegreens and misheard lyrics. One of these were the gifts of the Magi to the Christ child. Children misheard “gold, frankincense and myrrh” as gold, loose women, and carrots. […]

  60. Frankincense Oil Kills Cancer and Boosts Immunity - says:

    […] Bible History Daily. Why Did the Magi Bring Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh? Available at:…. […]

  61. Elias Mugadza says:

    Please watch emmanuel tv

  62. William says:

    I ask of you to burn the frankincense and myrrh every Saturday in your homes.Open your front door and your rear door or window.Walk with the incense burning into every room and say these words ( in the name of our Father Jesus Christ I expell all that is unholy for in this house only the Holy trinity dwells and is welcomed.) After your finished walking room to room,lay the incence on the floor until it burns out.Sit quietly and say your prayers as you would normally.Our Father will respond to your prayers in a way that will strengthen your faith.Here him for he does speak to us,we just have to listen.Love is the key.Love for our fellow brothers and sisters.And most important is not to judge.May our Father bless you.

  63. jacqui says:

    These are and still remain our first earth medicine that God put here to heal us.their antiviral,antibiotics properties are matched by NONE. Clove and cinnamon bark are stronger than 500mg.of penicillin per 00 capsule. The antiviral properties in frankincense and sandalwood wards off flu,and spinalmenengitis. He did not leave us to play test dummy to the medical profession. What he left us was a legacy that can be trusted with his love not tested to see what side effects harm us. Add prayer to announcement over these oils and they increase in frequency by 20 percent.amazing how God provides for us.

  64. Matthew 2 – The birth of Jesus and the death of Herod | Come Thou Count of Every Blessing says:

    […] but what about frankincense and myrrh? It seems like there’s a wide range of theories as to the meaning – from symbols of status/honor to items of practical importance. What I’m taking […]

  65. Douglas says:

    Being God, why would Jesus need a cure for arthritis?

  66. Dale Ray says:

    OK, how about this…..

    Symbolically Gold represents kingship. Christ was born to be a king.
    Symbolically Frankincense represented the divinity of Christ because as mentioned Frankincense was burnt as an offering to God. Frankincense is used as a perfume but mostly it was burned as a sweet incense during worship.
    Lastly, Myrrh was mostly used to embalm the dead because it had the property to preserve. Myrrh represents the bitter cup that Christ had to drink in suffering for our sins and the healing for us that his death brings.


  67. Epiphany Season and How We Can Celebrate It. - Mommahopper says:

    […] We talked about why they brought those gifts! […]

  68. Cynthia says:

    What Rhett said. Number 14. Don’t be foolish unbelievers.

  69. Olanma says:

    Haha! I love reading comments about things like this. I am a Christian who believes in the Bible, I just want to get that out of the way. I would not be surprised if, apart from their deeper spiritual meanings, the gifts were presented to Jesus for practical reasons as well. Let us not forget that Jesus was human too, a child that could have had all the little ailments that infants usually have. The Magi could have also had the well-being of baby Jesus at heart as well as His purpose on earth. One problem I believe Christians have is that they fail to realize that the Bible can be very practical as it can be spiritual. The people in Bible times were also humans and it is very possible that Jesus was gifted with these things to honor him as well as to provide medicinal benefits.

  70. It’s Three Kings Day: Time for Fèves | No No Julia says:

    […] the Baby Jesus with three portentous gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. A recent article in Biblical Archaeology […]

  71. Dell says:

    The frakensense and myrh was part of the meat offering…the gold is wealth…ever notice how GOD always speaks of women children and cattle?…notice we have a thing called the Bull market…..investment’s… so familiar to today’s world…..Joseph means increase…..the name of Jesus earthly father….Joseph of armathea was a WEALTHY man…….and Joseph of Egypt interpreted Pharaoh’s dream of 7 cows…..I think the magi came in the month of may….remember ! All commodities come out of the Earth…..invest wisely in your studies’..then you shall see how to build your inheritance

  72. BmoreWill says:

    These gifts were more symbolic in nature, the represents Christ as the newborn king, the francincense symbolizes Christ a THE great Highpriest, and the myrrh represented the Annointed ONE. Gold is practically for providing provisions (food and so on), francincense for arthritis , the myrrh for embalming . These were WISE men or Magi who knew Jesus owns everything ,doesn’t get sick, and wouldn’t be expected to carry myrrh around for 33 years!

  73. Margs says:

    I was given Frankincense from Yemen for Christmas this year!!! 🙂 It has made me eager to read up on those gifts given by those wise men! Jesus’s arrival must have been incredible- angels worshiping God, the wise men celebrating the arrival of the forever King and the shepherds being in the thick of things as well. Why on earth did our creator God humble himself by “putting on flesh” to become a human and enter the mess we are in? In light of the prophecy (Isiah 60 and many others) and that He is our gracious God, all the praise and honor, frankincense, myrrh, gold and songs were right and fitting. A perfect way to celebrate this incredibly special person’s arrival! Have a blessed Christmas remembering a most remarkable event!!!

  74. Lammie says:

    Yes Mark…I agree. I also believe that the gifts funded Jesus ministy years later. When God calls us to do something He ALWAYS provides the means to do it. The wise men were extreemly wealthy so they could afford to give a fourtune to the Messiah. He was the King that they had been waiting for their whole lives. The Bible never says there were 3…there could have been many. I also believe that each gift is spiritually symbolic. The Lord is so creative and gives us ‘types & shadows’ throughout His Word. When we read it with an OPEN HEART…that is when it comes alive and we are blessed with living through the inter-twining layers of His love!

  75. Mark says:

    Beyond the symbolic and other possible meanings given above, there was another practical benefit. Someone mentioned that Joseph could have been well set since these were valuable items. Remember that immediately after this the family had to flee to Egypt for an extended time. God in His perfect plan had already made this provision…the financial toll would not devastate the family but afford them all that they needed.

  76. Sandra says:

    I do believe the gifts represented something important BUT what really matters is not what these Wise men brought or how they got there. What matters is that they were watching and looking for the coming king! That is what made them wise. Are we watching and waiting for the coming king or are we too busy arguing about how and when he will come? Our job is to seek and worship him daily.
    Maybe we should spend some time figuring out what costly gifts we can bring to him in worship.
    He really just wants you to talk to him, not about him.
    Be blessed

  77. Bonnie says:

    When we give tithes we give our best…our first…symbolism of giving their best. The most costly of all things. Fit for a king…

  78. Lourie says:

    It is easy to see only symbolic meaning in everything that is ancient. We can only guess why these 3 particular things were chosen as gifts but there is no reason to deny medical benefits of all 3.
    Just do a research an you will find that Frankincense and Myrrh essential oils are beneficial for healing a lot more than just arthritis from cancer to depression and eczema and so on…. Even gold in colloidal or atomic form is used for different medical purposes from delivering cancer fighting agents to cells to building medical nano bots.

  79. walter says:

    hello there,
    Have read in the Lost Book of Eden about gold, frankincense and myrrh that have been in a cave where Adam and Eve lived outside the garden of Eden. Hope might contribute to the discussion.

  80. Arnold Plooy says:

    Kevin: That could probably explain it. Please don’t think I am doubting the bible but I do think that certain things are lost in the translations. There are more things in the bible that I wonder about. For instance: Jesus spoke to the multitude, seems difficult without amplification etc.

  81. Kevin says:

    Arnold: It appears the star was visible at two different times; one being when they first saw it (then, in the East) then again as they were drawing closer to where Jesus resided. Personally, I think it was a comet going around the Sun. The comet ISON did such a thing and there was a gap of days between the trip toward the sun then nothing then the exit on the other side of the sun on the other side of the sky (namely, from SW to SE).

  82. Nibbles: IK, Magi, Yield gap maps, ICRISAT DG, Maize and drought, Phenotyping workshop, Clone epigenetics, Root & tubers, Botanical social networking, Mexican archaeobotany says:

    […] truth about frankincense and myrrh. Talk about traditional […]

  83. Arnold Plooy says:

    Something puzzles me, the wise men came from the east and saw a star in the east, yet they traveled west, obviously I gather, so wouldn’t they follow the star to the west? Who can explain this to me.

  84. Sandy says:

    Gold represented a heart of gold, Faith. Frankincense represents healing. And Myrrh represents healing and was often used in ancient time to heal.

  85. Reneer says:

    Uh, they brought these gifts because they knew he was the KING. That’s it. No hidden reason, no stupid medical secrets. Lol
    Since Christ dies at the ripe old age of 33, I’d say he probably didn’t have arthritis, but more like several pains in his back from so many people trying to betray and stab him there.
    Arthritis. Lol.

  86. Francisco L. Dalay says:

    The gift of the magi is not as present for a baby. it is not for the purpose of healing or whatsoever. The coming of Jesus is not of the material or physical issue but for spiritual. How could anyone think that Jesus needs medicine or is sick, that’s ridiculous.

    The gifts are in acknowledgement of what is to come, His Kingship, His priesthood and his death.

    These wise men from the east are called, it shows what is to come, That salvation is not limited to the Jews only but also for the Gentiles as the Magi are not Jews. It shows that those from afar will seek Him and will worship HIm. It shows that rulers will bow unto Him and will honor Him as the King of kings and the Lord of lords.

    Why is that so, because God plan it this way for His own glory.
    If it is not so, meaning everything is accidental.

  87. Ralph Hough says:

    The gifts were given by the Magi as a witness of their belief that Jesus was the King of the Jews. Perhaps, as learned men from the area they came from, they recalled the life of the very excellent government administrator, Daniel, who wrote of this some 500 years earlier. Very opulent and practical at the same time. In reference to the Isaiah passage, Jesus life, death and resurrection paved the way for this restored righteousness (new covenant) for mankind where our sins would not be held against us as Jeremiah said in Chapter 31. As the propitiation for man’s sin, Jesus priestly role was that of a ‘lamb’ slain fo the sines of the world. The priestly significance of myrrh is a the burial preservative that signifies Jesus’ death. The book of Hebrews is an excellent read for this. Moses predicted (prophesied in Deuteronomy 18: 15) that one from the Jews (or Israel), like Moses, would rise up and the people needed to ‘listen to him’. This speaks of Jesus’ role as a prophet, one who speaks God’s Word to the people for their salvation/edification. The frankincense is representative of the prophetic office that the Lord Jesus oversees. Since the gifts were for the King of the Jews gold is the perfect gift representing the Kingship of Jesus. This title goes much further than that in that Jesus is not just the King of the Jews, but the King of Kings and Lord of Lords whose rule and reign is over everything in heaven, on the earth and under the earth and is everlasting and. See the book of Revelation! One other practical note is that these valuable gifts help fund Mary and Joseph’s trip to Egypt to escape Herod’s death squad of boys 2 years and under in Bethlehem (see Jeremiah- again- chapter 31: 15) May you be blessed in the reading and sharing of the Scriptures!

  88. Elizabeth says:

    I read through all of these comments to get to Ray’s, which, I believe, is most accurate and biblically as well as from a common sense point of view. I am Catholic and not super- familiar with the Bible, I use essential oils and have a decent amount of knowledge of them.

  89. Ray says:

    The reason for the gift of Gold Frankincense and Myrrh is as follows, Gold was given to Jesus to symbolize that he was the king of kings, frankincense was given to Jesus as a baby to purify,
    bless, and protect his surroundings and Myrrh was given to dispel evil spirits and negative energies, the reason for this was that the devil and his evil followers wanted Jesus dead from he was an infant, (it is as simple as that)

  90. Sharon Green says:

    It says in the Bible, now we see through a glass darkly, and also our thoughts are futile, one day we will know all, but until then, we just have to believe, and have faith in that Jesus came, He loved and loves us all, and died for our sins that we may have Eternal life, and that on that third day He Arose again Victorious, and one day He will return again, the dead in Christ will arise and the ones who are still alive will meet Him in the air, what a Glorious day that will be. Amen and Amen.

  91. paul says:

    i want us also to focus on other issues like who was truelly behind the visit of the three astrologers or as some say (wise men).

  92. wandering observer says:

    Myr is used during the morning. Its incense is a natural counter attack against bad sprits. The smell of it irradiates the bad and hurt that may latch itself upon the child. It deters the bad demons/sprites/mana/chi of which was created by a being from attacking the child into hurt and confusin. There are good sprits that enjoy the smell and they will come vist and give their blessings and signs of learning oppertunities. It kills all bacteria and fungus that can claim the child and Its smoke aids the child to breath deeply and calms the confused soul to allow observation and understanding practices from a young age. Frankensence is used during the night. Its properties are the same but for sprites of the night. It allows communication with your divine soul. Giving you oppertunities to understand the confusing dreams. (Of which is a skill to know). Once dreams are understood the future is known and the soul is aware. Gold is one of the greatist conductive metal known. Its properties not only a rising cost and value of currency but it allows focus of the mind when worn. As goes other minerals with aiding values, spiritual usses and sickness. The Bible wont tell you how to heal but to train the mind like you train how to walk.

  93. Churches are to burn incense in His Name - Page 5 - Christian Forums says:

    […] [Lett Appl Microbiol. 2012] – PubMed – NCBI Myrrh – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Why Did the Magi Bring Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh? – Biblical Archaeology Society Other benefits as antimicrobial, etc. __________________ To view links or images in signatures […]

  94. Empathy Awry « CREDO Collection says:

    […] dubiously practical gifts could signify anything from a genuine and sincere generosity, to a ritual protocol expected of anyone paying court at the crib of newborn […]

  95. EMPATHY AWRY « CREDO Spiritual Blog — VENI says:

    […] dubiously practical gifts could signify anything from a genuine and sincere generosity, to a ritual protocol expected of anyone paying court at the crib of newborn […]

  96. Mary says:

    Cardiff University were researching the properties of frankincense as a potential help for sufferers of arthritis. They were not making a connection to the Magi – that has been made by others. An interesting jump but it is a jump nonetheless. So, Marilyn, I think they were using their tie wisely as they were attempting to alleviate pain rather than making wild comments on the Bible

  97. Ray says:

    I read the comments by Gabe and seems to me to be very balance and open minded. Would like to here more from ‘gabe’ on dec 25, 2011

  98. The St. George Jerusalem Society says:

    […] were also offered to the god Apollo in Greece, reminding us of the influence of that empire.   (…)  Frankincense is produced from the resin of trees that grow in North African and the Arabian […]

  99. Atlas Sound Money Project » Blog Archive » “Gold, and Frankincense and Myrrh” says:

    […] Of this passage the Biblical Archaeological Review says: […]

  100. The Christmas Magi | Third Millennial Templar says:

    […] Although the symbolism of these gifts may be obscure, I once heard that the three gifts symbolize Kingship (Gold), Priesthood (Frankincense), and Death (Myrrh), and this interpretation has become very popular. Myrrh symbolizes death because it was the very thing customarily used to embalm dead bodies, thus pointing ahead to Jesus’ vocation to die on a tree. In any case, the Gospel author, Matthew, does not let us in on what symbolism he might have perceived, if indeed he intended to recount anything other than history. Perhaps he as well wondered about the significance of such gifts, but could not himself discern a satisfactory account of all three gifts, and so wrote them into his narrative without writing in some interpretation of his own. Moreover, Isaiah had prophesied the Gold and the Frankincense:  The Book of Isaiah, when describing Jerusalem’s glorious restoration, tells of nations and kings who will come and “bring gold and frankincense and shall proclaim the praise of the Lord” (Isaiah 60:6). ~Why did the Magi bring Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh? […]

  101. Wisdom for the Holidays: The Gifts of the Wise Men « Christian Mission Control says:

    […] 3. Why Did the Magy Bring Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh? Online article at…. […]

  102. Bill says:

    I have no problem accepting unbelievers. The problem in these conversations clearly reveal those that “think themselves to be wise” but reveal they believe accepting what the scripture says is less than scholarly. I don’t know if there was 3 or 5 or more of the Maji,, I only know what the Word says confirming their presence and presents. If it took 14 months or so in following the star…so what. All the speculation may be for good argument or perhaps interesting preaching. It’s what it is.

  103. Noneofyourbuisness says:

    I think this is very interesting Lafonda. It tells us about the 3 wise men

  104. lafonda says:

    i dont get it

  105. Tim Upham says:

    The Zoroastrians believed that Ahura Madza, the good god of light, was going to send a Messiah to be born in the darkest days of winter. This Messiah was to be conceived by a virgin, after she bathed in a lake. The Zoroastrian Magis lived in opulent wealth away from their followers. Which is the reason why when Islam entered Persia, it steamrolled over Zoroastrianism. Gold, frankincense, and myrrh were precious commodities at that time and was used to aid digestion — it is edible, — arthritis, healing wounds, and its aroma meant life. It was used by the ancient Egyptians for mummifying the dead, and later by Jews, Christians, and Muslims who used them in oil to anoint newborn infants.

  106. Tony Lucas says:

    One of the enduring mysteries to me is what happened to these most valuable gifts. They could have set Joseph up pretty well but after the giving we hear no more of them.

  107. Rhett says:

    Gary, Marilyn,

    You both refer to what the bible says but you don’t reference where to find what you’re talking about. I’d be curious to know more about your thought process.
    Personally, I will rely on the words of the center of this and so many other debates….the Bible itself.

    1 Thes. 5:21
    Test everything. Hold on to the good.

    To truly believe anything, you must first question it. Until you have thoroughly examined something, you are blind.
    Blind faith has become a plague and a powerful weapon used for the opposite of what “Jesus would do”.
    We will allow doctors to prescribe chemicals that tend to have as many side effects as our initial root problems, but somehow are unwilling to look into natures long term side effect free, gifts that keep on giving and always have for ages, that are clearly highlighted in the biggest Bible story of them all?
    Did God say in the bible, “anti-depressants”, “botox”, “contact lenses”, “life saving laser bypass something or other surgery” ? No….but we believe in our doctors and our medicines heavily. Did God say in the bible, “techno gadgets?” No….but we not only believe in it but rely on those gadgets every day. With all the testing done on those products to make them the success that they are…why wouldn’t we look into ANY possible benefits from these properties that are clearly historically significant?


  108. Rolando says:

    As a practical person I think the gifts were not only meant for Jesus but for the whole family, frankincense and myrrh was also for Mary who just gave birth and need something to stay healthy and clean both spiritually and physically. Gold has both economic and spiritual value.

  109. Frank Molanphy says:

    The Magi’s valuable gifts, fit for a king, enabled Joseph to have the resources to flee into exile in Egypt escaping from Herod’s assasins.

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