FRANKINCENSE (לְבֹנָה, H4247; κίβανος). Frankincense occurs fourteen times in the OT and twice in the NT. Most of the references in the OT are instructions as to how and how not to use this scent (
Frankincense is derived from the resin of the tree Boswellia. There are three species from which gum may be obtained, i.e. B. carterii, B. papyrifera, and B. thurifera. The gum is collected during the summer; it is customary to peel the bark back first, and then to make a deep cut with a sharp knife.
The Heb. name lebônâ and the Gr. word libanos both mean “white.” This is presumably because when the gum first exudes from the bark it is of an amber color; later when removed from the tree, the resin produces a white dust on its surface. The gum, when warmed and burned, produces a sweet, pleasant odor.
The children of Israel imported frankincense from Arabia—this was produced near Saba or Sheba.
In the Apoc. there is a reference (
Boswellia trees are related to Turpentine trees; the star-shaped flowers are pure white or green, tipped with rose. The tree has leaves similar to the Mountain Ash.
If Moffatt’s tr. of
G. Van Beek, “Frankincense and Myrrh in Ancient Arabia,” JAOS, Vol. 78 (Sept. 1958) 141-151.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
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 (