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The English word perfume is derived from two Latin words, per, meaning through, and fumus, meaning smoke (the English words fuming and fumes, meaning burning and smoking, are from the same "fume" as in perfume). While perfume literally means through the smoke, it has come to mean "a pleasant cosmetic fragrance." Although ancient people used "perfume" in various forms, the Hebrew word of the Scriptures, pronounced cet-oh-reth, that is often translated as "perfume," also means smoke, or more specifically, sweet smoke (i.e. incense). Other non-burning "perfumes," from flowers and spices, were however known and used by the people of Bible History.

"Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart"

The perfume used for worship at the Tabernacle and Temple was a specific blend of spices and frankincense that was to be used for no other purpose.


"And The Lord [see YHVH, Adonai, Jehovah, LORD] said unto Moses [see also The Education Of Moses], Take unto thee sweet spices, stacte, and onycha, and galbanum; these sweet spices with pure frankincense: of each shall there be a like weight: And thou shalt make it a perfume, a confection after the art of the apothecary, tempered together, pure and holy: And thou shalt beat some of it very small, and put of it before the testimony in the tabernacle of the congregation, where I will meet with thee: it shall be unto you most holy."

"And as for the perfume which thou shalt make, ye shall not make to yourselves according to the composition thereof: it shall be unto thee holy for The Lord. Whosoever shall make like unto that, to smell thereto, shall even be cut off from his people." (Exodus 30:34-38 KJV)

The connection to perfume (the "fume" of perfume) and smoke is plainly stated in the Scriptures:

"Who is this that cometh out of the wilderness like pillars of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and frankincense, with all powders of the merchant?" (Song of Solomon 3:6 KJV)

Other non-smoke "perfumes" were known and used however:

"Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart." (Proverbs 27:9 KJV)

"I have decked my bed with coverings of tapestry, with carved works, with fine linen of Egypt. I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon." (Proverbs 7:16-17 KJV)

The perfume use of myrrh and aloes as stated above can also be found in the preparation of Christ's body for burial.

"And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight."

"Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes [see also Shroud Of Turin: A Miraculous Fake?] with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury" (John 19:39-40 KJV)

Fact Finder: Just before His crucifixion, did a friend of Jesus Christ anoint Him with an ointment from which "the house was filled with the fragrance" (RSV)?
John 12:3; see also Ointment

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