botanical background


order: Sapindales

family: Burseraceae

genus: Commiphora

species: Myrrh (Commiphora myrrha)

attributes: decidous, thorny shrub with leaflets and fruits similar to small olives, fragrant resin

origin: southern Arabia and northern Abessinia, Somalia, shipped to Palestina by Egyptian queen Hatschepsut some time after 1490 BC

habitat: Arabian peninsula, Dschibuti, Eritrea, Kenia, Somalia and Ethiopia


in the Bible

1 Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men came from the east to Jerusalem, 2 saying, Where is He who is born king of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the east and have come to worship Him. 3 But when Herod the king heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. 5 And they said to him, In Bethlehem of Judea. For so it is written by the prophet, 6 "And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are not the least among the governors of Judah. For out of you shall come a Governor who shall rule My people Israel." 7 Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, inquired of them exactly what time the star appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child. And when you have found him, bring me word again so that I may come and worship him also. 9 When they had heard the king, they departed. And lo, the star which they saw in the east went before them until it came and stood over where the child was. 10 And seeing the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. 11 And coming into the house, they saw the child with Mary His mother. And they fell down and worshiped Him. And opening their treasures, they presented gifts to Him, gold and frankincense and myrrh. 12 And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.

Matthew 2,1-12


When speaking of myrrh, talk is usually of the plant's resin. It was associated with multiple attributes - a pleasant scent, eroticising properties and pain-deafening or anti-inflammatory effects. This is why the resin was used as parfume, powder, remedy or incense, both in everyday life and temples. It was additionally part of the holy oil cultic objects and priests were anointed with.

The myrrh plant featured at the beginning and end of the life of Christ. According to the Gospel of Matthew the three magi gave the newborn myrrh, incense and gold as gifts. The Gospel of Matthew (Mk 15,23) on the other hand reports that shortly before his death Christ was offered a potion of myrrh and other ingredients to alleviate his pain. Myrrh was probably also used to soak Christ's winding sheets in it, which is the usual way of burrying a king (2Chr 16,14).

The Hebrew word for myrrh is מֹר (mor), while Greek reads σμύρνα (smyrna).


mentions: several

other text passages (selected):


Genesis 43,11

Exodus 30,22-33

2. Chronikles 16,14

High Song 1,13; 3,6; 4,14; 5,5.13

Psalms 45,9

Proverbs 7,17

Ester 2,12f.

Sirach 24,20

Matthew 2,11

Mark 15,23

John 19, 39f.

Revelation 18,13



Riede, Peter: Myyrhe, in: Das wissenschaftliche Bibellexikon im Internet (Dez. 2015), URL: (abgerufen 06.06.2023).

Modern King James Version.

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© Botanischer Garten, Uni Münster
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