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Balsam

BALSAM

bol'-sam (basam, besem; hedusmata; thumiamata):

Is usually "spices" but in the Revised Version, margin (Song of Solomon 5:1,13; 6:2) is rendered as "balsam." It was an ingredient in the anointing oil of the priests (Exodus 25:6; 35:28). The Queen of Sheba brought it as a present to Solomon (1 Kings 10:2) in large quantity (1 Kings 10:10) and of a finer quality (2 Chronicles 9:9) than that brought as a regular tribute by other visitors (1 Kings 10:25). In the later monarchy Hezekiah had a treasure of this perfume (2 Chronicles 32:27) which he displayed to his Babylonian visitors (Isaiah 39:2); and after the captivity the priests kept a store of it in the temple (1 Chronicles 9:30). According to Ezekiel the Syrians imported it from Sheba (Ezekiel 27:22). There is a tradition preserved in Josephus (Ant., VIII, vi, 6) that the Queen of Sheba brought roots of the plant to Solomon, who grew them in a garden of spices at Jericho, probably derived from the references to such a garden in Song of Solomon 5:1,13; 6:2. This may be the source of the statements of Strabo, Trogus and Pliny quoted above (see BALM). It was probably the same substance as the BALM described above, but from the reference in Exodus 30:7; 35:8, it may have been used as a generic name for fragrant resins. The root from which the word is derived signifies "to be fragrant," and fragrant balsams or resins are known in modern Arabic as bahasan. The trees called in 2 Samuel 5:23,24 (Revised Version, margin) "balsam-trees" were certainly not those which yielded this substance, for there are none in the Shepehlah but there are both mulberry trees and terebinths in the district between Rephaim and Gezer. When used as a perfume the name basam seems to have been adopted, but as a medicinal remedy it is called tsori.

Alex. Macalister


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Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. "Entry for 'BALSAM'". "International Standard Bible Encyclopedia". 1915.