Is there balm in Gilead?

Gilead balm - Balm of Gilead

Balm of Gilead, an exhibition in Jerusalem

Balm of Gilead was a rare medicinal perfume mentioned in the Bible and named after the Gilead region where it was made. The term comes from William Tyndale's language in the King James Bible of 1611 and means universal healing in figurative language. The tree or shrub that produces the balm is commonly called the Called Commiphora gileadensis . Some botanists have concluded that the actual source is a terebinth tree of the genus Pistacia was .



In the Bible, balsam is referred to by different names: בֹּשֶׂם ( evil ), בֶּשֶׂם ( Besem ), צֳרִי ( Zori ), נׇטׇף ( Nataf ) and in rabbinical literature, קׇטׇף ( kataf ), בַּלְסׇם ( balm ), אַפּוֹבַּלְסַמוֹן ( appobalsamon ) and אֲפַרְסְמוֹן ( afarsemon ).

After his brothers had thrown Joseph into a pit, they noticed a caravan on the way from Gilead to Egypt, "whose camels were carrying spices, balsam and myrrh" (Gen. 37:25). When Jacob sent his message to Egypt, his gift to the unknown ruler contained "a little balm" (Gen 43:11). In the final years of the Kingdom of Judah, Jeremiah asks, “Is there no balm in Gilead?” (Jer. 8:22). Still later, according to a phrase at Ezekiel 27:17, balm was one of the goods Hebrew merchants brought to the market in Tire. According to 1 Kings 10:10, balsam (Hebrew: Bosem ) on the many precious gifts the Queen of Sheba gave to King Solomon.


In the later days of Jewish history, the Jericho neighborhood was considered the only place where the true balm grew, and even there its culture was limited to two gardens, one 20 acres in size and the other much smaller (Theophrastus) . .

According to Josephus, the Queen of Sheba brought "the root of the balm" as a gift to King Solomon ( Ant. 8.6.6).

When describing Palestine, Tacitus says that in all of his productions it is like Italy, besides the palm and the balm Hist. :; 5, 6) and the well-known tree aroused the desire of successive invaders. Pompey found it in the streets of Rome as one of the spoils of the newly conquered province in 65 BC. Chr. Issued; and one of the wonderful trees adorned the triumph of Vespasian, AD 79. During the invasion of Titus, two battles took place in the balm groves of Jericho, the last to prevent the Jews in their desperate frenzy from destroying the trees. Then they became public property and were placed under the protection of an imperial guard; However, the history does not record how long the two plantations survived.

According to Pliny ( Hist. Nat. 12:54) the balsam tree was only native to Judea, but Diodorus Siculus (3:46) was also known as a product of Arabia. In Palestine, also praised by other writers for its balm (Justinus, 36: 3; Tacitus, Hist. 5: 6; Plutarchus, Vita Anton, approx. 36; Florus, Epitome bellorum 3.5.29; Dioscorides, De materia medica 1: 18) This plant was cultivated in the vicinity of Jericho (Strabo, 16: 763; Diodorus Siculus 2:48; 19:98) in gardens designed for this purpose (Pliny, Hist. Nat. 12:54; see Josephus, Ant. 14.4.1; 15.4.2; war 1.6.6); and after the destruction of the State of Judea, these plantations formed a lucrative source of Roman imperial income (see Diodorus Siculus 2:48).

Pliny distinguishes three different types of this plant; the first with thin, capillary leaves; the second a crooked scab; and the third with a smooth skin and higher growth than the first two. He tells us that the balsam plant, a shrub, is most similar to the grapevine in general and that the method of growing it is almost the same. However, the leaves are more similar to those of the rue, and the plant is evergreen. Its height does not exceed two cubits. From light incisions made very carefully into the shell were (Josephus, Ant. 14.4.1; war 1.6.6), the balsam trickles in thin drops, which are collected with wool to form a horn and then stored in new earthen jars. At first it is whitish and transparent, then it becomes harder and more reddish. This is considered to be the best quality that trickles before the fruit appears. The resin, which is pressed from the seeds, the shell and even the stems, is far inferior to this (see Theophrastus, Hist. Plant. 9: 6; Strabo 16: 763; Pausanias 9.28.2). This description, which is not characteristic enough of the plant itself, largely fits the Egyptian balsamic bush that Belon found in a garden near Cairo. However, the plant is not native to Egypt, but the layers are brought there from Felix Arabia; Prosperus Alpinus has released a record of it.

Dioscorides ( De materia medica ) Ascribes many medicinal properties to balm, such as expelling menstrual flow; be an abortionist; move the urine; Support of breathing and conception; be an antidote to aconite and snakebite; Treatment of pleurisy, pneumonia, cough, sciatica, epilepsy, dizziness, asthma and grips.

During the time of Galen, who flourished in the second century and purposely traveled to Palestine and Syria to learn about this substance, it grew in Jericho and many other parts of the Holy Land.


In the Talmud, balm appears as an ointment, which was a highly praised product of the Jericho plain (Shab. 26a). However, the main use has been medicinal rather than cosmetic. Rav Yehudah wrote a special blessing for balm: "Who creates the oil of our land" (Ber. 43a). Young women used it as a perfume to seduce young men (Lam. R. 4:18; Shab. 26b). After King Josiah had hidden the "holy oil" with which the kings of Judah were anointed, balsamic oil was used instead (Ker. 5b). In the messianic era, the righteous will "bathe in 13 rivers of balsam" (TJ, Av. Tsar. 3: 1, 42c).


The Christian rite of confirmation is given through the anointing with chrisma, which is traditionally a mixture of olive oil and balsam. Balm appears to have been used everywhere for Christianity at least since the 6th century.


The balm, which according to Arabic tradition was originally carried by the Queen of Sheba as a gift to Solomon from Yemen and planted by him in the gardens of Jericho, was brought to Egypt by Cleopatra and planted in Ain-Shemesh in a garden shared by all Mention with deep interest ancient Arab and Christian travelers.

The Egyptian city of Ain Shams was known for its balm garden, which was tended under the supervision of the government. During the Middle Ages, the balsam tree is said to have only grown here, although it used to be a native plant in Syria. According to a Coptic tradition, which is also known to the Muslims, Mary, the mother of Jesus, washed the diapers of the latter in the spring of Ayn Shams on her way back to Palestine after her flight to Egypt. From this time on, spring was beneficial, and in the Middle Ages balsam trees could only produce their precious secretions on the land they irrigated. The story is reminiscent of Christian legends about the Fountain of Virgin Mary in Jerusalem.

Prosper Alpinus reports that forty plants were brought into the garden by a governor of Cairo and ten were left when Belon traveled to Egypt, but only one existed in the 18th century. There did not seem to be any until the 19th century.


The German botanist Schweinfurth reconstructed the old process of balm production.

The tree is currently growing Commiphora gileadensis wild in the valley of Mecca where he Beshem is called . Many tribes of this species are found, some in Somalia and Yemen.



In the Hebrew Bible is the balm of Gilead Tsori or Tseri (צֳרִי or צְרִי). It is a commodity in Gen. 37:28 and Ez. 27:17, a gift in Gen. 43:11 and a medicine (for the national disaster, in Fig.) In Jer. 8:22, 46:11, 51: 8. The Hebrew root z-RH (צרה) means "run blood, bleeding" (the vein), with cognates in Arabic (ضرو, olfactory tree or its gum), Sabaean (צרו), Syriac (ܙܪܘܐ, possibly fructus pini ), and Greek (στύραξ, meaning). The similar word tsori (צֹרִי) denotes the adjective "Tyrean", ie from the Phoenician city of Tire.

Many attempts have been made to find the Tsori identify, but none can be considered conclusive. The Samaritan Pentateuch (Gen. 37:25) and the Syrian Bible (Jer. 8:22) translate it as wax ( cera ). The Septuagint has ῥητίνη, "pine resin". The Arabic version and Castell believe it is Theriac . Lee assumes it's "Mastich". Luther and the Swedish version have "ointment", "ointment" in the passages in Jer. , but in Ezek. 27:17 read "Mastic". Gesenius, Hebrew commentators (Kimchi, Junius, Tremellius, Deodatius) and the authorized version (except in Ezekiel 27:17, rosin ) to have balm , balm , Greek βάλσαμον, Latin Opobalsamum .


Next to the tseri is there another Hebrew word nataph (נׇטׇפ) mentioned in Ex. 30:34 is used as part of the sacred incense by Hebrew commentators for Opobalsamum taken ; however, this is perhaps more likely stacte .


Another Hebrew word Bosem (בֹּשֶׂם), Aramaic Busema (ܒܣܡܐ), Arabic Besham (بشام), occurs in various forms in the Hebrew Bible. It is usually translated as "spice, perfume, sweet smell, balsam, balsam tree". The Greek βάλσαμον can be used as a combination of the Hebrew words Baal (בַּעַל) "Lord; Master; the Phoenician god Baal" and shemen (שֶׁמֶן) "Oil" can be interpreted, thus "Lord of the Oils" (or "Oil of Baal"). .


Greek authors use the words βάλσαμον (Theophrastus, Aristotle) ​​for the balsam plant and its resin, while Galen, Nicander, and the Geoponica consider it an aromatic herb like mint. The word is probably Semitic. ὁπο-βάλσᾰμον (Theophrastus) is the sap of the balsam tree. βαλσαμίνη (Dioscorides) is the balsam plant. Palladius calls it βάλσαμος and also has βαλσαμουργός, a balsam manufacturer. Relatives are ξῠλο-βάλσᾰμον (Dioscorides, Strabo) "balsam wood" and καρπο-βάλσᾰμον (Galen) "the fruit of the balsam".


Use Latin authors balm (Tacitus, Pliny, Florus, Scribonius Largus, Celsus, Columella, Martialis) for the balsam tree and its twigs or twigs as well as for its resin, Opobalsamum (Pliny, Celsus, Scribonius Largus, Martialis, Statius, Juvenal) for the resinous sap of the balsam tree and Xylo balsam (Pliny, Scribonius Largus, Cornelius Celsus) for Balmwood , all from the Greek.


Assuming the Tsori was a plant product, several plants have been suggested as a source.


Celsius (in Hierobotanicon ) to the identified TSori with the mastic tree, Mastic bush L. The Arabic name of this plant is dseri or dseru identical to that, Hebrew TSori . Rauwolf and Pococke found the plant in Joppa.


Ödmann and Rosenmüller thought that the pressed juice of the fruit of the to cum -Tree ( Elaeagnus angustifolia L.) or the myrobalanus the old, which is substance, signifies; but Rosenmüller mentioned the balm of Mecca elsewhere ( Amyris opobalsamum L., now Commiphora gileadensis (L.) C.Chr.) Than likely the Tsori . Zukum oil was highly valued by the Arabs, who even preferred it to the balm of Mecca, as it was more effective on wounds and bruises. Maundrell found Zukum trees near the Dead Sea. Hasselquist and Pococke found them particularly in the area around Jericho. In the 19th century, the only product in the Gilead area that had an affinity for balm or balsam was one Eleagnus Art.


Bochart insisted that the balm mentioned in Jer. 8:22 could not possibly have been Gilead's, and considered it the resin drawn from the terebinth. The Biblical terebinth is Hebrew Eloh (אֵלׇה), Pistacia terebinthus L.


The Greek word ῥητίνη , which is used in the Septuagint to translate Tsori is used , denotes a resin of the pine, in particular Pinus maritima ( πεύκη ). The Aramaic Tserua (ܨܪܘܐ) was considered a fruit of Pinus pinea L. described, but was also used for Stacte or Storax held . The Greek ῥητίνη ξηρά is a species of Pinaceae Rich.


The lexicographer Bar Seroshewai looked at the Arabic Dseru (ﺿﺮﻭ), a tree of Yemen known as Came (ﮐﻤﮑﺎﻡ) or Came (ﮐﻨﮑﺎﻡ), Syrian Qazqamun (ܩܙܩܡܘܢ), Greek κάγκαμον, Latin Cancamum , mentioned by Dioscorides (De materia medica 1.32) and Pliny ( Hist. Nat. 12.44; 12.98). Cancamon was made for Commiphora kataf , but also as Aleurites laccifer (Euphorbiaceae), Ficus spec. (Artocarpeae) and Butea frondosa (Papilionaceae).

Sanskrit Kunkuma (कुनकुम) is saffron (Crocus sativus).

Balm of Mecca

Forskal found the plant between Mecca and Medina. He considered it a real balsam plant and named it Amyris opobalsamum Forsk. (together with two other varieties, Amyris kataf Forsk. and Amyris kafal Forsk. ). Its Arabic name is Abusham or Basham what about the Hebrew Bosem or Beshem is identical. Bruce found the plant in Abyssinia. It was also discovered in the East Indies in the 19th century.

Linnaeus distinguished two types: Amyris gileadensis L. (= Amyris opobalsamum Forsk. ) And Amyris opobalsamum L., the variant found by Belon in a garden near Cairo, which was brought there from Felix Arabia. Newer naturalists (Lindley, Wight, and Walker) have the species Amyris gileadensis L. in the genus Protium added . Botanists list 16 balsamic plants of this genus, each of which has a certain peculiarity.

There is little reason to doubt that the plants of the Jericho Balsam Gardens are having Amyris gileadensis L. or Amyris opobalsamum that Bruce found in Abyssinia, whose fragrant resin is known in the trade as the "Balsam of Mecca". . According to De Sacy, the true balm of Gilead (or Jericho) has long been lost and there is only "balm of Mecca".

The accepted name of the balsam plant is Commiphora gileadensis (L.) Christ. , Synonym Commiphora opobalsamum .


Balsam oil was too volatile and flammable to be used as fuel. A case is cited in the Talmud where a woman plans and carries out the murder of her daughter-in-law by telling her to adorn herself with balsamic oil and then light the lamp ( Shab. 26a).

After this Liber Ignium ( Book of fire ) from the 13th century (?) Was Balm, a component of ancient arsonists, similar to the Greek fire.


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