From BiblePortal Wikipedia

Fausset's Bible Dictionary [1]

Contracted from Balsam , a word formed by the Greeks from Hebrew Βaal 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 ( Genesis 37:25;  Genesis 43:11), also to Tyre ( Ezekiel 27:17). Used to heal wounds ( Jeremiah 8:22;  Jeremiah 46:11;  Jeremiah 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 Αmyris 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 Ρistacia Lentiscus ("mastick") has its Arabic name Dseri answering to the Hebrew Tsori , which seems to favor its claim to being the balm of Gilead.

Smith's Bible Dictionary [2]

Balm. (From Balsam, Hebrew, tzori, tezri ). Occurs in  Genesis 37:25;  Genesis 43:11;  Jeremiah 8:22;  Jeremiah 46:11;  Jeremiah 51:8;  Ezekiel 27:17. (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 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. See 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.

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [3]

BALM . A product of Gilead (  Genesis 37:25;   Genesis 43:11 ), celebrated for its healing properties (  Jeremiah 8:22;   Jeremiah 46:11;   Jeremiah 51:8 ), and an important article of commerce (  Ezekiel 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 zorî of   Genesis 37:25 (so RVm [Note: Revised Version margin.] ). It has been credited with healing properties. It is a product of the Pistacia lentiscus , a plant common in Palestine. The so-called ‘Balm of Gilead’ of commerce, and the substance sold by the monks of Jericho to-day, this latter a product of the zakkûm tree, are neither of them serious claimants to be the genuine article. See also Spice.

E. W. G. Masterman.

Easton's Bible Dictionary [4]

  • 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 of Solomon 5:1,13;  6:2; margin of Revised Version, "balsam;"  Exodus 35:28;  1 Kings 10:10 ), and denotes fragrance in general. Basam also denotes the true balsam-plant, a native of South Arabia (Cant. l.c.).

    Copyright Statement These dictionary topics are from M.G. Easton M.A., DD Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Third Edition, published by Thomas Nelson, 1897. Public Domain.

    Bibliography Information Easton, Matthew George. Entry for 'Balm'. Easton's Bible Dictionary. 1897.

  • People's Dictionary of the Bible [5]

    Balm (from Balsam, Heb. Tzŏrî, Tĕsrî ), occurs in  Genesis 37:25;  Genesis 43:11;  Jeremiah 8:22;  Jeremiah 46:11;  Jeremiah 51:8;  Ezekiel 27:17. 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. Hasselquist has given a description of the true balsam tree of Mecca. He says that the exudation from the plant "is of a yellow color, and pellucid. It has a 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."

    King James Dictionary [6]

    B'ALM, n. bam.

    1. The sap or juice of trees or shrubs remarkable odoriferous or aromatic. 2. Any fragrant or valuable ointment. 3. Anything which heals, or which soothes or mitigates pain. 4. In botany, the name of several plants, particularly of the genus Melissa. They are aromatic and used as corroborants.

    Balm of Gilead. A plant of the genus Amyris. Its leaves yield, when bruised, a strong aromatic scent and from this plant is obtained the balm of Gilead of the shops, or balsam of Mecca or of Syria. It has a yellowish or greenish color, a warm bitterish aromatic taste, and an acidulous fragrant smell. It is valued as an odoriferous unguent, and cosmetic, by the Turks, who possess the country of its growth, and hence it is adulterated for market.

    B'ALM, To anoint with balm, or with any thing medicinal.

    2. To soothe to mitigate to assuage.

    Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [7]

    רי ,  Genesis 37:25;  Genesis 43:11;  Jeremiah 8:22;  Jeremiah 46:11;  Jeremiah 51:8;  Ezekiel 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 צרי , which the LXX have rendered ρητινη , and the ancients have interpreted resin indiscriminately.

    Wilson's Dictionary of Bible Types [8]

     Jeremiah 8:22 (b) This ointment is a figure of GOD's mercy and loving kindness toward His people. His precious promises are all sweet provisions to heal every hurt of the heart of His people. The words of GOD which bring comfort and hope are for mending the wounds which sin and Satan make.

     Jeremiah 46:11 (a) Here we understand that there will come a time when GOD's healing ointment of His Word will not avail to mend the wounds of those who deliberately turn away from GOD.

     Jeremiah 51:8 (a) We understand by this that GOD does have healing remedies even for His enemies, though they do not want His lovely provision for the needs of their hearts.

    Morrish Bible Dictionary [9]

    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.  Jeremiah 8:22;  Jeremiah 46:11;  Jeremiah 51:8 . It was carried by the merchants into Egypt and elsewhere.  Genesis 37:25;  Ezekiel 27:17 . Jacob sent a little to Joseph.  Genesis 43:11 .

    Webster's Dictionary [10]

    (1): (n.) An aromatic plant of the genus Melissa.

    (2): (n.) The resinous and aromatic exudation of certain trees or shrubs.

    (3): (n.) Any fragrant ointment.

    (4): (n.) Anything that heals or that mitigates pain.

    (5): (v. i.) To anoint with balm, or with anything medicinal. Hence: To soothe; to mitigate.

    Holman Bible Dictionary [11]

    Balsamodendron opobalsamum Balanites aegyptiaca   Genesis 37:25 Jeremiah 8:22 Jeremiah 46:11 Jeremiah 51:8 Pistacia lentiscus   Genesis 43:11

    Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [12]

    (for the original term, see below), a production more particularly ascribed to Gilead ( Genesis 37:25;  Jeremiah 8:2?). Balm or Balsam is used 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. Kimchi and some of the modern interpreters understand the Hebrews word rendered "balm" to be that particular species called opobalsamum, or balm of Gilead, so much celebrated by Pliny, Strabo, Diodorus Siculus, Tacitus, Justin, and others, for its costliness, its medicinal virtues, and for being the product of Jud-ea only; and which Josephus says grew in the neighborhood of Jericho, the tree, according to tradition, having been originally brought by the Queen of Sheba as a present to King Solomon. On the other hand, Bochart strongly contends that the balm mentioned  Jeremiah 8:22, could not possibly be that of Gilead, and considers it as no other than the resin drawn from the terebinth or turpentine tree. Pliny says, "The trees of the opobalsamum have a resemblance to fir-trees, but they are lower, and are planted and husbanded after the manner of vines. On a particular season of the year they sweat balsam. The darkness of the place is, besides, as wonderful as the fruitfulness of it; for, though the sun shines nowhere hotter in the world, there is naturally a moderate and perpetual gloominess of the air." Mr. Buckingham observes upon this passage, that "the situation, boundaries, and local features of the valley of Jericho are accurately given in these details, though darkness, in the sense in which it is commonly understood, would be an improper term to apply to the gloom. At the present time there is not a tree of any description, either of palm or balsam, and scarcely any verdure or bushes to be seen, but the complete desolation is undoubtedly rather to be attributed to the cessation of the usual agricultural labors, and to the want of a proper distribution of water over it by the aqueducts, the remains of which evince that they were constructed chiefly for that purpose, rather than to any radical change in the climate or the soil." The balsam, carried originally, says Arab tradition, from Yemen by the Queen of Sheba, as a gift to Solomon, and planted by him in the gardens of Jericho, was brought to Egypt by Cleopatra, and planted at Ain- Shemesh, now Matara, in a garden which all the old travelers, Arab and Christian, mention with deep interest. The balsam of Jericho, or true balm of Gilead, has long been lost (De Sacy).

    Balsam, at present, is procured in some cases from the fruit of a shrub which is indigenous in the mountains between Mecca and Medina. This shrub was cultivated in gardens in Egypt in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and that this was also the case in Palestine, in very early times, appears from the original text in  Genesis 43:11, and  Jeremiah 46:11. The balsam of Mecca has always been deemed a substance of the greatest value; though it is not the only one possessing medicinal properties, yet it is, perhaps, more eminently distinguished for them than other balsamic plants of the same genus, of which sixteen are enumerated by botanists, each exhibiting some peculiarity. There are three species of this balsam, two of which are shrubs, and the other a tree. In June, July, and August they yield their sap, which is received into an earthen vessel. The fruit, also, when pierced with an instrument, emits a juice of the same kind, and in greater abundance, but less rich. The sap extracted from the body of the tree or shrub is called the opobalsamum; the juice of the balsam fruit is denominated carpobalsamum, and the liquid extracted from the branches when cut off, the xylobalsamum (Jahn, Bibl. Archaeol. 1, § 74). According to Bruce, "The balsam is an evergreen shrub or tree, which grows to about fourteen feet high, spontaneously and without culture, in its native country, Azab, and all along the coast to Babelmandeb. The trunk is about eight or ten inches in diameter, the wood light and open, gummy, and outwardly of a reddish color, incapable of receiving a polish, and covered with a smooth bark, like that of a young cherry-tree. It is remarkable for a penury of leaves. The flowers are like those of the acacia, small and white, only that three hang upon three filaments or stalks, where the acacia has but one. Two of these flowers fall off, and leave a single fruit. After the blossoms follow yellow fine-scented seed, inclosed in a reddish-black pulpy nut, very sweet, and containing a yellowish liquor like honey." A traveler, who as sumed the name of Al Bey, says that "there is no balsam made at Mecca; that, on the contrary, it is very scarce, and is obtained principally in the territory of Medina. As the repute of the balsam of Mecca rose, the balm of Gilead disappeared; though in the era of Galen, who flourished in the second century, and travelled into Palestine and Syria purposely to obtain a knowledge of this substance, it grew in Jericho and many other parts of the Holy Land. The cause of its total decay has been ascribed, not without reason, to the royal attention being withdrawn from it by the distractions of the country. In more recent times its naturalization seems to have been attempted in Egypt; for Prosper Alpinus relates that forty plants were brought by a governor of Cairo to the garden there, and ten remained when Belon traveled in Egypt, nearly two hundred and fifty years ago; but, whether from not agreeing with the African soil or otherwise, only one existed in the last century, and now there appears to be none. (See also Thomson, Land and Book, 2:193, 457.) (See Balm Of Gilead).

    The word balm occurs frequently in the Authorized Version, as in  Genesis 37:25;  Genesis 43:11;  Jeremiah 8:22;  Jeremiah 46:11;  Jeremiah 51:8; and  Ezekiel 28:17. In all these passages the Hebrew text has צַרִי or צְרִי ( ( Tsori' or Tseri', Sept. Ῥητίνη ), which is generally understood to be the true balsam, and is considered a produce of Gilead, a mountainous district, where the vegetation is that of the Mediterranean region and of Europe, with few traces of that of Africa or of Asia. Lee ( Lex. p. 520) supposes it to be Mastich, a gum obtained from the Pistaccia Lentiscus; but Gesenius defends the common rendering, balsam. It was the gum of a tree or shrub growing in Gilead, and very precious. It was one of the best fruits of Palestine ( Genesis 43:11), exported ( Genesis 37:25;  Ezekiel 27:17), and especially used for healing wounds ( Jeremiah 8:22;  Jeremiah 46:11;  Jeremiah 51:8). The balsam was almost peculiar to Palestine (Strab. 16:2, p. 763; Tac. Hist. v. 6; Pliny 12:25, § 54; 32, § 59), distilling from a shrub like the vine and rue, which in the time of Josephus was cultivated in the neighborhood of Jericho and of the Dead Sea (Ant. 14:4, 1; 15:4, 2), and still grows in gardens near Tiberias (Burckhardt, Syria, p. 323). In  Ezekiel 27:17, the Auth. Vers. gives in the margin Rosin. The fact that the Tsori grew originally in Gilead does not forbid us to identify it with the shrub mentioned by Josephus as cultivated near Jericho.

    The name Balsam is no doubt derived from the Arabic Balasan, which is probably also the origin of the Βάλσαμον of the Greeks. Forskal informs us that the balsam- tree of Mecca is there called Abusham, i.e. "very odorous." The word Basham, given by him, is the name of a fragrant shrub growing near Mecca, with the branches and tufts of which they clean the teeth, and is supposed to refer to the same plant. These names are very similar to words which occur in the Hebrew text of several passages of Scripture, as in the  Song of Solomon 5:1, "I have gathered my myrrh with my spice" (basam);  Song of Solomon 5:13, "His cheeks are as a bed of spices" (basam); and in 6:2, "gone down into his garden to the beds of spices" (basam). The same word is used in  Exodus 35:28, and in  1 Kings 10:10, "There came no more such great abundance of spices (basam) as those which the Queen of Sheba gave to King Solomon." In all these passages basam' or bo'sem ( בָּשָׂם and בֹּשֶׂם ), though translated "spices," would seem to indicate the' balsam-tree, if we may infer identity of plant or substance from similarity in the Hebrew and Arabic names. But the word may indicate only a fragrant aromatic substance in general. The passages in the Song of Solomon may with propriety be understood as referring to a plant cultivated in Judaea, but not to spices in the general sense of that term. Queen Sheba might have brought balsam or balsam-trees, as well as spices, for both are the produce of southern latitudes, though far removed from each other. (On the balsams of modern commerce, see the Penny Cyclopedia, s.v. Balsamineae et sq.) (See Balsam).

    International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [13]

    bam ( צרי , cerı̄ , צרי , cŏrı̄  ; Septuagint ῥητίνη , rhētı́nē ): 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;  Jeremiah 46:11;  Jeremiah 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 Ghōr , and sold to travelers in small tin boxes as "Balm of Gilead ," but it is improbable that this is the real cŏrī 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 Ghōr 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.

    Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature [14]

    This substance is mentioned in  Genesis 37:25;  Genesis 43:11;  Jeremiah 8:22;  Jeremiah 46:11;  Jeremiah 51:8;  Ezekiel 27:17, as a medicinal aromatic. It is shown in the following article that this balm could not have been the product of the so called balsam-tree, or balm of Gilead tree; and the product actually denoted by the word is in fact unknown.