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Fausset's Bible Dictionary [1]

Lebonah , from Laban "to be white." A vegetable resin, brittle, glittering, bitter, used for fumigation at sacrifices ( Exodus 30:7-8;  Exodus 30:34-36), got by incisions in the bark of the Αrbor Thuris ; the first flow is white and transparent, the after yield is yellowish. It was imported from Arabia ( Isaiah 60:6;  Jeremiah 6:20). Arabian frankincense now is inferior to that of the Indian archipelago; the latter frankincense is yielded by the Βoswellia Serrata or Thurifera , growing 40 ft. high in Amboyna and the mountains of India. Arabia may have anciently, as now, imported the best kind. The Papyrifera grows on the E. of Africa. The Indian is called Looban in Hindu temples, related to Libanos and Lebonah .

Frankincense, with its sweet perfume, symbolizes prayer accepted before God ( Psalms 141:2;  Revelation 5:8;  Revelation 8:3-4). The angel does not provide the incense; it is "given" to him by Christ, whose meritorious obedience and death and intercession are the incense rendering the saints' prayers well pleasing to God. They do not pray to the angel; he is but the king's messenger, and did not dare to appropriate what, is the king's alone ( Malachi 1:11). The time of offering the incense, morning and evening, was the chosen time for prayer ( Luke 1:10).

Frankincense was among the offerings of the wise men to the infant Savior ( Matthew 2:11).  Song of Solomon 3:6, "Who is this that cometh out of the wilderness, like pillars of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and frankincense?" Israel, with Jehovah's pillar of smoke by day and fire by night, and smoke from the altars of incense and atonement, was the type. Jesus, ascending to heaven with the clouds while the question is asked "Who is this King of glory?" ( Psalms 24:8-10) is the antitype. So  Isaiah 63:1;  Isaiah 63:5, "Who is this?" etc. The bride too comes up with Him from the wilderness, exhaling frankincense-like graces, faith, love, joy, peace, prayer, praise; of her too it is asked, "Who is this that cometh up from the wilderness, leaning upon her Beloved?" ( Song of Solomon 8:5;  Revelation 7:13-17.)

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [2]

FRANKINCENSE ( lebônâh  ; Gr. libanos   Matthew 2:11 ,   Revelation 18:13 ). Frankincense is in six passages (  Isaiah 43:23;   Isaiah 60:6;   Isaiah 66:3 ,   Jeremiah 6:20;   Jeremiah 17:26;   Jeremiah 41:5 ) mistranslated in AV [Note: Authorized Version.] ‘ incense ,’ but correctly in RV [Note: Revised Version.] . It is a sweet-smelling gum, obtained as a milky exudation from various species of Boswellia , the frankincense tree, an ally of the terebinth. The gum was imported from S. Arabia (  Isaiah 60:6 ,   Jeremiah 6:20 ); it was a constituent of incense (  Exodus 30:34 ); it is often associated with myrrh (  Song of Solomon 3:6;   Song of Solomon 4:6 ,   Matthew 2:11 ); it was offered with the shewbread (  Leviticus 24:7 ).

E. W. G. Masterman.

Smith's Bible Dictionary [3]

Frankincense. 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.

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [4]


Frankincense, which is mentioned ( Revelation 18:13) as part of the vast merchandise of Imperial Rome, is a gum-resin yielded by certain species of trees of the genus Boswellia . In ancient times the most famous of these grew in Hadramant, S. Arabia. To obtain the frankincense a deep incision is made in the trunk of the tree, and below the incision a narrow strip of bark is peeled off. As the Heb. לְבֹנָה (from which the Gr. is derived) signifies, the resin exudes as a milk-like juice ( spuma pinguis , Pliny, xii. 14), which in about three months attains the necessary degree of consistency. Frankincense was sold in semi-opaque, round, or ovate tears or irregular lumps, which were covered with a white dust as the result of their friction against one another. It was valued for its sweet odour when burned, and it often served for illumination in place of oil lamps. As it was one of the ingredients of incense, great quantities of it were required for the sacrificial ritual. As a perfume it was used for the care of the body and for the flavouring of wine. It was also in high repute as a medicine.

James Strahan.

Vine's Expository Dictionary of NT Words [5]

1: Ἐπόπτης (Strong'S #2030 — Noun Masculine — libanos — ep-op'-tace )

from a Semitic verb signifying "to be white," is a vegetable resin, bitter and glittering, obtained by incisions in the bark of the arbor thuris, "the incense tree," and especially imported through Arabia; it was used for fumigation at sacrifices,  Exodus 30:7 , etc., or for perfume, Song of Sol., 3:6. The Indian variety is called looban. It was among the offerings brought by the wise men,  Matthew 2:11 . In  Revelation 18:13 it is listed among the commodities of Babylon. The "incense" of   Revelation 8:3 should be "frankincense." Cp. Incense

Easton's Bible Dictionary [6]

 Isaiah 60:6 Jeremiah 6:20 Song of Solomon 4:14 Exodus 30:34 Leviticus 2:1,16 6:15 24:7 Malachi 1:11 Song of Solomon 1:3 Psalm 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.

Morrish Bible Dictionary [7]

lebonah, λίβανος. A fragrant resin. It was an ingredient in the holy anointing oil, and was used in the temple service.  Exodus 30:34;  Leviticus 2:1,15,16;  Leviticus 5:11;  Leviticus 24:7;  Song of Solomon 3:6;  Song of Solomon 4:6,14 . It formed part of the gifts presented to the Lord by the Magi,  Matthew 2:11; and was among the things carried to Babylon the Great.  Revelation 18:13 . It is traced to the Boswellia serrata of the botanists, which grows in India. By cutting slits in the bark the gum exudes. The best is white and bitter to the taste, though the yellowish in colour is extensively used. The Muslims choose the white, but the Greek and Roman churches use much of the coloured.

People's Dictionary of the Bible [8]

Frankincense. A vegetable resin, brittle, glittering, and of a bitter taste, used in Hebrew offerings and sacrifices.  Exodus 30:34-36. 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.

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [9]

לבדנח ,  Exodus 30:34 , &c. λιβανος ,  Matthew 2:11;  Revelation 18:13 , a dry, resinous substance, of a yellowish white colour, a strong fragrant smell, and bitter, acrid taste. The tree which produces it is not known. Dioscorides mentions it as procured from India. What is here called the pure frankincense is, no doubt, the same with the mascula thura of Virgil, and signifies what is first obtained from the tree.

Webster's Dictionary [10]

(n.) A fragrant, aromatic resin, or gum resin, burned as an incense in religious rites or for medicinal fumigation. The best kinds now come from East Indian trees, of the genus Boswellia; a commoner sort, from the Norway spruce (Abies excelsa) and other coniferous trees. The frankincense of the ancient Jews is still unidentified.

King James Dictionary [11]

FRANKIN'CENSE, n. frank and incense. A dry resinous substance in pieces or drops, of a pale yellowish white color, of a bitterish acrid taste, and very inflammable used as a perfume.

Wilson's Dictionary of Bible Types [12]

 Matthew 2:11 (c) This is a type of the fragrant love and the precious worship of those who come to adore and honor Christ Jesus

Holman Bible Dictionary [13]

 Exodus 30:34 Matthew 2:11

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [14]

See Incense .

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature [15]

The original word is lebonah, which first occurs here, and is afterwards constantly mentioned among the ingredients of the perfume to be consumed upon the incense altar (;;;;;;; ). In some other passages it is used in a figurative sense . In other passages, as an article of distant commerce, it is described as being brought by caravans from Sheba, etc. . From all which texts we learn that it was an article of foreign and distant commerce, that it was known very early, and that it was probably of a resinous nature, and very fragrant. In the New Testament the same word is employed in the Greek form of libanos, also rendered by 'frankincense.' The original is supposed to be found in the Hebrew laban, 'white;' but it is equally similar to the Arabic laban, signifying 'milk;' and, in a secondary sense, a gummy or resinous exudation from a tree, especially frankincense. There are other words in the Arabic which have a similar meaning, and which it is most probable were all originally derived from the same root as the Hebrew lebonah, and the Arabic laban, applied in both languages to the same substance. This was called by the Greeks libanos, and by the Romans thus, and now commonly as olibanum, from the addition of the letter o to the original name. Several kinds of resinous substances have at different times been confounded together under the names of 'incense' and 'frankincense,' as well as under the Latin thus, which is derived from thuo, 'to sacrifice.'

The ancient writers seem to state that there were two sorts of frankincense, one from the coasts of Arabia, and the other from India, but they more generally speak of it as derived from the former quarter, specially indicating the region of Saba or Sheba, from whence the Scripture also describes it as being brought. The Periplus, however, refers it to Africa. There is, however, no direct evidence for the existence of the tree or shrub producing frankincense in the southern coasts of Arabia. Wellsted could not see it when traveling in the quarter where it should besought; and although Niebuhr affirms that it is cultivated, he adds that it was introduced from Abyssinia, a fact which would not have passed out of memory had it been anciently produced in the country. That it might be described as coming from or produced in Arabia, even though grown in another country, is common to other products which the regions west and north of Arabia received through Arabian merchants. A number of circumstances render it probable that it was obtained by the Arabians from the coast of Africa, to which it was brought from the interior. Mr. Johnson, in his Travels in Southern Abyssinia, states that frankincense, called attar, is exported in large quantities from Berbera, on the Somali coast of Africa; that it is brought thither from the interior, and that a camel load of two hundred and fifty pounds is sold for three dollars. In conformity with this is the statement of Cosmo Indicopleuestes, who describes the land of frankincense as lying 'at the furthest end of Ethiopia, fifty days' journey from Axum, at no great distance from the ocean. The inhabitants of the neighboring Barbaria, or the country of Sozee, fetch from thence frankincense and other costly spices, which they transport by water to Arabia Felix and India.' The substance thus indicated, called on the Continent African or Arabian olib, is rarely met with in this country. Dr. Pereira states it consists of smaller tears than that of the Indian variety, and is intermixed with crystals of carbonate of lime. Even the country which produces the olibanum being itself uncertain, the cautious naturalist will hesitate to indicate with decisiveness the species of tree by which it is afforded. More distinct information on the subject is still needed.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [16]

fraṇk´in - sens ( לבנה , lebhōnāh , from root meaning "whiteness," referring to the milky color of the fresh juice:  Exodus 30:34;  Leviticus 2:1 f,15 f;   Leviticus 5:11;  Leviticus 6:15;  Leviticus 24:7;  Numbers 5:15;  1 Chronicles 9:29;  Nehemiah 13:5 ,  Nehemiah 13:9;  Song of Solomon 3:6;  Song of Solomon 4:6 ,  Song of Solomon 4:14;  Isaiah 43:23;  Isaiah 60:6;  Isaiah 66:3;  Jeremiah 6:20;  Jeremiah 17:26;  Jeremiah 41:5; translated in the last six references "incense" in the King James Version, but correctly in the Revised Version (British and American); λίβανος , lı́banos ̌ :  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 lubān ), 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 ). See Incense . It is often associated with myrrh ( Song of Solomon 3:6;  Song of Solomon 4:6 ) and with it was made an offering to the infant Saviour ( Matthew 2:11 ). A specially "pure" kind, lebhōnāh zakkāh , was presented with the shewbread ( Leviticus 24:7 ).

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [17]

Bibliography Information McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Frankincense'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.