Bible Gardening with Myrrh
We may never determine which plant is the holiest in the Bible, but myrrh surely stands high in that pantheon.
The three kings presented to the baby Jesus and His family the most precious gifts they could envision: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Matthew 2:11 is one of the most loved Bible verses, describing how the Magi, or "wise men from the East," traveled to Bethlehem to greet the Christ child, the newborn "King of the Jews." Their gift of myrrh symbolized Christ's ability to heal.
Two of the three gifts the wise men offered are derived from plants that we can grow in our gardens today. Myrrh is created from the sap or resin that oozes from the bark of the Commiphora myrrha plant. The sap is scraped from the plant, and when it is dry it can be burned as incense or used in medicine, in perfume, and for embalming.
Myrrh was burned as incense in the temple in Jerusalem in Bible times, in the innermost sanctuary where only the priest was allowed. Luke 1:10 speaks of the congregation praying outside of the inner sanctuary "at the time of incense" (KJV). Myrrh was burned each day in the temple as part of the morning and the evening services.
Its beautiful fragrance is attested to in the many mentions of myrrh being compared to loved ones in the Song of Solomon. In Song of Solomon 1:13 a young girl speaks of her beloved as "a bundle of myrrh," and 5:5 and 5:13 describe "sweet smelling myrrh" (KJV).
As written in John 19:38-39, upon the death of Jesus, Joseph of Arimathea was given permission to take Jesus' body to a tomb. John 19:39 describes how Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes weighing 75 pounds to the tomb of Jesus. Following the Jewish burial custom they wrapped Jesus' body in linen with the myrrh and aloes.
A second plant, Commiphora katef, is sometimes translated as myrrh and also has a gummy resin, which was called myrrh in ancient times. Both of these plants have sharp thorns and grow in hot arid lands in North Africa and in Arabia.
The myrrh plant, rarely grown in the United States and hard to find here, can be obtained through a determined search on the Internet or by asking your local nursery owner to find you a myrrh plant for your Bible garden.
Imagine the thrill of children when they enter your garden and see a myrrh plant and its sap, which emerges in droplets from the bark and sets there. For a fun project they can scrape the resin off the plant and allow it to dry, and then as a family activity you can burn it as pure, natural incense.
The best time to locate myrrh plants is during the Christmas season. A few nurseries sell them because myrrh was one of the gifts the three wise men brought to the Christ child.
If we carefully seek to follow Christ, obeying Him and allowing the Holy Spirit to exert control over our thoughts, words, and actions, then we will also be able to represent Christ to those who are perishing in their sins.