What Do Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh Symbolize? Understanding the Meaning Behind the Gifts

When the wise men from the East arrived in Bethlehem to honor the newborn King, they brought with them three precious gifts – gold, frankincense, and myrrh. These three gifts were not just any ordinary presents, but they were symbolic in nature, representing three aspects of Jesus Christ’s life. As we delve deeper into the meaning behind these three gifts, we can uncover and appreciate the rich spiritual significance they hold for us today.

The first gift, gold, is a symbol of kingship and wealth and represents Christ’s royalty. It is said that the wise men brought gold to signify Jesus’ royal status, making him the true King of all. Frankincense, on the other hand, symbolizes Christ’s priesthood and divinity. In biblical times, frankincense was used in temple worship to represent the prayers of the faithful rising to heaven. It also represents Jesus as the High Priest who intercedes for us before God. Lastly, myrrh symbolizes Christ’s humanity and sacrifice. Myrrh was used to anoint bodies during burial and Jesus was anointed with myrrh before his death on the cross, making it a poignant symbol of the ultimate sacrifice that Christ made for us all.

Each of the three gifts holds deep significance, and together they represent a complete picture of Christ’s life and mission. As we reflect on the meaning behind each gift, we can deepen our faith and appreciation for the gift of salvation that Christ brought to us all. Let us examine each gift in detail and see what lessons we can learn from them.

History of Gold Frankincense and Myrrh as Gifts

Gold, frankincense, and myrrh are three of the most famous gifts in history. They were presented to the newborn Jesus by the three magi, or wise men, who traveled from the East following a star. These three gifts had a significant meaning and served a special purpose.

Gold was considered a precious metal that symbolized wealth and royalty. It was a fitting gift to give to a king, which is why the magi offered it to Jesus. Gold had been used since ancient times as currency for trade. It was a valuable commodity and was often used to make jewelry and other precious objects.

Frankincense was a resin extracted from the Boswellia tree, which grew in the Arabian Peninsula and Africa. It had a strong, sweet scent and was used as incense during religious ceremonies. It symbolized holiness and was offered as a gift to honor divine beings. Frankincense was also used for medicinal purposes and was believed to have healing properties.

Myrrh was also a resin extracted from trees in the Middle East and Africa. It had a bitter taste and a pleasant aroma. Myrrh was used as a perfume and incense. It was also used for medicinal purposes, as an antiseptic, and to embalm the dead. The gift of myrrh to Jesus had a deeper meaning since it symbolized his future death and embalming.

Biblical references to gold frankincense and myrrh

In the Bible, gold, frankincense, and myrrh were precious gifts from the Wise Men, or Magi, to the baby Jesus. These precious items were more than just symbolic gestures; they held significant value and meanings.

  • Gold: One of the most precious metals, gold was a symbol of wealth and status. It was used in several places in the Bible, such as in the construction of the Tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant. The gift of gold to baby Jesus symbolizes his kingship and divinity, as well as the wise men’s recognition of his greatness.
  • Frankincense: This is a resin from the Boswellia tree and is commonly used in incense. Frankincense had special significance in ancient cultures, and it was known for its healing properties. In the Bible, frankincense was an essential part of the sacrificial system, and it was used in the Temple’s service. The gift of frankincense to baby Jesus symbolizes his priesthood and holiness, as well as his role in offering spiritual sacrifice.
  • Myrrh: Another resin from a tree, myrrh has a strong, pleasant scent and was used in burial practices in ancient times. It was also used as a perfume, medicine, and incense. In the Bible, myrrh was used to anoint kings and was offered as a gift in the Song of Solomon. The gift of myrrh to baby Jesus symbolizes his suffering and death, as well as the wise men’s acknowledgment of his sacrificial role.

Biblical significance of the gifts

The gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh were significant not only in their value but also in their symbolism. The Magi’s gifting of these items represents the acknowledgement of Jesus’s divinity, kingship, priesthood, and ultimate sacrifice. Gold’s value symbolizes Jesus’ status as a king, frankincense symbolizes his role as a priest, and myrrh symbolizes his ultimate sacrifice on the cross.

The Magi’s journey and spiritual seeking

The Magi’s journey to visit the newborn Jesus is also significant. They traveled from the East, most likely from Persia, to Bethlehem to pay their respects and offer gifts. This journey symbolizes their spiritual seeking and the recognition of Jesus’ importance, as the star guided them towards him. The visit of the Magi also foreshadowed Christ’s mission to offer salvation to all people, not just the Jews.

GoldKingship and divinity
FrankincensePriesthood and holiness
MyrrhSuffering and death

The gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh are still significant today and represent the importance of spiritual seeking and recognition of the divinity of Jesus Christ. These gifts serve as a reminder of Christ’s ultimate sacrifice and offer hope and inspiration to believers around the world.

Significance of gold in religious and cultural contexts

Gold has been valued for centuries, not only for its physical beauty but also for its cultural and religious significance. Here are some examples of how gold is used:

  • In many cultures, gold is associated with wealth and prosperity. It is often used as a symbol of status and power.
  • Gold is mentioned throughout the Bible and is used to describe the wealth of kings and the glory of God.
  • Gold is a material used in the creation of religious artifacts and symbols. For example, the Ark of the Covenant in the Bible was made of wood covered in gold. Many religious idols from different religions are made of gold or have gold accents.

Gold’s significance in both cultural and religious contexts is undeniable. It has been used in art and worship for centuries, and its value continues to rise.

Meaning of Frankincense in Various Religious Practices

Frankincense has been used in various religious practices around the world for centuries. This resin is derived from the Boswellia tree and has a rich history of being used in spiritual and medicinal contexts.

Let’s explore some of the meanings of frankincense in different religious practices:

  • Christianity: In Christianity, frankincense is one of the three gifts that the Wise Men brought to the baby Jesus in the Nativity story. It is viewed as a symbol of divinity, purity and spirituality. In the Old Testament, it was also used as an ingredient in incense offerings in the temple.
  • Islam: Frankincense has a significant place in Islamic literature and was used for medicinal purposes in ancient Arabia. It is also used in the Islamic ritual of fumigation called Bakhoor. Bakhoor is burnt in a special incense burner to release a pleasant fragrance which is said to purify the air and the soul.
  • Hinduism: Frankincense, also known as Dhoop, is used in Hindu religious ceremonies and is believed to ward off evil spirits. It is often burnt during the Arati ritual, wherein a light is offered to the deity being worshiped.

Beyond these specific religious practices, frankincense has also been used in various ways by different cultures around the world. It has been used to treat a variety of ailments, ranging from asthma to arthritis, and is still used in modern medicine today.

Below is a table that summarizes the different meanings of frankincense in various religious practices:

ReligionMeaning of Frankincense
ChristianitySymbol of divinity, purity, and spirituality
IslamUsed in fumigation rituals to purify the air and the soul
HinduismUsed to ward off evil spirits during religious ceremonies

Regardless of the specific religious or cultural context, frankincense has always been viewed as a symbol of spirituality and purification. The fragrant resin is revered for its ability to calm the mind, reduce stress and anxiety, and connect us to the divine.

Medicinal properties and uses of myrrh

Myrrh has been used for centuries for its medicinal properties. Here are some of its most common uses:

  • Antioxidant properties: Myrrh contains compounds that act as antioxidants, which can help neutralize harmful free radicals in the body that may cause inflammation and other health issues.
  • Anti-inflammatory properties: Myrrh has anti-inflammatory properties that may help relieve pain and swelling caused by arthritis and other inflammatory conditions.
  • Cough and cold relief: Myrrh has been used traditionally to relieve coughs and colds. It may help by reducing inflammation in the respiratory tract and promoting expectoration, or the expulsion of phlegm from the lungs.

Aside from these common uses, myrrh has also been used for a variety of other health purposes:

  • Treating skin conditions such as acne, eczema, and psoriasis
  • Boosting immune function to help fight infections
  • Relieving toothaches and gum disease
  • Supporting digestive health by reducing inflammation, easing stomach cramps, and improving digestion

Myrrh can be used in a variety of forms, including as an essential oil, a tincture, or a powder. It can be taken internally or applied topically, depending on the intended use.

Forms of MyrrhMethod of UseIntended Use
Essential oilDiffused, applied topicallyAntioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, cough and cold relief, skin conditions
TinctureTaken internallyImmune support, digestive health
PowderApplied topically, mixed with water as a mouth rinseRelief of toothaches and gum disease

It’s important to note that myrrh should not be used by pregnant or breastfeeding women, as it may have negative effects on fetal development and milk production. It may also interact with certain medications such as blood thinners and diabetes medications. As with any supplement or medication, it’s important to speak with a healthcare provider before using myrrh.

Symbolism of gold, frankincense, and myrrh in art and literature

The use of gold, frankincense, and myrrh as symbols in art and literature has been prevalent for centuries. These objects have been used to represent various meanings and concepts, both religious and otherwise.

  • Gold: In art and literature, gold has been used to symbolize wealth, power, and divine presence. Its brilliance and rarity have made it a prized possession throughout history. In religious iconography, gold is often used to depict holy figures or objects, signifying their sanctity. One famous example of this is Gustav Klimt’s painting “The Kiss,” in which gold leaf is used to depict the divine nature of the two figures depicted.
  • Frankincense: Frankincense has long been associated with religious and spiritual practices, particularly in Christianity. It is often burned as incense during religious ceremonies and is thought to represent prayers rising to heaven. In art, frankincense can be depicted as smoke rising from an object or person, symbolizing the presence of the divine. One well-known piece of art featuring frankincense is Sandro Botticelli’s “The Adoration of the Magi,” in which one of the three magi is shown holding a censer of burning incense.
  • Myrrh: Like frankincense, myrrh is often used in religious and spiritual practices. It has been used in medicine, perfumes, and embalming throughout history. Symbolically, myrrh can be used to represent sacrifice, death, and rebirth. In Christian art, myrrh is often shown being offered to the baby Jesus by one of the three magi. This is meant to foreshadow Jesus’s eventual death and resurrection.

Symbolism of gold, frankincense, and myrrh in the Bible

In the Bible, the three gifts presented by the magi to the baby Jesus are often interpreted as having symbolic meaning. Gold is seen as representing Jesus’s royal status, frankincense his divine nature, and myrrh his eventual sacrifice and death.

The use of these gifts in the Bible has had a significant impact on their symbolism in art and literature. They have been used to represent everything from wealth and power to sacrifice and divine intervention.

Symbolism of gold, frankincense, and myrrh in contemporary culture

Despite their ancient origins, gold, frankincense, and myrrh continue to be used as symbols in contemporary culture. They are often included in religious and spiritual practices and are used in perfumes and other luxury goods.

Their use in contemporary art is also prevalent. Artists continue to use gold leaf in their work, and frankincense and myrrh are used to create perfumes and other scented products. In popular culture, these symbols are often used to represent luxury, wealth, and power, as they have for centuries.

GoldWealth, power, divine presence
FrankincenseReligious and spiritual practices, prayers rising to heaven, presence of the divine
MyrrhSacrifice, death, rebirth

In conclusion, gold, frankincense, and myrrh have been used as symbols in art and literature for centuries. Their meanings have evolved over time but continue to hold significance in contemporary culture. From their use in religious and spiritual practices to their depiction in popular culture, these symbols serve as a reminder of the power and complexity of human experience.

The Three Kings and their gifts

In the Christian tradition, the three kings, also known as the Magi or the Wise Men, are the ones who brought gifts to the baby Jesus during his birth in Bethlehem. According to the Bible, they came from the East, probably from Persia, and followed a bright star to reach the stable where Jesus was born.

What do gold, frankincense and myrrh symbolize?

  • Gold: As one might expect, gold was a precious metal that represented wealth and power. It was given to kings and rulers as a sign of their status and authority. In the context of the nativity story, gold symbolizes the kingship of Jesus, affirming that he was born to be a king.
  • Frankincense: This aromatic resin was used in ancient times as an incense during religious ceremonies. It was also a symbol of deity and spirituality, representing the desire to connect with the divine. In the context of the nativity story, frankincense represents the divinity of Jesus, affirming that he was not just a human being but also the Son of God.
  • Myrrh: Myrrh was another aromatic resin that was used for embalming the dead and for perfume. It was also a symbol of suffering and sacrifice, representing the difficulties that people had to endure in order to achieve spiritual growth. In the context of the nativity story, myrrh represents the humanity of Jesus, affirming that he was born to suffer and die for the salvation of humanity.

The number 7

The number 7 is a special number in many cultures and religions, and it appears several times in the nativity story:

  • There were 7 days of creation in the book of Genesis.
  • The menorah, the 7-branched candelabrum used in Jewish worship, symbolizes the burning bush that Moses encountered and the 7 days of the festival of Sukkot.
  • The book of Revelation mentions the number 7 several times, such as the 7 seals, 7 trumpets, and 7 bowls of God’s wrath.

In the context of the nativity story, the number 7 represents completeness and perfection, being used to describe the number of days that Mary and Joseph traveled to Bethlehem and the number of gifts that the Magi brought to Jesus. It is also a reminder of God’s promises and blessings, as seen in the perfection and completeness of the creation story in Genesis.

The significance of the Three Kings and their gifts

The gifts of the Three Kings represent the recognition, worship, and adoration of Jesus as the King of kings, the Son of God, and the Saviour of humanity. They also symbolize the prophecy and fulfilment of the Old Testament, as seen in the star that guided the Magi to Bethlehem and the gifts that were offered to Jesus. Ultimately, the Three Kings and their gifts remind us of the true meaning of Christmas, which is the birth of Jesus Christ and the hope, peace, and love that he brings to the world.

GoldKingship and wealth
FrankincenseDivinity and spirituality
MyrrhSuffering and sacrifice

Together, these gifts represent the three aspects of Jesus’ identity: his kingship, divinity, and humanity. They also foreshadow the events of his life, death, and resurrection, as seen in the suffering and sacrifice of myrrh. The gifts of the Three Kings are a timeless reminder of the significance and mystery of the incarnation, the coming of God in the flesh.

Use of frankincense and myrrh in ancient burial rituals

In ancient times, the use of frankincense and myrrh went beyond religious ceremonies and medicinal purposes. The aromatic resins, derived from trees native to the Arabian Peninsula and East Africa, were also used in burial rituals.

  • Some cultures believed that frankincense and myrrh helped to preserve the body and promote healing. Embalmers and mourners would anoint the body with a mixture of the resins and other natural ingredients like beeswax and honey.
  • Other cultures used the resins to mask the scent of decay and to ward off evil spirits. In Egypt, for example, frankincense and myrrh were included in the formula for kyphi, a fragrant incense that was burned during funerals and mummification ceremonies.
  • Frankincense and myrrh were also given as gifts to the deceased. In ancient Greece, it was customary to place a jar of perfumed ointment containing myrrh and other aromatic ingredients in the tomb alongside the body. The ointment was meant to provide comfort and luxury to the deceased in the afterlife.

During the time of Jesus, the Magi famously brought gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to honor the birth of the Messiah. The symbolism behind these gifts represents more than just the generosity of the Wise Men. Gold symbolized royalty, frankincense symbolized divinity, and myrrh symbolized mortality. The gift of myrrh foreshadowed the death of Jesus and the ultimate sacrifice he would make for humanity.

FrankincenseDivinity, purity, protection against evil spirits
MyrrhMortality, death, healing, and pain relief

Overall, the use of frankincense and myrrh in ancient burial rituals was symbolic and religious, representing different aspects of human existence and spirituality. These resins continue to be used today in various religious and secular contexts, demonstrating their enduring cultural significance.

Modern uses of gold, frankincense, and myrrh in aromatherapy

Aromatherapy, the practice of using essential oils and other plant-based materials for health and wellness purposes, dates back thousands of years and is still widely used today. Gold, frankincense, and myrrh are three of the oldest and most respected materials used in aromatherapy, each with its unique properties and benefits.

  • Gold: Although gold itself is not used in aromatherapy, it is often associated with spiritual healing in many cultures. In aromatherapy, gold is represented symbolically by the color and energy of the sun, which is said to bring warmth, joy, and vitality. Essential oils that are associated with the color gold, such as lemongrass, ginger, and grapefruit, are used to promote positivity and energy.
  • Frankincense: Frankincense is one of the most versatile and potent essential oils used in aromatherapy. It has been used for centuries for its anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, and antidepressant properties. In aromatherapy, frankincense is often used to promote relaxation, reduce stress levels, and improve mood. It is also known to promote healthy skin and digestion.
  • Myrrh: Myrrh, like frankincense, is a resin that is derived from trees native to the Middle East and Africa. It has been used for thousands of years for its cleansing and restorative properties. In aromatherapy, myrrh is often used to promote inner peace, reduce anxiety, and calm the mind. It is also said to promote healthy immune and digestive systems.

Together, gold, frankincense, and myrrh can be combined to create powerful aromatherapy blends that promote overall health and wellness. These blends can be used in a variety of ways, including diffusing them in an essential oil diffuser, adding them to bathwater, or applying them topically with a carrier oil.

To help you get started with creating your own aromatherapy blends, below is a table of some popular essential oils that are associated with gold, frankincense, and myrrh:


Whether you are new to aromatherapy or a seasoned practitioner, using gold, frankincense, and myrrh in your blends can add a layer of spiritual and emotional depth to your practice. As with all essential oils, be sure to do your research and consult with a qualified aromatherapist or healthcare provider before using them on yourself or others.

Religious and Cultural Practices Associated with Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh

Gold, frankincense, and myrrh have long been revered not just for their physical properties, but also for their symbolic and spiritual significance in various cultures and religions.

  • In ancient Egypt, gold was believed to represent the sun, the source of all life, and was associated with the god Ra.
  • In Hinduism, gold is seen as a symbol of purity, prosperity, and good fortune.
  • In Christianity, gold is associated with divinity and royalty, and was one of the gifts bestowed upon baby Jesus by the Three Wise Men.
  • Frankincense has been used in religious ceremonies for thousands of years, and is still used today in many different faiths. In Hinduism, it is offered to deities as a ritual purification, while in Christianity, it is often burned as a symbol of prayer and worship.
  • Myrrh, like frankincense, has been used for religious and medicinal purposes for millennia. In ancient Egypt, it was used in the embalming process, while in Christianity it is believed to represent the bitterness of Jesus’ crucifixion.

Another interesting aspect of the symbolism of gold, frankincense, and myrrh is their association with the number ten. In many spiritual traditions, the number ten is seen as a symbol of completion and perfection, and is often associated with the divine.

Religion/CultureSymbolic Meanings of Number Ten
Ancient EgyptianRepresented completion and wholeness, as it was the sum of the numbers one through nine.
HinduismThe ten avatars of Lord Vishnu represent the different stages of evolution in human history, and the ultimate goal of divine realization.
ChristianityThe ten commandments given to Moses by God symbolize the moral laws that govern human behavior, and the Tenfold Path in Buddhism represents the steps towards enlightenment.

Overall, the significance of gold, frankincense, and myrrh extends far beyond their physical properties and into the realm of spirituality and culture. Their symbolism and meaning have been woven into the fabric of societies and religions throughout history, and continue to hold deep meaning for many today.

FAQs: What Do Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh Symbolize?

Q: What do the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh symbolize in Christmas traditions?
A: The gifts symbolize different aspects of the life of Jesus Christ, who is celebrated during the Christmas holiday.

Q: What does gold represent in the story of Christmas?
A: Gold symbolizes the kingship of Jesus Christ, as well as the gift bestowed to royalty.

Q: Why was frankincense given to Jesus?
A: Frankincense was given to Jesus as it represents his divinity, as well as his role as a high priest.

Q: Is there a deeper meaning behind the gift of myrrh?
A: Yes, myrrh is a symbol of death and mortality, representing the death of Jesus Christ and his eventual resurrection.

Q: Why were these three specific gifts chosen to give to Jesus?
A: These gifts were selected due to their significant value and symbolism in the ancient world.

Q: Are there any other religious or cultural contexts in which these gifts are used?
A: Yes, these gifts are utilized in various religious practices and cultural traditions around the world.

Q: What is the significance of these gifts in modern Christmas celebrations?
A: These gifts continue to serve as important symbols of the holiday season and Jesus Christ’s story for many people worldwide.

Closing Thoughts

In conclusion, gold, frankincense, and myrrh are not just traditional Christmas gifts but serve as powerful symbols of Jesus Christ and his story. The richness and depth of their symbolism has made them prevalent in various religious and cultural practices. Thank you for taking the time to read about the significance of these historic gifts and please visit again soon for more insightful articles.