Jeremiah 8:22
Is there no balm in Gilead; is there no physician there? why then is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered?
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(22) Is there no balm in Gilead . . .?—The resinous gums of Gilead, identified by some naturalists with those of the terebinth, by others with mastich, the gum of the Pistaccia lentiscus, were prominent in the pharmacopœia of Israel, and were exported to Egypt for the embalmment of the dead (Genesis 37:25; Genesis 43:11; Jeremiah 46:11; Jeremiah 51:8). A plaister of such gums was the received prescription for healing a wound. The question of the prophet is therefore a parable. “Are there no means of healing, no healer to apply them, for the spiritual wounds of Israel? The prophets were her physicians, repentance and righteousness were her balm of Gilead. Why has no balsam-plaister been laid on the daughter of my people? Why so little result from the means which Jehovah has provided?” The imagery re-appears in Jeremiah 46:11; Jeremiah 51:8. The balm which was grown at Jericho under the Roman Empire (Tac, Hist. v. 6; Plin., Nat. Hist. xii. 25), and was traditionally reported to have been brought by the Queen of Sheba, was probably the Amyris Opobalsamum, now cultivated at Mecca, which requires a more tropical climate than that of Gilead. Wyclif’s version, “Is there no triacle in Gilead?” may be noted as illustrating the history of a word now obsolete. “Triacle” was the English form of theriacum, the mediæval panacea for all wounds, and specially for the bites of serpents and venomous beasts.

8:14-22 At length they begin to see the hand of God lifted up. And when God appears against us, every thing that is against us appears formidable. As salvation only can be found in the Lord, so the present moment should be seized. Is there no medicine proper for a sick and dying kingdom? Is there no skilful, faithful hand to apply the medicine? Yes, God is able to help and to heal them. If sinners die of their wounds, their blood is upon their own heads. The blood of Christ is balm in Gilead, his Spirit is the Physician there, all-sufficient; so that the people may be healed, but will not. Thus men die unpardoned and unchanged, for they will not come to Christ to be saved.No physician there - i. e., in Gilead. Balm used to grow in Israel for the healing of the nations. Her priests and prophets were the physicians. Has Israel then no balm for herself? Is there no physician in her who can bind up her wound? Gilead was to Israel what Israel spiritually was to the whole world.

Why then is not the health ... recovered? - Or, "why then has no bandage," or plaster of balsam, "been laid upon my people?"

22. balm—balsam; to be applied to the wounds of my people. Brought into Judea first from Arabia Felix, by the queen of Sheba, in Solomon's time [Josephus, Antiquities, 8.2]. The opobalsamum of Pliny; or else [Bochart] the resin drawn from the terebinth. It abounded in Gilead, east of Jordan, where, in consequence, many "physicians" established themselves (Jer 46:11; 51:8; Ge 37:25; 43:11).

health … recovered—The Hebrew is literally, "lengthening out … gone up"; hence, the long bandage applied to bind up a wound. So the Arabic also [Gesenius].

Gilead was eminent for balm, Genesis 43:11, taken for rosin or turpentine, which is a kind of more liquid rosin, and either flows or drops from certain trees of its own accord, or their juice flows from several holes pierced into them, as from the pine, cedar, cypress, or terebinth tree. Heb. tseri; Gr. rhtinh, from rew, to flow, or run; Lat. resina; Engl. rosin. A near affinity of the words in each language, the nature whereof is to dissolve hardness, to clear and close up wounds.

Physician, or chirurgeon: probably in a country where were such plenty of remedies there could not want artists, whereby their cures might be facilitated, by means of which the Gileadites and Arabians did excel there.

Recovered, Heb. gone up; the like expression 2 Chronicles 24:13, the work was perfected; Heb. the healing went up upon the work; and so Nehemiah 4:7: the prophet expresseth his grievous complaint by way of admiration, by a metaphor, implying the inveteracy and obstinacy of their hearts, that either would not come to the physician, or that they should be thus incurable, where they wanted not for prophets and teachers, or for any spiritual means, flowing down daily upon them; can Jerusalem and Judea be without spiritual physicians? Some understand it by way of sarcasm: q.d. Where are your medicines, your arms, your counsels, your confederates? And where are your physicians, your princes and priests, that promised you relief? Without God you see no help in any means. But the former more natural, and agrees best with the beginning of the next chapter. Is there no balm in Gilead?.... Which was famous for it; see Genesis 37:25, or rather turpentine or rosin, a gum which drops from pine trees and the like; since balm or balsam grew on this side Jordan, near Jericho and Engedi, and not beyond Jordan, in the land of Gilead; and rosin is good for healing. Some render it "treacle", but very wrongly, since, as Calvin observes, that is a composition of many things,

Is there no physician there? or surgeon, anyone that heals wounds and bruises; very probably there were many such lived in Gilead, since it was a place where proper medicines were to be got and applied: this may be understood of prophets and teachers, who, in a moral and spiritual sense, are instruments of healing of men, by showing them their evil, calling them to repentance, and directing where to go for healing or pardon of sin; namely, to Christ, the alone physician, and to his precious blood, shed for the remission of sins. Some reference may be had to Elijah, who was of Gilead, and to the school of the prophets there, 1 Kings 17:1. The Targum is,

"Jeremiah the prophet said, perhaps there are no good works in me, that I should supplicate for the house of Israel; should I not desire the doctrine of Elijah the prophet, who was of Gilead, whose words were healing?''

Why then is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered? that is, seeing there is balm in Gilead, and a physician there, how comes it to pass that such medicine is not made use of, and such a physician not applied to, that health might be restored? This shows the stupidity, sluggishness, and indolence of the people, and how inexcusable they were, as well as the prophet's great concern for their welfare; the want of means of deliverance, or non-attendance to them, or the failure of them.

Is there no balm {r} in Gilead; is there no physician there? why then is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered?

(r) Meaning,that no man's help or means could save them: for in Gilead was precious balm, Jer 46:11 or else deriding the vain confidence of the people, who looked to their priests for help, who would have been the physicians of their soul, and dwelt at Gilead, Ho 6:8.

22. balm] For balsam (balm) as a product of Gilead, see Genesis 37:25 and cp. Genesis 43:11; Ezekiel 27:17. As, however, some doubt has been thrown on Gilead as a place producing balsam, it has been suggested (so Pe.) that the meaning is mastic tree resin, which was obtained there.

Gilead] a mountainous part of Palestine, east of the Jordan, south of Bashan, and north of Moab.

is there no physician there?] Is there no priest or prophet, who can heal the sin of Israel or apply a remedy?

the health … recovered] rather, the fresh flesh of the daughter of my people come up (upon her), i.e. gradually forming by cicatrisation over a wound. See Dr., p. 352.Verse 22. - No hope or remedy is left; again a proverbial expression. No balm in Gilead. Gilead appears to have been celebrated in early times for its balsam, which was expected by Ishmaelites to Egypt (Genesis 37:25) and by Jewish merchants to Tyro (Ezekiel 27:17). It was one of the most costly products of Palestine (Genesis 43:11), and was prized for its medicinal properties in cases of wounds (comp. Jeremiah 46:11; Jeremiah 51:8). Josephus mentions this balsam several times, but states that it only grew at Jericho ('Antiq.,' 15:4,2), Tristram searched for balsam in its ancient haunts, but in vain; he thinks Jeremiah means the Balsamodendron gileadense or opobalsamum, which in Arabia is used as a medicine both internally and externally. But if Pliny ('Hist. Nat.,' 24:22) may be followed in his wide use of the term "balsam" so as to include the exudations of the "lentisens" or mastick tree, then "balm of Gilead" is still to be found; for the mastick tree "grows commonly all over the country, excepting in the plains and the Jordan valley" ('Nat. Hist. of Bible,' p. 336). Is there no physician there? We hear but little of physicians in the Old Testament. They are only mentioned again in Genesis 1:2 (but with reference to Egypt, where medicine was much cultivated), and in 2 Chronicles 16:12; Job 13:4. From the two latter passages we may, perhaps, infer that physicians were rarely successful; and this is certainly the impression produced by Ecclus. 38:15, "He that sinneth before his Maker, let him fall into the hand of the physician." The remedies employed in the Talmudic period quite bear out this strong saying (see Lightfoot, 'Horae Hebraical,' on Mark 5:26). The physicians of Gilead, however, probably confined themselves to their one famous simple, the balsam. Is not the health... recovered? Gesenius renders, less probably, "hath no bandage been applied to the daughter of my people?"

From the northern borders of Canaan (from Dan; see on Jeremiah 4:15) is already heard the dreadful tumult of the advancing enemy, the snorting of his horses. The suffix in סוּסיו refers to the enemy, whose invasion is threatened in Jeremiah 6:22, and is here presumed as known. אבּיריו, his strong ones, here, as in Jeremiah 47:3; Jeremiah 50:11, a poetical name for strong horses, stallions; elsewhere for strong animals, e.g., Psalm 22:13; Psalm 50:13. The whole earth, not the whole land. With "devour the land," cf. Jeremiah 5:17. עיר and ארץ have an indefinite comprehensive force; town and country on which the enemy is marching.
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