According to the Gospel of Saint Matthew, the magi brought gold, frankincense, and myrrh as expensive gifts to the young Jesus. Have you ever wondered why the gifts consisted of gold, frankincense, and myrrh?
These valuable items were standard gifts to honor a king or deity in the ancient world: gold as a precious metal, frankincense as perfume or incense, and myrrh as anointing oil. In fact, these same three items were apparently among the gifts, recorded in ancient inscriptions, that King Seleucus II Callinicus offered to the god Apollo at the temple in Miletus in 243 B.C. The Book of Isaiah, when describing Jerusalem’s glorious restoration, tells of nations and kings who will come and “bring gold and frankincense and shall proclaim the praise of the Lord” (Isaiah 60:6).
In addition to the honor and status implied by the value of the gifts of the magi, scholars think that these three were chosen for their special spiritual symbolism about Jesus Himself—gold representing his kingship, frankincense a symbol of his priestly role, and myrrh a prefiguring of his death and burial preparations.