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RELATED: Gold, Incense, Myrrh; Magi and Wisemen.
Kohler, Boswellia sacra, Kohler's Medizinal-Pflanzen
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Easton's Bible Dictionary

(Hebrew. lebonah; Greek. libanos, i.e., "white"), an odorous resin imported from Arabia ( Isaiah 60:6 ; Jeremiah 6:20 ), yet also growing in Palestine ( Canticles 4:14 ). It was one of the ingredients in the perfume of the sanctuary ( Exodus 30:34 ), and was used as an accompaniment of the meat-offering ( Leviticus 2:1 , 2:16 ; 6:15 ; 24:7 ). When burnt it emitted a fragrant odour, and hence the incense became a symbol of the Divine name ( Malachi 1:11 ; Canticles 1:3 ) and an emblem of prayer ( Psalms 141:2 ; Luke 1:10 ; Revelation 5:8 ; 8:3 ).

This frankincense, or olibanum, used by the Jews in the temple services is not to be confounded with the frankincense of modern commerce, which is an exudation of the Norway spruce fir, the Pinus abies. It was probably a resin from the Indian tree known to botanists by the name of Boswellia serrata or thurifera, which grows to the height of forty feet.

Hitchcock's Dictionary of Bible Names

(no entry

Smith's Bible Dictionary
A vegetable resin, brittle, glittering, and of a bitter taste, used for the purpose of sacrificial fumigation. ( Exodus 30:34 - 36 ) It was called frank because of the freeness with which, when burned, it gives forth its odor. It burns for a long time, with a steady flame. It is obtained by successive incisions in the bark of a tree called Arbor thuris. The first incision yields the purest and whitest resin, while the product of the after incisions is spotted with yellow, and loses its whiteness altogether as it becomes old. The Hebrews imported their frankincense from Arabia, ( Isaiah 60:6 ; Jeremiah 6:20 ) and more particularly from Saba; but it is remarkable that at present the Arabian libanum or olibanum is a very inferior kind, and that the finest frankincense imported into Turkey comes through Arabia from the islands of the Indian Archipelago. There can be little doubt that the tree which produces the Indian frankincense is the Boswellia serrata of Roxburgh, or Boswellia thurifera of Colebrooke, and bears some resemblance when young to the mountain ash. It grows to be forty feet high.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
frants'-in-sens (lebhonah, from root meaning "whiteness," referring to the milky color of the fresh juice:

Exodus 30:34 ; Leviticus 2:1 , 15 ; 5:11 ; 6:15 ; 24:7 ; Numbers 5:15 ; 1 Chronicles 9:29 ; Nehemiah 13:5 , 9 ; Song of Solomon 3:6 ; 4:6 , 14 ; Isaiah 43:23 ; 60:6 ; 66:3 ; Jeremiah 6:20 ; 17:26 ; 41:5; translated in the last six references "incense" in the King James Version, but correctly in the Revised Version (British and American); libanos: Matthew 2:11 ; Revelation 18:13. The English word is derived from old French franc encens, i.e. "pure incense"): The common frankincense of the pharmacopeas is a gum derived from the common fir, but the frankincense of the Jews, as well as of the Greeks and Romans, is a substance now called Olibanum (from the Arabic el luban), a product of certain trees of the genus Boswellia (Natural Order, Amyridaceae), growing on the limestone rocks of south Arabia and Somali-land (Isaiah 60:6 ; Jeremiah 6:20). The most important species are B. Carteri and B. Frereana. Some of the trees grow to a considerable height and send down their roots to extraordinary depths. The gum is obtained by incising the bark, and is collected in yellowish, semitransparent tears, readily pulverized; it has a nauseous taste. It is used for making incense for burning in churches and in Indian temples, as it was among the Jews (Exodus 30:34).


It is often associated with myrrh (Song of Solomon 3:6 ; 4:6) and with it was made an offering to the infant Saviour (Matthew 2:11). A specially "pure" kind, lebhonah zakkah, was presented with the shewbread (Leviticus 24:7).

E. W. G. Masterman

RELATED: Gold, Incense, Myrrh; Magi and Wisemen.

Copyright Information: "Easton's Bible Dictionary", Matthew George Easton M.A., D.D., 1897; "Hitchcock's Dictionary of Bible Names", Roswell D. Hitchcock, 1869; "International Standard Bible Encyclopedia", Orr, James, M.A., D.D., 1915; and "Smith's Bible Dictionary", Smith, William, Dr., 1901. are public domain and may be freely used and distributed.

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Kohler, Boswellia sacra

'Frankincense (Boswellia sacra, Kohler's Medizinal-Pflanzen)'

Franz Eugen Kohler, 1897, Germany
(This is a faithful photographic reproduction of an original two-dimensional work of art. This work is in the public domain in the United States, and those countries with a copyright term of life of the author plus 100 years or less.)