PERFUME. The ancients were fond of sweet perfumes of all kinds (
The sources of perfume, incense, and ointment in the OT were in the vegetable kingdom and the list of such sources (aloes, almug, balm, bdellium, calamus, cassia, cinnamon, etc.) reflects the extent of Heb. trade and commerce (Arabia, India, Persia, Ceylon, etc.). This trade is reflected in OT passages (
So strong were the better kinds of ointments, and so perfectly were the component substances compounded that they have been known to retain their scent for centuries. Sometimes it was produced in a powdered form Song of Solomon, perhaps like a sachet powder. The first maker of perfume mentioned in the Bible is Bezalel (
The Bible mentions various containers for perfume and ointments. The dry material was simply kept in a bag (
The liturgical uses were many and varied (see Incense). In the NT, perfume as an incense is a symbol of the knowledge of Christ (
Davies, JEA, XXVI (1940), pl. 22, p. 133; R. J. Forbes, Studies in Ancient Technology, III (1955), 9, 10; G. W. Van Beek, “Frankincense and Myrrh in Ancient South Arabia,” JAOS (1958), 141-152.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
Perfumes were mixed by persons skilled in the article In the
Today incense is used in connection with all religious services of the oriental Christian churches. Although there is no direct mention of the uses of incense in the
The delight of the people of Syria in pleasant odors is recorded in their literature. The attar of roses (from Arabic `iTr, "a sweet odor") was a wellknown product of Damascus. The guest in a modern Syrian home is not literally anointed with oil, but he is often given, soon after he enters, a bunch of aromatic herbs or a sweet-smelling flower to hold and smell. During a considerable portion of the year the country air is laden with the odor of aromatic herbs, such as mint and sage. The Arabic phrase for taking a walk is shemm el-hawa’, literally, "smell the air."
James A. Patch