Archeologist Vendyl Jones, the real-life inspiration for the legendary film character Indiana Jones, made an exciting discovery in April 1988 while exploring a Qumran cave near the Dead Sea. He journals…
“In the narrow pit closest to the (cave) entrance, about three feet down, we unearthed an object small in size but enormous in worth. It was a diminutive clay pitcher about five inches in height. The little vial held around three ounces of thick, reddish oil. The find was still wrapped in date palm fibers to protect it. In the hours after its discovery, the juglet sat out in the one hundred degree heat and its contents, according to some, gave off a sweet smell.”*
It was a vial of the famed balm of Gilead!
Balm of Gilead functions as an analgesic, an anti-inflammatory, an anti-bacterial, and as an astringent. It can help detoxify and also heal coughs. It is made only from the buds of the Balsam Poplar, the Narrowleaf Balsam Poplar, or the Black Cottonwood. The buds must be picked at just the right moment then soak in a frequently agitated container of olive oil for well over a month. The buds are then strained out and the oil is mixed with melted beeswax, coconut oil and cocoa butter.
Gilead was well known as a producer of this balm. Thus, Jeremiah laments “Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then is there no healing for the wound of my people?” (Jer. 8:22). What he is rhetorically saying is this, There certainly is balm in Gilead. The needed cure for the wounds of his people exists. The disconnect is with the people: they no longer had the will to seek it out.
Of course Jeremiah is not speaking about a physical balm; he does not mean a medical application. Jeremiah is referring to a spiritual wound of waywardness; he is calling his people to turn around and seek out God.
Herein is the timelessness of this truth. We who call ourselves by the Name of Christ, “Christians,” have obligation to bring Christ to the perishing. It was the one great commission He gave us. (see Matt. 28:18-20). We are all part of His great ‘Balm Squad’ and the timer is ticking down.