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Bible Encyclopedias

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature


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Bdel´lium. This word occurs but twice in the Scriptures: in Genesis 2:12, as a product of the land of Havilah; and Numbers 11:7, where the manna is likened to it. It has been much disputed among critics, both ancient and modern. Some consider it as a precious stone, and the Jewish Rabbins, together with some modern commentators, translate it by pearl. But it is more than probable that the pearl was as yet unknown in the time of Moses; and it is nowhere mentioned in the Old Testament under its proper name except in Esther 1:6.

It is, therefore, most probable that the Hebrew bedolach is the aromatic gum bdellium, which issues from a tree growing in Arabia, Media, and the Indies. Pliny's description of the tree from which the bdellium is taken makes Kaempfer's assertion highly probable, that it is the sort of palm-tree so frequently met with on the Persian coast and in Arabia Felix: The term bdellium, however, is applied to two gummy resinous substances. One of them is the Indian bdellium, or false myrrh (perhaps the bdellium of the Scriptures), which is obtained from Amyris (balsamo-dendron?) Commiphora. The trunk of the tree is covered with a light-colored pellicle, as in the common birch, which peels off from time to time, exposing to view a smooth green coat, which in succession supplies other similar exfoliations. This tree diffuses a grateful fragrance, like that of the finest myrrh, to a considerable distance around. Dr. Royle was informed that this species yielded bdellium; and in confirmation of this statement, we may add that many of the specimens of this bdellium in the British Museum have a yellow pellicle adhering to them, precisely like that of the common birch, and that some of the pieces are perforated by spiny branches—another character serving to recognize the origin of the bdellium. Indian bdellium has considerable resemblance to myrrh. Many of the pieces have hairs adhering to them.

The other kind of bdellium is called African bdellium. It is a natural production of Senegal, and is called by the natives, who make toothpicks of its spines, niottout. It consists of rounded or oval tears, from one to two inches in diameter, of a dull and waxy fracture, which in the course of time become opaque, and are covered externally by a white or yellowish dust. It has a feeble but peculiar odor, and a bitter taste.





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Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Bdellium'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature".

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