Wise Men Brought Gifts: What Do the Gifts Mean?

Now that Christmas has passed, many have asked why the Wise Men mentioned in Matthew 2 brought gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh? Before we get into the reasons, let’s look at the Scripture.

Matthew 2: 1-12

“Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:

“‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
    are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
    who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11 And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. 12 And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.”

Let us look at who these wise men were? According to R.C. Sproul, “the wise men were not kings but priests or court advisers, like Joseph or Daniel. They were called Magi and were most likely from Mesopotamia which is a region of ancient Babylon which is modern day Iraq. Other locations of Palestine have also been suggested. There are numerous accounts of ancient astrologers interpreting astronomical phenomena as heralding the birth of kings.”[1]

These men saw the star which may have been a planetary conjunction, supernova, or something purely supernatural. This reference of a star alludes to the star of Jacob from Numbers 24:17, “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near: a star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel; it shall crush the forehead of Moab and break down all the sons of Sheth.” The prophet that wrote this from Numbers 24:17 was that of the Gentile Balaam.

The story speaks of Herod summoning these wise men to come to him and tell about this new king so that he may worship him as well. Herod had other plans and was very insecure in his kingship. The wise men went on and saw the star over Bethlehem and entered the house where Jesus was and fell on their knees and worshipped Him. The Scripture says that they opened their treasures and gave Him gold, frankincense, and myrrh. These items were very expensive and only the rich would have them. The gold was given as a symbol of kingship on the earth. Frankincense which is an incense was given as a symbol of deity. Myrrh, which is an embalming oil was given as a symbol of death.

These Magi knew that Jesus was the Christ child, the Savior of the world. They brought these gifts as inspired by the Holy Spirit because of what Jesus would ultimately go through as the Son in which God sacrificed for the redemption of our sins.

Christmas is about the virgin birth of God’s Son, Jesus, but He is no longer in a cradle in a manger. Jesus grew up to be the salvation of the world. In John 3:16-17, it reads, “16 “For God so loved the world,[a] that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” God did not send His Son into the world to condemn it, but that everyone in the world might be saved from hell through belief in Jesus, the Christ.

Jesus took all our sin, our evil, our wrong doing, our adultery, our fornication, our theft, our lies, our guilt… He took it all on his back when He was scourged and was beaten almost to death. Each strike on His back was for our sins. He carried that cross beam up the hill to Golgotha, which is also called Calvary. For every nail driven through His hands and feet, our sins did that to Him. He died an agonizing death and His side was pierced for our redemption!

I can only imagine that once He was dead and they removed Him from that cross, they took His body to the tomb which was donated to the family. The people who prepared His body most likely used that very same myrrh to anoint His body and bury Him in the grave.

But that is not the end of the story. After three days in that tomb, he rose from the grave. There are multiple confirmed eyewitness accounts, both Biblically as well as in other non-Biblical manuscripts from that era.

Jesus said, I am the way, the truth, and the life; NO ONE comes to the Father except through ME!” – John 14:6

Are you still looking for Jesus? He is waiting for you to come to Him. Just invite Him into your heart and He will enter it. I pray that you will find the living Savior, Jesus Christ this coming year.

Copyright © December 27, 2019. Marketplace Evangelism Today, a publication of Marketplace Evangelism Ministries Inc. All Rights Reserved.


[1] RC Sproul, Ed. The Reformation Study Bible (Reformation Trust: Orlando, FL, 2015), 1673.

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