Many people take an interest in the relevance of myrrh in the Bible – so what does myrrh mean?
Let’s take a look.
Song of Solomon 1 v 13
A bundle of myrrh is my beloved to me,
That lies all night between my breasts.
Myrrh is an Arabian gum extracted from the bark of a tree. It is used in sacred oil and perfume. The root word in Hebrew is marar and means bitter. In the scriptures, myrrh is often mentioned when attributing something of bitterness that leads to sweetness. Myrrh has a bitter taste but gives off a sweet aroma.
The production of myrrh as a spice goes through different processes dependent upon how it is to be used. To be utilised for consecration, the myrrh is first crushed, and it is this crushing process which brings out the sweet aroma. Myrrh can also be distilled to extract and purify the liquid into an essential oil.
So for the sweetness to come forth, the myrrh first has to be either crushed or heated.
It is this crushing and heating process that typifies the sufferings that Jesus went through to bring us back to God. Thus He was willing to endure these things because He loved us. (Galatians 2:20)
What bitterness did Christ suffer in his life?
Myrrh was given to Jesus at His birth and at His death. (Mat 2:11; Mark 15:23; and John 19:39) The offering of myrrh indicates the sufferings of Christ that He experienced in His life and in His death.
Jesus was the holy Son of God, and yet Isaiah 53:3 says of Him: He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. Jesus’ whole life was permeated by the same processes that myrrh is put through. For instance, Jesus lived amongst sinners: consider how this vexed His righteous soul on a day to day basis.
Concerning this, contemplate the scripture that informs us how Lot’s righteous soul was troubled by the sin around him.
2 Peter 2:8 (For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds;)
Undoubtedly, in light of this, we must think: How much more was the righteous Son of God distressed by the sin around Him? Yet He willingly suffered.
- Jesus stripped Himself of His glory, accepting the limitations of humanity.
- He experienced the opposition of His own creation, bearing with our sin, despair, rejection and hatred that were shown to Him.
- He wept bitter tears and sweat drops of blood in his anguish before the death of the cross.
- Christ bore the bitterness of the cross, experiencing the full fury of the wrath of God poured out upon Him.
- Christ suffered the most severe temptations that the Kingdom of Darkness threw at Him
- All of this and more. Jesus was opposed and ridiculed by the religious authorities and falsely accused of working under Satan’s power. Constantly under the threat of death, every step he made was scrutinised. In the end, everyone forsook Him and denied they even knew Him.
Yet, He achieved this to bring about the sweetness of forgiveness and resurrection life for all who will put their trust in Him.
The burnt offering
In Leviticus 6:9, we read of the burning of the offering, which was indicative of the suffering that Christ would undergo.
Command Aaron and his sons, saying, This is the law of the burnt offering: It is the burnt offering, because of the burning upon the altar all night unto the morning, and the fire of the altar shall be burning in it.
Psalm 22 speaks openly about the sufferings of Christ as he was being offered as a burnt offering on the cross. We read of His heart being melted like wax, and His strength dried up like a potsherd. This is part of what Christ endured in the suffering of the cross.
What a picture of the suffering of our Saviour. In the heat of affliction, He endured the ‘night’ of His crushing, knowing the burning judgment of God as His soul became an offering for sin. He saw the sweetness that would flow out from His sacrifice, and for that joy that was set before Him, he endured the cross though despising its shame. The night passed, and thus our morning arrived after which the veil was rent in two and the way for sinful man to approach God was opened through Him. This is not only His sweetness but ours too. We have fellowship with the Father and can approach the throne of God. We are forgiven. What glory! What sweetness! Hallelujah!
Joseph was sent to Egypt with myrrh – This was a time of bitterness.
In Genesis 37:25 and in Genesis 43:11, we note the usage of myrrh twice here in the life of Joseph. (It should be noted that the Hebrew for Myrrh in theses 2 verses is the word lot and is most probably laudanum)
When Joseph was sent to Egypt, myrrh is mentioned at this point of his betrayal. There were spices, balm and myrrh carried along with Joseph, down to Egypt by the Ishmaelite’s – thrusting Joseph into the most bitter period of his life. He was sold by His own family and typifies the rejection that Christ suffered from His own people. Thus, John 1:11 says, He came unto his own, and his own received him not. In fact, the life of Joseph is a picture or type of Jesus’ life and experiences.
The next time that myrrh is mentioned with Joseph is when his brothers stand before him when he is second only to Pharaoh. They have in their hand for him amongst other things, myrrh. We reflect that Joseph suffered great affliction in being sold. Yet in his cruel imprisonment, this turns to sweetness. In fulfilment of Joseph’s God-given dreams, he becomes not only a saviour to his family, but to the whole nation of Egypt and the countries round about.
The holy anointing oil
Myrrh was one of the ingredients in the holy anointing oil used to anoint the high priest and his sons (Exodus 30:23). Since Jesus is the Great High Priest, we would expect to find myrrh mentioned as part of His function and responsibility. In this, the scriptures do not disappoint us.
Psalm 45 is well known to be a Messianic psalm. Verses 6 and 7 are quoted in the book of Hebrews regarding Christ. Then we come to verse 8:
All thy garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia, out of the ivory palaces, whereby they have made thee glad.
Why does the garment of the Great High Priest have to smell of myrrh since surely there is no bitterness in Heaven? Well, when we have a question, it is always better to let the scriptures speak for themselves. When Jesus rose from the dead and appeared to His disciples, He still bore the marks of His sacrificial offering.
The book of Revelation informs us that in Heaven, the Lamb of God still bears the marks of crucifixion. (John 20:27 and Revelation 5:6)
It is fitting that the High Priest is anointed with myrrh since, for eternity, we will be reminded of the cost that the Son of God paid for our redemption. Yet note the end of verse Psalm 45 verse 8 – whereby they have made thee glad. Here you see where the sweetness from the suffering of the myrrh leads to. Thank You, Jesus, for all that You have done for us!
Myrrh in the life of the believer
SoS 5:1 (Bridegroom) I am come into my garden my sister, my spouse: I have gathered my myrrh with my spice
5:5 I rose up to open to my beloved; and my hands dropped with myrrh, and my fingers with sweet smelling myrrh, upon the handles of the lock.
Notice in these 2 verses that the bridegroom gathers the myrrh and when the bride responds to Him, myrrh is on her hands, and sweet-smelling myrrh on her fingers. Thus, the myrrh is mirrored in the bride. So, we willingly share in the sufferings of our Lord, and the sweetness of His victory through the cross. Paul, the Apostle, tells us that the church shares in Christ’s sufferings several times in the New Testament.
Matthew 16:24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
Acts 14:22 b …we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.
Paul, the Apostle, said,” I die daily.” (1 Corinthians 15:31).
(2 Corinthians 4:7-11; Galatians 6:17; Philippians 3:10; Acts 14:22)
The church shares the bitterness of Christ’s sufferings, and yet rejoices in the sweetness of His victory. (Romans 8:18; 2 Corinthians 4:6-7)
There will be the night season to endure: but then the glorious dawning of the morning will appear. Yet, in the place of the heated trouble we have to endure, there will be the very presence of the Almighty. And in the future, the present sufferings will seem minuscule before the glory which will be revealed in us. When face to face with Jesus, bitterness will turn to sweetness, like the aroma of sweet-smelling myrrh.
The bridegroom is silent
V 6. I opened to my beloved; but my beloved had withdrawn himself, and was gone: my soul failed when he spake: I sought him, but I could not find him; I called him, but he gave me no answer.
Now we see that at this time when the myrrh is mentioned, the bridegroom seems to have disappeared. When the church suffers, it appears like they are deserted to their enemies. This happened in the New Testament, where Jesus seems not to care if His disciples drown. Nevertheless, His promise always holds true, I will never leave you nor forsake you. You see, God works out His purposes through suffering. He changes our characters, works in us patience and teaches us to trust Him. For us not to lose heart through affliction the scriptures devotes a whole book to the subject of human suffering. Job endured tremendous agony in mind, soul and body. Yet, through it all, he trusted his Creator and came out victorious on the other side. As we endure, let us remember the exhortation of James, when he says, let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. (James 1:4)
A bundle of myrrh
Song of Solomon 1:13
A bundle of myrrh is my well-beloved unto me; he shall lie all night betwixt my breasts.
What we have impressed upon our hearts ( as a pouch of myrrh) is a sense of knowing the love Jesus had for us in that He who knew no sin took our wrongdoings and sin upon His own self: the just for the unjust. This is impressed deep within our hearts and is something close to us and bound up with us.
This bundle is referring to a pouch that tied around a person’s neck and comes from the root word tsarar, which means to be bound up or tied up. Figuratively, it can mean to be tied together with God, as in 1 Samuel 25:29. So, here again, we see a joining together with Christ. For the believer, he or she partakes in this bitterness of the myrrh through suffering so that the life of Jesus can be manifest in them.
We are bound up within our very heart and being with the life of Christ, our Beloved. This pouch of myrrh – this fellowship with Christ in His sufferings and in His glory, means victory worked through us by His love.
Therefore the Christian has seasons where the night has to be faced, knowing that this is just for a season. Psalm 1 tells us to meditate on His law day and night, in times of comfort and in times of adversity. The Hebrew for night here is layil, which means a twisting away from the light. The idea here is that as we twist away into the night, we then, just as surely turn back into the light. We never stay in the night, just as we do not remain in adversity, we have seasons of respite. Take comfort from this if you are going through difficulty now, the Lord will bring you through until one day you stand in His glorious presence in eternal day!
He wants to see the aroma of Christ within each of our lives deepening our love and desire for him. So, the myrrh is all about embracing Christ in whatever circumstance we have to face. We are not to be of the ilk that run and disappear when the first instance of persecution comes, but embrace Him in whatever He sets before us. We suffer with Him: we reign with Him. Hallelujah. (2 Corinthians 4:7-12)
Naomi – call me bitterness
God uses life’s situations to train and purify His people to make them ready for His purposes. The life of Naomi and her daughters-in-law reveal this process throughout the events that occur in their lives. This process advances from bitterness to sweetness, first through the book of Ruth, and then onward to the genealogy of Christ.
Naomi suffers extensive loss with the death of her husband and her sons in the land of Moab. On her return to Israel, one daughter-in-law leaves her to go back to her own people, but Ruth clings to her mother-in-law. When they both return to Bethlehem, she says to no longer call her Naomi – pleasant, but to call her Mara – bitter- (Ruth 1:20) which stems from marar, the root word for myrrh. Nevertheless, the book ends with Ruth’s marriage to Boaz, her kinsman-redeemer. Later on in the scriptures, we see the genealogy of Jesus includes the child brought forth from the union of Boaz and Ruth. There lies the sweetness. God has His plan through the suffering.
Myrrh in Revelation
There is a church in Revelation called Smyrna. This is the Greek word for bitter and is translated as myrrh in Matthew 2:11 (σμύρναν); Mark 15:23 (ἐσμυρνισμένον); and John 19:39 σμύρνης). In chapter 2v 10 of Revelation, we have the bitterness and sweetness relationship once more. The verse starts off with: Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer, and ends with: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.
Myrrh and the false church
In Proverbs 7, we find a lewd woman enticing a man onto a bed of myrrh, aloes and cinnamon. This is a picture of the false church, causing those who go along with her to commit adultery against the living God. Her husband has gone on a long journey, and His rewards are with him. She does not preach the true gospel but entices the unwary with money, fame and worldly goods. Her way leads to death and not life.
Verse 9 says: In the twilight, in the evening, in the black and dark night:
Verse 9 tells us that the woman met her victim in the twilight – in other words, just as the night is starting. This leads to the black and dark night. The black in Hebrew is ‘iyshown and refers to the very blackest part of the night. We then have the word ‘dark’ for dark night. This dark in Hebrew is ‘aphelah and refers to the thick darkness of calamity. Figuratively it can mean evilness. All of the strange woman’s actions are done in the dark, and yet she says she has offered sacrifices (v.14) and has fine linen (v.19)
(See the study on calamus relating to fine linen and the righteous acts of the saints.)
The sweet smell of myrrh without the bitterness
Notice how, in verse Proverbs 7:17, only the sweet smell of myrrh is mentioned. You see, the false church knows nothing of the other side of myrrh, the suffering and death before the sweetness. She wants all the blessings: the sweetness of myrrh without the pain of bitterness and death that must come first. Here is a false love, a fake woman leading the way to hell and the chambers of death. Her apostles, prophets and teachers are false. Oh yes, she sounds smooth, glitters and smells sweet, but her roads lead to death. Stay away from the false church – she cannot lead you to life because she will not deny herself.
Bound up with Christ
So the myrrh speaks to us of walking the narrow path with our Saviour. Our feet have to tread where His have already trod. We are bound up with Him in His suffering, as we partake in the hatred that this world shows towards our Lord. This suffering for the Lord leads to the aroma of Christ shining out of our lives for His glory.
Does this mean that we should seek out suffering for our Lord? Certainly not, since the Lord told us to flee persecution, but where we find ourselves in an unavoidable encounter with suffering, we can endure, knowing that joy comes in the morning!
Scripture quotations are taken from the KJV and NKJV. Strong’s Concordance and https://www.blueletterbible.org/ have been used in the preparation of this Bible study.