Probable identification:
ladanum, gum gathered from the rock rose.
Botanical name and images:
Cistus Creticus  Cistus Incanus
Old Testament:
Genesis 37:25, "As they sat down to eat their meal, they looked up and saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead. Their camels were loaded with spices, balm, and myrrh, and they were on their way to take them down to Egypt" (NIV).
Genesis 43:11, Jeremiah 8:22, 46:11, 51:8.
The rock rose is a thorny shrub up to 70 cm high with showy white to pinkish flowers that resemble wild roses. The leaves are quite different, being simple and elliptical rather than compound. The fruit is a capsule that splits into several segments containing minute seeds.
The rockrose is the source of ladanum, a brown aromatic gum used in medicines and perfumes. Ladanum is collected by boiling shoots or raking the leaves by raking with a tool which has leather thongs in the place of teeth. The leaves are used in herbal teas, and rock roses are cultivated for their flowers.
Scripturally, balms and other ointments are metaphors for the healing power of divine mercy and comfort.
Rocky brush country of Gilead and elsewhere in the Mediterranean region.



Known today as the rockrose, a shrub which produces beautiful, five-petal flowers; this plant was very famous in ancient Egypt. The whole genus, Cistus, is highly resistant to heat and drought. They have come into the warmer landscape as a staple flowering shrub that grows where few other plants stand a chance. It is a native of the Mediterranean region. Plants contain aromatic oils in abundance. The scent of rock rose oil is very powerful and distinctive. This oil of rock rose has since antiquity been of great value. It is called ladanum, which is reflected in the name of the most oil rich species, Cistus. What made ladanum so coveted is that its properties and scent were similar to ambergris, a byproduct of sperm whales.

Collecting ladanum from wild rockroses was done through two methods.

First was a process by which special absorptive materials such as cloth or hair was brushed over the top of the plants so that the oil built up on the fibers. It was then heated to release the oils under a more controlled extraction process. It is believed that the flail seen in the hands of gods and pharaohs of ancient Egypt was actually a ladanisterion, or ladanum collecting device.

The second method of harvest utilized the herds of goats that are so prevalent in this part of the world. As the goats browsed on rockroses, the oil accumulated in their beards. Each year the long beards of the goats were cut and the oil extracted. For the pharaohs, the false beards glued to the chin were in fact these ladanum-rich goat beards which would surround the man with the desired scent. This is origin of the name for such facial hair, the goatee.


GODS love fragrances."

GODS love fragrances." That was a common saying among ancient Egyptians. To them, the burning of incense was very much a part of their worship. In the belief that the gods were near, the Egyptians burned incense daily at their temples and household altars and even while engaging in business. Other nations had similar customs.

What is incense? The term can refer to the smoke or to the substance burned. It is made of aromatic resins and gums, such as frankincense and balsam. These are pounded into a powder and are often mixed with such substances as spices, tree bark, and flowers to create certain fragrances for specific applications.
Incense was such a desirable and thus valuable commodity in ancient times that its ingredients became important items of trade. Caravans following trade routes carried these from distant lands. You may recall that Jacob's young son Joseph was sold to Ishmaelite traders who were "coming from Gilead, and their camels were carrying labdanum and balsam and resinous bark, on their way to take it down to Egypt." (Genesis 37:25) The demand for incense became so great that the frankincense trade route, no doubt initiated by incense merchants, opened up travel between Asia and Europe.
Incense is still offered in the ceremonies and rituals of many religions today. Additionally, more and more people choose to burn incense in their homes simply to enjoy its pleasant aroma.


the real labdanum from cistus creticus as fragrances.


University of Chicago


Tutankhamun for the Twenty-first Century: Modern Misreadings of an Ancient Culture
Robert K. Ritner

The following text was delivered at the first inaugural celebration for incoming University of Chicago President Robert J. Zimmer, hosted by the Chicago Society at the Field Museum of Natural History, Thursday, October 26, at 7:30 PM.

The so-called "flail" was no slave-master's whip, but most likely an agricultural instrument, used to harvest ladanum-resin as is still done by shepherds in Crete and Cyprus.14

14. H. G. Fischer, "Geissel," in Lexikon der Ägyptologie, vol. II, Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz, 1977, cols.



The origin of the name of Avraham's nephew, Lot לוט, is unclear. Sarna writes that the origin is unknown, presumably following Cassuto, who rejects a connection to the name Lotan in Bereshit 36:20 (which is the suggestion by Kil in Daat Mikra on Bereshit 11:27) or a connection to the old Egyptian name of the eastern portion of the Land of Israel - Ruten - as suggested by Paton in The Early History of Syria and Palestine.
However, Rabbi Eldad Zamir writes here that: Lot is portrayed in a variety of different ways in the Torah, Midrash, and commentators. While at times he is portrayed as a positive figure, at times he is portrayed as a negative figure as well. This ambivalence can even be seen in Lot's name. 'Lot' has two possible meanings: it either comes from the noun lot (laudanum, a fragrant plant extract; see Bereishit 37:25, 43:11) or from the Aramaic verb lut (to curse; see Targum Onkelos, 12:3, et al.). Lot is either fragrant or worthy of curse.
Klein says that the name laudanum may derive from lot:
Probably related to Akka. ladunu, Arab. ladan ( = ladanum). Persian ladan is an Arabic loan word. Greek ledon ( = rockrose), whence ladanon ( = labdanum) is a Semitic loan word.
He also writes that the word "lotus" derives from lot, as does the Online Etymology Dictionary (who might be relying on Klein):
from L. lotus, from Gk. lotos, name used for several plants before it came to mean Egyptian white lotus (a sense attested in Eng. from 1584); perhaps from a Sem. source (cf. Heb. lot "myrrh")
Rashi on 37:25 identifies lot with לוטס - lotes as mentioned in the Mishna - Sheviit 7:6. However, the Mishna actually uses the word לוטם - lotem. Similarly, Shadal says that Onkelos translates lot as לטוס - but the edition of Onkelos that I have has the version לטום
letom. This confusion could be related to a mix-up between the letters samech and mem-sofit, but there is also a plant called lotem - from which, according to Felix, the fragrance lot is made.
As to the Aramaic lut, Jastrow says it derives from the root לוט meaning "to cover", and the development to the meaning "curse" comes from a sense of "to talk secretly". The root לוט is used in the Hebrew phrase לוט בזה - lut b'zeh - meaning "hereby enclosed" (explained here).