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From Peter Parley’s Merry Stories, or Fact, Fancy and Fiction, by Peter Parley, Broadway: James Miller; 1869; pp. 318-319.


Trees and Flowers Mentioned in the Bible.

Engraving of the balsam-tree, a branch with leaves, and flowers,  and seed pods shown below in the botanical style of the 19th century.

The Balsam-Tree.

Bruce, the traveler, describes this tree as growing near the Straits of Babelmandel, and consisting of an evergreen shrub, about fourteen feet high, with a trunk eight or ten inches in diameter. The wood is light, open, gummy, and of a reddish color, having a smooth bark, like that of a young cherry-tree. It has few leaves; the blossoms are followed by a yellow, fine-scented seed, inclosed in a pulpy, sweet nut. The balm is obtained by incisions in the trunk and branches, during the summer season.

The virtues of the balm or balsam thus obtained, appear to have been known nearly four thousand years ago. In Gen. xxxvii. 25, it is said, “And they lifted up their eyes and looked, and behold, a company of Ishmaelites came from 319 Gilead, with their camels, bearing spicery, and balm, and myrrh, going to carry it down to Egypt.”

From this passage and others, it appears that balm was formerly produced in Gilead. Jeremiah says, chapter viii. 22: “Is there no balm in Gilead; is there no physician there?”

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