The Gifts Of Prophesy

The Three Magi, Byzantine mosaic c.565, Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo, Ravenna, Italy (restored 18th century).

Prophesy is uaually referred to as a gift, not gifts, and no I did not make a grammatical mistake in my title. Keep going, you’ll see why.

What we think of as prophesy is usually intangible, a thought, an idea, a message, perhaps in the form of a vision or dream given to a single person, the prophet. There is, however, at least one recorded instance in The Bible where prophesy is given in physical form, by multiple, tangible gifts, hence my title. Maybe there is more than one instance, I only know of one.

It is conceivable that the givers of the gifts were unaware of their prophetic nature. If you have not already guessed, I am referring to the gifts of the three wise men to the baby Jesus shortly after his birth. The Magi from the east brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

I have not always understood the significance of these particular gifts, but now know that in Jesus’ time they had some particular meanings or were used for specific things.

Gold is probably the easiest to discern the significance of. It is the most precious of metals and represents kingship. Although it is often said that three kings visited the baby Jesus, the Bible refers only to magi, or wise men, so we can infer that the gold represented a prophesy of Jesus’ kingship.

Frankincense is a kind of resin, extracted from tree sap. It is burned like incense, for it’s fragrance. It would have been burned in the temples by the priests. So the second prophetic gift represented Jesus priesthood.

Finally myrrh. Like frankincense, is extracted from tree sap. Also like frankincense it can be used as perfume or incense. Myrrh also had another use, i was used to anoint, or embalm dead bodies. Luke tells us in his gospel that on the third day after Jesus crucifixion, when the women went to the tomb early in the morning, probably at daybreak, they were taking prepared spices. Although not explicitly stated, it is likely myrrh would have been included. The third prophetic gift then portends the Christ child’s crucifixion.

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