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Balm

BALM

bam (tseri, tsori; Septuagint rhetine):

The name of an odoriferous resin said to be brought from Gilead by Ishmaelite Arabs on their way to Egypt (Genesis 37:25). It is translated "balm" in the King James Version and the Revised Version (British and American), but is called "mastic," the Revised Version, margin. In Genesis 43:11 it is one of the gifts sent by Jacob to Joseph, and in Ezekiel 27:17 it is named as one of the exports from Judea to Tyre. The prophet Jeremiah refers figuratively to its medicinal properties as an application to wounds and as a sedative (Jeremiah 8:22; 46:11; 51:8). The name is derived from a root signifying "to leak," and is applied to it as being an exudation. There is a sticky, honeylike gum resin prepared at the present day at Jericho, extracted from the Balanites Aegyptiaca grown in the Ghor, and sold to travelers in small tin boxes as "Balm of Gilead," but it is improbable that this is the real tscori and it has no medicinal value. The material to which the classic authors applied the name is that known as Mecca balsam, which is still imported into Egypt from Arabia, as it was in early times. This is the exudation from the Balsamodendron opobalsamum, a native of southern Arabia and Abyssinia. The tree is small, ragged-looking and with a yellowish bark like that of a plane tree, and the exudation is said to be gathered from its smaller branches. At the present day it grows nowhere in Palestine. Dr. Post and other botanists have sought for it on the Ghor and in Gilead, and have not found it, and there is no trace of it in the neighborhood of Jericho, which Pliny says is its only habitat. Strabo describes it as growing by the Sea of Galilee, as well as at Jericho, but both these and other ancient writers give inconsistent and incorrect descriptions of the tree evidently at second hand. We learn from Theophrastus that many of the spices of the farther East reached the Mediterranean shore through Palestine, being brought by Arab caravans which would traverse the indefinitely bounded tract East of Jordan to which the name Gilead is given, and it was probably thus that the balm received its local name. Mecca balsam is an orange-yellow, treacly fluid, mildly irritating to the skin, possibly a weak local stimulant and antiseptic, but of very little remedial value.

Alex. Macalister


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