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In a recent article in Biblical Archaeology Review Zohar Amar of Bar-Ilan University argues that the best candidate for the “balm of Gilead” is the resin from the Atlantic pistachio tree (Pistacia atlantica). The balm of Gilead is mentioned six times in the Bible: Genesis 37:25 and 43:11; Jeremiah 8:22, 46:11, and 51:8; and Ezekiel 27:17. According to some of these texts, the balm itself (Hebrew: zori) is from the region of Gilead, identified as the area northeast of the Sea of Galilee in modern-day Jordan. Before arriving at his conclusion, Amar also studied the mentioning of this balm in Egyptian, Greek, Roman, and Arabi texts and performed an experiment where he collected the resin from 80 Atlantic pistachio trees in order to determine how it was processed. While the Atlantic pistachio trees in the immediate area of Gilead stopped producing resin about 20 years ago, it is still possible to harvest it from trees in other regions of Jordan and in Iraq and the United Arab Emirates. The balm of Gilead was likely both consumed and applied topically by people looking to glean the health benefits of the substance.


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