Frankincense, from the Hebrew word pronounced lev-ow-nah, is an odoriferous resin that is obtained from incisions made in the bark of certain types of balsam trees. Numerous references are made to the actual or symbolic usage of it throughout The Bible, both the Old Testament and New Testament. Although originally two distinct substances, frankincense and incense eventually came to be used with the same meaning.
- During Bible History, frankincense was generally imported from Arabia (Isaiah 60:6, Jeremiah 6:20), although it may have also been grown on a smaller scale in Israel (Song of Solomon 4:6,14). It was not the same substance that is available in modern times.
- Frankincense was an ingredient in the holy incense used in The Tabernacle In The Wilderness, and later, the Temple in Jerusalem that was built by Solomon. The specified formula to be used only for that purpose:
"Then The Lord [see Rock Of Ages and The Logos] said to Moses, "Take fragrant spices - gum resin, onycha and galbanum - and pure frankincense, all in equal amounts, and make a fragrant blend of incense, the work of a perfumer. It is to be salted and pure and sacred. Grind some of it to powder and place it in front of the Testimony in the Tent of Meeting, where I will meet with you. It shall be most holy to you. Do not make any incense with this formula for yourselves; consider it holy to The Lord. Whoever makes any like it to enjoy its fragrance must be cut off from his people." (Exodus 30:34-38 NIV)
- The altar of incense was made of acacia wood and overlaid with pure gold. It was situated in the Holy Place near the curtain before the Most Holy Place (see Layout Of Solomon's Temple). The high priest burned incense when he tended the lamps (Exodus 30:1-9).
- Once per year, on The Day Of Atonement, Aaron, or his successors, entered The Most Holy Place and burned incense there before The Ark Of The Covenant which contained The Ten Commandments (Leviticus 16:12-13).
- Frankincense was used in the grain offering (Leviticus 2:1, 2:16, 6:15, 24:7), but was strictly excluded from the sin offering (Leviticus 5:11)
- Incense was used to symbolize or accompany prayer (Psalm 141:2, Luke 1:10, Revelation 5:8, 8:3).
- Frankincense was one of the gifts presented to the newborn Jesus Christ by the Magi (Matthew 2:11-15)
Fact Finder: Besides frankincense, what other gifts were presented to Jesus Christ by the Magi?