What Do the Gifts of the Magi Symbolize? Decoding the Significance Behind Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh

The story of the gifts of the magi is one that has been passed down through generations. It’s a tale that has been retold time and time again, but it’s significance remains the same. The gifts that were given to the baby Jesus by the three wise men symbolize far more than the simple act of gift-giving. Each of the gifts holds a greater meaning, one that is still relevant today.

Gold, frankincense, and myrrh were the gifts that the magi brought to the baby Jesus, and each of them was a representation of something significant. The gold symbolized his royalty and was a tribute to his future kingship. Frankincense was used in religious rituals and represented the baby Jesus’ divinity. Myrrh was used for burial and symbolized his eventual death and sacrifice. Each of these gifts was carefully chosen to represent a specific aspect of the baby Jesus’ future, and the significance of each one still resonates with us today.

While we may not be bringing actual gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to our loved ones, the symbolism behind them is still worth considering. The story of the magi and their gifts is a reminder of the true meaning of gift-giving, and the importance of choosing gifts that have a deeper significance. So, as we approach the holiday season, let’s take a moment to reflect on the meaning behind the gifts we give, and what they truly represent.

The Magi in Christian Tradition

The Magi, also known as the Three Wise Men or the Three Kings, are part of the Christmas story in Christian tradition. They play a significant role in the birth of Jesus and are symbolic figures in many aspects.

According to the Bible, the Magi came from the East, following a star that would lead them to the newborn king of the Jews. They traveled to Bethlehem and presented gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the infant Jesus. This event, known as the Adoration of the Magi, is depicted in many paintings and artworks, particularly during the Christmas season.

  • Symbols of faith: The Magi are considered symbols of faith in Christianity. Despite not being Jews themselves, they believed in the prophecy of the coming Messiah, and their journey represents their obedience to God’s will.
  • Symbols of diversity: The Magi also represent diversity and cross-cultural exchange. They came from different countries and backgrounds, yet they were able to recognize the significance of Jesus’ birth and set out on a common journey together. This message of unity and cooperation is still relevant today.
  • Symbols of generosity: The gifts of the Magi—gold, frankincense, and myrrh—are often interpreted as symbols of Jesus’ identity and purpose. Gold represents his kingship, frankincense his divinity, and myrrh his mortality. However, they also symbolize generosity and giving, as the Magi presented these valuable items as gifts to honor Jesus.

The Magi remain an influential part of Christian tradition and hold many lessons that are still applicable today. Their journey, faith, diversity, and generosity demonstrate the importance of seeking truth, respecting differences, and giving selflessly.

Magi NameGift presentedSymbolic Meaning
CasperGoldRepresents Jesus’ kingship and royalty
MelchiorFrankincenseRepresents Jesus’ divinity and holiness
BalthazarMyrrhRepresents Jesus’ mortality and eventual death

The names of the Magi are not mentioned in the Bible, but they have been given names in Christian tradition. The gifts they presented to Jesus also hold specific symbolic meanings, providing further insight into their role in the Christmas story.

Historical significance of frankincense, myrrh, and gold

The gifts of the magi – frankincense, myrrh, and gold are a representation of the three wise men who visited baby Jesus in Bethlehem. Each of these gifts carried significant value during the biblical times and symbolized certain aspects of the Christian faith. Let’s delve into the historical significance of these gifts one by one.

  • Frankincense: This resin was valued for its rich fragrance and was used as a perfume, incense, and medicine in the ancient world. It was also used in religious ceremonies as an offering to the gods. Frankincense is mentioned several times in the Bible, and it symbolizes the deity of Christ, signifying that Jesus was the Son of God.
  • Myrrh:Myrrh, like frankincense, was a fragrant resin that was used as a perfume and anointing oil. However, it was also used for medicinal purposes and could be used to embalm the dead. In the Bible, myrrh was used as a symbol of suffering and was often used in preparation for burial. This gift served as a representation of the humanity of Christ, predicting his eventual death and sacrifice on the cross.
  • Gold: Finally, we have gold. This precious metal has been treasured throughout history for its rarity and beauty. It was used to make jewelry, decorations, and was even used as currency. In the Bible, gold represented kingship and royalty and was often used in the construction of holy items such as the Ark of the Covenant. This gift symbolized the sovereignty of Christ, signifying that he was the King of Kings.

These three gifts represented not only the generosity of the magi but also the significance of Christ’s birth. While each of the gifts had its own historical significance, they came together to represent the fullness of who Jesus was – the Son of God, the Savior of humanity, and the King of the world.

FrankincenseDeity of Christ
MyrrhHumanity of Christ
GoldSovereignty of Christ

Overall, the gifts of the magi were more than just material possessions; they represented the true essence of Jesus and the great significance his birth carried. They continue to serve as a reminder of the hope and redemption brought to the world through the birth of our Savior.

The Spiritual Meanings of the Gifts

Of the many interpretations and theories about the gifts of the Magi, one of the most commonly accepted is that the gifts symbolize spiritual meanings. Each of the three gifts carries a specific message that goes beyond their material value. Let’s explore the spiritual meanings of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

The Three Gifts

  • Gold: This precious metal is often associated with power, wealth, and royalty. The gift of gold given to Jesus, therefore, symbolizes his divine kingship and the sovereignty of his divine leadership.
  • Frankincense: Frankincense is an aromatic resin that was burned as incense in religious ceremonies. Its sweet fragrance was believed to represent prayer rising up to heaven. The gift of frankincense, therefore, represents the divinity of Jesus and his connection to God.
  • Myrrh: Myrrh is a resin used in embalming and also has medicinal properties. The gift of myrrh symbolizes the human mortality of Jesus, foreshadowing his death and the sacrifice he was to make. It also represents penance, as it was used to purify and cleanse.

The Symbolism of the Number Three

The number three is significant in many religions and cultures, including Christianity. It is believed to represent completeness, wholeness, and the Holy Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). In the context of the gifts of the Magi, the number three represents the three aspects of Jesus’ identity: king, divine, and mortal. It also symbolizes the completeness and unity of the gifts.


The gifts of the Magi are more than just valuable items – they carry a deeper spiritual meaning that still resonates today. The gold, frankincense, and myrrh each represent a different aspect of Jesus’ identity and message, while the number three symbolizes completeness and unity. As we reflect on these gifts, we are reminded of the greatness and complexity of the Christmas story.

GiftSpiritual Meaning
GoldJesus’ divine kingship and sovereignty of his leadership
FrankincenseJesus’ divinity and connection to God
MyrrhJesus’ mortality, sacrifice, and penance

The chart above summarizes the spiritual meanings of the gifts of the Magi.

The Symbolism of Gold as a Material Possession

One of the gifts given by the Magi to the baby Jesus was gold. Gold, as a precious metal, has always been a symbol of wealth and power. It has been used in currency, jewelry, and even in religious artifacts for centuries. But beyond its material value, gold is also believed to have spiritual and philosophical significance.

In many cultures, gold represents the sun, which is associated with divinity, illumination, and enlightenment. The ancient Egyptians, for example, believed that the pharaohs were descendants of the sun god and were therefore divine. They adorned their temples and burial tombs with gold to reflect this belief.

  • In Christianity, gold is closely associated with the concept of holiness and purity. It is often used in religious objects such as chalices, crosses, and crowns to symbolize the radiant glory of God and the perfection of His creation.
  • Gold is also linked to the ultimate reward in many spiritual traditions. In Hinduism and Buddhism, for instance, the attainment of enlightenment is often depicted as a golden state of consciousness or a golden light that emanates from the self.
  • Moreover, gold is sometimes seen as a metaphor for the divine spark that resides in all humans. This inner gold is what connects us to the divine and enables us to recognize our true worth and potential.

Finally, the gift of gold from the Magi to Jesus may also have a political significance. In the ancient world, gold was often used as tribute or a diplomatic gift between rulers. By giving gold to Jesus, the Magi may have been acknowledging him as a king or a leader of his people.

Symbolism of GoldMeaning
SunDivinity, illumination, enlightenment
Holiness and PurityRadiant glory of God, perfection of creation
Ultimate rewardEnlightenment, golden state of consciousness
Divine SparkInner gold, connection to the divine

In conclusion, gold carries a range of meanings as a material possession. Its physical value is intertwined with its cultural, spiritual, and political significance. As a gift from the Magi to Jesus, the gold symbolized not only their admiration for the young king, but also their recognition of his divinity and his future role in the world.

Frankincense as a symbol of divinity

Frankincense, one of the gifts of the Magi, is a precious resin that has been used for thousands of years in religious rituals and ceremonies. It is obtained from the Boswellia tree, which can be found in parts of Africa and Arabia. In ancient times, it was considered as valuable as gold.

Frankincense has a unique fragrance that is both woody and spicy, and in the Bible, it is often associated with divinity and holiness. In fact, it was one of the sacred ingredients used in the incense burned in the Jewish Temple, and was considered a symbol of the presence of God.

What does frankincense symbolize?

  • Divinity: Frankincense represents the divine nature of Jesus, as it was one of the gifts presented to him by the Magi. It was a symbol of his role as the Son of God and his ability to offer sacrifices to atone for the sins of humanity.
  • Healing: The medicinal properties of frankincense have been known for centuries. It was often used in ancient times as a remedy for various ailments and diseases. In the Bible, it is referred to as the “balm of Gilead” and is associated with healing and restoration.
  • Sacrifice: Frankincense was used in the Old Testament as a symbol of sacrifice and worship. It was one of the ingredients used in the incense burned in the Temple and was considered a pleasing aroma to God. In presenting frankincense to the baby Jesus, the Magi were acknowledging his role as the ultimate sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins.

The spiritual significance of frankincense

Frankincense has been used in religious and spiritual practices for thousands of years. It has a unique ability to induce a state of reverence and connect us with the divine. The smoke from burning frankincense is believed to have a purifying effect and is often used to cleanse the atmosphere and create a sacred space for prayer and meditation.

In addition to its spiritual significance, frankincense has also been found to have a number of health benefits. It has anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties and has been used to treat a variety of conditions, from arthritis to asthma.

Anti-inflammatoryReduces inflammation in the body and promotes healing
Anti-cancerHas been found to have cancer-fighting properties
Stress reliefInduces a state of relaxation and calm, reducing stress and anxiety
Enhances meditationCreates a sacred space and helps to focus the mind during meditation

In conclusion, frankincense is a powerful symbol of divinity, sacrifice, and healing. Its historical and spiritual significance is as relevant today as it was in ancient times, and its ability to induce a state of reverence and connect us with the divine makes it a valuable addition to any spiritual practice.

Myrrh as a Symbol of Spiritual Sacrifice

Myrrh is a resin that comes from trees in the Commiphora genus. It was one of the gifts presented by the Magi to the newborn Jesus, along with gold and frankincense. Myrrh has a rich history of use in religious and spiritual practices, from ancient Egypt to modern Christianity. In the bible, myrrh is mentioned as one of the ingredients in the anointing oil used to consecrate priests and the tabernacle. But what does myrrh symbolize?

  • Sacrifice: Myrrh is a symbol of sacrifice. It was often used in burials as a symbol of the sacrifice made by the deceased. In a spiritual context, myrrh represents the sacrifice that Jesus would make later in his life when he was crucified on the cross. The gift of myrrh to the infant Jesus can be seen as a prophetic gesture, foreshadowing his future sacrifice.
  • Suffering: Myrrh is also associated with suffering. It was used as a painkiller and an antiseptic in ancient times, and was offered to Jesus on the cross to alleviate his pain. The gift of myrrh to the infant Jesus can be seen as a recognition of the suffering he would have to endure later in his life.
  • Burial: Myrrh was often used in burials due to its pleasant aroma and preservative properties. The gift of myrrh to the infant Jesus can be seen as a recognition of his mortality and a foreshadowing of his death and burial.

In addition to its symbolic significance, myrrh has a range of practical uses. It has antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, and analgesic properties, and is still used today in alternative medicine practices. Some believe that myrrh can help promote emotional wellbeing and spiritual healing. Despite its long history of use, myrrh remains a mysterious and enigmatic substance, with much left to be discovered about its properties and significance.

Symbolic Meaning of MyrrhPractical Uses of Myrrh

In conclusion, the gift of myrrh to the infant Jesus represents his future sacrifice, suffering, and mortality. Myrrh is also a practical substance with a range of medical and spiritual uses. Its significance as a symbol of sacrifice and suffering remains relevant to this day for people of faith around the world.

The magi’s journey as a symbol of faith

The journey of the magi to witness the birth of Jesus Christ is a powerful symbol of faith and devotion. They traveled a great distance, following a star, to pay homage to the Messiah. This journey is a reminder that faith is not always easy, but it is always worth the effort.

  • The journey of the magi represents the importance of following one’s faith, no matter how difficult the path may seem.
  • It also reminds us that the journey itself is often as important as the destination.
  • The magi’s journey teaches us the importance of perseverance in the face of obstacles and challenges.

The number seven is also significant in the journey of the magi. The magi presented Jesus with three gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Each of these gifts represents a different aspect of his identity and purpose. The number seven comes into play because these gifts can be divided into seven pieces.

GoldRepresents Jesus as a king2 pieces of gold
FrankincenseRepresents Jesus as a priest2 pieces of frankincense
MyrrhRepresents Jesus as a prophet who will suffer3 pieces of myrrh

This symbolism suggests that the magi knew that Jesus was not just a king, but also a priest and a prophet. It is a reminder that faith is not about just one aspect of our lives, but encompasses all aspects of our being. The magi’s journey and the gifts they brought with them represent the importance of faith in our lives, and remind us that the journey of faith is one worth taking.

The Magi as Symbols of Non-Christian Faiths

As the story goes, the Magi were the ones who followed the star to find the baby Jesus and bring him gifts. But who were the Magi and what do they symbolize? Many scholars believe that the Magi were Zoroastrian priests, who were followers of the ancient Persian religion of Zoroastrianism. This makes their gifts all the more significant, as they serve as a representation of the beliefs and values of non-Christian faiths.

The Number 8

The number 8 holds significance in both Christianity and Zoroastrianism. In Christianity, 8 represents new beginnings and rebirth, as it is associated with the resurrection of Jesus occurring on the eighth day. In Zoroastrianism, 8 represents renewal and creation, as there are eight Amesha Spentas, or immortal beings who represented different aspects of the universe.

  • The Magi bringing three gifts each result in the total of 8 gifts.
  • The gifts themselves also hold symbolic meanings in both religions.
  • The number 8 therefore serves as a unifying symbol, showing how these different faiths can intersect and share common ground.

Gifts of the Magi

The gifts of the Magi – gold, frankincense, and myrrh – carry deep meaning and symbolism in both Christianity and Zoroastrianism.

Gold represents divinity in both religions, as well as royalty, wealth, and wisdom. It is fitting that this gift was given to Jesus, who is considered the son of God and the King of Kings.

Frankincense holds religious significance in Zoroastrianism, where it was used in their religious ceremonies. In Christianity, it is associated with prayer and worship, as it was often used as incense in the temple.

Myrrh is an anointing oil used in both religions for various purposes, such as purification and embalming. It is often associated with sacrifice and death, which makes it a fitting gift for Jesus, who was seen as a sacrificial figure in both religions.

GiftSymbolism in ChristianitySymbolism in Zoroastrianism
GoldDivinity, royalty, wealth, wisdomImmortality, virtue
FrankincensePrayer, worship, incense in the templeUsed in religious ceremonies
MyrrhSacrifice, death, anointing oilUsed for purification and embalming

Overall, the gifts of the Magi serve as a powerful symbol of the interconnectedness and commonalities between different faiths. They also highlight the importance of accepting and embracing the beliefs and traditions of others, even if they may differ from our own.

The gifts as a foreshadowing of Christ’s life and death

The gifts of the Magi, presented to baby Jesus, are filled with symbolism. Each gift is a foreshadowing of significant events in Christ’s life and death. Let’s take a closer look at how each gift represents the life and death of Jesus.

  • Gold: Gold is a precious metal that symbolizes royalty and wealth. The gift of gold represents Jesus as the King of the Jews. This is significant because Jesus was born into a humble family, yet he was destined to rule as the king of all nations.
  • Frankincense: Frankincense is a fragrant resin that was used in ancient times as incense in religious ceremonies. The gift of frankincense represents Jesus as a priest who would offer himself as a sacrifice to God. This is significant because Jesus is known as the ultimate high priest who offered himself as a perfect sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins.
  • Myrrh: Myrrh is an aromatic resin that was used for embalming and as a perfume. The gift of myrrh represents Jesus as a human who would suffer and die. This is significant because myrrh is associated with death and mourning, indicating that Jesus would eventually suffer and die, but that his death would not be in vain.

Together, these gifts foreshadow the events of Jesus’ life and death. He was born a king, but also a priest who would offer himself as a sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins. His death was not the end, however, as he would rise again and offer the gift of eternal life to all who believe in him.

It is fascinating to see how the gifts of the Magi continue to hold significance and meaning today, thousands of years after they were first presented to baby Jesus.

The Magi’s Gifts as a Parallel to Modern-Day Gift-Giving Customs

The story of the Magi in the Bible tells of three wise men, or kings, who traveled from the East to Bethlehem to present gifts to the baby Jesus. The gifts, of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, are rich in symbolism and have become an enduring part of the Christmas story. But what do these gifts symbolize, and how do they relate to modern-day gift-giving customs?

  • Gold: Gold is a precious metal that has long been associated with wealth, power, and royalty. In biblical times, it was also used as a form of currency. The gift of gold to Jesus symbolizes his kingship and the recognition of his divinity. Today, gold is still given as a precious and valuable gift, often to mark special occasions such as weddings, anniversaries, and milestones.
  • Frankincense: Frankincense is a fragrant resin that was used in religious ceremonies and as a perfume in ancient times. The gift of frankincense to Jesus symbolizes his priesthood and the importance of prayer and worship. Today, frankincense is still used in religious ceremonies and is sometimes given as a gift to signify spiritual devotion or as a comforting scent.
  • Myrrh: Myrrh is a fragrant resin that was used for medicinal and cosmetic purposes in ancient times. The gift of myrrh to Jesus symbolizes his humanity and mortality, as myrrh was often used in embalming. Today, myrrh is still used in perfumes and aromatherapy, and is sometimes given as a gift to signify healing or rejuvenation.

The Magi’s gifts are not only rich in symbolism but also represent a certain level of sacrifice and generosity. The Magi traveled a great distance to present these gifts to Jesus, and in doing so, demonstrated their devotion and admiration. Likewise, in modern-day gift-giving customs, gifts are often exchanged as a way of expressing love, appreciation, and gratitude.

However, modern-day gift-giving customs have also become more commercialized and can sometimes lose their true meaning. The Magi’s gifts remind us that the act of giving a gift should be done with sincerity and thoughtfulness, rather than solely for the purpose of obligation or expectation.

Magi’s GiftsModern-Day Gift-Giving Customs
GoldJewelry, watches, precious metals or stones, money
FrankincenseCandles, perfumes, incense, spiritual or religious items
MyrrhBath and body products, aromatherapy, wellness items

Overall, the Magi’s gifts serve as a reminder of the true meaning of gift-giving and the values of sacrifice, generosity, and thoughtfulness. By incorporating these values into modern-day gift-giving customs, we can make the act of giving and receiving gifts more meaningful and impactful, and ensure that the spirit of the Magi’s gifts continues to endure.

What Do The Gifts of The Magi Symbolize?

1. What were the gifts of the Magi?

The gifts of the Magi were gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

2. What do the gifts of the Magi represent?

The gold represents royalty, frankincense represents divinity, and myrrh represents death.

3. Why were these specific gifts chosen?

These specific gifts were chosen because they were considered precious and symbolic in the ancient world.

4. What does the gift of gold symbolize?

The gift of gold symbolizes Jesus as a king and ruler.

5. What does the gift of frankincense symbolize?

The gift of frankincense symbolizes Jesus’ divinity and connection to God.

6. What does the gift of myrrh symbolize?

The gift of myrrh symbolizes Jesus’ humanity and eventual death.

7. What is the significance of the gifts of the Magi?

The gifts of the Magi represent the three roles that Jesus would play throughout his life: king, priest, and sacrifice.


Now that you know what the gifts of the Magi symbolize, you can appreciate the depth of their meaning in the Christmas story. Remember to cherish the time with your loved ones this holiday season while reflecting on the true meaning of Christmas. Thanks for reading and come back again soon for more fun and informative articles!