|Easton's Bible Dictionary|
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.
(1.) This word occurs in the Authorized Version (Genesis 37:25; 43:11; Jeremiah 8:22; 46:11; 51:8; Ezek. 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" (Cant. 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.).
Noah Webster's Dictionary
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.
Int. Standard Bible Encyclopedia
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; 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 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.
BALM OF GILEAD
The people of Jericho today prepare for the benefit of pilgrims a "Balm of Gilead" from the zaqqum (Balanites Aegyptiaca), but this has no serious claims to be the balm of antiquity. If we are to look beyond the borders of modern Palestine we may credit the tradition which claims that Mecca balsam, a product of Balsamodendron Gileadense and B. opobalsamum, was the true "balm," and Post (HDB, I, 236) produces evidence to show that these plants were once grown in the Jordan valley. Yet another suggestion, made by Lagarde, is that the tsori = sturax, and if so then "balm" would be the inspissated juice of the Storax-tree (Stytax officinalis), a common inhabitant of Gilead.
See also BALM.
E. W. G. Masterman
GILEAD, BALM OF
See BALM OF GILEAD.
Balm (7 Occurrences)
Genesis 37:25 They sat down to eat bread, and they lifted up their eyes and looked, and saw a caravan of Ishmaelites was coming from Gilead, with their camels bearing spices and balm and myrrh, going to carry it down to Egypt. (WEB KJV JPS ASV WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Genesis 43:11 Their father, Israel, said to them, "If it must be so, then do this. Take from the choice fruits of the land in your bags, and carry down a present for the man, a little balm, a little honey, spices and myrrh, nuts, and almonds; (WEB KJV JPS ASV WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
2 Chronicles 28:15 The men who have been mentioned by name rose up, and took the captives, and with the spoil clothed all who were naked among them, and arrayed them, and shod them, and gave them to eat and to drink, and anointed them, and carried all the feeble of them on donkeys, and brought them to Jericho, the city of palm trees, to their brothers: then they returned to Samaria. (See NIV)
Jeremiah 8:22 Is there no balm in Gilead? is there no physician there? why then isn't the health of the daughter of my people recovered? (WEB KJV JPS ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Jeremiah 46:11 Go up into Gilead, and take balm, virgin daughter of Egypt: in vain do you use many medicines; there is no healing for you. (WEB KJV JPS ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Jeremiah 51:8 Babylon is suddenly fallen and destroyed: wail for her; take balm for her pain, if so be she may be healed. (WEB KJV JPS ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Ezekiel 27:17 Judah, and the land of Israel, they were your traffickers: they traded for your merchandise wheat of Minnith, and confections, and honey, and oil, and balm. (WEB KJV JPS ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)