Why was Jesus given gold, frankincense and myrrh?


Quick Answer

Historians and theologians believe the Three Wise Men presented Jesus with gold, frankincense and myrrh because these were traditional gifts to give a king or deity. The Three Wise Men also may have gives these gifts because of their underlying symbolic significance.

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Full Answer

Gold, frankincense and myrrh may have been standard gifts, but for Jesus, these gifts take on a larger meaning. Considering the symbolic nature of these gifts, gold represents the kingship of Christ, frankincense represents his priestly role on earth and myrrh, a traditional incense used at funerals during Biblical times, signals his eventual death an resurrection.

The Three Wise Men also may have presented Jesus with these gifts because of their medicinal uses. For example, frankincense can prevent inflammation, says researchers at Cardiff University, who believe communities in North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, from where the Three Wise Men likely came, used frankincense to treat arthritis.

Some theologians believe that the Three Wise Men gave these specific gifts to Jesus for more practical reasons. Mary and Joseph could use gold to pay for shelter, food and other things that a baby needs, which they, as a young couple, likely could not otherwise afford. They could also sell the valuable frankincense and myrrh to further support themselves, or use these oils and fragrances themselves.

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