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Fausset's Bible Dictionary [1]

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.

Smith's Bible Dictionary [2]

Hyssop. (Hebrew, ezob ). The ezob was used for sprinkling, in some of the sacrifices and purifications of the Jews. In consequence of its detergent qualities, or from its being associated with the purificatory services, the psalmist makes use of the expression, "Purge me with ezob ."  Psalms 51:7. It is described in  1 Kings 4:33 as growing on or near walls.

(Besides being thus fit for sprinkling, having cleansing properties and growing on walls, the true hyssop should be a plant common to Egypt, Sinai and Palestine, and capable of producing a stick three or four feet long since, on a stalk of hyssop, the sponge of vinegar was held up to Christ on the cross.  John 19:29.

It is impossible to precisely identify the plant because the name was given not to a particular plant, but to a family of plants associated together by Hyssop qualities easily noticed, rather than by close botanical affinities. Different species of the family may have been used at different times. The hyssop of the Bible is probably one (or all) of three plants: -

1. The Common Hyssop is "a shrub with low, bushy stalks 1 1/2 feet high, small pear shaped, close-setting opposite leaves on all the stalks and branches terminated by erect whorled spikes of flowers of different colors in the varieties. It is a hardy plant, with an aromatic smell and a warm, pungent taste; a native of the south of Europe and the East." - Editor).

2. Bochart decides in favor of Marjoram , or some plant like it, and to this conclusion, it must be admitted, all ancient tradition points. (This is the Origanum maru , the z'atar of the Arabs. The French consul at Sidon, exhibited to Dr. Thomson ("The Land and the Book," i. 161), a specimen of this "having the fragrance of thyme, with a hot, pungent taste, and long slender stems." Dr. Post of Beirut, in the American edition of Smith's large Dictionary, favors this view. - Editor).

3. But Dr.Royle, after a careful investigation of the subject, arrives at the conclusion that the hyssop is no other than the Caperplant, or Capparis spinosa of Linnaeus. The Arabic name of this plant, asuf , by which it is sometimes, though not commonly, described, bears considerable resemblance to the Hebrew. "It is a bright-green creeper, which climbs from the fissures of the rocks, is supposed to possess cleansing properties, and is capable of yielding a stick to which a sponge might be attached." - Stanky, "Sinai and Palestine," 23. - It produces a fruit the size of a walnut, called the mountain pepper.

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [3]

(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. Realwörterbuch 3, 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.

Holman Bible Dictionary [4]

Origanum Maru L  Exodus 12:22 Leviticus 14:4 14:6 14:49 14:51-52 Numbers 19:6 19:18 Psalm 51:7

A branch of hyssop bore the sponge used to offer vinegar to Christ at His crucifixion ( John 19:29;  Matthew 27:48;  Mark 15:36 mention a reed). Various attempts to resolve this tension have been offered. Most exegetes have attempted to harmonize the parallel accounts: (1) by suggesting that Christ was offered vinegar twice, once using a reed and once hyssop; (2) by suggesting both a reed and hyssop were simultaneously used to support the sponge; (3) by emending John's text to read “spike” which is more easily harmonized with reed; (4) by taking hyssop to refer to a plant other than marjoram which could be described as a reed, e.g., Sorghum vulgare . An alternative approach is concerned primarily with the question of why (theological significance) rather than the details of what. These interpreters stress that John intends to link Jesus' death with the Exodus event that marked liberation from Egyptian slavery and/or with the Old Testament cleansing rituals involving hyssop.

 Hebrews 9:19 says the people were sprinkled with hyssop at the reading of the covenant. The account of   Exodus 24:6-8 lacks this detail.

Joseph E. Glaze

Mitchell G. Reddish

Charles R. Wade

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [5]

אזוב  Exodus 12:22;  Leviticus 14:4;  Leviticus 14:6;  Leviticus 14:49;  Leviticus 14:51-52;  Numbers 19:6;  Numbers 19:18;  1 Kings 4:33;  Psalms 51:7;  Matthew 27:48;  Mark 15:36; υσσωπος ,  John 19:29;  Hebrews 9:19 . It grows plentifully on the mountains near Jerusalem. It is of a bitter taste; and, from being considered as possessing detersive and cleansing qualities, derived probably its Hebrew name. The original word has been variously translated; and Celsius has devoted forty-two pages to remove difficulties, occasioned by the discordant opinions of the Talmudical writers, and to ascertain the plant intended. That it is the hyssop seems most probable: the passage in  Hebrews 9:19 , sufficiently identifies it. Under the law, it was commonly used in purifications as a sprinkler. When the children of Israel came out of Egypt, they were commanded to take a bunch of hyssop, to dip it in the blood of the paschal lamb, and sprinkle it on the lintel and the two side-posts of the door. It was also used in sprinkling the leper. The hyssop is extremely well adapted to such purposes, as it grows in bunches, and puts out many suckers from a single root.

Morrish Bible Dictionary [6]

A plant used in the Jewish observances. It is often associated with cedar wood and scarlet, and was used in sprinkling the unclean. It is described as springing out of the wall showing its littleness, though some of its stems may have been long enough to be used as a reed on which the sponge was placed to give the Lord vinegar when on the cross. Others however suppose that the hyssop was added because of its aroma, and both the sponge and the hyssop were tied to a reed. The hyssop is in contrast to the stately cedar, and is symbolical of man's littleness. The words ezob and ὕσσωπος doubtless point to the well-known hyssop which is extensive in Palestine, though some suppose other aromatic plants are included, as the wild marjoram.  Exodus 12:22;  Leviticus 14:4,6,51,52;  Numbers 19:6,18;  1 Kings 4:33;  Psalm 51:7;  John 19:29;  Hebrews 9:19 .

Vine's Expository Dictionary of NT Words [7]

1: Ὕσσωπος (Strong'S #5301 — Noun Feminine — hussopos — hoos'-so-pos )

a bunch of which was used in ritual sprinklings, is found in  Hebrews 9:19; in  John 19:29 the reference is apparently to a branch or rod of "hyssop," upon which a sponge was put and offered to the Lord on the cross. The suggestion has been made that the word in the original may have been hussos, "a javelin;" there seems to be no valid reason for the supposition.

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [8]

HYSSOP is mentioned several times in the Bible. It was used for sprinkling blood (  Exodus 12:22 ), and in the ritual of the cleansing of lepers (  Leviticus 14:4 ,   Numbers 19:6 ); it was an insignificant plant growing out of the wall (  1 Kings 4:33 ); it could afford a branch strong enough to support a wet sponge (  John 19:29 ). It is possible that all these references are not to a single species. Among many suggested plants the most probable is either a species of marjoram, e.g., Origanum maru , or the common caper-plant ( Capparis spinosa ), which may be seen growing out of crevices in walls all over Palestine. See Caper-berry.

E. W. G. Masterman.

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [9]

Is often mentioned in Scripture, and is directed to be used in the sprinklings which made part of the Jewish ceremonial law,  Exodus 12:22   Leviticus 14:4-6   Psalm 51:9   Hebrews 9:19 . It is some low shrub, which is contrasted with the lofty cedar,  1 Kings 4:33 . In  John 19:29 , the soldiers are said to have "filled a sponge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop," that is, upon a rod of hyssop, two feet or more in length, which was long enough to enable one to reach the mouth of a person on the cross. Many different plants have been taken for the hyssop of Scripture, and among others, the caper-plant.

People's Dictionary of the Bible [10]

Hyssop.  Exodus 12:22. A plant often used in the ceremonies of purification.  Leviticus 14:4;  Leviticus 14:6;  Leviticus 14:51;  Psalms 51:7. One of its characteristics is referred to in  1 Kings 4:33. It is associated with our Saviours last hours.  John 19:29. More than twenty different plants have been urged as the species intended. Tristram and other recent authorities favor the caper-bush. Dr. Post, of Syria, argues very conclusively in favor of a species of marjoram.

Bridgeway Bible Dictionary [11]

It seems that hyssop was some sort of cereal plant that grew in Palestine. When several stalks were tied together it made a good brush, and as such was used to apply blood in some of the Jewish rituals ( Exodus 12:22;  Leviticus 14:4;  Leviticus 14:6;  Leviticus 14:49-52;  Numbers 19:2-6;  Psalms 51:7;  Hebrews 9:19). Its strong stalk enabled it to be used to pass a sponge of vinegar up to Jesus as he hung on the cross ( John 19:29).

Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary [12]

From Esob, an herb. The Lord pointed to the use of this shrub for sprinkling at the Passover. ( Exodus 12:22) The shrub itself is a very humble, not to say uninviting plant; like him to outward appearance "who had no beauty that we should desire him;" but like him, the fragrancy of it is sweet, though mingled with bitter. Christ and his cross are two that cannot be separated, but must be received together. Reader! depend upon it, both are blessed guests worth receiving; and however painful to flesh and blood the cross may be, yet, like the waters of Marah to Israel, Jesus's presence sweetens and sanctifies.

Easton's Bible Dictionary [13]

 Exodus 12:22  Leviticus 14:4,6,52 Numbers 19:6,18 Hebrews 9:19 1 Kings 4:33 Matthew 27:48 Mark 15:36 John 19:29

Wilson's Dictionary of Bible Types [14]

 Exodus 12:22 (c) A type of faith in action wherein the precious Blood of CHRIST is applied to the door of the heart.

 Psalm 51:7 (b) A type of the blessed work of the Lord wherein He applies to us the precious Blood and cleanses from all sin.

King James Dictionary [15]

HYSSOP, n. hy'sop. L. hyssopus Gr. It would be well to write this word hysop. A plant or genus of plants, one species of which is cultivated for use. The leaves have an aromatic smell, and a warm pungent taste. Hyssop was much used by the Jews in purification.

Webster's Dictionary [16]

(n.) A plant (Hyssopus officinalis). The leaves have an aromatic smell, and a warm, pungent taste.

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature [17]

A great variety of opinions have been entertained respecting the plant called esobh, translated 'hyssop' in the Authorized Version both of the Old and the New Testament; but it is difficult to fix with certainty on the plant intended. The first notice of it occurs in , where a bunch of hyssop is directed to be dipped in blood and struck on the lintels and the two side-posts of the doors of the houses in which the Israelites resided. It is next mentioned in;; , in the ceremony for declaring lepers to be cleansed; and again, in; , in preparing the water of separation. To these passages the apostle alludes in : 'For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people, according to the law, he took the blood of calves, and of goats, with water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book and all the people.' From these texts we find that the plant must have been leafy, and large enough to serve for the purposes of sprinkling, and that it must have been found in Lower Egypt, as well as in the country towards Mount Sinai, and onwards to Palestine. From the following passages we get some information respecting the habits and the supposed properties of the plant. Thus, in , it is said, 'Solomon spoke of trees, from the cedar-tree that is in Lebanon, even unto the hyssop that springeth out of the wall;' and in the penitential psalm of David , 'Purge me with hyssop, and shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.' In this passage it is, no doubt, considered by some commentators that hyssop is used in a figurative sense; but still it is possible that the plant may have possessed some general cleansing properties, and thus come to be employed in preference to other plants in the ceremonies of purification. It ought, at all events, to be found growing upon walls, and in Palestine. In the account of the crucifixion of our Savior, the Apostle John says , 'Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar, and they filled a sponge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth.' In the parallel passages of Matthew and Mark , it is stated that the sponge filled with vinegar was put upon a reed or stick. To reconcile these statements, some commentators have supposed that both the sponge and the hyssop were tied to a stick, and that one apostle mentions only the hyssop, because he considered it as the most important; while, for the same reason, the other two mention only the stick; but the simplest mode of explaining the apparent discrepancy is to consider the hyssop and the stick to be the same thing—in other words, that the sponge was affixed to a stick of hyssop.

A great variety of plants have been adduced by different authors as that alluded to in the above passages. Some contend for several plants belonging to the class of ferns, such as maiden-hair, wall-rue, pearlwort, and hair-moss: others for a species of wormwood, that it might be more distasteful to our Savior. The majority, however, have selected different kinds of fragrant plants belonging to the natural family of Labiatae, several of which are found in dry and barren situations in Palestine, and also in some parts of the Desert. Of these may be mentioned the rosemary, species of lavender, of mint, of marjoram, of thyme, of savory, of thymbra, and others of the same tribe, resembling each other much in characters as well as in properties: but it does not appear that any of them grow on walls, or are possessed of cleansing properties; and, with the exception of the rosemary, they are not capable of yielding a stick, nor are they found in all the required situations. Dr. Royle, who has recently investigated the subject, is of opinion that as the caper plant has an Arabic name, asuf, similar to the Hebrew esob or esof; as it is found in Lower Egypt, in the deserts of Sinai, and in New Jerusalem; as it grows upon rocks and walls, was always supposed to be possessed of cleansing qualities, is large enough to yield a stick; and as its different parts used to be preserved in vinegar, as its buds now are, he is warranted, from the union of all these properties in this plant, corresponding so closely to those of the original esof, in considering it as proved that the caper plant is the hyssop of Scripture.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [18]

his´up ( אזוב , 'ēzōbh  ; ὕσσωπος , hússōpos ,   Exodus 12:22;  Leviticus 14:4 ,  Leviticus 14:6;  Leviticus 14:9;  Numbers 19:6 ,  Numbers 19:18;  1 Kings 4:33;  Psalm 51:7;  John 19:29;  Hebrews 9:19 ): A plant used for ritual cleansing purposes; a humble plant springing out of the wall ( 1 Kings 4:33 ), the extreme contrast to the cedar.

The common hyssop ( Hyssopus officinalis ) of the Natural Order Labiatae , an aromatic plant with stomatic properties, cannot be the hyssop of the Bible as it is unknown in Palestine, but allied aromatic plants of the same Natural Order have by Maimonides ( Neg . xiv.6) and other Jewish writers been identified with it. Probably hyssop is identical with the Arabic zat‛ar , a name applied to a group of aromatic plants of the genus marjoram and thyme. They would any of them furnish a bunch suitable for sprinkling, and they have the important recommendation that they grow everywhere, being found even in the desert. Post thinks of all varieties the Origanum maru , a special variety of marjoram which favors terrace walls and rocks, is the most probable.

The proposal (Royle, Jour. Royal Asiatic Soc ., VII, 193-213) to identify the caper ( Capparis spinosa ) with hyssop, which has been popularized by the works of Tristram, has not much to recommend it. It is true that the caper is very commonly seen growing out of walls all over Palestine (  1 Kings 4:33 ), but in no other respect is it suitable to the requirements of the Biblical references. The supposed similarity between the Arabic 'aṣaf ("caper") and the Hebrew 'ēzōbh is fanciful; the caper with its stiff, prickly stems and smooth, flat leaves would not furnish a bunch for sprinkling as serviceable as many species of zat‛ār ̌ . It has been specially urged that the hyssop suits the conditions of  John 19:29 , it being maintained that a stem of caper would make a good object on which to raise the "sponge full of vinegar" to the Saviour's face, the equivalent of the "reed" of  Matthew 27:48;  Mark 15:36 . For such a purpose the flexible, prickly stems of the hyssop would be most unsuitable; indeed, it would be no easy matter to find one of sufficient length. It is necessary to suppose either that a bunch of hyssop accompanied the sponge with the vinegar upon the reed, or, as has been proposed by several writers (for references see article "Hyssop," EB ), that hussō̇pō is a corruption of hussō̇ , "javelin," and that the passage should read "They put a sponge full of vinegar upon a javelin."


I; I A m; I A m That I A m

See God , Names Of .

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [19]

Bibliography Information McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Hyssop'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/h/hyssop.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.