My beloved is to me a pouch of myrrh
Which lies all night between my breasts.
If you stop the man on the street and ask him, “what is myrrh?” most likely he will think you are trying to think of how to ask your question. Myrrh is not a common product today.
Anyone brought up in a society that reads the actual Christmas story will know that Jesus received it as a gift from a stranger from afar. And you might have a sense that with this myrrh comes a strange foreboding.
But that is about as far as our understanding of this ancient spice goes.
Myrrh is only mentioned 16 or 18 times in the Bible, depending on your translation. Eight of them are right here in our Song. Clearly it is a significant picture in this song, so I want to develop it a bit.
Here is what we know:
It is very precious.
When Jacob (now Israel) was preparing a gift for the Egyptian ruler (his son Joseph) who held Benjamin captive, myrrh was among the precious cargo.
Then their father Israel said to them, “If it must be so, then do this: take some of the best products of the land in your bags, and carry down to the man as a present, a little balm and a little honey, aromatic gum and myrrh, pistachio nuts and almonds. (Genesis 43:11 NASB)
Myrrh was an ingredient in the anointing oil God described to Moses when he was setting up the tabernacle as described in Exodus 30:23.
In the New Testament we only have 3 or 4 mentions of the spice.
First, at Jesus Birth Matthew 2:11 tells us that Jesus was given Myrrh at his birth by one of the eastern visitors. Most say that this gift to Jesus was pointing to the death He was born for.
Mark tells us (15:23) that while on the cross they offered Jesus wine mixed with Myrrh to drink, but He refused it.
Finally John tells us in 19:39 the Nicodemus brought 100 pounds of Myrrh and Aloe to prepare Jesus for His burial.
It was commonly used as a burial spice due to the strong scent, but only by the rich due to its extravagant expense.
In the Song we will consider it as a symbol of death, either the death of Christ on the cross for us, or our own daily death of self-denial as we walk out our fellowship in His suffering.
In today’s word picture, our maiden is wearing the myrrh between her breasts, resting upon her heart.
The idea here is that we are rescued by the love that drove Jesus to the cross, and so we wear the symbol of that death close to our heart.
Many today wear a cross of polished gold upon their heart. Some as a fashion statement, some as a religious artifact, but still many because of the reminder of Christ’s horrible death and magnificent resurrection.
This bundle of myrrh is a similar reminder of Christ’s sacrifice, but it carries with it that aroma, the sweet savor of His sacrifice always surrounding us.
Just as Jesus carried to the cross the scent of the spikenard with which Mary washed His feet, so the fragrance of myrrh would go with Him into his tomb. These two wonderful fragrances can only lead us to the high water mark of Christ’s love for us, the wonderful Cross.
More on the song next week.