What Does Myrrh Symbolize in the Bible

By Paul King •  Updated: 10/08/23 •  12 min read

In the biblical narrative, myrrh holds significant historical and religious symbolism. The value and symbolism of myrrh can be seen throughout the Old and New Testaments, offering profound insights into the human experience and our relationship with God.

One of the earliest mentions of myrrh is found in Genesis 37:25 when Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery. The traders who bought Joseph carried myrrh among their goods. This story illustrates how myrrh was a precious and valuable commodity in ancient times, often associated with commerce and trade.

In the Book of Exodus, myrrh is mentioned as one of the ingredients used to make the holy anointing oil, which was used to consecrate the priests and the tabernacle (Exodus 30:22-30). This highlights the sacred nature of myrrh and its role in the religious rituals of the Israelites.

Furthermore, myrrh is prominently featured in the story of the birth of Jesus. In Matthew 2:11, the wise men from the East presented gifts to the baby Jesus, including myrrh. This act of offering myrrh symbolizes the recognition of Jesus’ divinity and his future role as the sacrificial Lamb of God. The gift of myrrh foreshadows the suffering and sacrifice that Jesus would endure for the redemption of humanity.

The significance of myrrh as a symbol of suffering and sacrifice is further emphasized in Mark 15:23, where Jesus is offered wine mixed with myrrh before his crucifixion. This mixture was intended to alleviate pain, but Jesus refused it, willingly embracing the full weight of his suffering. This act of self-sacrifice demonstrates the depth of Jesus’ love for humanity and his willingness to endure unimaginable pain for our salvation.

Myrrh also symbolizes healing and restoration. In the Song of Solomon 3:6, the bride describes her beloved as coming from the wilderness ‘like pillars of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and frankincense.’ This imagery conveys a sense of beauty, fragrance, and restoration. Myrrh is associated with rejuvenation and the healing of wounds, both physical and spiritual.

The Book of Revelation further emphasizes the significance of myrrh in its description of the heavenly realm. In Revelation 5:8, the elders are seen holding golden bowls full of incense, which represents the prayers of the saints. The incense includes the fragrant aroma of myrrh, symbolizing the prayers and intercession of believers for healing, restoration, and redemption.

By examining these biblical stories and verses, we can see that myrrh symbolizes sacrifice, suffering, healing, restoration, and more. It serves as a reminder of the profound truths and teachings found in the Bible, offering guidance for living a righteous and fulfilling life. As we reflect on the symbolism of myrrh, may we embrace the sacrificial love of Jesus, seek healing and restoration, and offer our prayers and intercession for the well-being of others.

Key Takeaways

Historical Significance of Myrrh in Biblical Times

The historical significance of myrrh in biblical times is profoundly rooted in its frequent mention throughout the Old and New Testaments. This precious substance, extracted from the Commiphora tree, held great cultural and religious importance during that era. Let us explore the biblical narratives and verses that shed light on the significance of myrrh.

In the Book of Exodus, myrrh is mentioned as one of the ingredients used in the sacred anointing oil. Exodus 30:23 states, ‘Take the finest spices: of liquid myrrh 500 shekels, and of sweet-smelling cinnamon half as much, that is, 250, and 250 of aromatic cane.’ This verse highlights myrrh’s role in the anointing oil, which was used to consecrate priests and set apart sacred objects.

Furthermore, myrrh is associated with the birth of Jesus Christ in the New Testament. In Matthew 2:11, it is mentioned as one of the gifts presented to the infant Jesus by the wise men from the East. ‘And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.’ This act of offering myrrh symbolized the recognition of Jesus as a king, as myrrh was commonly used as a gift for royalty and symbolized wealth and honor.

The biblical narrative also records myrrh’s use in preparation for Jesus’ burial. In John 19:39-40, it is mentioned that Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes to anoint Jesus’ body after his crucifixion. ‘Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight. So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews.’ This act of anointing with myrrh demonstrated reverence and respect for the deceased.

Myrrh’s symbolism goes beyond its practical uses. It represents sacrifice, honor, and the divine presence. In Psalm 45:8, myrrh is metaphorically mentioned in reference to the Messiah: ‘Your robes are all fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia.’ This verse symbolizes the Messiah’s righteousness and the aroma of his presence.

Through these biblical narratives and verses, we can glimpse the historical significance of myrrh in biblical times. Its use in anointing oils, as a gift to honor kings, and in preparation for burial all highlight its cultural and religious importance. Moreover, myrrh’s symbolism as a representation of sacrifice and divine presence adds depth and meaning to its historical significance in the biblical context.

Religious Symbolism of Myrrh in Scripture

One of the religious symbols found in biblical texts is myrrh, which carries significant meaning in scriptural contexts. Myrrh holds cultural significance in ancient societies and is often used in religious rituals and ceremonies. In the Bible, myrrh is symbolically associated with purification and cleansing, reflecting its spiritual values and teachings.

In the book of Exodus, we find a story that exemplifies the symbolism of myrrh. The Israelites, while wandering in the desert, were instructed by God to build a tabernacle, a place of worship. As part of the construction, they were commanded to make a holy anointing oil using myrrh, among other ingredients. This anointing oil was used to consecrate the tabernacle and all its sacred objects, symbolizing the purification and sanctification of the space.

Moreover, in the book of Psalms, King David writes, ‘Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow’ (Psalm 51:7). Here, hyssop is mentioned in the context of cleansing, and myrrh is often associated with hyssop in biblical references. This verse emphasizes the desire for spiritual purification and the belief that God’s cleansing power can make one pure and righteous.

Furthermore, the story of the wise men bringing gifts to baby Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew adds depth to the symbolism of myrrh. The wise men, guided by a star, traveled from the East to worship the newborn king. Among the gifts they presented were gold, frankincense, and myrrh. While the gold and frankincense symbolize Jesus’ kingship and divinity, respectively, myrrh carries a profound meaning. It foreshadows Jesus’ sacrificial death and suffering, as myrrh was commonly used in burial rituals during that time. This gift signifies the ultimate sacrifice that Jesus would make for the redemption and cleansing of humanity’s sins.

Myrrh as a Representation of Sacrifice and Suffering

Representing sacrifice and suffering, myrrh holds profound religious symbolism in various biblical contexts. In the book of Matthew, myrrh is mentioned as one of the gifts brought by the wise men to the baby Jesus: ‘And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh’ (Matthew 2:11, KJV).

This gift of myrrh to the infant Jesus foreshadows the sacrificial nature of his life and mission. Myrrh was a valuable and precious substance, often used for embalming the dead. By presenting myrrh to Jesus, the wise men recognized his future sacrifice and suffering. It symbolized the willingness to give up something valuable for a greater purpose – the redemption and salvation of humanity.

The symbolism of myrrh is further emphasized in the story of Jesus’ crucifixion. After Jesus was crucified, ‘Nicodemus, who earlier had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight. So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews’ (John 19:39-40, ESV).

This act of anointing Jesus’ body with myrrh and aloes before his burial highlights the association of myrrh with suffering and sacrifice. It signifies the depth of Jesus’ sacrifice and the ultimate price he paid for the redemption of mankind. The use of myrrh in this context serves as a reminder of the transformative power of suffering in the pursuit of spiritual growth and redemption.

In addition to its symbolism of sacrifice and suffering, myrrh also carries spiritual significance in other biblical contexts. In the Song of Solomon, myrrh is mentioned as a fragrance associated with the bridegroom: ‘While the king sitteth at his table, my spikenard sendeth forth the smell thereof… A bundle of myrrh is my well-beloved unto me; he shall lie all night betwixt my breasts’ (Song of Solomon 1:12, 13, KJV).

This passage metaphorically portrays the intimate relationship between God and His people, with myrrh representing the fragrance of love and devotion. It illustrates the spiritual connection between the bridegroom (representing God) and the bride (representing His people), highlighting the depth of love and commitment in their relationship.

The Spiritual Meaning of Myrrh in the Bible

In biblical contexts, myrrh carries deep spiritual significance as it symbolizes sacrifice, suffering, and the intimate relationship between God and His people. Let us delve into the spiritual meaning of myrrh in the Bible through the following points, supported by relevant facts and quotes from Bible verses:

  1. Symbol of Sacrifice: Myrrh holds a profound connection to sacrifice, representing the act of offering oneself for a greater purpose. Just as Jesus Christ selflessly offered himself as a sacrifice for the redemption of humanity, myrrh serves as a reminder of the ultimate sacrifice made for the salvation of mankind. As we reflect upon the story of Jesus’ crucifixion, we find that myrrh played a significant role. In Mark 15:23, it is mentioned that when Jesus was being crucified, the soldiers offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he refused to drink it. This refusal to numb his pain with myrrh-infused wine emphasizes Jesus’ willingness to endure suffering and sacrifice himself fully.

  2. Emblem of Suffering: Myrrh is closely associated with suffering, symbolizing the immense pain and hardships endured by Jesus Christ during his crucifixion. In the Gospel of Matthew, it is recorded that when Jesus was presented with gifts by the wise men, one of them was myrrh. This gift foreshadowed the suffering that Jesus would undergo, as myrrh was commonly used in ancient times for embalming the dead. This association of myrrh with suffering serves as a poignant reminder of the profound sacrifice endured by Jesus for the sake of humanity’s salvation.

  3. Sign of Intimate Relationship: Myrrh also signifies the intimate relationship between God and His people. It represents the deep connection and love that exists between the divine and humanity, highlighting the profound spiritual bond that is established through faith and devotion. In the Song of Solomon, myrrh is mentioned several times as a symbol of love and desire. In Song of Solomon 1:13, the bride says, ‘My beloved is to me a sachet of myrrh resting between my breasts.’ This poetic imagery conveys the intimate relationship between the bride and her beloved, representing the closeness and love shared between God and His people.

Myrrh as a Symbol of Healing and Restoration

The healing and restoration properties associated with myrrh are deeply rooted in historical and cultural contexts, as well as in religious significance. Myrrh, mentioned multiple times in the Bible, holds a special place in the realm of natural remedies and therapeutic effects.

In ancient times, myrrh was considered a precious substance and was highly valued for its medicinal properties. It was used in religious rituals and as a medicinal herb by ancient civilizations such as the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans. These civilizations recognized myrrh’s healing potential and used it to treat wounds, inflammation, and digestive issues. In fact, the Egyptians even used myrrh in the embalming process, highlighting its purifying and rejuvenating properties.

One story from the Bible that exemplifies the healing power of myrrh is the account of the wise men bringing gifts to the baby Jesus. In the Gospel of Matthew, it is mentioned that one of the gifts presented to Jesus by the wise men was myrrh. This gift symbolized not only the preciousness of myrrh but also its significance in the journey towards healing and restoration.

In addition to its historical and biblical significance, myrrh is still used today in traditional medicine for its antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties. Its enduring recognition as a healing agent is a testament to its effectiveness throughout the ages.

Paul King

I post written versions of my powerful sermons exploring topics like prayer, praise, biblical truths, and more expressions of faith. My church has a deeply spiritual culture, which I try to convey through vivid storytelling and applications in our everyday life. I spread the Good Word with lots of conviction and passion.