ISRAEL - Frankincense in the Making

Arno Froese

The aromatic plants bestowed on the infant Jesus are being cultivated by an Israeli entrepreneur who aims to transform the gifts of the Christmas story into therapeutic balms and incense.

The frankincense (pungent and sweet) and myrrh (sharp and piney) recounted in the Gospel of St Matthew are being grown by Guy Erlich, a businessman who hopes to revive the rare plants’ use for commercial ends.

“I decided to focus on plants that no one else in the world grows. Since those plants, those medical plants of the Bible were in medical use for so many years, there must be something about them and it is our duty to look for it.”

Prof. Shimshon Ben Yehoshua, from the Volcani Agricultural Research Center and the Hebrew University’s Faculty of Agriculture, says Erlich’s plants are most likely the same as those from ancient times.

“For the frankincense and myrrh which I believe are similar to the ones that were growing in the past in Israel, those are many species but I believe that the species he (Guy Erlich) grew has the desirable qualities,” he told Reuters.

In addition to Christians interested in sampling the scents, Erlich says he has been fielding inquiries from pious Jews who thrill at the prospect of recreating the incenses that were burnt in their Roman-era temple in Jerusalem.

“My plants are sacred to all religions,” he said. “Now they can be a uniting factor. They can be a common ground. They can connect people.”

Arno's commentary

Mr. Erlich’s statement, “my plants are sacred to all religions,” is significant. This seems to be another contributing factor to a global religion. Just as it is said of music, it is international; knows no borders, customs, laws, or history. Plants are used and consumed globally by all people of the world. It is of interest that Matthew does not state that this was done so it be fulfilled according to the Old Testament prophets. Why not? Because these were Gentiles, foreigners; today we like to call them illegal immigrants.

What is noticeable is that religious authorities in Jerusalem pointed to the Scripture regarding the birth of the Messiah. “And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel” (Matthew 2:6). They surely believed in the Scripture intellectually, but not with the heart; otherwise, they too would have gone to worship the newborn Messiah.

Back to the words, “sacred to all religions.” The Jews in general and Israel in particular, are super-liberal; they seek connections to all religions. Jesus made this prophecy in John 5:43: “I am come in my Father’s name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive.” Yet we must add that Israel, as a nation, has the promise of God like no other: “Thou wilt perform the truth to Jacob, and the mercy to Abraham, which thou hast sworn unto our fathers from the days of old” (Micah 7:20).

Arno Froese is the executive director of Midnight Call Ministries and editor-in-chief of the acclaimed prophetic magazines Midnight Call and News From Israel. He has authored a number of well-received books, and has sponsored many prophecy conferences in the U.S., Canada, and Israel. His extensive travels have contributed to his keen insight into Bible prophecy, as he sees it from an international perspective.

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