Gall the representative in the A.V. of two Hebrew words and one Greek.
1. Mererah' or merorah' (מרֵרָה or מרֹרָה; Sept. χολή, κακά, δίαιτα; Vulg. fel, amaritudo, viscera meaz) denotes etymologically bitterness: see Job 13:26, "Thou writest bitter things against me." Hence the term is applied to the "bile" or "gall" from its imtense bitterness (Job 16:13). The metaphors in this verse are taken from the practice of huntsmen, who first surround the beast, then shoot it, and next take out the entrails. The term also stands for the gallbladder or vitals (Job 20:25). It is also used of the "poison" of serpents (Job 20:14), which the ancients erroneously believed was their gall: see Pliny, H.N. 11:37, "No one should be astonished that it is the gall which constitutes the poison of serpents" (comp. Heb 12:15, "root of bitterness"). SEE LIVER.
2. Rosh (ראֹשׁ or רוֹשׁ; Sept. χολή, πικρία, ἄγρωστις; Vulg. fel, amaritudo, caput), generally translated "gall" by the A.V., but in Ho 10:4 rendered "hemlock:" in De 32:33, and Job 20:16, it denotes the "poison" or "venom" of serpents. From De 29:18, "a root that beareth rosh" (margin "a poisonful herb"), and La 3:19, "the wormwood and the rosh," compared with Ho 10:4, "judgment springeth up as rosh," it is evident that the Heb. term denotes some bitter, and perhaps poisonous plant, though it may also be used, as in Ps 59:17, in the general sense of "something very bitter." Celsius (Hierob. 2:46-52) thinks "hemlock" (Conium maculatum) is intended, and quotes Jerome on Hosea in support of his opinion, though it seems that this commentator had in view the couch-grass (Triticum repens) rather than "hemlock." Rosenmüller (Bib. Bot. page 118) is inclined to think that the Lolaum temulentum best agrees with the passage in Hosea where the rosh is said to grow "in the furrows of the field." Other waiters have supposed, and with some reason (from De 32:32, "their grapes are grapes of rosh"), that some berry-bearing plant must be intended. Gesenius (Thes. p. 1251) understands "poppies;" Michaelis (Suppl. Lex. Heb. page 2220) is of opinion that rosh may be either the Lolium temulentum or the Solanum ("nightshade"). Oedmann (Verm. Sasmml. part 4, c. 10) argues in favor of the Colocynth. The most probable conjecture, for proof there is none, is that of Gesenius: the capsules of the Papaseracae may well give the name of resh ("head") to the plant in question, just as we speak of poppy heads. The various species of this family spring up quickly in cornfields, and the juice is extremely bitter. A steeped solution of poppy heads may be "the water of gall" of Jer 8:14, unless, as Gesenius thinks, the מֵי רֹאשׁ may be the poisonous extract, opium. This word is always used figuratively to represent sin, and never designates the animal secretion called gall. SEE HEMLOCK.
3. Gr. χολή, prop. the bitter secretion gall. In the story of Tobit the gall of a fish is said to have been used to cure his father's blindness (Tobit 6:8; 11:10, 13). Pliny refers to the use of the same substance for diseases of the eye (Hist. Nat. 28:10); also speaking of the fish callionymus, he says it has a similar curative virtue (32:4, 7). Galen and other writers praise the use of the liver of the silurus in cases of dimness of sight. SEE BLINDNESS.
The passages in the Gospels which relate the circumstance of the Roman soldiers offering our Lord, just before his crucifixion, "vinegar mingled with gall," according to Matthew (Mt 27:34), and "wine mingled with myrrh," according to Mark's account (Mr 15:23), require some consideration. The first-named evangelist uses χολή, which is the Sept. rendering of the Heb. rosh in the Psalm (Ps 69:21) that foretels the Lord's sufferings. Mark explains the bitter ingredient in the sour vinous drink to be "myrrh" (οἴνος έσμυρνισμένος) for we cannot regard the transactions as different. "Matthew, in his usual way," as Hengstenberg (Comment. in Ps 69:21) remarks, "designates the drink theologically: always keeping his eye on the prophecies of the O.T., he speaks of gall and vinegar 'for the purpose of rendering the fulfillment of the Psalms more manifest.' Mark again (Mr 15:23), according to his way, looks rather at the outward quality of thee drink." Bengel takes quite a different view; he thinks both myrrh and gall were added to the sour wine (Gnom. Nov. Test. Matthew 1.c.). Hengstenberg's view is far preferable; nor is "gall" (χολή) to be understood in any other sense than as expressing the bitter nature of the draught. As to the intent of the proffered drink, it is generally supposed that it was for the purpose of deadening pain. It was customary to give criminals just before their execution a cup of wine with frankincense in it, to which reference is made, it is believed, by the οῖνος κατανύξεως of Ps 60:3 see also Pr 31:6. This the Talmud states was given in order to alleviate the pain. See Busxtorf (Lex. Talm. col. 2131), who quotes fronc the Talmed (Salmed. fol. 43, 1) to that effect. Rosenmüller (Bib. Bot. page 163) is of opinion that the myrrh was given to our Lord, not for the purpose of alleviating his sufferings, but in order that he might be sustained until the punishment was completed. He quotes from Apuleius (Metamor. 8), who relates that a certain priest "disfigured himself with a multitude of blows, having previously strengthened himself by taking myrrh." Hoemfar the frankincense in the cup, as maentioned in the Talmud, was supposed to possess soporific properties, or in any evay to induce an alleviation of pain, it is difficult to determine. The same must be said of the οίνος ίσμνρνισμένος of Mark, for it is quite certain that neither of these two drugs in question, both of which are the produce of the same natural order of plants (Amyridaceae), is ranked among the hypnopoietics by modern physicians. It is true that Dioscorides (1:77) ascribes a soporific property to myrrh, but it does not seem to have been so regarded by any other author. Notwithstanding, therefore, the almost concurrent opinion of ancient and modern commentators, that the "wine mingled with myrrh" was offered to our Lord as an anodyne, we cannot readily come to the same conclusion. Had the soldiers intended a mitigation of suffering, they would doubtless have offered a draught drugged with some substance having narcotic properties. The drink in question was probably a mere ordinary beverage of the Romans, who were in the habit of seasoning their various wines, which, as they contained little alcohol, soon turned sour, with various spices, drugs, and perfumes, such as myrrh, cassia, myrtle, pepper, etc. (Smith, Dict. of Class. Antiq. s.v. Vinum). SEE MYRRH.