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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Hyssop

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(ὕσσωπος, אֵזוֹב)

Hyssop is a wall-growing plant used by the Jews in ritual sprinklings. It is mentioned by the writer of Hebrews in his review of the ordinances of the OT (Hebrews 9:19). Scarcely any other Scriptural plant has given rise to so much discussion. The hyssop cannot be the ὕσσωπος of Greek authors (Hyssopus officinalis), which is not a native of Syria. Among the many suggestions that have been made (see J. G. B. Winer, Bibl. Realwörterbuch3, Leipzig, 1847-48, s.v. ‘Ysop’), the choice seems to lie between the caper (Capparis spinosa) and a kind of wild marjoram (Satureja thymus) which the Arabs call ṣa‘tar. Both these plants grow on Syrian rocks and walls. Tristram argues for the caper (Nat. Hist. of the Bible, 1867, p. 455f.). One objection to this plant is that its prickly branches and stiff leaves make it unsuitable for forming a bunch or wisp; another, that it is differently named in Scripture (אֲבִיוֹנָה in Ecclesiastes 12:5). The ṣa‘tar was first suggested by Maimonides (de Vacca Rufa, iii. 2), followed by D. Kimchi (Lex. s.v.). It is excellently adapted for use as a sprinkler. Its identity with the hyssop is accepted by Thomson (Land and Book, new ed., London, 1910, p. 93), who describes it as ‘having the fragrance of thyme, with a hot, pungent taste, and long, slender stems, and by G. E. Post, who says (Smith’s Dict. of the Bible , Am. ed., p. 1115, foot-note): ‘The fact that many stalks grow up from one root eminently fits this species for the purpose intended. The hand could easily gather in a single grasp the requisite bundle or bunch all ready for use.’

James Strahan.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Hyssop'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hdn/h/hyssop.html. 1906-1918.

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