Israeli archaeologists have found a rare gemstone featuring an engraving believed to be of a biblical persimmon plant best known as the Balm of Gilead.
The rare artifact was discovered in a 2,000-year-old drainage ditch next to Jerusalem's Western Wall as archaeologists were sifting through its remains.
"It is a stone seal made of semi-precious amethyst stone with an engraving of a dove and a branch of a tree with fruit on the branch," Eli Shukron, former archaeologist of the Israel Antiquities Authority, told CBN News.
"What was surprising was that the branch is a branch with fruits that are not recognized from other seals from that period," he noted.
Shukron and other archaeologists have hypothesized that the engraving is of a Balm of Gilead branch, a plant mentioned in the Bible and sources from the Second Temple and Byzantine periods.
Regarding the drainage ditch, Shukron explained that the channel was built under the pilgrimage road, which "started from the Pool of Siloam in the City of David and went up to the Temple on the Temple Mount of the Second Temple period."
"Apparently, this ring with the seal fell into the drainage ditch 2,000 years ago," he added.
The biblical plant, also known as Bosem and Balsam, was cultivated by ancient Hebrew farmers for 1,000 years for medicinal and cosmetic purposes. It bears no relation to the orange persimmon fruit of today.
In light of the finding, Shukron took the graving and presented it to Guy Ehrlich, who is the only one in Israel still growing the balm of Gilead today.
"I see here a branch of the biblical persimmon plant, the Balm of Gilead. It's just amazing! Someone took a branch of the Balm of Gilead and drew it on the stone. It does not remind me of any other plant I know," Ehrlich, who called the find "stunning," said.
According to biblical and historical sources, the Balm of Gilead was also used during the Second Temple period as one of the most expensive ingredients used to create the Temple incense. Elrich added that it was also used as "the anointing oil of the kings and priests."
"There is a wall-to-wall agreement that this is the plant, but there is little graphic depiction of it, and what you have brought me now is really a greeting from history," Ehrich, who currently has 10,000 Balm of Gilead trees growing on his farm near the Dead Sea, told Shukron.
"I felt like someone wrote me a note with a drawing of the fruit of my persimmon plant and sent it to me," he continued.
Photo courtesy: ©Calvin Chai/Unsplash
Milton Quintanilla is a freelance writer. He is also the co-hosts of the For Your Soul podcast, which seeks to equip the church with biblical truth and sound doctrine. Visit his blog Blessed Are The Forgiven.