Balm in Gilead

The Prophet Jeremiah
by Michelangelo
From the Sistine Chapel Ceiling




“Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there?” (Jeremiah 8:22).

Balm in Gilead


Ah! my wound lies deep: none know it
Save my early friends, and One–
One to whom I dare to show it,
Bending low before his throne.

Long I sought the crowded city,
With its many hearts–in vain.
These could smile, and those could pity;
None could still my restless pain.

Lure me now the tangled wildwood,
Sunny glade, and sparkling rill;
All the happy haunts of childhood;
But my heart is aching still.

Can it be but dim tradition,
Drawn from Fable’s mystic fount,
That a great and good Physician
Dwells in Gilead’s holy mount?

Is it truth, or legend only,
That a healing balm grows there,
Through its valleys, deep and lonely,
Breathing fragrance on the air ?


Balm of Gilead! I have found thee;
Near thy soft green leaves I bow;
And the fragrant breezes round thee
Fall upon my spirit now.

Oh! Thou great and good Physician,
Wise and tender, kind and true,
Thine the sacred healing mission;
Take the heart Thou didst renew!

Yet it is not that my sorrow
Vanished from the soul away,
As the mist at dawning morrow
Melts into the glorious day.

Nay, the wound is there; I feel it;
Over it I still must sigh;
Kneeling oft, I still reveal it
To the one all-seeing Eye.

But a new and living fountain
Opened in my weary breast,
When on Gilead’s holy mountain
Late I sought and found my rest.

And I know–I know full surely.
God shall wipe all tears away,
When my feet shall tread securely
Yonder city’s golden way.


Claude Mariottini
Emeritus Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

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