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What does myrrh symbolize?

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Quick Answer

Myrrh is commonly interpreted as symbolizing kingship, due to its use as an anointing oil, or death, due to its use as an embalming oil. In the Bible, Christ was offered wine mixed with myrrh as an analgesic during his crucifixion, and his body was anointed with myrrh after his death.

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Full Answer

Myrrh is one of the gifts given to Jesus by the Magi in the Bible, identified in one tradition as the gift of Balthazar. The opinion that this gift prefigured Christ's death dates back at least to Origen's Contra Celsum in 248 AD. The popular Christmas carol "We Three Kings" also employs this interpretation in one of its verses.

Myrrh is mentioned a total of 156 times in the Bible, with references to both its aromatic and intoxicating properties. It is recorded as a main ingredient of both the consecrated incense of the First and Second Temples of Jerusalem and of the anointing oil used to anoint the Tabernacle.

Myrrh is a resin harvested from a variety of trees of the genus Commiphora and is a natural gum. Its name derives from the Aramaic and Arabic word for "bitter." It is used in modern medicine as an antiseptic in mouthwashes and toothpastes.

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