A fragrant resinous gum resembling myrrh in appearance and sometimes used to adulterate it. (See also MYRRH.) It is obtained from a tree (Commiphora africana) found in NW Africa and Arabia and also from a related type in NW India. This is a genus of small trees or bushes with a scrubby, spiny appearance and little foliage, growing in hot sunny places. When the bark is cut, a fragrant, resinous juice, or gum, oozes out. After the gum is removed from the tree it soon hardens, becomes waxlike and transparent, and is similar to a pearl in appearance.
In describing the land of Havilah encircled by the river Pishon (one of the four rivers branching off from the river issuing out of Eden), mention is made of its valuable things: gold, bdellium gum, and onyx stone. (Ge 2:11, 12) At Numbers 11:7 the manna that the Israelites gathered during the wilderness trek is said to have had “the look of bdellium gum.” Manna had previously been likened to “hoarfrost upon the earth.” (Ex 16:14) This corresponds with the near-white color of bdellium gum. Josephus, in discussing the provision of the manna, refers to bdellium as a “spicy herb.”—Jewish Antiquities, III, 28 (i, 6).