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Bible Encyclopedias

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature


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Galbanum is mentioned in , as one of the substances from which the incense for the sanctuary was to be prepared: 'Take unto thee sweet spices, stacte and onycha and galbanum.' The substance itself is well known, but the plant which yields it is yet to be ascertained.

Galbanum is in the present day imported into this country both from the Levant and from India. That from the latter country is exported from Bombay, having been first imported thither, probably from the Persian Gulf. It is therefore probable that it may be produced in the countries at the head of that gulf, that is, in the northern parts of Arabia or in Persia (portions of which, as is well known, were included in the Syria of the ancients); perhaps in Kurdistan, which nearly corresponds with ancient Assyria.

Galbanum, then, is either a natural exudation, or obtained by incisions from some umbelliferous plant. It occurs in commerce in the form either of tears or masses, commonly called lump-galbanum. The latter is of the consistence of wax, tenacious, of a brownish or brownish yellow color, with white spots in the interior, which are the agglutinated tears. Its odor is strong and balsamic, but disagreeable, and its taste warm and bitter. It is composed of 66 percent of resin, and 6 of volatile oil, with, gum, etc. and impurities. It was formerly held in high esteem as a stimulant and anti-spasmodic medicine, and is still employed as such, and for external application to discuss indolent tumors. It was the practice of the ancients to mix galbanum with the most fragrant substances with which they were acquainted. The effect of such mixture must depend upon the proportion in which it or any other strong-smelling substance is intermixed, more than upon what is its peculiar odor when in a concentrated state. We need not, therefore, inquire into the reasons which have been assigned to account for galbanum being intermixed with stacte and onycha as sweet spices. We see it was the custom so to do both in other ancient nations, as the Greeks and the Egyptians.





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

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