The meaning of the gifts of the Wise Men


A look at the meaning of the gifts presented to Jesus at his birth by his wise visitors.

Three wise gifts

The gifts that the wise men brought were significant in that they have a deeper meaning than just being nice gifts. There are lots of different ideas about what they actually meant but most people agree on the following:


Gold is a sign of kingship. Of course it comes in handy to buy stuff too and it may be just the gift they needed to escape to Egypt when Herod the Great went a bit mad. Whatever they spent the money on it was an important gift and a strange one to give to the son of a carpenter. But not as strange as the next two.


Is a perfume that has religious overtones being an incense used in worship. Appropriate not just for a king but also for a priest.


Is an oil that is used for anointing and also embalming - appropriate for a king and for someone who will have to face death.

What happened to them?

There are various legends. The first is that they were stolen by the two thieves who ended up being crucified alongside Jesus. The other is that Judas was given charge of them but he sold them for his own gain. My personal feeling is that they were probably sold - a carpenter could no doubt use the money.

According to Wikipedia:

In the Monastery of St. Paul of Mount Athos there is a 15th century golden case containing purportedly the Gift of the Magi. It was donated to the monastery in the 15th century by Mara Branković, daughter of the King of Serbia Đurađ Branković, wife to the Ottoman Sultan Murat II and godmother to Mehmet II the Conqueror (of Constantinople). Apparently they were part of the relics of the Holy Palace of Constantinople and it is claimed they were displayed there since the 4th century AD. After the Athens earthquake of September 9, 1999 they were temporarily displayed in Athens in order to strengthen faith and raise money for earthquake victims.