contracted from Bal'sam, a general name for many oily or resinous substances which flow or trickle from certain trees or plants when an incision is made through the bark.
Illustration: Balm of Gilead
(1.) This word occurs in the Authorized Version (Ge 37:25; 43:11; Jer 8:22; 46:11; 51:8; Eze 27:17) as the rendering of the Hebrew word tsori or tseri, which denotes the gum of a tree growing in Gilead (q.v.), which is very precious. It was celebrated for its medicinal qualities, and was circulated as an article of merchandise by Arab and Phoenician merchants. The shrub so named was highly valued, and was almost peculiar to Palestine. In the time of Josephus it was cultivated in the neighbourhood of Jericho and the Dead Sea. There is an Arab tradition that the tree yielding this balm was brought by the queen of Sheba as a present to Solomon, and that he planted it in his gardens at Jericho.
(2.) There is another Hebrew word, basam or bosem, from which our word "balsam," as well as the corresponding Greek balsamon, is derived. It is rendered "spice" (Song 5:1,13; 6:2; margin of Revised Version, "balsam;" Ex 35:28; 1Ki 10:10), and denotes fragrance in general. Basam also denotes the true balsam-plant, a native of South Arabia (Cant. l.c.).
Contracted from balsam, a word formed by the Greeks from Hebrew Baal shemen, "lord of oil" That of Gilead was famed as among Canaan's best fruits as early as Jacob's time, and was exported by Ishmaelite caravans to Egypt (Ge 37:25; 43:11), also to Tyre (Eze 27:17). Used to heal wounds (Jer 8:22; 46:11; 51:8). It was cultivated near Jericho and the Dead Sea, in Josephus" time. Burckhardt says: "it still grows in gardens near Tiberius." Hebrew tsori, from tsarah "to split." A balsamic oil, the modern "balsam of Jericho," is extracted from the kernels of the zuckum thorn bush, a kind of elaeagnus, in the region about the Dead Sea; but this cannot be the tree. The queen of Sheba, according to Josephus, brought "the root of the balsam" as a present to Solomon (Ant. 8:6 section 6); but it was in Gilead ages before her.
The fragrant resin known as "the balsam of Mecca" is from the Amyris Gileadensis, or opobalsamum. The height is about 14 ft., the trunk 9 in. in diameter. Incisions in the bark yield three or four drops a day from each, and left to stand the balsam becomes of a golden color and pellucid as a gem. The balm was so scarce, the Jericho gardens yielding but six or seven gallons yearly, that it was worth twice its weight in silver. Pompey exhibited it in Rome as one of the spoils of the newly conquered province, 65 B.C. One of the far famed trees graced Vespasian's triumph, A.D. 79. Titus had to fight two battles near the Jericho balsam groves, to prevent the Jews destroying them in despair. Then they were put under the care of an imperial guard. The Pistacia lentiscus ("mastick") has its Arabic name dseri answering to the Hebrew tsori, which seems to favor its claim to being the balm of Gilead.
A product of Gilead (Ge 37:25; 43:11), celebrated for its healing properties (Jer 8:22; 46:11; 51:8), and an important article of commerce (Eze 27:17). Nothing is known for certain about the nature of this substance, but it is usually supposed to be some kind of aromatic gum or resin. There is now no plant in Gilead which produces any characteristic product of this nature. Mastich, a resin much used by the Arabs for flavouring coffee, sweets, etc., and as a chewing gum, is considered by many to be the zor
tseri. The gum of the balsam bush, of great medicinal virtue. Gilead was noted for its production. It is used as a proverb to set forth the healing God had for His people if they really turned to Him. Jer 8:22; 46:11; 51:8. It was carried by the merchants into Egypt and elsewhere. Ge 37:25; Eze 27:17. Jacob sent a little to Joseph. Ge 43:11.
(from balsam, Heb. tzori, tezri) occurs in
(It is an aromatic plant, or the resinous odoriferous sap or gum which exudes from such plants.) It is impossible to identify it with any certainty. It is impossible to identify it with any certainty. It may represent the gum of the Pistacia lentiscus, or more probably that of the Balsamodendron opobalsamum, allied to the balm of Gilead, which abounded in Gilead east of the Jordan. The trees resembled fig trees (or grape vines), but were lower, being but 12 to 15 feet high. It is now called the BALM OF GILEAD, or Meccabalsam, the tree or shrub being indigenous in the mountains around Mecca. [INCENSE; SPICES] Hasselquist says that the exudation from the plant "is of a yellow color, and pellucid. It has a most fragrant smell, which is resinous, balsamic and very agreeable. It is very tenacious or glutinous, sticking to the fingers, and may be drawn into long threads." It was supposed to have healing as well as aromatic qualities.
See Spice, Spices
BALM, ??, Ge 37:25; 43:11; Jer 8:22; 46:11; 51:8; Eze 27:17. Balm, or balsam, is used with us as a common name for many of those oily resinous, substances, which flow spontaneously or by incision, from certain trees or plants, and are of considerable use in medicine and surgery. It serves therefore very properly to express the Hebrew word ???, which the LXX have rendered ??????, and the ancients have interpreted resin indiscriminately.