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The Bible Collection

Balsam
Aslo called the "Oil of Jericho" and the "Balm of Gilead", balsam was of great importance to the ancients throughout the Holy Land.  Balsam was used primarily as disinfectant to treat wounds, but also as incense in purification ceremonies, as a welcome to guests, and as a perfume similar to frankincense.  Balsam was derived from the sap or resin of specific trees that varied by region, the most prized being that of the Commiphora gileadensis (sister to myrrh).  Historians believe the Queen of Sheba gave balsam to King Solomon (2 Kings 10 and 2 Chronicles 9), and may have also introduced rootstock of the C. gileadensis tree to Judea at that time (Josephus, Antiquities VIII, 6).  Balsam has been used into the modern era as an antiseptic and is still enjoyed today for its complex fresh fragrance.

Cedar
A conifer of the Holy Land, cedar was valuable for its wood products due to its natural rot and insect resistance.  So valuable was cedar wood that King Hiram brought cedar from Tyre to build King David a house (2 Samuel 5) and Solomon used cedar to build both his house and various temples (2 Kings).  The Hebrews regarded the cedar as a living record of Solomon's power (2 Chronicles 9) .  Cedar was also an important trade product for ship building, masts, and pitch.  Culturally, the wood and sap of the cedar tree was burned at Hebrew purification ceremonies, to perfume clothing, and as incense for meditation and prayer.  Today, cedar wood is still prized for its beauty and warm fragrance.

Frankincense
The crystallized resin of Boswellia trees, frankincense has been gathered and traded in the Holy Lands from the dawn of civilization.  Prized for its fragrance when burned and as a base for perfume, it has been the source of great wealth along the spice and incense routes.  For ancient Hebrews, it was one of the four key ingredients of the oil used in anointing priests (Exodus 30:34) and a critical ingredient in burnt offerings (Leviticus).  Frankincense was specific among the treasures given to the baby Jesus by the Magi (Matthew 2:11).  Today, frankincense is widely used in religious ceremonies, perfumes, incense, aromatherapy, and is being scientifically studied as a source of compounds for controlling arthritis, depression, and cancer.

Myrrh
Senior of the sacred resins, myrrh is obtained from the Commiphora myrrha (sister to balsam) native to Arabia and Africa. Myrrh was highly prized throughout the Holy Lands and ancient world as a perfume, incense, ingredient of embalming, and component of ceremonies.  For the ancient Hebrews, it was the primary ingredient in the "oil of holy ointment" (Exodus 30:23) and used in the purification ceremony of women (Esther 2:12).  Myrrh was specific among the treasures given to the baby Jesus by the Magi (Matthew 2:11).  While on the cross, Jesus refused wine mingled with myrrh, which was offered as an anesthetic (Mark 15:23), and Nicodemus brought myrrh for embalming the body of Jesus (John 19:39).  Today, myrrh is widely used in religious ceremonies, perfumes, incense, aromatherapy, and is being scientifically studied as a source of compounds for controlling bacteria, diabetes, pain, and cholesterol.