The Role of Frankincense in the Law
Jan 24, 2008
The Hebrew word for frankincense is lebanaw, which is from laban, "white." Recall that Jacob worked for his Uncle Laban for 20 years in the book of Genesis. The nation of Lebanon (or Liban) is also derived from this word, no doubt named for the great "White Mountain" on its border with Israel, called Mount Hermon.
The prophetic significance of this name has to do with God's ultimate goal in covering the whole earth with His glory, as He vowed to do in Num. 14:21. God's manner of fulfilling His intention is by bringing people through three steps of salvation. First they are justified, then sanctified, and then glorified. These steps are prophesied in the law by the feasts of Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles.
When Jesus showed by example what is meant by transfiguration, He took disciples to Mount Hermon (the White Mountain). There it is said in Matthew 17:2,
"And He was transfigured before them; and His face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light (helios, the sun) ."
Frankincense is associated with the feast of Tabernacles and the promise of the glorified body, patterned after Jesus' transfigured form on Mount Hermon.
The transfiguration of the body is not possible apart from a heart change, any more than one can keep the feast of Tabernacles without first experiencing Passover and Pentecost. These three feasts all work upon the heart of man in progressive ways that lead to the final heart circumcision that cuts away the flesh (carnal mind) and brings true spiritual perfection.
The Hebrew word for "heart" is leb, which forms the main portion of the words laban and lebanaw. Though leb is not mentioned as the root of lebanaw, if we study the word through the word pictures, we see that there is certainly a connection. Lebanaw is a leb (heart) combined with the letter nun (fish, life), ending with the hey ("what comes from"). The meaning of lebanaw by the word picture, then, is "what comes from life in the heart."
In other words, transfiguration, radiating light as white as the sun, is the result of life radiating from the heart.
Once we begin to understand this, we can see the significance of using frankincense in Scripture. The most famous use, of course, is when the Magi brought frankincense to Jesus as a gift. The extraction of this oil from the tree was a guarded secret, and this oil was very costly. It was literally worth its weight in gold in those days. But in bringing it to Jesus, the Magi prophesied of His transfiguration and glorification as the first of the New Creation that God was bringing forth in the earth.
Myrrh was also a fairly costly oil. It was used by the Egyptians in embalming kings and wealthy people. So the myrrh prophesied of Jesus' death.
In Exodus 30:31-34, frankincense was one of the ingredients in the "holy anointing oil." The wordMessiah means "anointed," and the Greek equivalent is Christos, or Christ. It tells us that the anointing of God makes a person a type of Christ in some manner, and the frankincense prophesies of that person's day of transfiguration.
In Leviticus 2 we read about the meal offering, or grain offering, in which frankincense was used. The meal offering used was unleavened bread, made from barley. Leaven was forbidden (Lev. 2:11), because it signified corruption and sin. This barley meal was to contain frankincense. I have shown in my book, The Barley Overcomers, that barley signifies the overcomers who will inherit the first resurrection. Theirs is the promise of being first to be transfigured and glorified.
It is said by the experts in the study of these essential oils that frankincense applied to the forehead has the effect of stimulating memory. Perhaps it is for this additional reason that frankincense was used in the meal offering. Lev. 2:2 says that after putting frankincense on the meal, "the priest shall offer it up in smoke as its MEMORIAL portion on the altar."
The word "memorial" has to do with remembering. We see this fact clearly in Number 5:15, where frankincense was NOT to be put into the meal offering brought by a jealous husband when he suspected his wife of being unfaithful to him. (This is part of the Law of Jealousy, which we studied earlier.) The text reads, "He shall not pour oil upon it, nor put frankincense on it, for it is a grain offering of jealousy, a grain offering of memorial, a reminder of iniquity."
In other words, frankincense indicates a REMINDER OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, not of iniquity. In the Law of Jealousy, the husband's accusation was "reminding" God of iniquity. Yet when the woman takes the oath of innocence, the husband is to accept her oath, leaving the matter in God's hands, and he is to "forget it."
In Leviticus 2, frankincense was to be used as a memorial in order to remember righteousness. The meal offering, or grain offering, was not a sin offering or a burnt offering or a trespass offering. It was prepared by grinding the barley into meal or perhaps roasting the grains in the fire (2:14). These acts signify martyrdom and the willingness to lay down one's life (John 15:13) even as Jesus did. Such people are presented to God as a living sacrifice (Rom. 12:1), but they lay down their lives knowing that God will REMEMBER their righteousness though world accused them of iniquity.
Remembrance, then, primarily has to do with the idea of resurrection, which is seen as God's act of remembering the dead and remembering His promise to them of a new and glorified body. That glorified body is illustrated by Moses' face that glowed with light in Exodus 34:30. Paul comments on this in 2 Cor. 3.
This brings a whole new prophetic idea into the picture, because the Hebrew word paniym means both "face" and "presence." When Moses' face glowed, it signified the full presence of God resting upon him as the result of His fellowship with God in the Mount. (See also chapter 9 of The Laws of the Second Coming.)
With this in mind, let us look at the Table of Showbread in the tabernacle of Moses, where they presented to God a different kind of meal offering. Exodus 25:30 (NASB) reads this way: "And you shall set the bread of the Presence on the table before Me at all times."
The reason they use the term "Bread of the Presence" instead of "Showbread" is because the Hebrew term used here is paniym, which can be translated either face or presence. The 12 loaves of bread on this Table (Lev. 24:6) represented first the 12 tribes of Israel, and secondly 12 is the number of divine government.
These 12 loaves were to have frankincense put upon them (Lev. 24:7), prophesying that those called to rule on the earth (Rev. 5:10) and reign with Christ after the first resurrection (Rev. 20:6) are the ones anointed (enchristed) with frankincense. These are the ones that God first rememberswhen He raises them from the dead. They are the first to receive their glorified bodies, their tabernacles reserved for them in heaven (2 Cor. 5:1). They are the first to receive the FACE of God, His full divine PRESENCE, the fullness of the Spirit.
Such is the prophecy of the Table of Showbread, which stands opposite to the Lampstand in the Tabernacle. The Lampstand of seven candles are the seven stars in God's hand and also signifies the Seven Churches (Rev. 1:20). But to those who overcome are given the greatest rewards. The overcomers are primarily represented by the 12 enchristed loaves on the Table of Showbread.