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  • Writer's pictureKent Brandenburg

Balm Of Gilead and Another John Newton Song

Balm of Gilead was a rare perfume used medicinally, mentioned in the Bible and named for the region of Gilead, where it was produced. The expression stems from Tyndale's language that was incorporated by the King James translators in the KJV, and has come to signify a universal cure in figurative speech. You read this in Jeremiah 8:22, “Is there no balm in Gilead; is there no physician there? why then is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered?” When Jeremiah hears about how Babylon will lay siege to Israel, Jeremiah weeps and asks if there is a balm in Gilead. Then there is Jeremiah 46:11, “Go up into Gilead, and take balm, O virgin, the daughter of Egypt: in vain shalt thou use many medicines; for thou shalt not be cured.” God tells the Israelites to get a balm in Gilead, because they’ve wounded themselves beyond repair. He doesn’t literally mean get a physical balm to fix your problems. The Israelites had turned to a temporary solution, and God makes that clear in Jeremiah 46 passage. They’d consulted other nations, other gods, and other methods to heal their sin problem. John Newton, who wrote Amazing Grace, also wrote these words: “There is balm in Gilead, To make the wounded whole; There's power enough in heaven, To cure a sin-sick soul. . . How lost was my condition, Till Jesus made me whole! There is but one Physician, Can cure a sin–sick soul.” It’s obvious Newton was seeing that true healing was found in Jesus Christ for what God said was the problem in the book of Jeremiah, their sinfulness. Jesus alone is the successful medicine.

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