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frankincense

frankincense an aromatic gum resin obtained from an African tree and burnt as incense; traditionally used in the Jewish Temple. It was one of the gifts, with gold and myrrh, brought by the Magi to the infant Jesus, and because it was also used by magicians and sorcerers may symbolize their submission to him.

The word is recorded from late Middle English, and comes from Old French franc encens, literally ‘high-quality incense’.

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frankincense

frankincense (olibanum) Gum resin extracted from the bark of trees of the genus Boswellia, found in Africa and parts of the Middle East. Used in religious ceremonies, and one of the gifts of the Magi, it is burned as incense. The fine spicy oil extracted from the resin is used as a fixative in perfumes.

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frankincense

frank·in·cense / ˈfrangkənˌsens/ • n. an aromatic gum resin obtained from an African tree (Boswellia sacra, family Burseraceae) and burned as incense.

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frankincense

frankincense XIV. — OF. franc encens; see FRANK (‘of superior quality’), INCENSE.

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frankincense

frankincense: see incense-tree.

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frankincense

frankincenseaskance, expanse, finance, Hans, Hanse, manse, nance, Penzance, Romance •underpants • happenstance •advance, Afrikaans, à outrance, chance, dance, enhance, entrance, faience, France, glance, lance, mischance, outdance, perchance, prance, Provence, stance, trance •nuance • tap-dance • square dance •freelance • convenance •cense, commence, common sense, condense, dense, dispense, expense, fence, hence, Hortense, immense, offence (US offense), pence, prepense, pretence (US pretense), sense, spence, suspense, tense, thence, whence •ring-fence • recompense •frankincense •chintz, convince, evince, Linz, mince, Port-au-Prince, prince, quince, rinse, since, Vince, wince •province •bonce, ensconce, nonce, ponce, response, sconce •séance • pièce de résistance •announce, bounce, denounce, flounce, fluid ounce, jounce, mispronounce, ounce, pounce, pronounce, renounce, trounce •dunce, once

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Frankincense

FRANKINCENSE

FRANKINCENSE (Heb. לְבוֹנָה), the chief ingredient of the Temple *incense. It is mentioned a number of times among the treasures of the Temple (Neh. 13:5; i Chron. 9:29). It was burnt with the sacrifice of meal offering (Lev. 2:1) and placed upon the rows of showbread (Lev. 24:7). The frankincense on the meal offering along with a handful of the rest of its ingredients were scooped up by the priest as the "token portion" (azkarah) of the offering which he deposited on the altar to go up in smoke as a "soothing odor" offered to the Lord (Lev. 6:8; cf. Isa. 66:3). Pure frankincense was one of the four ingredients of the incense of the Tabernacle (Ex. 30:34; and cf. Ecclus. 24:15). It was brought to Ereẓ Israel from Sheba (Jer. 6:20). The maiden in the Song of Songs (3:6) came from the wilderness perfumed with myrrh and frankincense; in the erotic imagery of the Song of Songs, the lover refers to the body of his mistress as "the mountain of myrrh" and "the hill of frankincense" (Song 4:6), while the beloved is compared to "an enclosed garden" in which grow exotic perfumes including "all trees of frankincense" (Song 4:14–15). Ben Sira emphasizes its aromatic scent (Ecclus. 39:14; 50:9). Frankincense is frequently mentioned in rabbinic literature in connection with the laws of meal offerings, where it was used in the form of globules or grains (Men. 1:2). A potion of wine and frankincense was prepared for those condemned to death, "that they should not suffer pain" (Sem. 2:9; cf. Sanh. 43a). The name levonah is common in Semitic languages. It has its origin in the white color of the fresh sap, "pure frankincense." From the Semitic the name passed also into the Greek libanos.

Frankincense was extracted from trees of the genus Boswellia, of which there are two species: Boswellia sacra Flückiger (also known as Boswellia Carterii) found on the Arabian Peninsula and in North Somalia, and Boswellia frereana Bird-wood found in North Somalia. These trees are still the source for the frankincense used as incense in the Catholic Church. In ancient Egypt, as in other countries of the east, frankincense was very important, and it seems that efforts were made to plant it locally. The bringing of pots of frankincense for planting in Egypt is depicted in ancient Egyptian drawings.

bibliography:

Loew, Flora, 1 (1928), 312–4; J. Feliks, Olam ha-Ẓome'aḥ ha-Mikra'i (19682), 260–2. add. bibliography: halot, 493; diso, 564; W. Holladay, Jeremiah 1 (1986), 222; W. Mueller, in: abd ii, 854.

[Jehuda Feliks]

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