Myrrh is the rendering in the Auth. Ver. of two Heb. and one Gr. term. 'The following account is a collective view of the subject:
1. מֹר or מוֹר, mnor, σμύρνα, doubtless from a Shemitic root (signifying to flow, or else from another expressive of its bitterness), though some of the ancients traced it to the mythological Myrrha, daughter of Cinvras, king of Cyprus, who fled to Arabia, and was changed into this tree (Ovid, Art. Am. 1:288). Myrrh formed an article of the earliest commerce, and was highly esteemed by the Egyptians and Jews, as well as by the Greeks and Romans (Pliny, 13:2; Athen. 15:688; Dioscor. 1:73), as it still is both in the East and in Europe. The earliest notice of it occurs in Ex 30:23, "Take thou also unto thee principal spices, of pure myrrh five hundred shekels." It is afterwards mentioned in Es 2:12, as employed in the purification of women; in Ps 45:8, as a perfume, "All thy garments smell of myrrh and aloes and cassia;" also in several passages of the Song of Solomon, "I will get me to the mountain of myrrh, and to the hill of frankincense" (4:6); "My hands dropped with myrrh, and my fingers with sweet smelling myrrh" (5, .); so in verse 13, in both which passages, according to Rosenmuller, it is profluent myrrh. We find it mentioned in Mt 2:11 among the gifts presented by the wise men of the East to the infant Jesus, "gold and frankincense and myrrh." It may be remarked as worthy of notice that myrrh and frankincense are frequently mentioned together. In Mr 15:23 we learn that the Roman soldiers "gave him (Jesus) to drink wine mingled with myrrh, but he received it not" (see Hutten, De potu felleo, etc. [Guben. 1671]; Pipping, De potu Christo prodromo [Leips. 1688]). SEE GALL. The apostle John (Joh 19:39) says, "Then came also Nicodemus, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred-pound weight." for the purpose of embalming the body of our Saviour. Herodotus (3:107) mentions Arabia as the last inhabited country towards the south which produced frankincense, myrrh, etc.; Theophrastus (Plant. 9:4) describes it as being produced in Southern Arabia, about Saba and Adramytta; so Pliny (12, 33), Dioscorides (1:77) and several other Greek authors (Strabo, 16:769, 782; Diodl. Sic. 5:41;
19:95). But others have not so limited its production. Celsius (Hierobot. 1:523) says it was produced in Syria, Gedrosia (Arrian, Exped. Al. 6:421), India, Ethiopia, Troglodytica, and Egypt; in which last country it was called bal (βάλ), according to Plutarch, De Iside et Osiride, page 383 (Kircher, Prod. Copt. page 175). Plutarch, however, was probably in error, and has confounded the Coptic sal, "myrrh," with bal, "an eye" (Jablonski, Opusc. 1:49 [ed. te Water]). Accordingly bol is the name by which it is universally known throughout India in the present day; and the Sanscrit name is bola, which occurs at least before the Christian aera, with several other names, showing that it was well known. But from the time of the ancients until that of Belon we were without any positive information respecting the tree yielding myrrh: he supposed it to be produced in Syria (so also Propertius [1, 2, 3] and Oppian [Halieut. 3:403]), and says (Observat. 2:80) that near Rama he met with a thorny shrub with leaves resembling acacia, which he believed to be that producing myrrh (Mimosa agrestis, Spr.). Similar to this is the information of the Arabian author, Abu'l Fadli, quoted by Celsius, who says that mour is the Arabic name of a thorny tree resembling the acacia, from which flows a white juice, which thickens and becomes a gum. The Persian authors state that myrrh is the gum of a tree common in the Mughrub, that is, the West or Africa, in Room (a general name for the Turkish empire), and in Socotra. The Arabian and Persian authors probably only knew it as an article of commerce: it certainly is not produced in Socotra, but has undoubtedly long been exported from Africa into Arabia. It is reported that myrrh is always to be obtained cheap and abundant on the Sumali coast. Bruce had indeed long previously stated that myrrh is produced in the country behind Azab. Mr. Johnson, in his Travels in Abyssinia (1:249), mentions that "Myrrh and mimosa trees abounded ill this place" (Koranhedudah, in Adal). The former he describes as being "a low, thorny, ragged-looking tree, with bright green trifoliolate leaves; the gum exudes from cracks in the bark of the trunk near the root, and flows freely upon the stones immediately underneath. Artificially it is obtained by bruises made with stones. The natives collect it principally in the hot months of July and August, but it is to be found, though in very small quantities, at other times of the year. It is collected in small kid-skins and taken to Errur, whence the Hurrah merchants, on their way from Shoa, convey it to the great annual market at Berberah, whence great quantities are shipped for India and Arabia." When the Portuguese first entered these seas, gold dust, ivory, myrrh, and slaves formed the staple commerce of Adal. As early as the time of Arrian, in his
Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, we find myrrh one of the articles of export, with frankincense, from the coast of Adal, styled Barbaria. The Periplus mentions the myrrh of this coast as the finest of its kind, and specifies the means of conveying it to Yemen, or Sabea. There the first Greek navigators found it, and through their hands it was conveyed into Europe under the name of Sabean myrrh. Though there is no doubt that the largest quantity of myrrh has always been obtained from Africa, yet it is equally certain that some is also procured in Arabia. This seems to be proved by Ehrenberg and Hemprich, who found a small tree in Arabia, near Gison, on the borders of Arabia Felix, off which they collected pieces of myrrh, which, when brought home and analyzed, was acknowledged to be genuine (Nees v. Eisenbeck, Plant. officin. tab. 357). This is the Balsamodendron nyrsrha of botanists, which produces the myrrh of commerce; it belongs to the natural order Terebinthacece, and is a small tree found in Arabia Felix, allied to the Amyridaccece or incense-trees, and closely resembling the Amyris Gileadensis, or Balsamodendron Gileadense. SEE BALM. Its stunted trunk is covered with a light gray bark, which, as well as the wood, emits a strong balsamic odor. The characteristic gum-resin exudes in small, tear-like drops, at first oily, but drying and hardening on the bark, and its flow is increased by wounding the tree. When collected it is a brittle substance, translucent, of a rich brown color, or reddish yellow, with a strong odor and a warm, bitter taste. Myrrh, it is well known, was celebrated in the most ancient times as a perfume and a fumigator (Martius, Pharmakogn. page 382 sq.), as well as for its uses in medicine. Myrrh was burned in temples, and employed in embalming the bodies of the dead. The ancients prepared a wine of myrrh, and also an oil of myrrh, and it formed an ingredient in many of the most celebrated compound medicines (see Penny Cyclopcedia, s.v. Balsamodendron). We read in Song 1:13 of a "bundle of myrrh," as our Auth. Ver. has it; but the word צרוֹר (tzeror), used for a purse or bag of money (Ge 42:35; Pr 7:20, etc.), may rather indicate a scent-bag, or smelling-bottle, such as is sold by modern perfumers. Mason Good, who has "casque of myrrh," observes that a casket of gold or ivory, containing some costly perfume, is still worn by the ladies of Persia suspended from their necks by an elegant chain. The terms "pure myrrh" (מָראּדּרוֹר, mor deror', Ex 30:23) and "sweetsmelling myrrh" (מֹר צוֹבֵר, mor ober', Song 5:5) probably represent the best, or self-flowing kind (Sept. σμύρνα ἐκλεκτή;
comp. Plin. 12:35; see Dopke, Comment. v. Hopest. page 165). (For the ancient notices, see Celsii Hierob. 1:520 sq.; Bodaei a. Stapel, Comment. ad Theophrast. page 796 sq., 974).
2. לט or לוֹט, lot (so called, perhaps, from covering, being used as a cosmetic or pomatum; Gesen. Thesaur. page 748; Sept. στακτή, and Vulg. stacte), occurs only in Ge 37:25, "Behold, a company of Ishmaelites came down from Gilead with their camels bearing spicery (nekoth), and balm (tsori), and myrrh (1ot), going to carry it down to Egypt;" and in chapter 43:11 Jacob directs his sons to take into Egypt "of the best fruits in the land in your vessels, and carry down the man a present, a little balm (tsori), and a little honey, spices (nekoth), and myrrh (lot), nuts (botnim), and almonds (shekadim)." In this enumeration, in one case of merchandise, and in the other of several articles intended for a present, and both destined for Egypt, at that time a highly civilized nation, it is evident that we are to look only for such substances as were likely to be acceptable in that country, and therefore not such as were produced there, or as were more easily procurable from elsewhere than from Syria, as was the case with myrrh, which was never produced in Syria, and could not have been an article of export from thence. This difficulty has been felt by others. and various translations of lit have been proposed, as lotus (comp. Burckhardt, Arab. Spriichen, page 334), chestnuts, mastich, stacte, balsam, turpentine, pistachio nuts (Michaelis, Suppl. 4:1424 sq.). Junius and Tremellius render it ladanum, which is suitable, and appears to be correct, as an etymological connection may be traced between the words. Ladanum, or gumn ladanum, as it is often called, was known to the Greeks as early as the times of Herodotus (3:112) and Dioscorides (1:128), and bore the names of ledos and ledanon (λῆδος, λήδανον), which are very closely allied to ladun, the Arabic name of the same drug. A Hebrew author, as quoted by Celsius (Hierobot. 1:281), describes it as "an aromatic substance, flowing from the juice of a certain tree." Ladanum is described by Herodotus (3:112) as particularly fragrant, though gathered from the beards of goats, where it is found sticking. This is explained by referring to the description of Dioscorides (1:128), from which we learn that goats, after browsing upon the leaves of the ladanurm plants, necessarily have this viscid substance adhering to their hair and beards, whence it is afterwards scraped off. Tournefort, in modern times, has given a detailed description ( Voyage, 1:79) of the mode of obtaining ladanum, and relates that it is now gathered by means of a kind of rake with whiplike thongs, which is passed over the plants. When these thongs are loaded with the odoriferous and sticky resin, they are scraped with a knife, and the substance rolled into a mass, in which state it is called ladanuma or ladanum. It consists of resin and volatile oil, and is highly fragrant, and stimulative as a medicine, but is often adulterated with sand in commerce. The ladanum which is used in Europe is collected chiefly in the Greek isles, and also in continental Greece. It is yielded by the Cistus, known in Europe by the name of Rock Rose. It is a native of the south of Europe, the Mediterranean islands (especially Candia or Crete, whence the principal kind has derived its modern name), and the north of Africa. There are several species of Cistus, all of which are believed to yield the gum ladanum; but the species mentioned by Dioscorides is in all probability identical with the one which is found in Palestine, viz. the Cistus Creticus (Strand, Flor. Palaest. No. 289). The C. Itdanijferus, a native of Spain and Portugal, produces the greatest quantity of the ladanum; it has a white flower, while that of the C. Creticus is rose-colored. Species are also found in Judaea; and C. Creticus in some parts of Syria. Some authors have been of opinion that one species, the Cistus roseus, is more likely than any other to be the Rose of Sharon, as it is very common in that locality, while nothing like a true rose is to be found there. Ladanum seems to have been produced in Judaea, according to writers in the Talmud (Cels. 1. c. page 286). It is said by Pliny (12:37), as long before by Herodotus (3:112), to be a produce of Arabia, and as by this is probably meant Syria (comp. Pliny, 26:20), it was very likely to have been sent to Egypt both as a present and as merchandise. See Celsius, Hierobot. 1:280 sq.; Rosenmuller, Bib. Bot. page 158; Pococke, Morgenl. 2:333 sq.; Penny Cyclopedia, s.v. Ladanum.