This woody perennial tree or shrub is native to northeast Africa and the Arabian peninsula and is a member of the Torchwood family, Burseraceae, that also includes frankincense. Plants may be short and spiny with small leaves or up to 9′ tall, unarmed, and with large leaves, depending on the avaiablity of rain.  The trunk is stout and carries many branches that are at right angles and may end in sharp spines.  The outer bark is silvery to gray and oozes a pleasant smelling resin when it exfoliates.  The resin is highly valued for its use in cosmetics,medicines,  insect repellents, and embalming compounds.    The glossy green leaves are hairless, roughly toothed, and pinnately compound usually with oval leaflets.  Small yellow-red  female and male flowers are carried on stalks, female flowers singly,male flowers in clusters.  The small brown fruit is oval, flattened, and has a tapered point. Photo Credit Wikipedia

Genesis 37:25 (NIV) The sons of Jacob met together to discuss their plan to get rid of their father’s favorite son Joseph who they had cast into a pit.

“As they sat down to eat their meal, they looked up and saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead. Their camels were loaded with spices, balm and myrrh, and they were on their way to take them down to Egypt.”

Genesis 43:11  (NIV) Jacob told his sons to take myrrh along with other valued items to Egypt to trade for grain.

“Then their father Israel said to them, “If it must be, then do this: Put some of the best products of the land in your bags and take them down to the man as a gift—a little balm and a little honey, some spices and myrrh, some pistachio nuts and almonds.”

Exodus 30:23 (NIV) God gave Moses directions for making a holy oinment oil to anoint the tabernacle of the congregation.

 “Take the following fine spices: 500 shekels of liquid myrrh, half as much (that is, 250 shekels) of fragrant cinnamon, 250 shekels of fragrant calamus,”

Esther 2:12  (NIV) Young virgins were collected from all over the kingdom, brought to the place of the king and prepared for presentation to King Xerxes.

“Before a young woman’s turn came to go in to King Xerxes, she had to complete twelve months of beauty treatments prescribed for the women, six months with oil of myrrh and six with perfumes and cosmetics.”

Psalm 45:8  (NIV) The psalm was written on the occassion of a royal wedding.  The myrrh, alloe, and cassia provided fragrance for weddings as well as burials.

“All your robes are fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia; from palaces adorned with ivory the music of the strings makes you glad.”

Proverbs 7:17 (NIV)  Solomon warns about the dangers of an adulterous woman who uses her tricks to seduce a young man.

“I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes and cinnamon.”

Song of Songs  Also called the Song of Solomon, and Canticle of Canticles, this poem is about the spiritual and sexual love between one man and one woman and describes courtship and marriage customs of the times.  Although it is sensual it is also interpreted in religious terms as the relationship between God and Israel, or as an allegory of Christ and his bride, the Church.

Song of Songs 1:13  (NIV) The woman recalls a visit with her lover.

My beloved is to me a sachet of myrrh resting between my breasts.

Song of Songs 3:6 (NIV) A wedding procession is described.

 “Who is this coming up from the wilderness like a column of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and incense made from all the spices of the merchant?”

Song of Songs 4:6 (NIV) After describing his lover’s beauty the man echoes the words of his beloved.

 “Until the day breaks and the shadows flee, I will go to the mountain of myrrh and to the hill of incense.”

Song of Songs 4:14  (NIV) The man describes the garden of he beloved.

“nard and saffron, calamus and cinnamon, with every kind of incense tree, with myrrh and aloes and all the finest spices.”

Song of Songs 5:1  (NIV) The description of the garden continues and the complete union of the couple is suggested.

“I have come into my garden, my sister, my bride; I have gathered my myrrh with my spice. I have eaten my honeycomb and my honey; I have drunk my wine and my milk. Eat, friends, and drink; drink your fill of love.”

Song of Songs 5:5  (NIV) The bride describes how she anticipates coming together with her bridgroom.

“I arose to open for my beloved, and my hands dripped with myrrh, my fingers with flowing myrrh, on the handles of the bolt.”

Songs of Songs 5:13  (NIV) The bride describes her groom.

“His cheeks are like beds of spice yielding perfume. His lips are like lilies dripping with myrrh.”

Mathew 2:11 (NIV) The Magi reach the place where Jesus was born.

“On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.”

Mark 15:23  (NIV)  The soldiers offer Jesus myrrh in wine just before he is crucified on the cross.

“Then they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it.”

John 19:39 (NIV) The followers of Jesus prepared His body for burial using myrrh and aloes to cover up the smell of the decaying body.

“He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds.”

Revelation 18:13 (NIV) An angel predicts the doom of Babylon including the cessation of trade.

[there will no longer be]” cargoes of cinnamon and spice, of incense, myrrh and frankincense, of wine and olive oil, of fine flour and wheat; cattle and sheep; horses and carriages; and human beings sold as slaves.”

Myrrh tree can be grown in full sun and average to lean, dry, well-drained soil in USDA Hardiness zones 10-11.

The genus name, Commiphora comes from the Greek words kommi meaning gum, and phoros meaning carry and refers to the resin derived from the plant.  The specific epithet, abyssinic, honors Absynnia, now Ethiopia, part of the natural habitat of the plant.

By Karen