What If the Gold Given by the Magi to the Infant Jesus Were a Liquid, Not a Metal?

Would it make sense if the gold given to the infant Jesus had been the oil of the “Balsam Plant” as it is called in The Bible? Let’s consider the gifts the Three Wise Men, (Magi) or the Three Kings brought to Jesus.

Gold was thought to symbolize the wealth of earthly kings, which befitted Jesus, but the other two gifts were of a much more spiritual nature. Frankincense was used as incense and myrrh was used in the embalming process. They have been thought to symbolize the priestly nature of Jesus (frankincense because of its use as incense) and myrrh, also used together with frankincense for incense as well as for embalming, which has been said to symbolize Jesus death. Some scholars have said that the myrrh also showed that Jesus’ kingship and priesthood would continue after his death. But what if the gold were golden oil; the one used to anoint the kings of Israel?

In 1989 on February 16th Joel Brinkley in The New York Times wrote an article “Balsam Oil of Israelite Kings Found in Cave near Dead Sea.” This oil was found to be at least 2000 years old, and was believed by archaeologists to be the balsam oil of the Bible, which had been used to anoint kings. What is more, this oil had been more expensive than gold in the ancient world and, along with frankincense and myrrh, was one of the most expensive commodities.

Wouldn’t this have been a more appropriate gift for Jesus in more ways than one? All the gifts would have been fit for a king, and been the most expensive money could buy at that time.

Academics had long wondered what balsam oil was and the answer was given after the analysis of the oil that had been well-hidden and sealed in the cave near the Dead Sea. It was the oil from a long extinct ancient persimmon tree, not the Balm of Gilead which had grown around the towns of En Gedi and Jericho. That had been heavily guarded and would also have been very expensive in the ancient world, but as it grew near the area where Jesus was born, it wouldn’t have been the oil given to him by the magi who had “Travelled afar” (in the words of the Christmas carol bearing their name).They would have wanted to give him a rare, expensive thing which came from their lands or at least, not from his land. Even the Balm of Gilead would have been a rich golden colour, though and worthy of a king. It was used for its medicinal properties for healing wounds and stopping the spread of gangrene.

When archaeologists excavated the village of En Gedi where balm of Gilead was produced, they discovered that it had been heavily fortified and on the mosaic floor of the nave of a synagogue they found this warning: – “Whoever reveals the secret of the village to the gentiles, the one whose eyes roam over the entire earth and see what is concealed will uproot the person and his seed from under the sun.” Even this oil would have been more precious than gold and as it had wound healing properties, would have been a more appropriate gift for the infant Jesus perhaps.

So perhaps we should reconsider their old story in the light of new findings. Many times old translations, which is the case of the King James’ version of the Bible, transferred the beliefs and value systems of their times into their translations. For the translator of the Bible where we find this story, gold would have been the most valuable commodity, not golden oil. The translator might not have readily connected the idea of anointing oil for kings, with the text he was translating.