Jeremiah 8:22

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?

22. An resina (aut, balsamus) non est in Gilead? an medicus non illic est? nam cur non ascendit sanitas filiae populi mei?


The Prophet intimates in these words that the slaughter of the people would be so fatal that they would in vain seek remedies; as though he had said, that the disease would be incurable, and altogether deadly. The people, no doubt, ever devised for themselves many kinds of aids, according to what is commonly done; for ungodly men, when any danger appears, look around them on all sides; and when they think that they can be protected by any kind of assistance, or by any of the means they contrive, they rest secure and free from every trouble. Hence the Prophet, that he might dispel such vain confidences, says that there would be no rosin to heal their diseases. The rosin is a liquid which flows, not from every tree, but from the pine, and trees of that kind.

We may conclude from this passage, as well as from other passages, that the best and the most valuable rosin was found in that part of Judea, called Gilead. Indeed the whole of Judea produced rosin; but as it was more abundant in Gilead, and as that rosin was more odoriferous and more powerful, he expressly mentions that place. The word yru tsari, means also balsam: and as to this let each follow his own opinion, for the Jews themselves do not altogether agree. They who render it "treacle" wholly depart from the meaning, and offer what is absurd; for we know that treacle is made up of several ingredients: now rosin is not any sort of gum, but a thick liquid, as I have said, which belongs to trees; and from it comes rosin, and mastic, and other things; for the liquid becomes thick after it has flown from the trees.

He says then, as one astonished, Is there not rosin in Gilead? Is there not a physician there? But the Prophet foretells here by the Spirit, that there would be such a destruction as could not by any means be avoided, that the disease would be incurable. For why, he says, does not health come to the daughter of my people? The reason is added, because healing could not be expected by the people; not that the Jews perceived this, for, on the contrary, they boasted, as I have said, of their perfect safety. But the Prophet here declares that a deadly disease was at hand, which would inevitably destroy the wicked1 Afterwards follows --

1 As the whole passage, from the 19th verse, is anticipative, and represents the ease of the Jews in captivity, this verse is to be viewed in the same light, and rendered in the past tense, --

22.Was there not balm in Gilead? Was there not a healer there?
Why then has not succeeded The recovery of the daughter of my people?

Whether balm or rosin be meant, it makes no great difference; its healing virtues had become proverbial; and in this sense it is to be taken here. Kimchi held that it was balm or balsam, which Josephus reports was first brought to Judea by the Queen of Sheba. But the tree which produced yru, was not an exotic, but indigenous in Judea, as it appears from Genesis 37:25, and 43:10; and it grew especially in Gilead, as it appears from this passage and from chap. 46:11. Bochart maintained that rosin is meant by the word, the gum drawn from the Terebinthus or the turpentine tree, which possesses strong healing virtues. It is rendered, "rJhti>nh -- rosin," by the Septuagint, the Vulgate, and the Arabic; and "cera -- wax," by the Syriac. "Healer," or physician, is rendered "ijatro<v -- healer," by the Septuagint, and "medicus," by the Vulgate, Syriac, and Arabic. It appears that Gilead was not only celebrated for its healing gum, but also for its medical men.

The balm was the word of God, and the healer who applied it was the prophet or the teacher.

Perhaps the most literal rendering of the first two lines is the following, and the most suitable to express astonishment, --

The balm, not in Gilead!:
Verily, a healer, not there! -- Ed.