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Bible Dictionaries

Fausset's Bible Dictionary

Hyssop

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ezob . Not our "hyssop," the Ηyssopus officinalis , which is not found in Syria or Arabia. "The hyssop that springeth out of the wall," being the smallest of plants, can hardly be the one used for sprinkling, but is a tufty wall fern, a miniature hyssop with lance-shaped leaves (1 Kings 4:33). Maimonides makes the sprinkling hyssop to be the marjoram (origanum ) with long, straight stalk, downy leaf, and white blossom (Exodus 12:22); common in Palestine and near mount Sinai; an aromatic plant. J. F. Royle thought that the caper plant (Capparis spinosa ) meets all the requirements of Scripture:

1. It is found in Egypt, the desert, and Palestine.

2. It grows among stones and upon walls, and trails like a bramble, in contrast to the stately cedar of Lebanon (compare Judges 9:15).

3. It has a long stick or stem (John 19:29, compare Matthew 27:48) wherewith the sponge of vinegar might be lifted to our Lord.

4. It has the requisites needed for purifying. Its Arab name asuf is akin to ezowb) . It is "a bright green creeper which climbs out of the fissures of the rocks" (Stanley). It is used medicinally for cleansing, as in ulcers, leprosy, etc. (Pliny H.N., 20, section 59). However, the "scarlet" band may have tied the hyssop on the cedar to make it convenient for sprinkling. Septuagint and Hebrews 9:19 translates ezob "hyssop." Maimonides says the legal hyssop was used as a condiment. Porphyry (De Abstin., 4:7) says the Egyptian priests ate it mixed with their bread; so the marjoram (zaatar) is used in a mixture, dukkah , a food of the poorer classes (Lane, Modern Egypt, 1:200; Exodus 12:22; Leviticus 14:4-51; Numbers 19:6; Numbers 19:18; Psalms 51:7).

The reason why the soldiers presented to Christ a sponge attached to the end of a "reed" (calamus ), with hyssop, was, as the vinegar would quench His thirst, so the aromatic scent of the hyssop would refresh Him. So it is associated with the fragrant "cedar wood" in Leviticus 14:4; Leviticus 14:6; Leviticus 14:51. So that the Greek "hyssop" and the origanum or marjoram of the Jewish tradition seem the plant intended. Gesenius includes under ezob the hyssop of the shops, and other aromatic plants, mint, wild marjoram, etc.; so that a suitable sprinkler could be always found, whether in Jerusalem or the desert.

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These files are public domain.

Bibliography Information
Fausset, Andrew R. Entry for 'Hyssop'. Fausset's Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/fbd/h/hyssop.html. 1949.

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