What did gold, frankincense, and myrrh have to do with gifts to Christ? What do the gifts represent?
Gold, frankincense, and myrrh were the gifts that were given to Jesus by the wise men according to Matthew 2:11,
And they came into the house and saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell down and worshiped Him; and opening their treasures they presented to Him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh. (NASB) Matt. 2:11
Gift of Gold
The gift of gold was considered worthy of a king. The buildings and treasures of kings and pharaohs from the ancient past have left reminders that gold was the prize of rulers and kings. Both secular and biblical kings valued gold. Men such as King Solomon and King Nebuchadnezzar treasured gold. The following two passages reveal that kings and gold were often connected. King Solomon highly valued gold and King Nebuchadnezzar made a gold idol or image of himself.
All King Solomon’s drinking vessels were of gold, and all the vessels of the house of the forest of Lebanon were of pure gold; silver was not considered valuable in the days of Solomon. (NASB) 2 Chronicles 9:20
Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, the height of which was sixty cubits and its width six cubits; he set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon. (NASB) Dan. 3:1
While gold can be a gift for anyone, gold was a gift especially for kings.
Gift of Frankincense
Frankincense and myrrh come from tree resins. Frankincense was once greatly valued throughout the Middle East, from Rome to India. It was very expensive and a gift having a wonderful fragrance. It was used for a variety of purposes such as incense (Ex. 30:34), medical treatment, and perfume (Song of Solomon 3:6; 4:14). We discover from the Bible that frankincense was used in worship.
Then the LORD said to Moses, “Take for yourself spices, stacte and onycha and galbanum, spices with pure frankincense; there shall be an equal part of each. (NASB) Ex. 30:34
Frankincense speaks of the worship of God.
Gift of Myrrh
Myrrh was less expensive than frankincense, but was still highly valued. It is first mentioned in the Bible in Gen. 37:25, where it was being carried by camels on a caravan. Myrrh was used for a variety of purposes, such as: a perfume (Song of Solomon 3:6; 4:14), an anesthetic, burial embalming (John 19:39), as an ingredient in anointing oil, and to deodorize clothes. According to Esther 2:12, it was also a cosmetic used by women. John 19:39 records that myrrh was used in Jesus’ burial.
Nicodemus, who had first come to Him by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds weight. (NASB) John 19:39
In the New Testament, myrrh is primarily associated with death.
Since gold, frankincense and myrrh were highly prized by kings and emperors, these magi gave Jesus three very expensive gifts. The gift of gold would have had great value to a young married couple whom God would soon send to Egypt. Besides their monetary values, frankincense and myrrh would have had medical and deodorizing benefits – great gifts for a couple with an infant. The gifts also speak of Jesus Christ.
Gold speaks of His birth. He is born a King. Frankincense speaks of the fragrance of His life. Myrrh speaks of His death. All of this is indicated in the gifts that were brought to Him at His first coming. – Dr. J. Vernon McGee. Thru The Bible. Nelson Publishing. 1983. vol. IV, p. 16.
Reference Links:Jesus Is Born
The Christmas Story