Ever since the recorded history of time, essential oils have been used in the everyday lives of humans. There are even mentions 33 different essential oils in the Bible, as well as the use of the word “incense” in Scripture 68 times. In several passages, oils are referenced in such tones as “the oil of joy” and the “oil of gladness.” There are even mentionings to how the use of oils “rejoice the heart.”
Essential oils are referred to in multiple ways in the Bible, such as fragrances, odors, ointments, aroma, perfumes, and, in some passages, sweet savors. In total, references to essential oils in the Bible total an estimated 600 times.
Essential Oils Of The Bible
There are many oils mentioned, and revered, in the Bible. We will now look at twelve of them, and their historical uses.
Long considered the king of all the oils, Frankincense serves as a primary component of holy incense, as well as having medicinal uses. At one time, the oil was used as a form of currency for trade. Many have heard of Frankincense through the story of the baby Jesus, as it was a gift from one of the wise men. At the time of Jesus’ birth, it is believed that both Frankincense, as well as myrrh, quite possibly could have been worth more than their weight, much like the third gift—that of gold.
This essential oil is quoted in biblical Scripture 156 times. In the Bible, myrrh’s uses included an ointment, an incense, and an ingredient used in embalming. In the book of Esther, Queen Esther used the oil as a beauty treatment for her skin. However, its most common usage was that of one of the oils used in the holy anointing.
Much like myrrh, cinnamon oil was a key ingredient in holy anointing oil. It was also used to cleanse the air, to kill mold, and to serve as a natural medicine. Solomon used this oil, due to its aromatic features, in his bedroom and was known to apply it as a cologne or natural perfume.
When building God’s temple, King Solomon used cedarwood. Biblical passages also state that the cross that Jesus was crucified on was also made of either cedarwood or cypress. Cedarwood was thought by many as a means to bring wisdom, as well as being used for the process of ritual cleansing. It also served a medicine, having been used to treat various skin conditions, including that of leprosy.
Spikenard, or “nard” as it was commonly referred to, was a very expensive perfume in biblical times. However, it doubled as a highly sought after ointment used for medicinal purposes. It is believed by many that the spikenard made reference to in the Bible, may in actuality have been lavender oil. It speaks in the Bible that, just days before His death and resurrection, of Jesus, being anointed with spikenard.
Hyssop is mentioned as far back as the Old Testament when God commanded the people to perform ceremonial cleansings of themselves and their homes using hyssop. Hyssop is even mentioned as being present at the crucifixion when Jesus was offered wine vinegar on a sponge, presented to him on the end of a stalk of hyssop.
The fourth ingredient listed as used in holy anointing oil, cassia oil is an herb very similar to that of cinnamon. The prevailing thought is that when the Israelites fled Pharaoh, they brought this herb along with them. As such, it was used most commonly with myrrh and various aloes for the scenting of garments and fabrics.
In the Bible, sandalwood is often referred to as “aloes,” and along with Frankincense, myrrh and cedarwood make up the oils that are said to provide both joy and gladness. During the burial of Jesus, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea presented sandalwood and myrrh. If the same amount of oils were to be used today, in today’s market, the estimated value would be $200,000.
Celebrated in the Scripture, cypress is a symbol of security, prosperity, and strength. In Biblical times, cypress was the preferred choice when it came to any construction of buildings or trading for goods, and the development of weaponry. When God spoke to Noah and commanded him to make an ark from gopher wood, he was telling him to use cypress.
In the book of Exodus, galbanum was the main ingredient composing the holy incense used at the heart of the temple. On its own, galbanum has what many consider a somewhat foul odor. However, when combined with several other sweet-smelling oils, as in holy incense, it presents with a lovely scent. It was often thought this combination worked to aid in the balancing of emotions.
Rose of Sharon
The rose of Sharon is not, in actually, a rose per say, but more similar in appearance to that of hibiscus or a tulip. The rose of Sharon is mentioned through the Song of Solomon and is a source for saffron. Many interpretations of the Bible regard the rose of Sharon as Christ, and the lily that of the church, which is His bride.
Referred to by many as “sweet cane,” this ancient herb is known in today’s times by the name of lemongrass. During Biblical times the herb calamus was used In the production of perfumes and incense. Calamus was also one of the main ingredients used in the holy anointing oil made especially for the priests to make use of in the temple.
Essential oils have been around since before the time of recorded history. They have served many purposes, some of them medicinal in nature. Although some of the names and uses through the millenia have changed, they are still used in some manner or another today.