Jeremiah...Who Asked Awkward Questions
The story of the balm of Gilead provides exciting, informative, and thought-provoking reading. Details can be found in various places throughout the Scripture. When the brothers of Joseph were planning how to dispose of him, "they sat down to eat bread: and they lifted up their eyes and looked, and, behold, a company of Ishmeelites came from Gilead with their camels bearing spicery and balm and myrrh, going to carry it down to Egypt" (Gen. 37:25).
When the family of Jacob desperately needed food, the patriarch was reluctant to permit Benjamin to accompany his other children on their journey. He was told how the great man in Egypt had insisted on seeing the young man, and the required food would be unobtainable without the consent of the official. Jacob was thus compelled by these circumstances to accept the advice of his sons. Hoping to please Pharaoh's administrator, Jacob said, "Take of the best fruits in the land in your vessels, and carry down the man a present, a little balm, and a little honey, spices, and myrrh, nuts, and almonds: And take double money in your hand" (Gen. 43:11-12, emphasis mine).
The fact that only a little balm was sent may indicate its value; even a small amount would be a valued commodity. It can safely be assumed the fame of Gilead's medicinal balm had spread internationally even in the early days of Israel's history. The importance of the product was increased enormously when the queen of Sheba visited Solomon. Josephus, the Jewish historian, said,
She brought with her, camels laden with gold, with several sorts of sweet spices, and with precious stones . . . Now when the Queen had thus demonstrated in words how deeply the king had affected her, her disposition was known by certain presents, for she gave him twenty talents of gold, and an enormous quantity of spices and precious stones. (They say also that we possess the root of that balsom which our countr ...
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