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Myrrh

MYRRH

mur:

(1) (mor or mowr; Arabic murr]):

This substance is mentioned as valuable for its perfume (Psalms 45:8; Proverbs 7:17; Song of Solomon 3:6; 4:14), and as one of the constituents of the holy incense (Exodus 30:23; see also Song of Solomon 4:6; 5:1,5,13). Mor is generally identified with the "myrrh" of commerce, the dried gum of a species of balsam (Balsamodendron myrrha). This is a stunted tree growing in Arabia, having a light-gray bark; the gum resin exudes in small tear-like drops which dry to a rich brown or reddish-yellow, brittle substance, with a faint though agreeable smell and a warm, bitter taste. It is still used as medicine (Mark 15:23). On account, however, of the references to "flowing myrrh" (Exodus 30:23) and "liquid myrrh" (Song of Solomon 5:5,13), Schweinfurth maintains that mor was not a dried gum but the liquid balsam of Balsamodendron opobalsamum.

See BALSAM.

Whichever view is correct, it is probable that the smurna, of the New Testament was the same. In Matthew 2:11 it is brought by the "Wise men" of the East as an offering to the infant Saviour; in Mark 15:23 it is offered mingled with wine as an anesthetic to the suffering Redeemer, and in John 19:39 a "mixture of myrrh and aloes" is brought by Nicodemus to embalm the sacred body.

(2) (loT, stakte; translated "myrrh" in Genesis 37:25, margin "ladanum"; 43:11):

The fragrant resin obtained from some species of cistus and called in Arabic ladham, in Latin ladanum. The cistus or "rock rose" is exceedingly common all over the mountains of Palestine (see BOTANY), the usual varieties being the C. villosus with pink petals, and the C. salviaefolius with white petals. No commerce is done now in Palestine in this substance as of old (Genesis 37:25; 43:11), but it is still gathered from various species of cistus, especially C. creticus in the Greek Isles, where it is collected by threshing the plants by a kind of flail from which the sticky mass is scraped off with a knife and rolled into small black balls. In Cyprus at the present time the gum is collected from the beards of the goats that browse on these shrubs, as was done in the days of Herodotus iii.112).

E. W. G. Masterman


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Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. "Entry for 'MYRRH'". "International Standard Bible Encyclopedia". 1915.