Take unto thee sweet spices - The holy perfume was compounded of the following ingredients: Stacte - נטף nataph, supposed to be the same with what was afterwards called the balm of Jericho. Stacte is the gum which spontaneously flows from the tree which produces myrrh. See Clarke's note on Exodus 30:23.
Onycha - שחלת shecheleth, allowed by the best critics to be the unguis odoriferans described by Rumph, which is the external crust of the shell-fish purpura or murex, and is the basis of the principal perfumes made in the East Indies.
Galbanum - חלבנה chelbenah, the bubon gummiferum or African ferula; it rises with a ligneous stalk from eight to ten feet, and is garnished with leaves at each joint. The top of the stock is terminated by an umbel of yellow flowers, which are succeeded by oblong channelled seeds, which have a thin membrane or wing on their border. When any part of the plant is broken, there issues out a little thin milk of a cream color. The gummy resinous juice which proceeds from this plant is what is commonly called galbanum, from the chelbench of the Hebrews.
Pure frankincense - זקה לבנה lebonah zaccah . Frankincense is supposed to derive its name from frank, free, because of its liberal or ready distribution of its odours. It is a dry resinous substance, in pieces or drops of a pale yellowish white color, has a strong smell, and bitter acrid taste. The tree which produces it is not well known. Dioscorides mentions it as gotten in India. What is called here pure frankincense is no doubt the same with the mascula thura of Virgil, and signifies what is first obtained from the tree - that which is strongest and most free from all adventitious mixtures. See Clarke's note on Exodus 30:7.
The Israelites were most strictly prohibited, on the most awful penalties, from making any anointing oil or perfume similar to those described in this chapter. He that should compound such, or apply any of this to any common purpose, even to smell to, Exodus 30:38, should be cut off, that is, excommunicated from his people, and so lose all right, title, and interest in the promises of God and the redemption of Israel. From all this we may learn how careful the Divine Being is to preserve his own worship and his own truth, so as to prevent them from being adulterated by human inventions; for he will save men in his own way, and upon his own terms. What are called human inventions in matters of religion, are not only of no worth, but are in general deceptive and ruinous. Arts and sciences in a certain way may be called inventions of men, for the spirit of a man knoweth the things of a man - can comprehend, plan, and execute, under the general influence of God, every thing in which human life is immediately concerned; but religion, as it is the gift, so it is the invention, of God: its doctrines and its ceremonies proceed from his wisdom and goodness, for he alone could devise the plan by which the human race may be restored to his favor and image, and taught to worship him in spirit and in truth. And that worship which himself has prescribed, we may rest assured, will be most pleasing in his sight. Nadab and Abihu offered strange fire before the Lord; and their destruction by the fire of Jehovah is recorded as a lasting warning to all presumptuous worshippers, and to all who attempt to model his religion, according to their own caprice, and to minister in sacred things without that authority which proceeds from himself alone. The imposition of hands whether of pope, cardinal, or bishop can avail nothing here. The call and unction of God alone can qualify the minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Exodus 37:29. The incense, like the anointing oil, consisted of four aromatic ingredients.
Stacte - supposed to be either the gum of the Storax tree (Styrax officinale) found in Syria and the neighboring countries, or the gum known as Benzoin, or Gum Benjamin, which is an important ingredient in the incense now used in churches and mosques, and is the produce of another storax tree (Styrax benzoin) that grows in Java and Sumatra.
Onycha - , a perfume perhaps made from the cap of the strombus, or wing-shell, which abounds in the Red Sea.
Galbanum - , a gum of a yellowish brown color, in the form of either grains or masses. It is imported from India, Persia, and Africa; but the plant from which it comes is not yet certainly known.
Pure frankincense - This was the most important of the aromatic gums. Like myrrh, it was regarded by itself as a precious perfume Matthew 2:11, and it was used unmixed with other substances in some of the rites of the law. The tree from which it is obtained is not found in Arabia, and it was most likely imported from India by the Sabaeans, like Cinnamon, Cassia, and Calamus (see Exodus 30:23). The tree is now known as the Boswellia serrata, or B. thurifera, and grows abundantly in the highlands of India. The frankincense of commerce is a different substance, the resin of the spruce and of some other kinds of fir.
See Exodus 30:25.
Tempered together - The four substances were perhaps pounded and thoroughly mixed together, and then fused into a mass. This rendering is to be preferred to that in the margin.
See Exodus 30:6.
Compare Exodus 30:32-33.