The Spiritual Significance of the Three Gifts Given to Jesus

15 December

‘Have we seen Christ’s star? Let us study to give him honour.’ – Matthew Henry

Matthew 2:11; “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.”

Giotto_adoration-of-the-magi-260x262Today we’re looking at a couple of things about the gifts the three men from the east presented to the Messiah. This is something I’ve always wanted to study, and with the latest Mormon publication of theLiahona, it got me moving now!

As you’ll recall, the Mormon prophet invited Mormon children to follow Jesus through the maze of a labyrinth. How that had anything to do with Jesus is still a mystery to us here at the ministry…in the meantime, we decided to get this on the site to provide the truth as a rebuttal to that horrific platitude Mr. Monson offered.

Later in the week we’re posting the findings from our studies for the rest of the events that took place at the time of our Savior’s birth, so be sure to check in! Here’s our list of key items to study from Matthew 2:11 –

1.How this event was prophesied about hundreds of years before Jesus was born.

2.The significance of what those three gifts meant.

Did You Know?

Isaiah prophesied about this event! (See Isaiah 60:6) About 700 years before this took place he told the Israelites the Messiah would be lavished with gifts. In addition to the prophecy in Isaiah, there’s at least one more in Psalm 72:10-11!

Do You Know?

What’s the spiritual significance of Matthew 2:11? When we look at the words he used, we’re able to get a fuller picture of what really happened that starry night, and I have to say, even as a Bible study teacher, I still learned a lot when I looked at this more closely. It’s simply amazing, so let’s take a look!

First, let’s keep Matthew Henry’s commentary in mind –

“…they offered him gold, as a king, paying him tribute, to Caesar, the things that are Caesar’s; frankincense, as God, for they honoured God with the smoke of incense; and myrrh, as a Man that should die, for myrrh was used in embalming dead bodies…

Bethlehem’s honour lay not, as that of other cities, in the multitude of the people, but in the magnificence of the princes it produced. Though, upon some accounts, Bethlehem was little, yet herein it had the pre-eminence above all the cities of Israel, that the Lord shall count, when he writes up the people, that this man, even the man Christ Jesus, was born there, Psa. 87:6.

Out of thee shall come a Governor, the King of the Jews. Note, Christ will be a Saviour to those only who are willing to take him for their Governor.

Bethlehem was the city of David, and David the glory of Bethlehem; there, therefore, must David’s son and successor be born…

There was a famous well at Bethlehem, by the gate, which David longed to drink of (2 Samuel 23:15); in Christ we have not only bread enough and to spare, but may come and take also of the water of life freely…

Observe here how Jews and Gentiles compare notes about Jesus Christ.

The Gentiles know the time of his birth by a star; the Jews know the place of it by the scriptures; and so they are capable of informing one another.

Note, It would contribute much to the increase of knowledge, if we did thus mutually communicate what we know. Men grow rich by bartering and exchanging; so, if we have knowledge to communicate to others, they will be ready to communicate to us; thus many shall discourse, shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased…”

There’s so much info in that and something we can think upon to keep us busy for a long time. It’s amazing what you see when you really look at the text! Another item worthy of note:

Whenever an author in the NT referenced something from the OT, it was done so with the understanding the reader will go to the OT to be reminded of what God has already told us. All things in the NT can be tied to the OT when we study.

One more notable thing to take heed of before we get into the definitions! In Matthew chapter two, it talks of Herod being paranoid so he ordered the death of all children under the age of two years, but did you ever notice?

No one in the village alerted the authorities that Joseph and Mary had left town with Jesus! See Matthew 2:13.

Our text tells us when they [the 3 wise men] arrived to see the child, they fell down. This seems rather melodramatic in our westernized American lifestyles. Did they just collapse to the floor, or was there something else going on?

Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance gives us the following definition for what this means and you’ll see that it literally means they fell down at His presence.

Fell Down –

Transliteration: piptō

alighting; to fall (literal or figurative) :- fail, fall (down), light on.

Worshipped –

Transliteration: proskyneō

To prostrate oneself in homage (do reverence to, adore) :- worship.

Again, for many in western cultures this isn’t an everyday event, right?! However, for those of us who are born again, this can, and usually does, take place several times throughout our lives!

Imagine these three men who were revered in their time, prostrated themselves before a little child who was decidedly poor, and staying in the barn of a relative’s home. You’ll also take note they paid no such homage to Herod!

Falling down before Him also indicates they have submitted themselves to Him.

Gold –

Transliteration: chrysos, Total Count: 13

Through the idea of the utility of the metal; gold; by extensive a golden article, as an ornament or coin :- gold.

Matthew Henry notes the significance of gold –

“…they offered him gold, as a king, paying him tribute, to Caesar, the things that are Caesar’s…”

All of us must give up that which is most precious to us – are  you willing to give the most precious thing you have to the King?

Frankincense –

Frankincense Tree1Transliteration: libanos, Total Count: 2

Of foreign origin (H3828, lebownah); the incense-tree, i.e. (by implication) incense itself, frankincense.

Exodus 30:8, Exodus 30:34

Smith’s Bible Dictionary

frankincense“A vegetable resin, brittle, glittering, and of a bitter taste, used for the purpose of sacrificial fumigation. (Exodus 30:34-36) It was called frank because of the freeness with which, when burned, it gives forth its odor. It burns for a long time, with a steady flame.

It is obtained by successive incisions in the bark of a tree called Arbor thuris. The first incision yields the purest and whitest resin, while the product of the after incisions is spotted with yellow, and loses its whiteness altogether as it becomes old. The Hebrews imported their frankincense from Arabia, (Isaiah 60:6 ; Jeremiah 6:20)… It grows to be forty feet high.”

Myrrh –

myrrh-treeTransliteration: smyrna, Total Count: 2

Root: apparently strengthened for G3464

myrrh, G3464

Transliteration: Myron, Total Count: 14

myrrh granulesRoot: probably of foreign origin cf or, H4753

(By implication) perfumed oil :- ointment.

Easton’s Bible Dictionary

“First mentioned as a principal ingredient in the holy anointing oil (Exodus 30:23). It formed part of the gifts brought by the wise men from the east, who came to worship the infant Jesus (Matthew 2:11). It was used in embalming (John 19:39 ), also as a perfume (Esther 2:12 ; Psalms 45:8 ; Proverbs 7:17). It was a custom of the Jews to give those who were condemned to death by crucifixion “wine mingled with myrrh” to produce insensibility. This drugged wine was probably partaken of by the two malefactors, but when the Roman soldiers pressed it upon Jesus “he received it not” (Mark 15:23).

This was the gum or viscid white liquid which flows from a tree resembling the acacia, found in Africa and Arabia, the Balsamodendron myrrha of botanists. The “bundle of myrrh” …is a scent-bag.”

Additional insight from The Teacher’s Commentary gives us great info as well!

“When nearly 70 years old, Herod was stricken with an incurable disease.

It was at this time, shortly before his death, that Herod heard of wise men who were seeking to worship the newborn King of the Jews. Herod summoned the wise men and made them promise to report the whereabouts of the child so he could “go and worship Him” (Matthew 2:8). The dying man still struggled to grasp the power that had brought him and his family only suspicion, hatred, and death!

God warned the wise men to return home another way. And God warned Joseph to flee with the Christ Child to Egypt. Herod, realizing that the wise men had returned to the East without reporting to him, had all the male children of Bethlehem two years old and under killed!

It was then only a few days before Herod’s own death. Five days before he expired, Herod had his son Antipater executed. Then he called all the leading Jews of his territory to his palace. When they came, he imprisoned them, giving orders that they were all to be killed the moment he died. He wanted to ensure that there would be national mourning at his death, rather than rejoicing!

Herod’s dream of power and glory had turned into a nightmare. The desperate king struggled to the last to maintain control over his kingdom, long after he had lost control over himself. And so he died.”

The text of Matthew 2:11 can be swallowed up at times in Christmas songs we all listen to at this time of year, but don’t set aside the real nuggets of truth waiting to be discovered! This should make all of us look at this event with more gratitude and somberness for what happened the night three unnamed strangers laid gifts at a baby’s feet.

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