is the rendering in the A.V. of the following Hebrew and Greek words. SEE AROMATICS.
1. Basam, besem, or bosem (בָּשָּׂם, בֶּשֶׂם, or בֹּשֶׂם; Sept. ἡδύσματα, θυμιάματα; Vulg. aromata). The first named form of the Hebrew term, which occurs only in Song 5:1, "I have gathered my myrrh with my spice," points apparently to some definite substance. In the other places, with the exception perhaps of Song 1:13; Song 6:2, the words refer more generally to sweet aromatic odors, the principal of which was that of the balsam, or balm of Gilead. The tree which yields this substance is now generally admitted to be the Amyris (Balsamodendron) opobalsamum; though it is probable that other species of Amyridaoeoe are included under the terms. The identity of the Hebrew name with the Arabic basham or balasan leaves no reason to doubt, that the substances are identical. The Amyris opobalsamum was observed by Forskal near Mecca; it was called by the Arabs abusham, i.e. "very odorous." Yet whether this was the same plant that was cultivated in the plains of Jericho and celebrated throughout the world (Pliny, Hist. Nat. 12, 25; Theophrastus, Hist. Plant. 9, 6; Josephus, Ant. 15, 4, 2; Strabo, 16, 367, etc.), it is difficult to determine; but being a tropical plant, it cannot be supposed to have grown except in the warm valleys of the south of Palestine. The shrub mentioned by Burckhardt (Trav. p. 323) as growing in gardens near Tiberias, and which he was informed was the balsam, cannot have been the tree in question. The A.V. never renders basam by "balm;" it gives this word as the representative of the Hebrew tzeri, or tzori. SEE BALM. The form besem or bosem, which is of frequent occurrence in the Old Test., may well be represented by the general term "spices," or "sweet odors," in accordance with the renderings of the Sept. and Vulg. The balm-of-Gilead tree grows in some parts of Arabia and Africa, and is seldom more than fifteen feet high, with straggling branches and scanty foliage. The balsam is chiefly obtained from incisions in the bark, but the substance is procured also from the green and ripe berries. The balsam orchards near Jericho appear to have existed at the time of Titus, by whose legions they were taken formal possession of, but no remains of this celebrated plant are now to be seen in Palestine (Lady Callcott, Scripture Herbal, p. 33). See Tristram, Nat. Hist. of the Bible, p. 336. SEE GILEAD, BALM OF.
2. Nekoth (נכאֹת) occurs twice in the book of Genesis, and no doubt indicates a product of Syria, for in one case we find it carried into Egypt as an article of commerce, and in another sent as a present, into the same country. Thus, in Ge 37:25 we read," Behold, a company of Ishmaelites came from Gilead with their camels, bearing spicery (nekoth), and balm (tzeri), and myrrh (lot), going to carry it down to Egypt." To these men Joseph was sold by his brethren, when they were feeding their flocks at Dothan, ascertained to be a few miles to the north of Sebaste, or Samaria. It is curious that Jacob, when desiring a present to be taken to the ruler of Egypt, enumerates nearly the same articles (Ge 43:11), "Carry down the man a present, a little balm (fzeri), and a little honey (debash), spices, (nekoth) and myrrh (lot)." (See the several words.) Bochart (Hieroz. 2, 4, 12) enters into a learned exposition of the meaning of nekoth, of which Dr. Harris has given an abridged view in his article on spices. Bochart shows that the true import of nekath has always been considered uncertain, for it is rendered wax by the paraphrast Jonathan, in the Arabic version of Erpenius, and in Bereshith Rabba (§ 91, near the end). Others interpret it very differently. The Sept. renders it θυμίαμα, perfume; Aquila, storax; the Syrian version, resin; the Samaritan, balsam;
one Arabic version, khurnub or carob; another, sumugha (or gum); Kimchi, a desirable thing; rabbi Selomo, a collection of several aromatics. Bochart himself considers it to mean storax, and gives six reasons in support of his opinion, but none of them appears of much weight. Storax, no doubt, was a natural product of Syria, and an indigenous product seems to be implied; and Jerome (Ge 43:11) follows Aquila in rendering it styrax. Rosenmüller, in his Bibl. Bot. p. 165, Engl. transl., adopts tragacanth as the meaning of nekoth, without expressing any doubt on the subject; stating that "the Arabic word neka or nekat, which is analogous to the Hebrew, denotes that gum which is obtained from the tragacanth, or, as it is commonly called, by way of contraction, traganth shrub, which grows on Mount Lebanon, in the isle of Candia, and also in Southern Europe." Dr. Royle was not able to find any word similar to nekath indicating the tragacanth, which in his own MS. Materia Medica is given under the Arabic name of kitad, sometimes pronounced kithad; and, indeed, it may be found under the same name in Avicenna and other Arabic authors. In Richardson's Arabic Dictionary we find nakat, translated as meaning the best part of corn (or dates) when sifted or cleaned; also nukayot, the choicest part of anything cleaned, but sometimes also the refuse. Tragacanth is an exudation from several species of the genus Astragalus and subdivision Tragacantha, which is produced in Crete, but chiefly in Northern Persia and in Kurdistan. In the latter province Dr. Dickson, of Tripoli, saw large quantities of it collected from plants, of which he preserved specimens and gave them to Mr. Brandt, British consul at Erzeroum, by whom they were sent to Dr. Lindley. One of these, yielding the best tragacanth, proved to be A. gummifer of Labillardiere. It was found by him on Mount Lebanon, where he ascertained that tragacanth was collected by the shepherds. It might therefore have been conveyed by Ishmaelites from Gilead to Egypt. It has in its favor that it is a produce of the remote parts of Syria, is described by ancient authors, as Theophrastus, Dioscorides, etc., and has always been highly esteemed as a gum in Eastern countries. It was therefore very likely to be an article of commerce to Egypt in ancient times. It is described by Dioscorides as a low shrub, with strong and wide spreading branches almost lying on the ground, and covered with many small thin leaves, among which there are concealed white, erect, and strong thorns. Three or four species of the genus are enumerated as occurring in Palestine (see Strand, Flora Palestina, No. 413-416). The gum is a natural exudation from the trunk and branches of the plant, which, on being "exposed to the air, grows hard, and is formed either into lumps or slender pieces curled and winding like worms, more or less long according as matter offers" (Tournefort, Voyage [Lond. ed. 1741], 1, 59). The gum having no smell, and being of a quite sweetish taste, was not used for fumigations, but, mixed with honey, was extensively used as a medicine. It is now chiefly employed for its mucilaginous property as a paste, especially by druggists. See Tristram, Nat. Hist. of the Bible, p. 393.
It is uncertain whether the word נכֹת, nekath, in 2Ki 20:13; Isa 39:2, denotes spice of any kind. The A.V. reads in the text "the house of his precious things," the margin gives "spicery," which has the support of the Vulg., Aq., and Symm. It is clear from the passages referred to that Hezekiah possessed a house or treasury of precious and useful vegetable productions, and that nekoth may in these places denote, though perhaps not exclusively, tragacanth gum. Keil (Comment. loc. cit.) derives the word from an unused root (כּוּת, "implevit loculum"), and renders it by "treasure."
3. Sammim (סִמַּים; Sept. ἣδυσμα, ἡδυσμός, ἄρωμα, θυμίαμα; Vulg. suave fragrans, boni odoris, gratissimus, aromata; A.V. "sweet" in connection with "spice" or "incense") is a general term to denote those aromatic substances which were used in the preparation of the anointing oil, the incense offerings, etc. (Ex 25:6; Ex 30:7,34; Ex 31:11; Ex 35:8,15,28; Ex 37:24; Ex 39:38; Ex 40:27; Le 4:7; Le 16:12; Nu 4:16; 2Ch 2:4; 2Ch 13:11). The root of the word, according to Gesenius, is to be referred to the Arabic samm, "olfecit," whence samum, "an odoriferous substance." SEE INCENSE. Sammim, therefore, may be supposed to mean drugs and aromatics in general. When these are separately noticed, especially when several are enumerated, their names may lead us to their identification. Dr. Vincent has observed that "in Exodus 30 we find an enumeration of cinnamon, cassia, myrrh, frankincense, stacte, onycha, and galbanum, all of which are the produce either of India or Arabia." More correctly, cinnamon, cassia, frankincense, and onycha were probably obtained from India; myrrh, stacte, and some frankincense from the east coast of Africa; and galbanum from Persia. Nine hundred years later, or about B.C. 588, in Ezekiel 27 the chief spices are referred to, with the addition, however, of calamus. They are probably the same as those just enumerated. Dr. Vincent refers chiefly to the Periplus, ascribed to Arrian, written in the 2d century, as furnishing a proof that many Indian substances were at that time well known to commerce, as aloe or agila wood, gum- bdellium, the gugal of India, cassia and cinnamon, nard, costus, incense — that is, olibanum ginger, pepper, and spices. If we examine the work of Dioscorides, we shall find all these, and several other Indian products, not only mentioned, but described, as schoenanthus, Calamus aromaticus, cyperus, malabathrum, turmeric. Among others, Lycium Indicum is mentioned. This is the extract of barberry root, and is prepared in the Himalayan Mountains (Royle, On the Lycium of Dioscorides, in the Linnoean Trans.). It is not unworthy of notice that we find no mention of several very remarkable products of the East, such as camphor, cloves, nutmeg, betel leaf, cubebs, gamboge, all of which are so peculiar in their nature that we could not have failed to recognize them if they had been described at all, like those we have enumerated, as the produce of India. These omissions are significant of the countries to which commerce and navigation had not extended at the time when the other articles were well known (Hindoo Medicine, p. 93). If we trace these up to still earlier authors, we shall find many of them mentioned by Theophrastus, and even by Hippocrates; and if we trace them downward to the time of the Arabs, SEE SPIKENARD, and from that to modern times, we find many of them described under their present names in works current throughout the East, amid in which their ancient names are given as synonyms. We have therefore as much assurance as is possible in such cases that the majority of the substances mentioned by the ancients have been identified, and that among the spices of early times were included many of those which now form articles of commerce from India to Europe. For more particular information on the various aromatic substances mentioned in the Bible, the reader is referred to the articles which treat of the different kinds — SEE CINNAMON; SEE FRANKINCENSE; SEE GALBANUM; SEE MYRRH; SEE SPIKENARD, etc.
4. In one passage (Eze 24:10), רָקִח, rakach, to perfume, hence to flavor flesh, is rendered "spice" (elsewhere "prepare," "compound," etc.). SEE APOTHECARY.
5. The spices (ἄρωμα, a general term) mentioned as being used by Nicodemus for the preparation of our Lord's body (Joh 19:39-40) are "myrrh and aloes." by which latter word must be understood, not the aloes of medicine (Aloe), but the highly scented wood of the Aquilaria agallochum. SEE ALOE. The enormous quantity of one hundred pounds weight of which John speaks has excited the incredulity of some authors.
Josephus, however, tells us that there were five hundred spice bearers at Herod's funeral (Ant. 17, 8, 3), and in the Talmud it is said that eighty pounds of opobalsamum were employed at the funeral of a certain rabbi. Still, there is no reason to conclude that one hundred pounds weight of pure myrrh and aloes was consumed. The words of the evangelist imply a preparation (μίγμα) in which perhaps the myrrh and aloes were the principal or most costly aromatic ingredients. Again, it must be remembered that Nicedemus was a rich man, and perhaps was the owner of large stores of precious substances; as a constant though timid disciple of our Lord, he probably did not scruple at any sacrifice so that he could show his respect for him. A lavish use of spices at the obsequies of the illustrious dead was also made by the later Romans; but, instead of being deposited with the body, they were cast into the flames of the funeral pile. The case of Nero's wife, Poppaea, was somewhat exceptional, perhaps on account of her Jewish habits. Pliny tells us (Hist. Nat. 12, 18) that more than a year's supply of spices was burned to do her honor; but Tacitus more accurately says that "the body was not dissipated in the flame, after the Roman fashion; but, according to the custom of foreign kings, was filled with antiseptic perfumes and deposited in the tomb of the Julii" (Ann. 16, 6). SEE BURIAL.