Tag Archives: myrrh

Fragrant Reflections

This is the third article of our Living Tabernacles series, where we study the Tabernacle in depth. It is exciting to see how each element symbolizes some characteristic of Yeshua.  It is also more challenging when we examine what each element means for us, since each of us is now a living tabernacle of YHVH.  We are posting two articles each month as part of this series.

In the first article in this series, Nancy studied the significance of the metals used in the Tabernacle.  In the second article she examined the items YHVH specified in Exodus 25:4-5 as materials to construct and cover the Tabernacle.  In this article we will cover the oil and spices to be used for the anointing oil and the incense in the Tabernacle.

In Exodus 25:6, Abba tells Moshe that they are to gather from the people…”olive oil for the lamps; spices for the anointing oil and the fragrant incense”.  Later on, in Exodus 27:20, YHVH tells Moshe: “Command the people of Israel to bring you pure oil of pressed (beaten or pounded) olives for the light, to keep it burning continually”.  Yeshua is continuously our pure Light.  When we think of Yeshua as the Light of the world, and His command to us to shine that light throughout the world, then we can see how important it is to keep that light shining through us 24/7.

In Exodus 30:23-24 YHVH provides details of the ingredients and preparation for the anointing oil listed in Exodus 25, and how it is to be prepared – He says to Moshe: “Collect choice spices—12 1⁄2 pounds of pure myrrh, 6 1⁄4 pounds of fragrant cinnamon, 6 1⁄4 pounds of fragrant calamus, and 12 1⁄2 pounds of cassia—as measured by the weight of the sanctuary shekel. Also get one gallon of olive oil”. In Verse 25, He then explains how these ingredients are to be mixed together: “Like a skilled incense maker, blend these ingredients to make a holy anointing oil”.  Note that YHVH has added yet another qualification to the anointing oil – as I highlighted in the last verse, it is referred to as a “holy anointing oil”.  This tells us that it is to be set apart and made in a very special way compared to all other oils, such as the oil for the lamps.  Yeshua baptizes us with the anointing oil of the Holy Spirit.

Let us look at the spices to be used in the anointing oil in more detail:

  • Myrrh is a pale yellow gummy substance extracted from a small thorny shrub, typically used in spices and ointments. It is very costly and is known to be purifying to the body, and has a pleasant fragrance.
  • Fragrant cinnamon oil is distilled from the bark of a special type of cinnamon tree. It is very tasty and is often used to flavor food because of its pleasant aroma.
  • Fragrant (or sweet) calamus is a tall wetland plant with scented leaves – it is a fragrant cane whose root is highly prized as a spice. When it is crushed, it exudes a sweet fragrance. The more it is broken and crushed, the more of the fragrance that is exuded. In its spiritual application, the calamus speaks to us of brokenness, and reminds us that Yeshua was crushed and broken for us.  There are times in our lives when we must be crushed or broken in order to be purified.
  • Cassia comes from the aromatic bark of a Middle Eastern tree, and represents the true humility of anointed worship. It is sometimes used as a natural medicine. Cassia is derived from the Hebrew root “quadad”, meaning to bend or bow. This can be seen to represent us as God’s people, who are to bow down in humility before the strong hand of God (1 Pet. 5:6).
  • The main ingredient by volume in the Holy Anointing Oil is olive oil, which has both secular and sacred purposes. The olive tree is very important in secular life for cooking, cosmetics and soaps, and as a fuel for oil lamps. The olive tree has been a symbol of peace and prosperity since the time the dove returned to Noah’s Ark with an olive branch.

Let us now take a look at the spices YHVH specified to be used in the Tabernacle:

  • When Frankincense is burned it emits a fragrant odor, and hence the incense became a symbol of the Divine name (Malachi 1:11) and an emblem of prayer (Psalm 141:2; Luke 1:10; Revelation 5:8; 8:3).
  • Stacte is generally understood to be the purest kind of myrrh; and as the Hebrew name implies a drop, it would seem to refer to this type of myrrh as dropping from the tree of its own accord, without any cutting. This makes me think of Yeshua’s precious teardrops of blood in Gethsemane.
  • Onycha: Hebrew shechelet is thought to be the resin from a Mediterranean shrub that has been used for medicines and sweet perfumes for hundreds of years.
  • Galbanum: this rather foul-odored spice, when mixed with all the other spices, produces a perfect mixture for the incense. An ancient story tells of a perfumer who experimented with the biblical incense recipe and discovered that when the galbanum was left out of the mixture, the other ingredients still produced a pleasant fragrance. However, when the galbanum was added, something quite wonderful happened chemically: “the full mixture of the spices, including the foul galbanum, smelled infinitely more delicious than the mixture without galbanum”. The experiment showed that the galbanum transformed the sweet spices to produce the most beautiful incense possible. In the same way, as saved believers, we are transformed through the cleansing of our “foul” sins into beautiful children of God.

It is wonderful that YHVH explained to His people the precious spices they were to gather and use in the holy anointing oil and the incense, but we need to always remember that our obedience to Him is the sweetest aroma we can sacrifice to Him (1 Sam 15:22).  Our prayers are the most powerful incense we can offer up to YHVH (Rev 5:8).

The holy anointing oil that was to be used in the tabernacle can also be related to the oil of the Holy Spirit, flowing through our own tabernacles, purifying us and making us holy to stand before YHVH in His heavenly Tabernacle.  Let us welcome the oil of the Holy Spirit to keep our bodies and souls pure and set apart from the lusts of the world, such as power, greed, arrogance, hostility and envy.  We are called to be set apart to be with YHVH for all of our days, both here on Earth and forever in Heaven.

A Pleasing Fragrance

aroma pleasing to GodIn Exodus 30:34-38, YHVH instructs Moses concerning the incense that is to be made for YHVH’s altar. This incense was to be used solely for YHVH and not for anyone else. Each of the ingredients has much significance for us, both spiritually and physically.

The first ingredient mentioned is stacte, which is a product of myrrh. Modern authorities believe that the stacte was taken from other sources, but ancient authorities equate stacte with myrrh.  It seems more likely that the stacte YHVH intended was from myrrh because of its spiritual significance in Scripture. The wise men offered myrrh to Yeshua as a child (Matt 2:11) and Nicodemus supplied a mixture of myrrh and aloes for Yeshua’s burial (John 19:39). When Yeshua returns, Psalm 45:8 tells us that His robes will be scented with myrrh, aloes, and cassia (cinnamon).

The Hebrew word for stacte is nataph. Both words mean drop or tear. The resin is naturally produced, but sometimes the plant is bruised In order to release more resin. To obtain stacte, the bark of the tree must be cut. The resin is placed in a container and hot water is poured over it. Lumps of myrrh resin and oil sink to the bottom and the water is drained off. Stacte is the liquid taken from within the lumps of myrrh. The lumps must be broken in order to obtain the stacte.

Since ancient times, myrrh has been used in salves for cuts and sores, in rejuvenating facial creams, and in perfumes. Today, myrrh can be found in toothpastes, creams and cosmetics, and is recommended for healing a variety of illnesses including digestive disorders, arthritic pain, and regeneration of healthy cells, to name a few.

The second ingredient is onycha, a Greek word meaning fingernail or claw. The Hebrew word is shecheleth, which means “to roar as a lion”. The root of the Hebrew word means to exude a fragrance. Once again, there are various opinions as to the source of onycha, but the most likely seems to be a type of rock rose. The flower petals resemble a human fingernail that has been painted red.   The twigs and roots of the rock rose are still used for medicinal purposes.

The third ingredient is galbanum, a gum resin with a musky odor. The resin comes in either lumps or tears and has a bitter taste. Both Hippocrates and Pliny extolled its medicinal qualities. Pliny asserted that “the very touch of it mixed with oil of spondylium is sufficient to kill a serpent.”

The final ingredient for the incense is pure frankincense, another aromatic resin. It is produced by slashing the bark in a process called “striping”. The hardened resins are called tears. The Boswellia sacra trees that produce frankincense are able to live in harsh, unforgiving environments and can even grow out of solid rock. The Hebrew word for frankincense is lebonah, which means “white”. YHVH commanded that frankincense be included in the grain offerings (Lev. 2:1) and meat offerings (Lev 2:15). A very pure type of frankincense known as lebonah zakkah in Hebrew, was to be presented with the showbread (Lev 24:7).

Just as Yeshua shed His blood for our healing and restoration, the sap in the tree or shrub produces the resins that are so healing for us.  The sap is the “lifeblood” of the tree or shrub.  Yeshua only is pure enough to be our perfect sacrifice, even more pure than the purest frankincense.  Sap or resin leaks out only when a tree is damaged or cut, just as Yeshua’s blood was released during His suffering and crucifixion.  We can readily see how each ingredient in the incense points to Yeshua’s most precious sacrifice on our behalf. The incense was to be used only for YHVH just as Yeshua alone was worthy to be our sacrifice. Yeshua’s sacrifice is the most pleasing odor to YHVH, the most perfect expression of love.

What does this mean for us? We see that the ingredients of this most sacred incense glorify Yeshua and point to His precious work of redemption. We are restored to YHVH and healed in body and soul. In Yeshua’s righteousness, we can offer ourselves as living sacrifices to YHVH (Rom 12:1).   We too can be pleasing fragrances to YHVH.