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Bridgeway Bible Dictionary

Spices

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From very early times spices were in great demand among the peoples of Palestine and surrounding countries. Some spices were grown locally, but many were imported from the East, bringing wealth to traders and to the governments who taxed them (Genesis 37:25; 1 Kings 10:2; Song of Song of Solomon 3:6; Isaiah 60:6; Jeremiah 6:20; Ezekiel 27:17; Revelation 18:11-13). Among these spices were frankincense, myrrh, galbanum, stacte, onycha, cassia, aloes, cummin, dill, cinnamon, mint, rue, mustard, balm, sweet cane, henna, nard, saffron and calumus (Genesis 37:25; Exodus 30:23-24; Exodus 30:34; Song of Song of Solomon 3:6; Song of Solomon 4:13-14; Jeremiah 6:20; Matthew 23:23; Luke 11:42; Luke 13:19).

Spices came from the gum of certain trees and from plants and herbs (Song of Song of Solomon 4:14). People used spices in preparing food and drinks (Song of Song of Solomon 8:2; Ezekiel 24:10; Matthew 23:23), and in making a variety of oils, medicines, cosmetics, deodorants and disinfectants (Esther 2:12; Psalms 45:8; Proverbs 7:17; Song of Song of Solomon 4:10; Song of Solomon 4:14; Song of Solomon 5:13; Jeremiah 8:22; Jeremiah 51:8; Luke 7:46; John 12:3; John 19:39).

The preparation of these substances involved heating, drying, boiling, soaking and crushing. It was a specialized art in which some people became highly skilled (Exodus 30:35; 1 Samuel 8:13; 2 Chronicles 16:14). People placed great value on some of these substances, and preserved them in expensive boxes that they opened on special occasions (Isaiah 3:20; Mark 14:3; Luke 7:37-38).

Among Israelites the most sacred use of spices was in preparing oil and incense for use in religious rituals. Oil was used to anoint priests, and incense was burnt in the tabernacle (Exodus 30:22-38; see OIL; INCENSE).

In relation to Jesus, people used spices, or substances made from them, to present in homage to him (Matthew 2:11), to anoint and refresh him (Luke 7:46; John 12:3), and to offer him on the cross to deaden his pain (but he refused their offer) (Mark 15:23). Some used spices to prepare his body for burial (John 19:39) and others brought spices to anoint the body as it lay in the tomb (Mark 16:1).


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Bibliography Information
Fleming, Don. Entry for 'Spices'. Bridgeway Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/bbd/s/spices.html. 2004.

Lectionary Calendar
Friday, July 19th, 2019
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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