|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
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.
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?"
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
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.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
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].
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