What is the
Balm of Gilead?
Q. I often hear the term "balm of gilead" used when someone needs to be healed. What is the "big picture" on this?
(Submitted by: Vicki)
A. There's really no big picture in this. People generally have their own references when it comes to healing and healing prayer. This ointment is one of them.
One reference to healing prayer is in the book of Matthew:
"So Jesus said to them, "Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you." " (Matthew 17:20)
The region of Gilead was noted for its balm, a secretion of the balsam tree. The territory where this salve came from, an area North of the Salt Sea in the land of Israel, was originally given by God to Manasseh as an inheritance when the children of Israel entered the promised land. It was used in various healing mixtures, and was sold to many countries, especially Egypt. It's first mention in the Bible is in relation to a caravan of merchants to whom Joseph was sold by his brothers:
"And they sat down to eat a meal. Then they lifted their eyes and looked, and there was a company of Ishmaelites, coming from Gilead with their camels, bearing spices, BALM, and myrrh, on their way to carry them down to Egypt." (Genesis 37:25, NKJV throughout)
It is also mentioned elsewhere in God's word:
"Is there no BALM in GILEAD, is there no physician there? Why then is there no recovery for the health of the daughter of my people?" (Jeremiah 8:22)
"Go up to Gilead and take BALM, O virgin, the daughter of Egypt; In vain you will use many medicines ; You shall not be cured." (Jeremiah 46:11)
It is possible that this ancient trade item is now known as the Balsam of Mecca, which is a resinous gum of a tree native to southern Arabia and Israel. The most famous site of its production within the region was the Jewish town of Ein Gedi. The resin was valued as medicine as well as a perfume in ancient Greek and Roman cultutre. Pliny the Elder mentions it as one of the ingredients of the "Royal Perfume" of the Parthians.