In Exodus 30:34 (NASB),

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Take for yourself spices—stacte, onycha, and galbanum, spices and pure frankincense; there shall be an equal part of each.

In BPT09 that's being translated as "unha aromática", which in English means "aromatic nail".

What is this ingredient "onycha" used for the Tabernacle ritual?


Here is the Brown-Driver-Briggs (BDB) entry for this material, "onchya" found only in Ex 30:34 -

שְׁחֵ֫לֶת noun feminine an ingredient of the holy incense, + נָטָף, חֶלְבְּנָה, Exodus 30:34; ᵐ5 ᵑ9 ὄνυξ, onyx (whence AV onycha), i.e. unguis odoratus, the operculum, or closing-flap, of certain molluscs, with pungent odour whenburnt, see Thes1388f. Di Shipley-CookEncy. Bib. ONYCHA; so most; KG JacobZMG xliii (1889), 354 proposes amber.

שׁחן (√ of following; compare Arabic be hot, then inflamed; Aramaic שְׁחַן, be warm, heat).

The more extended discussion in https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Onycha provides more background but we cannot be definitive here. As with many of these things the exact identification of some minerals and other materials is uncertain.


Similar spices appear in Sirach 24:15

My breath was the spicy smell of cinnamon, of sweet perfume and finest myrrh, of stacte, onycha, and galbanum, the fragrant incense in the Sacred Tent.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

Onycha is thought to be the "claw" or operculum of the unguis odoratus, or blatta Byzantina, a sort of shell-fish common in the Red Sea. This "claw" produces, when burnt, a strong odour.

It is a strong but pleasant smell. Western peoples do not use their nose as much as the Middle Eastern peoples. Middle Eastern peoples regularly use incense in their homes and places of worship.

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