One of our members has submitted the below extract from Amen to That by Ferdie Addis.
No Balm in Gilead - Jeremiah 8:22
This unusual phrase comes from the Book of Jeremiah. The prophet laments the suffering of Israel saying: ‘is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there?'
‘Balm’ is the resin Balsam dendron trees – a well known medicine in the ancient world and one for which the region of Gilead (in modern Jordan) was famous. For Gilead to run out of balm is, in the Bible, a powerful sign that Israel is in dire straits.
African slaves taken to America the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries famously answered Jeremiah’s question in a traditional spiritual called, in a remarkable display of optimism, ‘There is a balm in Gilead.’
These days, Gilead usually crops up as a literary reference (for example, as the name of a future American dystopia in Margaret Atwood’s the Handmaid’s Tale) ‘Balm’ used on its own, is more common in phrases like ‘a balm for the soul.’
The reflections here are written by members of our congregation.