Hello everyone! I’ve been way busier than I expected, and I’m starting to get even more excited than ever for Christmas!!! I simply can’t wait until I get to reveal all of my Christmas secrets!
Speaking of Christmas gifts…today’s post is a word study on the “gift(s)” in the Bible.
It’s crazy sometimes how many Hebrew words can all mean one English word! Turns out “gift” was one of those.
Mattanah (מַתָּנָה)- translated gift or bribe and seems to be used in both positive and negative contexts.
Mattan (מַתָּן)- this one is pretty similar to Mattanah, but is in the masculine form (rather than the feminine form).
Mattath (מַתָּת)- this one also seems pretty similar to Mattanah (and is feminine) but I did notice that it can also be translated as “reward.”
Shay (שַׁי)- translated as gift, this word specifically refers to gifts of homage (I’m guessing if the story of the wise men were in Hebrew, this would be the word used for their gifts).
Minchah (מִנְחָה)- this word is translated as gift, offering, tribute, or present. For instance, in Genesis 32, when Jacob was afraid of meeting his brother Esau he sent ahead a Minchah or present (meant to appease him).
Eshkar (אֶשְׁכָּר)- translated as both gift and as payment (although to me, those seem contradictory).
Shilluchim (שִׁלּוּחַ)- this word means parting gift or sending away gift, and is sometimes translated as dowry.
Shochad (שַׁחַד)- this word can mean gift but it seems to me to be mostly translated as a bribe. It shows up a lot in Exodus, Deuteronomy, and Proverbs warning against bribes.
Instead of going through all the different words for gift in Greek, I’d like to look at the main Christmas passage (namely Matthew 1-2) that mentions gifts and then look at the Greek word from the verse there.
Matthew 2 tells us that sometime after Jesus was born, Magi (we sometimes call them “wise men”) came “from the east…[to] Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” (Mat 2:1).
After being cross-examined by Herod (who was probably very unhappy about such an announcement) they set out to find the King of whom they believed the star had foretold.
The Bible says that “they went on their way; and behold, the star, which they had seen in the east, went on ahead of them until it came to a stop over the place where the Child was to be found.” (Mat 2:9)
They went into the house where Jesus was with Mary and “they fell down and worshiped Him” (Mat 2:11a).
At that point we come to the main verse this whole post centers around.
“Then they opened their treasures and presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.”
The first thing my brother asked me when he saw me typing that over my shoulder was “what’s frankincense and myrrh?”. Well…we’ll get to that later. For now, just listen to “We Three Kings.” 🙂
The Greek word for gifts in this case is dora or dóron (I’m not sure which is correct). Dóron can mean gift, present, and sacrifice. According to HELPS Word-Studies, this particular word refers to a gift that is entirely free-willed and not externally compelled.
This same word is Luke 21 for the word offering when Jesus sees the the widow’s gift:
“And He said, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all of them; for they all contributed to the offering from their surplus; but she, from her poverty, put in all that she had to live on.” (Luke 21:3-4).
That’s about all for today! These are harder to do than I remember. 🙂
Song of the Day: We Three Kings by Steven Curtis Chapman
This was the best version of We Three Kings I could find. Here are the lyrics (which should explain at least a little about the frankincense and myrrh…if not you could always do some research!):
We three kings of Orient are
Bearing gifts, we traverse afar
Field and fountain, moor and mountain
Following yonder star
Born a king on Bethlehem’s plain
Gold I bring to crown Him again
King forever, ceasing never
Over us all to reign
O Star of wonder, star of night
Star with royal beauty bright
Westward leading, still proceeding
Guide us to thy perfect Light
Frankincense to offer have I
My gift of love and sacrifice
Prayer and praising, all men raising
Worship Him, God on high
Myrrh is mine, it’s bitter perfume
Breathes a life of gathering gloom
Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying
Sealed in the stone-cold tomb
Glorious now, behold Him, arise
King and God and Sacrifice
Sounds through the Earth and skies
“Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.”
“Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!”
-2 Corinthian 9:15
*All Scripture quotations are in the NASB translation unless otherwise noted