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BDELLIUM (Heb. בְּדֹלַח) twice mentioned in the Scriptures, once in the description of the land of Havilah, which contained "gold, bdellium, and onyx stone" (Gen. 2:12), and again in the description of the manna, "its appearance was as the appearance of bdellium" (Num. 11:7). In both passages the Septuagint understands it as the name of some precious stone, as do Rashi, who interprets it as "a precious stone, crystal" and Saadiah Gaon, as "pearls." The Midrash gives two opinions. According to one, it is a precious stone, and according to the other the reference is to "the bedolaḥ of perfumers." In Genesis the Midrash decides in favor of the first interpretation because there it is associated with gold and onyx (Gen. R., 16:2). Josephus (Ant. 3:28) explains that "the manna resembled the spice bdellium." The reference is presumably to the sweet-smelling sap called in Greek βδέλλιον and in Latin bdellium, a semi-transparent resin extracted from trees of the genus Commiphora. According to Pliny (Historia Naturalis, 12:36) the best variety is Bactrian bdellium from Baluchistan, which is similar to that obtained from Nubia. In effect the sap of both the Bactrian, Commiphora roxburgii, and the Nubian, Commiphora africana, were used as incense. The former variety is known among Arabs as mokul, a name they also give to the resin issuing from the tree Hyphaene thebaica, a species of palm with a branching trunk that grows in the Arabah (at the approach to Elath), and in Sinai. The Arabs call it "Jewish bdellium." It is apparently this species that is referred to by Dioscorides as "the bdellium imported from Petra" (De Materia Medica, 1:80).


Loew, Flora, 1 (1928), 304f.; J. Feliks, Olam ha-Ẓome'aḥ ha-Mikra'i (19682), 259.

[Jehuda Feliks]

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bdel·li·um / ˈdelēəm/ • n. a fragrant resin produced by a number of trees related to myrrh, used in perfumes.