The balm of Gilead – What is it?The balm of Gilead is mentioned three times in the Bible, but takes no central part in any account and is used as a metaphor in two of the appearances.
Gilead was an area east of the Jordan River. A balm is a salve mixture made from plants that is used to make medicine and is usually aromatic. We don't know what the plants were to make the balm that came from Gilead, though it is thought to be made from the resin of a flowering plant. The balm of Gilead is also known as the "balsam of Mecca."
Gilead's balm is first mentioned as part of the cargo of Ishmaelites as they encountered Joseph's brothers contemplating fratricide (Genesis 37:25). Next, Jeremiah asks, "Is there no balm in Gilead?" upon learning from God that Babylon would be used to punish Judah (see Jeremiah 8:22). Later, God describes His judgment on Egypt and suggests that even the balm of Gilead won't help them (Jeremiah 46:11).
There is something poetic about the balm of Gilead. It has been used by authors such as Edgar Allen Poe in "The Raven" and by others. A popular African-American spiritual, "There is a Balm in Gilead" compares its healing power with the saving power of Jesus.
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