These are often described as kingly gifts, and they are, but they are not all that rare. “Frankincense and myrrh were fragrant spices and perfumes equally appropriate for such adoration and worship” (Blomberg, Matthew, 65). Often frankincense and myrrh are associated with burial (myrrh was used in embalming until the fifteenth century), but they are also associated with the anointing of a king. They would be gifts typically given at the birth of the son of a great king.
What would a poor family do with such gifts? The deist Thomas Woolston mocked this story by saying that if they had brought sugar, soap, and candles they would have acted like wise men.”
A better way of looking at the gifts is to see them in the light of two Old Testament texts which anticipate the coming messiah. Both Isaiah 60 and Psalm 72 look forward to the restoration…
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