BALM OF GILEAD
The Balm of Gilead we really need it...You won't believe how many conflicts arose over one precious perfume, The Balm of Gilead, which drove the Romans and Byzantines crazy. It is challenging, but definitely doable, for me to introduce the ancient traditions to my tourists as a private tour guide in Israel. On one of my private tours of Masada and the Dead Sea, I will be able to present the history of a very vital point to my guest. Not simple, is it? So everything will be thoroughly explained in this article!
What is The Balm of Gilead?
Since the times of the Bible, the fabled Balm of Gilead plant has been a famed herb. Its balm is renowned for its exceptional medicinal benefits. The Bible makes numerous references to the Balm of Gilead. one of the examples is the book of Jeremiah 8:22. The tree was brought to Rome in the first century A.D., according to Pliny the Elder's writings. Another fascinating fact is that King Solomon received the Balm of Gilead as a gift from the Queen of Sheba, according to the historian Josephus. The tree or shrub that produced the Balm of Gilead, known scientifically as Commiphora gileadensis, was extremely rare.
This unusual plant gained fame for the pricey perfume that was rumored to be made from it. As well as for the extraordinary medical benefits associated with its seeds, cedar, bark, and sap. When a twig or leaf is broken, Commiphora gileadensis is easily identified by the pleasant smell it releases. The sap of the balsam tree is released by cutting the bark. This soon becomes hard and quickly loses its sweet odor. The dried resinous gum is burned as incense and is said to taste either like pine resin or lemon when chewed. Some botanists have come to the conclusion that a terebinth tree(Pistacia terebinthus) was the true source.
The Balm of Gilead In the Bible
The Bible uses several names to refer to the Balsam of Gilead. For instance, to name a Bosen, Nataf, and Zori. Afarsemon or balsam is also used in rabbinic literature. The book of Genesis records that after throwing Joseph into a pit by his brothers, his brothers saw a caravan traveling from Gilead to Egypt. Additionally, they were shipping balm and myrrh along with other items (Genesis 37:25). Jacob gave the "unknown leader" a little balm along with other gifts when he sent his embassy to Egypt. Is there no remedy in Gilead? Jeremiah queries during the last years of the Kingdom of Judah. (Jer. 8:22). Last but not least, balsam was one of the multiple presents the Queen of Sheba gave to the famous King Solomon, as recorded in the book of Kings 10:10.
Hellenistic-Roman Era and the Balsam of Gilead
In later Jewish history, it was thought that the only place where authentic balsam could be found was in the Judean Desert Area -Jericho, and even there, its cultivation was limited to just two gardens, one of which was sixteen acres in size and the other considerably smaller. We learn about Zacchaeus the tax collector in the New Testament because the lucrative manufacture and export of balsam are concentrated in Jericho; Zacchaeus never did anything for free so perhaps his motivation to live in Jericho was our famous plant as well.
The balsam poplar tree's resin is gathered as it leaks from the tree in the summer. High humidity levels cause more seepage. To gather the resin more quickly, slits can be cut into the bark of the tree. Additionally, leaf buds and bark are gathered.
Aristotle's successor in the Peripatetic school was Theophrastus. For his studies on plants, he is frequently referred to as the "father of botany." His two botanical writings, On the Causes of Plants and Enquiry into Plants (Historia Plantarum), had a significant impact on Renaissance science. He mentions the date trees and balsam grown in Judea in his inquiry into plants (Historia Plantarum).
The Balsam in the Historia Plantarum reference
"The Syrian valley is where the Balsam of Mecca grows. They claim that it only grows in two parks, one of which is around eight acres in size and the other a little bigger. The fruits are similar to that of the terebinth in size, form, and color, and this, too, is highly fragrant, in fact, more so than the gum; the tree is as tall as a good-sized pomegranate and is heavily branched; it has a leaf like that of rue, but it is pale; and it is evergreen.
Nowhere is said to have wild balsam growth. Twelve jars, each holding about three quarts, are acquired from the larger park; only two such vessels are gotten from the other. Pure gum sells for twice its weight in silver, while the mixed variety is priced according to its purity. Then, balsam seems to have an outstanding smell. (9.6.2)
Judea was unquestionably a part of the Syrian province until the second century BCE. So it's pretty obvious that he's talking about the Jordan Valley. Aside from that, it only grows here.
The Balm of Gilead - the glory comes during the Roman Period
Tacitus compares Judea to Italy in all of its productions while characterizing the region. In addition to having the palm and the balsam (Hist. 5:6). Additionally, the infamous tree aroused the lust of subsequent conquerors. It was shown by Pompey in the streets of Rome in 65 B.C.E. as one of the loot from the recently won province. And one of the magnificent trees was used to decorate Vespasian's victory in 79 CE.
Two battles took place in Jericho's balsam orchards during Titus' invasion. The last person to stop the Jews from felling the trees in their dejected hysteria. Then the Balm trees became state property. and were given an imperial guard's protection. But the duration of the two plantations' existence is not documented in history.
The balsam tree was only native to Judea, according to Pliny (Hist. Nat. 12:54), however, Diodorus Siculus (3:46) said it was also a product of Arabia. In Palestine, where it was also praised for its balsam (Justinus, 36:3; Tacitus, Hist. 5:6; Plutarchus, Vita Antonia c. 36; Florus, Epitome bellorum 3.5.29; Dioscorides, De materia medica 1:18), this plant was grown in the vicinity of Jericho (Strabo, 16:763; Diodorus Siculus 2:48; 19:98).
The Pliny descriptions of The Balm of Gilead
Three distinct species of this plant are identified by Pliny: the first has thin, capillaceous leaves; the second is a crooked, scabrous shrub; and the third has a smooth rind and grows taller than the first two. He claims that the balsam plant, a shrub, is the one that most closely resembles the grapevine in terms of appearance and farming practices. The plant is evergreen, but the leaves resemble those of the rue more closely. It doesn't rise higher than two cubits. Balsam trickles through tiny incisions made very carefully into the rind; these droplets are then gathered with wool into a horn and preserved in fresh earthen jars.
It starts out being pale and pellucid but later turns firmer and redder. That is regarded as the finest quality that develops prior to the fruit's outward appearance. The resin extracted from the seeds, rind, and even the stems is much inferior to this (see Theophrastus, Hist. Plant. 9:6; Strabo 16:763; Pausanias 9.28.2). This description, which does not accurately reflect the plant, mostly describes the Egyptian balsam shrub that Belon discovered in a garden close to Cairo. However, the strata of the plant were taken to Egypt from Arabia Felix, and Prosperous Alpinus has published a plate of it.
The Balm of Gilead- Medicinal Usage
Balsam is said to have a variety of medicinal benefits, according to Dioscorides (De materia medica), including the ability to induce menstruation, move the urine, aid in breathing and conception, be a snakebite antidote, and treat pleurisy, gripes, sciatica, vertigo, epilepsy, asthma, cough, and pneumonia.
The Balm of Gilead grew in Jericho and many other areas of the Holy Land during the time of Galen, who flourished in the second century and came to Palestine and Syria on purpose to learn about this material.
The Balm of Gilead In the Christian tradition
According to the Bible, Mary, the mother of Jesus, received gifts of frankincense, myrrh, and gold from the Three Magi. Some others argue that the gold presented is really the Balm of Gilead. First of all, in those times, it was more valuable than gold. Second, the only component of the anointing oil used by Israel's Kings during the period of the Second Temple was the Balm of Gilead. ... order to fulfill the New Testament's description of Jesus as the Jewish people's King. He required the use of Balm of Gilead.
In fact, the anointing with chrism—traditionally a mixture of olive oil and balsam—is still used today to impart the Christian ritual of confirmation. From at least the sixth 5th century onwards, balm appears to be utilized everywhere for chrism.
The Secret of the Judean Desert - Ein Gedi
Up until Justinian, emperor of the Byzantine Empire destroyed the indigenous Jewish settlement of Ein Gedi as part of his persecution of the Jews in his domain, Ein Gedi was a significant supply of balsam for the Greco-Roman world. A Judeo-Aramaic inscription mosaic from the Ein Gedi synagogue, which is now on display at Jerusalem's Schottenstein campus museum, warns the locals against "revealing the town's secret"—possibly the processes for extracting and preparing the highly valued balsam resin, though they are not expressly mentioned in the inscription.
Where Can the Balm of Gilead be found today?
As a private tour guide for The Dead Sea and Masada, I enjoy taking tourists to the Botanical Gardens and Ein Gedi National Park. Given that it is in the desert, you will find over 1,200 different species of flora there, including the well-known Balm of Gilead. Another location where you can view this old plant.
Guy Erlich recreates mixtures of incense and perfume that he thinks were used by royalty in biblical times in Kibbutz Almog, a rapidly expanding settlement near the Dead Sea. He says he has replicated oils used to anoint ancient Jewish rulers as well as a smell that Cleopatra would have used on her skin. A total of 70 biblical plants, including the Balm of Gilead, are presently grown by him. He received assistance from Elaine Solowey, a specialist in desert agriculture at Israel's Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, in identifying some of his plants. Currently, only a small portion of his farm is devoted to small-leafed plants, but the honey he harvests fetches a high price: $1,000 per kilogram.
The two Jewish temples mentioned in the Bible—the first destroyed by the Babylonians in 587 BCE and the second by the Romans in 70 CE—were said to have utilized perfumes that Erlich claims to have recreated.
Dvir Oil - the Extract of the Balm of Gilead
Devir oil is made from the holy frankincense and myrrh of Gilead (biblical persimmon) plants and is produced with Ministry of Health authorization.
The lost biblical "Moor of Gilead" can now be processed in this way thanks to scientific discovery, and the Devir oil can now be bought here.
The oil has been found to be useful in reducing a wide range of symptoms, including joint discomfort, vascular difficulties, breathing problems, and all skin diseases, from skin asthma to psoriasis. The oil includes special qualities that contribute to the health of the body and mind.
The biblical persimmon plant is mentioned more than 150 times in the Bible, and numerous other sources from around the world also suggest that its name spread widely and that it was a symbol of the ancient world's aristocracy for more than 3500 years.
The plant vanished from the rest of the world after Judah was destroyed, and the method of preparation was kept a secret till the present.
The biblical persimmon tree is native to the Land of Israel and can be seen growing naturally in the Ein Gedi region. DVIR oil is made from many plant parts, including both frankincense and the biblical persimmon. There are no industrial or engineered materials in the oil.
High levels of cleaning and polishing properties in persimmon oil benefit the human body. Many different plant chemicals, such as tannins, flavonoids, and carotenoids, are present in the portions of the persimmon and frankincense plants. These compounds are beneficial to overall health and can help with a number of illnesses.
The Dvir-produced biblical persimmon oil covers a wide range of topics. Thousands of experimenters have reported improvements in the signs and symptoms of the immune system and respiratory systems in addition to relief from skin lesions including psoriasis and seborrhea.
The Dead Sea persimmon farm Kibbutz Almog
Today you can visit the persimmon farm spiced with ancient aromas. Come visit the persimmon, myrrh, and frankincense plantations and see how the glory of the past has been resurrected.
Today, the largest persimmon plantation in the world is grown on a persimmon farm near Kibbutz Almog, as well as an experimental plantation of Frankincense and Balm of Gilead trees. In addition, the farm has a rare and unique collection that includes dozens of species of myrrh and birch trees, the incense plants of the Jewish Temple, biblical perfume plants, and dozens of other species of desert and other perfume and medicinal trees and plants.
You are invited to get to know the biblical persimmon bush, meet the myrrh and Balm of Gilead trees, smell desert perfume plants, sip a special infusion, smoke fragrant incense, be intoxicated by the scents of ancient perfumes, and discover a life's work - a romantic and innocent dream that is gradually coming true.