What was incense used for in the Bible?

Frankincense, a fragrant resin derived from the Boswellia tree, has significant historical and cultural significance. It is mentioned several times in the Bible, especially in connection with religious ceremonies and offerings. The use of frankincense in biblical times was not limited to perfumes and fragrances. It had deep symbolic and spiritual significance, and its applications were rooted in religious practices and rituals. In this article, we will explore the various uses of frankincense in the Bible and delve into its significance in ancient times.

The Symbolic and Spiritual Significance of Incense

Frankincense played a central role in religious ceremonies and rituals in biblical times. It was considered a sacred substance and was often burned as incense during religious ceremonies. The fragrant smoke was believed to carry prayers and offerings to the heavens, symbolizing communication between humans and the divine. In this sense, incense was seen as a channel to connect with the spiritual realm.
In addition, incense was associated with purification and cleansing. Its sweet aroma was believed to be both physically and spiritually cleansing, making it an integral part of religious purification rituals. The act of burning incense was thought to purify the air and create a sacred atmosphere conducive to worship and spiritual contemplation.

Incense as an offering

In the Bible, frankincense was often presented as an offering to God. It was considered a valuable and precious gift reserved for special occasions and religious ceremonies. A notable example is the story of the three wise men who presented the infant Jesus with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. This act symbolized the recognition of Jesus’ divinity and his role as the Messiah.

Incense offerings were not limited to the worship of the Christian God. In the Old Testament, frankincense was also used in the tabernacle and later in the temple rituals of the Israelites. The fragrant resin was burned on the incense altar as an act of worship and devotion. It served as a physical representation of the Israelites’ reverence and devotion to God.

Medicinal and Healing Properties of Incense

In addition to its religious and symbolic significance, frankincense has been valued for its medicinal properties. In biblical times, it was recognized for its healing and therapeutic benefits. The resin was used in traditional medicine for a variety of ailments, including digestive, respiratory, and skin problems.

Frankincense was known for its anti-inflammatory properties and was used to relieve pain and inflammation. It was also believed to have antimicrobial properties, making it useful in treating infections and promoting wound healing. The aromatic resin was even used as an ingredient in cosmetics and perfumes for its pleasant scent and skin-nourishing properties.

Incense in perfumes and fragrances

Incense has a rich and exotic fragrance that has captivated people for centuries. Its aromatic properties have made it a sought-after ingredient in perfumes, incense and other fragrant products. The resin has often been combined with other aromatic substances to create unique and pleasing fragrances.
In biblical times, perfumes and fragrances were highly prized, and frankincense played a prominent role in their creation. The sweet and woody aroma of frankincense added depth and complexity to perfumes, making them more alluring and desirable. The use of frankincense in perfumes was not only for personal adornment, but also for religious and ceremonial purposes, further emphasizing its importance in ancient times.

In conclusion, incense was of great importance in biblical times. It was used in various religious ceremonies and offerings, symbolizing communication with the divine and creating a sacred atmosphere. In addition to its spiritual significance, frankincense also possessed medicinal properties and was highly valued for its fragrance, making it a versatile and valued substance in ancient cultures. Its legacy continues today as frankincense remains an important ingredient in perfumes and fragrances, connecting us to our ancient past and adding depth and allure to modern scents.


What was frankincense used for in the Bible?

In the Bible, frankincense was used for various purposes, primarily in religious and ceremonial practices. It held significant symbolic value and was considered a precious and valuable substance.

How was frankincense used in religious rituals?

Frankincense was burned as incense during religious rituals and offerings. The aromatic smoke was believed to carry prayers and pleas to the heavens, symbolizing the communication between humans and the divine.

Was frankincense used in the Tabernacle and Temple?

Yes, frankincense was an important component of the sacred rituals in the Tabernacle and later in the Temple of Jerusalem. It was used in the incense offering and as part of the consecration of sacred objects and the anointing oil.

What symbolic meanings were associated with frankincense?

Frankincense held several symbolic meanings in the Bible. It was considered a symbol of holiness, purity, and spiritual devotion. It represented the presence of God and was often associated with prayers, worship, and the offering of sacrifices.

Did frankincense have any medicinal or practical uses in biblical times?

While frankincense was primarily used for religious purposes in biblical times, it also had some practical applications. It was valued for its pleasant fragrance and was occasionally used as a perfume or in cosmetics. Additionally, it was believed to have certain medicinal properties and was used in traditional healing practices.