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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [1]

MYRRH ( σμύρνα,  Matthew 2:11,  John 19:39).—A gum-resin, the exudation of a shrub ( Balsamodendron myrrha ) and some other allied species of shrubs growing in the dry regions of Arabia, in Somaliland, and in certain districts bordering on the Red Sea. The myrrh shrubs are of a low stature, unattractive, rigid, spiny, with scanty foliage and minute flowers and small oval berries. Myrrh exudes from the bark, or is obtained by incisions made in the bark, and appears in resinous, yellow drops, which gradually thicken and become harder. The smell is balsamic, and the taste bitter and slightly pungent. Myrrh has been known to mankind from the remotest times, and was among the most precious articles of ancient commerce. It is used in medicine as a tonic and stimulant, and was much employed by the ancient Egyptians in embalming. It is collected in great quantities to-day by the Somali tribes and sold to traders. There has been considerable controversy as to the real nature of the ancient myrrh, and particularly as to the regions from which it came; but the σμύρνα of NT appears, on the whole, to have been the substance described above.

Myrrh was one of the gifts brought by the Magi to the Infant Christ ( Matthew 2:11), and it was used, along with aloes, by Nicodemus to anoint the body of Christ before burial ( John 19:39). All the ancient commentators affirm that each of the three gifts—gold, frankincense, and myrrh—offered by the Magi is replete with spiritual significance. Thus it was widely accepted in early times that the myrrh was emblematic of the death of Christ, inasmuch as myrrh was used for embalming. It was ‘offered to Christ as to one who is about to die for all’ (Aug. ad loe ). Others regarded it as setting forth His true human nature, and therefore as teaching the mortification of the flesh by abstinence. The well-known ancient hymn, part of which refers to this, says:

‘Gold, a monarch to declare;

Frankincense, that God is there;

Myrrh, to tell the heavier tale

Of His tomb and funeral.’

Though we may admit that in the gifts presented there was an unconscious fulfilment of prophecy ( Isaiah 60:6), no symbolism of the nature referred to can have been designed by the Magi. So far as their intention was concerned, they simply offered to the new-born King, whom they came to worship, the choicest and most precious products of their country, and thus expressed their homage.

In  Mark 15:23 we are told that there was offered to Christ, probably just before He was nailed to the cross, ἑσμυρνισμένον οἷνον, ‘wine mingled with myrrh.’ It was offered, of course, as an anodyne; but as myrrh was often infused into wine to give it a more agreeable flavour and fragrance, it has been held by some that Mt.’s expression οἶνον μετὰ χολῆς, ‘wine mingled with gall,’ is the more correct, because the mingling of gall with wine to render it anaesthetic was a well-known practice. It is, however, possible that the gall of Mt. was the same as the myrrh of Mk., the corresponding Hebrew words being from the same root, and both signifying ‘bitter.’ The mingling of myrrh with the wine would certainly render it more potent as an anodyne, and we must therefore accept the word given by Mk. as conveying the purpose for which the draught was offered. Such a draught, called by the Romans sopor , was regularly offered to criminals just before their crucifixion. It was provided by an association of wealthy women in Jerusalem, who prepared it for the purpose. But, having tasted it and ascertained its object, He would not drink. This action is in contrast with what He did at a later period of the day; for when, in response to His cry ‘I thirst,’ one of the soldiers soaked a sponge in ‘vinegar’ and, holding it up to Him on a reed, gave Him to drink, He received it. This was not to soothe His agony, but only to moisten His parched tongue and lips, perhaps that He might be able to utter ‘with a loud voice’ His triumphant τετέλεσται, perhaps also to sanction and sanctify the friendly office which is often the only one that can be rendered to the dying, and possibly in fulfilment of the prophecy of thirst ( John 19:28, cf.  Psalms 69:21). However this may be, His purpose in refusing the draught offered as an anodyne is clear. He would ‘look death in the face,’ and meet the King of Terrors in full possession of all His faculties. He was dying of His own accord, fulfilling His words, ‘No man taketh my life from me’ ( John 10:18). His death was an act of voluntary self-surrender, and He would ‘taste death for every man’ ( Hebrews 2:9). He ‘endured the cross, despising shame’ ( Hebrews 12:2).

Literature.—Birdwood in Bible Educator , ii. 151; an exhaustive article by Hanbury, ‘The Botanical Origin and Country of Myrrh’ in the Pharmaceutical Journal , 19th Apr. 1873.

J. Cromarty Smith.

Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary [2]

This aromatic gum is from a tree common in Arabia. The Hebrews called it Mur. It formed a principal ingredient in the holy ointment for anointing the tabernacle and the vessels of the sanctuary, and also Aaron and his sons; and the Lord forbade the use of it in common, or any composition by way of imitating it, on pain of being cut off from his people. Was not this a striking type of the Holy Ghost in his divine offices, and the awful consequence of attempting any thing which bore a resemblance to the holy unction of the Spirit? (See  Exodus 30:22-33.)

The Holy Ghost hath been pleased to mark out so many things concerning the Lord Jesus under the figure and type of myrrh, that we ought not to pass over a short consideration of some of them at least. Jesus himself is the sweet scented myrrh of his gospel; hence the church saith of him, that he is "a bundle of myrrh," ( Song of Song of Solomon 1:13) meaning, no doubt, that he is a cluster, a fulness, of all divine and human excellences. Every thing in Christ, and from Christ, is most grateful and full of odour to his church and people; hence his garments are said "to smell of myrrh, aloes and cassia"--all temporal, all spiritual, and eternal blessings are in him for his spouse, his fair one, his redeemed. "I will get me (saith the church) to the mountains of myrrh, and to the hill of frankincense, until the day break, and the shadows flee away." ( Song of Song of Solomon 4:6.)

Myrrh is not only figuratively made use of to denote the sweetness and rich odour of Jesus, in his person, grace, and fulness, but the blessed Spirit uses the figure of myrrh to speak of his sufferings also; yea, the offered myrrh mingled with wine to Jesus on the cross, and which was among the predictions concerning the Lord in that solemn season, plainly testified the bitterness of Christ's sufferings. And the double quality of this Arabian gum, its fragrancy, and its bitterness, formed a striking union to shew forth how precious a sacrifice of a sweet smelling savour was that very death, which to Jesus was gall and bitterness, indeed, in the extreme. ( Mark 15:23.) And may we not suppose that the Lord Jesus had an eye both to his own sufferings, and to the sufferings of his faithful ones, who had followed him to glory through persecution and not unfrequently death, when he said: "I have gathered my myrrh with my spice?" for in his own person he trod the wine-press of the wrath of God alone, and may be said to gather the fruits of the labour and travail of his soul when beholding the blessed effects of it in the everlasting salvation of his people. And in their lesser conflicts and exercises, the bitterness of their sorrows Jesus takes notice of and gathers, when owning them for his own, and bringing them home to his Father's house, he brings them to himself, that where he is there they may be also. Blessed Lord Jesus! come as thou hast said to my house, to my heart, while thine hands are dropping with myrrh, and thy fingers with sweet-smelling myrrh, and be thou "like a young roe or an hart upon the mountains of spices!" ( Song of Song of Solomon 5:1; Son 5:5; Son 8:14.)

Vine's Expository Dictionary of NT Words [3]

A — 1: Σμύρνα (Strong'S #4666 — Noun Feminine — smurna — smoor'-nah )

whence the name "Smyrna," a word of Semitic origin, Heb., mor, from a root meaning "bitter," is a gum resin from a shrubby tree, which grows in Yemen and neighboring regions of Africa; the fruit is smooth and somewhat larger than a pea. The color of myrrh varies from pale reddish-yellow to reddish-brown or red. The taste is bitter, and the substance astringent, acting as an antiseptic and a stimulant. It was used as a perfume,  Psalm 45:8 , where the language is symbolic of the graces of the Messiah;  Proverbs 7:17; Song of  Song of Solomon 1:13;  5:5; it was one of the ingredients of the "holy anointing oil" for the priests,  Exodus 30:23 (RV, "flowing myrrh"); it was used also for the purification of women,   Esther 2:12; for embalming,  John 19:39; as an anodyne see B); it was one of the gifts of the Magi,  Matthew 2:11 .

B — 1: Σμυρνίζω (Strong'S #4669 — Verb — smurnizo — smoor-nid'-zo )

is used transitively in the NT, with the meaning "to mingle or drug with myrrh,"  Mark 15:23; the mixture was doubtless offered to deaden the pain (Matthew's word "gall" suggests that "myrrh" was not the only ingredient). Christ refused to partake of any such means of alleviation; He would retain all His mental power for the complete fulfillment of the Father's will.

Fausset's Bible Dictionary [4]

Hebrew Mor from Maarar "to drop," and Lot . An ingredient of the holy anointing oil ( Exodus 30:23), typical of Messiah's graces ( Psalms 45:8) as well as the church's through Him (Song of Solomon). In  Song of Solomon 1:13 translated "a scent box of myrrh." The Mowr is the Βalsamodendron Myrrha , which yields myrrh, of the order Τerebinth Aceae . The stunted trunk has a light gray odorous bark. It grew in Arabia around Saba; the gum resin exudes in drops which harden on the bark, and the flow is increased by incision into the tree. It is a transparent, brown, brittle, odorous substance, with bitter taste. The "wine mingled with myrrh," offered to but rejected by Jesus on the cross, was embittered by it.

As it stupefies the senses He would not have that which mitigates death's horrors, but would meet it in full consciousness. It was one of the three offerings of the wise men ( Matthew 2:11). Nicodemus brought it to embalm His sacred body ( John 19:39). Βal is its Egyptian name, Bol the Sanskrit and Hindu. Lot is not strictly myrrh but Ladanum , the resinous exudation of the Cistus ("rock rose") Creticus , growing in Gilead where no myrrh grew, and exported into Egypt ( Genesis 37:25;  Genesis 43:11). "Odorous, rather green, easy to soften, fat, produced in Cyprus" (Dioscorides i. 128); abounding still in Candia (Crete), where they gather it by passing over it an instrument composed of many parallel leather thongs, to which its gum adheres.

Smith's Bible Dictionary [5]

Myrrh. This substance is mentioned in  Exodus 30:23, as one of the ingredients of the "oil of holy ointment:" in  Esther 2:12, as one of the substances used in the purification of women; in  Psalms 45:8;  Proverbs 7:17, and in several passages in Canticles, as a perfume. The Greek occurs in  Matthew 2:11, among the gifts brought by the wise men to the infant Jesus , and in  Mark 15:23, it is said that "wine mingled with myrrh" was offered to, but refused by, our Lord on the cross.

Myrrh was also used for embalming. See  John 19:39 , And Herod. Ii. 86. The Balsamodendron myrrha , which produces the myrrh of commerce, has a wood and bark which emit a strong odor; the gum which exudes from the bark is at first oily, but becomes hard by exposure to the air.

(This myrrh is in small yellowish or white globules or tears. The tree is small, with a stunted trunk, covered with light-gray bark, It is found in Arabia Felix. The myrrh of  Genesis 37:25, was probably ladalzum , a highly-fragrant resin and volatile oil used as a cosmetic, and stimulative as a medicine. It is yielded by the cistus , known in Europe as the rock rose, a shrub with rose-colored flowers, growing in Palestine, and along the shores of the Mediterranean. - Editor).

For wine mingled with myrrh, See Gall .

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [6]

A precious gum yielded by a tree common in Africa and Arabia, which is about eight or nine feet high; its wood hard, and its trunk thorny. It was of several kinds, and various degrees of excellence. The best was an ingredient in the holy ointment,  Exodus 30:23 . It was also employed in perfumes,  Esther 2:12   Psalm 45:8 Song of   Song of Solomon 4:6   5:5,13; and in embalming, to preserve the body from corruption,  John 19:39 . The magi, who came from the East to worship Christ, offered him myrrh,  Matthew 2:11 .

In  Mark 15:23 , is mentioned "wine mingles with myrrh," which was offered to Jesus previous to his crucifixion, and intended to deaden the anguish of his sufferings. It was a custom among the Hebrews to give such stupefying liquors to persons who were about to be capitally punished,  Proverbs 31:6 . Some have thought that the myrrhed wine of Mark is not the same as the "vinegar mingled with gall" of  Matthew 27:34 . They suppose the myrrhed wine was given to our Lord from a sentiment of sympathy, to prevent him from feeling too sensibly the pain of his sufferings; while the potation mingled with gall, of which he would not drink, was given from cruelty. But the other explanation is the more probable. See Gall .

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [7]

MYRRH. 1. môr (Arab [Note: Arabic.] , murr ), the dried gum of a species of balsam ( Balsamodendron myrrha ) growing in Arabia and India. It has a pleasant, though faint, smell (  Psalms 45:8 ,   Proverbs 7:17 ,   Song of Solomon 1:13;   Song of Solomon 3:5 ). It is still used in medicine (  Mark 15:23 ). It was used in embalming (  John 19:39 ). According to Schweinfurth, the myrrh of the OT was a liquid product of the Balsamodendron opobalsamum , known as balsam of Mecca.   Exodus 30:23 and   Song of Solomon 5:5;   Song of Solomon 5:13 , where the ‘myrrh’ appears to have been liquid, support this view. See also Ointment.

2 . lôt , tr. [Note: translate or translation.] ‘myrrh’ in   Genesis 37:25;   Genesis 43:11 , is a fragrant resin from the Cislus or ‘rock rose,’ a common Palestine shrub. In Arab [Note: Arabic.] , this is called lâdhan (Lat. ladanum , so RVm [Note: Revised Version margin.] ). As a product of Palestine it was a likely substance to send to Egypt.

E. W. G. Masterman

People's Dictionary of the Bible [8]

Myrrh. A gum resin, celebrated for its aromatic properties. It derives its name from the Hebrew word Môr, which implies "flowing"or "distilling," Greek Murrha . The Balsamodendron Myrrha, of the natural order Terebinthaceæ, is the tree found in Arabia and Africa, from which myrrh is chiefly procured. It exudes from the bark, and is at first soft, oily, and yellowish-white; it afterwards acquires the consistency of butter, and becomes still harder by exposure to the air, changing to a reddish hue. In commerce it is of two kinds, "myrrh in tears" and "myrrh in sorts." Myrrh is frequently mentioned in Scripture. It was an ingredient in the holy anointing oil,  Exodus 30:23; it was used in perfumes,  Psalms 45:8;  Proverbs 7:17;  Song of Solomon 1:13;  Song of Solomon 8:6; in unguents,  Esther 2:12;  Song of Solomon 5:5; for strengthening wine,  Mark 15:23; also in embalming,  John 19:30. Myrrh was among the offerings made by the eastern sages.  Matthew 2:11. The best was that which flowed spontaneously from the tree.

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [9]

מור ,  Exodus 30:23;  Esther 2:19;  Psalms 45:8;  Proverbs 7:17;  Song of Solomon 1:13;  Song of Solomon 3:6;  Song of Solomon 4:6;  Song of Solomon 4:14;  Song of Solomon 5:1;  Song of Solomon 5:5;  Song of Solomon 5:13; σμυρνα , Sir_24:15;  Matthew 2:11;  Mark 15:23;  John 19:39; a precious kind of gum issuing by incision, and sometimes spontaneously, from the trunk and larger branches of a tree growing in Egypt, Arabia, and Abyssinia. Its taste is extremely bitter, but its smell, though strong, is not disagreeable; and among the ancients it entered into the composition of the most costly ointments. As a perfume, it appears to have been used to give a pleasant fragrance to vestments, and to be carried by females in little caskets in the bosom. The magi, who came from the east to worship our Saviour at Bethlehem, made him a present of myrrh among other things,  Matthew 2:11 .

Morrish Bible Dictionary [10]

1. lot. This is judged to be a fragrant resinous gum gathered from the leaves of the cistus , or rock rose.  Genesis 37:25;  Genesis 43:11 .

2. mor, Arabic murr. The true myrrh, so called because it distils its gum as tears, which harden into a bitter aromatic gum. It was an ingredient in the holy anointing oil, and was much prized as a perfume.  Exodus 30:23;  Esther 2:12;  Psalm 45:8;  Proverbs 7:17;  Song of Solomon 1:13;  Song of Solomon 3:6;  Song of Solomon 4:6,14;  Song of Solomon 5:1,5,13 . It is identified with the balsamodendron myrrha and other allied species. In the N.T. the same is alluded to under the name of σμύρνα. The Magi presented myrrh with frankincense to the Lord at His birth, and it was used at His burial. Mingled with wine it was offered to Him as a stupifying drink before He was crucified, but He refused it.  Matthew 2:11;  Mark 15:23;  John 19:39 .

Wilson's Dictionary of Bible Types [11]

 Psalm 45:8 (c) This type represents the fragrance of Christ to GOD in His sacrificial death. His death went up to GOD as a sweet smelling savour, which is most blessed both to GOD and to man. (See also  John 19:39).

 Proverbs 7:17 (c) This may be taken as a picture or a type of the enticing, alluring schemes and plans of the harlots to attract men to their homes, and to a life of sinful pleasure.

 Song of Solomon 1:13 (c) By this figure we understand the feelings of GOD's people concerning the loveliness of CHRIST to their hearts. The beauty, the fragrance and the attractiveness of the Lord JESUS are compared to the sweet odors arising from precious spices.

 Matthew 2:11 (c) This perfume is the third of the gifts mentioned, which were brought to the Lord Jesus Christ by the wise men. It typifies the beauty and the value of CHRIST as He gave His life for us.

  • the gold is a type of His perfection and loveliness in His prenatal days.
  • the frankincense may be taken as a type of the beauty and loveliness of CHRIST during His life on earth.
  • the myrrh may remind us of the preciousness and sweetness of CHRIST in His death.

Easton's Bible Dictionary [12]

  • Another word Lot Is also translated "myrrh" (  Genesis 37:25;  43:11; RSV, marg., "or ladanum"). What was meant by this word is uncertain. It has been thought to be the chestnut, mastich, stacte, balsam, turpentine, pistachio nut, or the lotus. It is probably correctly rendered by the Latin word ladanum, the Arabic ladan, an aromatic juice of a shrub called the Cistus or rock rose, which has the same qualities, though in a slight degree, of opium, whence a decoction of opium is called laudanum. This plant was indigenous to Syria and Arabia.

    Copyright Statement These dictionary topics are from M.G. Easton M.A., DD Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Third Edition, published by Thomas Nelson, 1897. Public Domain.

    Bibliography Information Easton, Matthew George. Entry for 'Myrrh'. Easton's Bible Dictionary. 1897.

  • Webster's Dictionary [13]

    (n.) A gum resin, usually of a yellowish brown or amber color, of an aromatic odor, and a bitter, slightly pungent taste. It is valued for its odor and for its medicinal properties. It exudes from the bark of a shrub of Abyssinia and Arabia, the Balsamodendron Myrrha. The myrrh of the Bible is supposed to have been partly the gum above named, and partly the exudation of species of Cistus, or rockrose.

    King James Dictionary [14]

    MYRRH, n. mer. L. myrrha. A gum-resin that comes in the form of drops or globules of various colors and sizes, of a pretty strong but agreeable smell, and of a bitter taste. It is imported from Egypt, but chiefly from the southern or eastern parts of Arabia from what species of tree or plant it is procured, is unknown. As a medicine, it is a good stomachic, antispasmodic and cordial.

    Holman Bible Dictionary [15]

     Genesis 37:25 Exodus 30:23 Esther 2:12 Psalm 45:8 Matthew 2:11 John 19:39

    Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [16]


    Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature [17]

    Myrrh is the exudation of a little-known tree found in Arabia, but much more extensively in Abyssinia. It formed an article of the earliest commerce, was highly esteemed by the Egyptians and Jews, as well as by the Greeks and Romans, as it still is both in the East and in Europe. The earliest notice of it occurs in , 'Take thou also unto thee principal spices, of pure myrrh (morderor) 500 shekels.' It is afterwards mentioned in , as employed in the purification of women; in , as a perfume, 'All thy garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia;' also in several passages of the Song of Solomon . We find it mentioned in , among the gifts presented by the wise men of the East to the infant Jesus—'gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.' It may be remarked as worthy of notice, that myrrh and frankincense are frequently mentioned together. In , we learn that the Roman soldiers 'gave him (Jesus) to drink wine mingled with myrrh; but he received it not.' The Apostle John says, 'Then came also Nicodemus, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight,' for the purpose of embalming the body of our Savior.

    Fig. 274—Balsamodendron Myrrha

    Though myrrh seems to have been known from the earliest times, and must consequently have been one of the most ancient articles of commerce, the country producing it long remained unknown. Some is undoubtedly procured in Arabia, but the largest quantity has always been obtained from Africa. Mr. Johnson, in his recently published Travels in Abyssinia (i. 249), mentions that 'Myrrh and mimosa trees abounded in this place' (Koranhedudah in Adal). The former he describes as being 'a low, thorny, ragged-looking tree, with bright-green trifoliate leaves; the gum exudes from cracks in the bark of the trunk near the root, and flows freely upon the stones immediately underneath. Artificially it is obtained by bruises made with stones. The natives collect it principally in the hot months of July and August, but it is to be found, though in very small quantities, at other times of the year.

    Several kinds of myrrh were known to the ancients; and in modern commerce we have Turkish and East Indian myrrh, and different names used to be, and are still applied to it, as red and fatty myrrh, myrrh in tears, in sorts, and myrrh in grains. In the Bible also several kinds of myrrh are enumerated, respecting which various opinions have been entertained.

    Myrrh, it is well known, was celebrated in the most ancient times as a perfume, and a fumigator, as well as for its uses in medicine. Myrrh was burned in the temples, and employed in embalming the bodies of the dead. It was offered in presents, as natural products commonly were in those days, because such as were procured from distant countries were very rare. The ancients prepared a wine of myrrh, and also an oil of myrrh, and it formed an ingredient in many of the most celebrated compound medicines, as the Theriaca, the Mithridata, Manus Dei. etc. Even in Europe it continued to recent times to enjoy the highest medicinal reputation, as it does in the East in the present day. From the sensible properties of this drug, and from the virtues which were ascribed to it, we may satisfactorily account for the mention of it in the several passages of Scripture which have been quoted.

    International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [18]

    mûr  :

    (1) ( מר or מור , mōr  ; Arabic murr ): This substance is mentioned as valuable for its perfume   Psalm 45:8;  Proverbs 7:17;  Song of Solomon 3:6;  Song of Solomon 4:14 , and as one of the constituents of the holy incense ( Exodus 30:23; see also  Song of Solomon 4:6;  Song of Solomon 5:1 ,  Song of Solomon 5:5 ,  Song of Solomon 5:13 ). Mōr is generally identified with the "myrrh" of commerce, the dried gum of a species of balsam ( Balsamodendron myrrha ). This is a stunted tree growing in Arabia, having a light-gray bark; the gum resin exudes in small tear-like drops which dry to a rich brown or reddish-yellow, brittle substance, with a faint though agreeable smell and a warm, bitter taste. It is still used as medicine  Mark 15:23 . On account, however, of the references to "flowing myrrh"  Exodus 30:23 and "liquid myrrh"   Song of Solomon 5:5 ,  Song of Solomon 5:13 , Schweinfurth maintains that mōr was not a dried gum but the liquid balsam of Balsamodendron opobalsamum . See Balsam .

    Whichever view is correct, it is probable that the σμύρνα , smúrna , of the New Testament was the same. In   Matthew 2:11 it is brought by the "Wise men" of the East as an offering to the infant Saviour; in   Mark 15:23 it is offered mingled with wine as an anaesthetic to the suffering Redeemer, and in   John 19:39 a "mixture of myrrh and aloes" is brought by Nicodemus to embalm the sacred body.

    (2) ( לט , lōṭ , στακτή , staktḗ  ; translated "myrrh" in   Genesis 37:25 , margin "ladanum";  Genesis 43:11 ): The fragrant resin obtained from some species of cistus and called in Arabic lādham , in Latin ladanum . The cistus or "rock rose" is exceedingly common all over the mountains of Palestine (see Botany ), the usual varieties being the C. villosus with pink petals, and the C. salviaefolius with white petals. No commerce is done now in Palestine in this substance as of old   Genesis 37:25;  Genesis 43:11 , but it is still gathered from various species of cistus, especially C. creticus in the Greek Isles, where it is collected by threshing the plants by a kind of flail from which the sticky mass is scraped off with a knife and rolled into small black balls. In Cyprus at the present time the gum is collected from the beards of the goats that browse on these shrubs, as was done in the days of Herodotus iii. 112).