And they sat down to eat bread
Not at all concerned at what they had done, nor in the least grieved for the affliction of Joseph, and without any pity and compassion for him in his distress, but joyful and glad they had got him into their hands, and like to get rid of him for ever:
and they lifted up their eyes, and looked,
after they had eaten their food, or while they were eating it:
and, behold, a company of Ishmaelites came from Gilead;
a place of merchandise for spices and balm, and such like things after mentioned. The Targums of Onkelos and Jonathan call them Arabians; and the Targum of Jerusalem, Saracens; these were the posterity of Ishmael, who came out of Arabia to Gilead, where they took up their merchandise, at least part of it, and were travelling to Egypt with it, and their way thither lay by Dothan; these travelled in companies, now called "caravans", partly on the account of robbers, and partly by reason of wild beasts, with both which they were sometimes beset in the deserts through which they travelled:
with their camels bearing spicery, and balm, and myrrh;
the first word is general according to our version, and others, and signifies various spices, a collection of them; and so Jarchi takes it; but Aquila translates it "storax"; and Bochart F23, by various arguments, seems to have proved, that this is particularly intended; though the Targum of Jonathan renders it "wax" F24; and so other versions: and "balm" is by some taken to be "rosin", since there was no balm or balsam in Gilead, on the other side Jordan, nor indeed any in Judea, until it was brought thither from Arabia Felix, in the times of Solomon; and what we render "myrrh", is in the Hebrew called "lot", and is by some thought to be the same with "laudanum": this their merchandise was carried on camels, very fit for their purpose every way, as they were strong creatures made to carry burdens, and could travel many days without water, which they were sometimes obliged to do in the deserts:
going to carry [it] down to Egypt;
where these things grew not, and were much in use, at least some of them, both in medicines, and in embalming dead bodies, much practised in Egypt; an Arabic writer F25 makes this merchandise to consist of, nuts, turpentine, and oil.
F23 Hierozoic. par. 2. l. 4. c. 12. col. 532.
F24 So in Bereshit Rabba & Targum Jerusalem in R. Sol. Urbin. Ohel Moed, fol. 20. 2.
F25 Patricides, p. 21. apud Hottinger. Smegma Orient. p. 367, 368.