And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him…
Traditions have gathered round this story. The Magi are said to have been three. Their names are given - Melchior, Caspar, and Balthazar. Their gifts were threefold; each had a symbolic meaning, and each was the representative gift of the individual who presented it. The details of the tradition are given in Farrar's 'Life of Christ.' No great value can attach to it, but it does emphasize the facts on which we now dwell, that the gifts of the Magi were their own; were representative; were representative strictly of themselves. These gifts may be shown to have been
(1) from their own country;
(2) of their own property;
(3) by their own selection;
(4) expressing their own meaning; and
(5) therefore they strictly represented and carried themselves.
I. FROM THEIR OWN COUNTRY. And so representative of their particular associations and interests. See the precision of the gifts selected by Jacob for Pharaoh's vizier (Genesis 43:11): "Carry down the man a present, a little balm, and a little honey, spices, and myrrh, nuts, and almonds." These were the products of the district. Arabia and the East are the spice-countries, and from them caravans bore myrrh and frankincense for trading in other lands. So the Magi seemed to bear the homage of their country.
II. FROM THEIR OWN PROPERTY. Illustrate by the noble spirit of David, who would not give, for the service of the Lord, what cost him nothing, and who generously devoted of his own private property - of his "own proper good." People are ready enough to give away common property, on committees; but the same people are mean enough when claim is made on their own property. Yet there never can be any real nobility in the gift unless we can say, "It is mine, and I give it to you."
III. BY THEIR OWN SELECTION. No doubt the question was anxiously discussed, "What shall we take?" They would be anxious to find something suitable, but each would have his idea of suitability. They were going to offer homage to a King: so all might agree that a present of gold would be wise. But, then, it was a Babe: so it seems they agreed at last on carrying the scents and spices which would be useful in tending the Babe. Whether those imaginative Easterns attached symbolical ideas to their gifts does not appear. Such ideas have been attached for them. Myrrh was for the human nature, gold for the King, and incense for the Divinity. Gifts ought to carry thought.
IV. EXPRESSING THEIR OWN MEANING. Though all meant one thing, each gave a special individuality and tone to the meaning. Let several join in a gift, and the gift will really be manifold, and not just one.
V. CARRYING THEMSELVES. A gift is nothing save as it represents the giver. Give what we may to God, the gift, to be acceptable, must give ourselves. - R.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.