Exodus 30:23

23 Take the finest spices: of liquid myrrh five hundred shekels, and of sweet-smelling cinnamon half as much, that is, two hundred fifty, and two hundred fifty of aromatic cane,

Exodus 30:23 Meaning and Commentary

Exodus 30:23

Take thou also unto thee principal spices
To make the anointing oil with, and are as follow:

of pure myrrh five hundred shekels;
it is strange that Saadiah, and so Maimonides F6, should take this for musk, which comes from a beast, and is confuted by Aben Ezra from ( Song of Solomon 5:1 ) from whence it plainly appears to be what comes from a tree; and the word "mor", here used, gives the tree the name of myrrh almost in all languages. And it is justly mentioned first among the chief of spices; since, as Pliny F7 says, none is preferred unto the stacte or liquor that flows from it, that which is pure myrrh, unmixed, unadulterated; or "myrrh of freedom" {h}, which flows freely, either of itself, or, when cut, which is the best; and this was fitly used as a principal ingredient in the anointing oil, since oil was made out of it itself, called oil of myrrh, ( Esther 2:12 ) and as a shekel is generally supposed to weigh half an ounce, the quantity of this to be taken was two hundred and fifty ounces:

and of sweet cinnamon half so much, even two hundred and fifty
or one hundred twenty five ounces: it is here called sweet cinnamon, to distinguish it from that which was not sweet; so Jarchi observes,

``there is one sort that has a good smell and taste, another that has not, but is as wood (common wood), therefore it was necessary to say sweet cinnamon.''

So Pliny F9 speaks of two sorts of it, one whiter, and another blacker; sometimes the white is preferred, and sometimes the black is commended. The cinnamon tree grows in great plenty in the island of Zeilon in India (Ceylon or called Srilanka today, Editor), as Vartomanus

F11 relates, who says it is not much unlike a bay tree, especially the leaves; it beareth berries as does the bay tree, but less and white; it is doubtless no other than the bark of a tree, and gathered in this manner; every third year they cut the branches of the tree--when it is first gathered it is not yet so sweet, but a month after, when it waxeth dry; and with this Pliny F12 agrees, who says it is not odorous while it is green. Pancirollus F13 reckons cinnamon among the things that are lost; and says, that we have no knowledge of the true cinnamon; and reports from Galen, that in his time it was so scarce, that it was rarely found but in the cabinets of emperors. Pliny F14 makes mention of it, as used in ointments:

and of sweet calamus two hundred and fifty [shekels];
or one hundred and twenty five ounces; and this is called sweet, because there is a calamus that is not sweet, as Jarchi; this is the same with the sweet cane from a far country, ( Jeremiah 6:20 ) from India, as is generally thought; but rather perhaps from Sheba, or some part of Arabia; it must be nearer at hand than India, from whence the Israelites had these spices; and Moses is bid to take them, as if they were near indeed; and Pliny speaks of myrrh, and of sweet calamus, as growing in many places of Arabia, and of cinnamon in Syria F15; and Dionysius Periegetes F16 mentions calamus along with frankincense, myrrh, and cassia, and calls it sweet smelling calamus; and so Strabo F17 speaks of cassia and cinnamon as in Arabia Felix; and Diodorus Siculus F18 makes mention of all these in Arabia, and of cassia that follows.

F6 Cele Hamikdash, c. 1. sect. 3.
F7 Nat. Hist. l. 12, 15.
F8 (rwrd rm) "myrrhae libertatis", Montanus, Vatablus; "myrrhae sponte fluentis", Tigurine version.
F9 Ibid. c. 19.
F11 Navigat. l. 6. c. 4.
F12 Ut supra. (Nat. Hist. l. 12, 15.)
F13 Rer. Memorab. sive Deperd. par. 1. tit. 9. p. 28.
F14 Ib. l. 15. c. 7.
F15 Nat. Hist. l. 12. c. 15, 22, 28.
F16 Orb. Descript. l. 937.
F17 Geograph. l. 16. p. 538.
F18 Bibliothec. l. 2. p. 132.

Exodus 30:23 In-Context

21 They shall wash their hands and their feet, so that they may not die: it shall be a perpetual ordinance for them, for him and for his descendants throughout their generations.
22 The Lord spoke to Moses:
23 Take the finest spices: of liquid myrrh five hundred shekels, and of sweet-smelling cinnamon half as much, that is, two hundred fifty, and two hundred fifty of aromatic cane,
24 and five hundred of cassia—measured by the sanctuary shekel—and a hin of olive oil;
25 and you shall make of these a sacred anointing oil blended as by the perfumer; it shall be a holy anointing oil.
New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.