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Perfume II

Ordinarily a trip to the bazaar was enjoyable. The general liveliness of buying and selling was a rich social experience. On the day of Jesus’ death, however, women grieved as they purchased burial spices.


 Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus made the body of Jesus ready for burial. Nicodemus brought one hundred pounds of blended aloes and myrrh, sufficient for the burial. They tucked the aromatic resins into strips of linen as they wrapped the body. They laid Him in a garden tomb (Matt. 27:57-60, Mark 15:42-46, Luke 23:50-54, John 19:38-42).

Why did the ladies buy additional spices after the men had prepared Christ’s body? Because Nicodemus and Joseph had to work quickly before sunset beginning the Holy Day, perhaps the women wanted to add spices that were not included in the initial wrapping.  Those spices may have been cassia, spikenard, balsam and sweet marjoram, all of which had to be processed before being applied to the body. Scripture indicates that the women were knowledgeable and capable of doing this work.

The making of burial blends, personal perfumes, anointing oils, incense, ointments and creams required skill and patience. Spices (woody material, roots, berries, bark, seeds) required grinding and/or heating in oil or water. Ready-to-use oils could be “imported from Phoenicia in small alabaster boxes,”[1] but they were expensive. Aromatic resins from gum trees were sold as chunks for grinding into powders. These were combined to make incense or infused into oil and fat for skin softening.

Women used oils for cosmetic purposes and to mask unpleasant odors. They sprinkled fragrances on bedding, clothing and furniture. On festive occasions, hosts anointed guests with scented oil. Women used herbs and spices to flavor food and to make medicines, salves, restoratives, aphrodisiacs, and sedatives. Ladies burned pellets of resin “in cosmetic burners…and the resulting incense-smoke would act as a fumigation for both the body and the clothes. ”[2]

Perfume recipes in Edfu temple

Perfume recipes in Edfu temple (Photo credit: robertpaulyoung)

Egyptian tomb carvings show citizens enjoying perfume in a manner that did not seem to be popular in Israel. “When a party was being held, servants placed cones of perfumed grease on top of the heads of arriving guests. The cones would melt as the party progressed providing a pleasant scent.”[3] One writer states that only “singers, dancers and prostitutes” wore the grease cones.[4] Others believe the cones pictured in the relief carvings were symbolic of pleasure and that no one was ever really a “cone head.”—Mary Hendren

[1] The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary, “Oils and Ointments,” p. 938

[2] Holman Bible Dictionary on, “Cosmetics,” Darlene R. Gautsch

[3] Yahoo!Answers, “How was perfume used by Egyptians?”

[4] Facts and Details (online source),“Beauty, Hairstyles and Cosmetics in Ancient Egypt,” Jeffrey Hays

About womenfromthebook

Mine is a life-long interest in the women of the Bible, and I enjoy exploring the world in which they lived, and discovering the challenges that they faced. I have enough curiosity about them to last the rest of my life.

One response

  1. They used many precious aromatic oils in Biblical times for religious ceremonies. & are helpful tools to search, study & read the Bible online.

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