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Bible Encyclopedias

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature


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The balsam-tree was one of the most celebrated and highly esteemed among the ancients. It is supposed to be referred to under the Hebrew names Basam and Baal-shemen, translated 'spices,' in Exodus 35:28; 1 Kings 10:10; Song of Solomon 5:1; Song of Solomon 5:13. It would appear, however, from ancient authors that the plant yielding balsam was never very common in Palestine—in fact, that it was confined to one locality, where it was found only as a plant in cultivation, though it may have been, and probably was, introduced at a very early period. That it has long disappeared from thence is evident from the testimony of all travelers in Palestine. That it was a southern plant we may believe from its being cultivated in the warm southern valley of Jericho, and that it was introduced into that locality we have the testimony of Josephus, who says that it was brought thither by the Queen of Sheba.

The balsam-tree, or balm of Gilead tree, as it is also very generally called, is not a native of that region, nor indeed does it appear ever to have been cultivated there. The true balsam, we have seen, was cultivated near Jericho, and at a later age in Egypt. From that country it has been traced to Arabia.

The balsam-tree, having been described by various travelers, is now pretty well known. It forms a middle-sized tree with spreading branches and a smooth ash-colored bark, but which is no doubt rough in the older parts. The ultimate branches are short, and thorn-like, with small very short abortive branchlets, bearing at their extremities the leaves and flowers. The fruit is pointed, fleshy, with a viscid pulp.


Fig. 82—Balsam

This species is now considered to be identical with the Amyris opobalsamum of Fors

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Bibliography Information
Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Balsam-Tree'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature".

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Tuesday, October 22nd, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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