Daily Archives: December 15, 2011

Frankincense comes from a tree

In the previous post we looked at a few Biblical references that mention both frankincense and myrrh. We called attention to the Incense Route which ran from Arabia through Petra (now in Jordan) and Avdat in the Negev. In New Testament times this route was controlled by the Nabateans.

Frankincense is described in the Fauna and Flora of the Bible:

Frankincense is a balsamic gum exuding from the wood of different species of shrubs and trees belonging to the genus Boswellia. The bark is incised, and the finest quality of resin is obtained if this is done not too early in the year. The different species of Boswellia are native to India, the Somali coast and Arabia; the Midianites imported frankincense from Ephah and Sheba, Is 60:6; Jer. 6:20. Whether the Boswellia was grown in Palestine is rather doubtful. (121-122)

Frankincense is displayed at Avdat, stop number 62 on the famous Incense Route. Click on the photo for a larger image.

Frankincense at Avdat on the Incense Route. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Frankincense at Avdat on the Incense Route. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Bible indicates several uses for frankincense.

  • Used in the incense associated with the anointing of the priests (Exodus 30:32).
  • Placed on a grain offering (Leviticus 2:1-2).
  • Placed on the bread for the tabernacle (Leviticus 24:7).

Levites were appointed to take care of the frankincense used in the temple (1 Chronicles 9:29). Eliashib the priest hid Tobiah in a large room where frankincense and other sacrificial items were stored (Nehemiah 13:5, 9).

Gold is mentioned with frankincense in Isaiah 60:6 and Matthew 2:11. Both are mentioned among the goods the merchants could no longer sell because of the fall of Babylon (Revelation 118:11-13).

The illustration showing the frankincense tree comes from 1000 Bible Images (Logos digital edition).

Frankincense Tree. 1000 Bible Images.

Frankincense Tree. 1000 Bible Images.

Our current header photo was made at Avdat, and indicates the importance of the city as an important stop on the Incense Route.