What Is Hyssop In The Bible And Its Modern Significance

What is hyssop in the Bible

Biblical herbs have been registering a comeback in Israeli culture for some time now. Also, with the increasing popularity of Wisdom Tonic (from the world’s finest Christian daily supplement chain), one ingredient among many has caught attention. Hyssop. For the unversed, it is a herb native to southern Europe and the Middle East (Mediterranean region around the Caspian Sea). Coming from the mint family, this bushy plant boasts purple flowers and long stems. However, it has a Biblical significance as well. So, what is hyssop in the Bible? This post has answers to that! 

As you scroll down, you will see its biblical significance, its symbolic and ritual significance, and its usage in current times. Let us explore the specifics here – 

What is hyssop in the Bible?

hyssop in the bible
Image Credit: Britannica

Hyssop has been mentioned multiple times in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. However, the mention of this mint family plant is not merely incidental. It is critically intertwined with the religious narrative, with its core function being spiritual cleansing. 

Additionally, in Biblical times, it was known for its strong aroma and encompassed both culinary and medicinal usage. Also, its capacity to grow and survive in a rocky terrain was taken as a symbol of spiritual strength and resilience – values that were praised highly in ancient societies. 

When commented upon with a Biblical backdrop, its seriousness expands and weaves a pattern of religious symbolism with religious cleansing.   

Where is it mentioned in the Bible?

Image Credit: Sarah Blake Morgan/Los Angeles Times

There are multiple mentions of this herb in the Bible. From its introductory mention in the Book of Exodus to its expansive prominence in – the moments of the Crucifixion of Jesus, Psalm 51:7, and more, this herb forms a bridge between the rituals of the Old Testament with the fulfilment/redemption/sacrifice of Jesus in the New Testament. 

More than often, at the very mention of what is hyssop in the Bible people refer to it in terms of purification and salvation. Its liturgical associations have influenced multiple cultural discourses and have inspired various creative works. 

This herb currently acts as a multifaceted symbol that is embedded in historical, cultural, and theological significance. It symbolizes the concepts of protection and resilience, thereby imbibing a sense of spiritual renewal. The fact that it is back in contemporary usage shows its power of shaping human thought and culture. 

What is the Biblical significance? 

Let us now explore the Biblical symbolism of this herb in detail – 

1. Passover in the Book Of Exodus (12:22) – 

passover in the bible
Image Credit: TheTorah.com

“Take a bunch of hyssop, dip it into the blood in the basin and put some of the blood on the top and on both sides of the doorframe…” 

The initial mention of the concept and metaphorical cleansing of hyssop was made in the Passover. Here Aaron and Moses called Israel’s elderly people to inform them of the departure process from Egypt. They were to choose a lamb on the 10th day of the month, care for it till the 14th, and then sacrifice it – thereby resonating with the pain. 

On that very night, they were to take the branches of hyssop, drench them in lamb blood, and paint their doorposts with it. As God moves over, he understands the pain of Israelis and the sins that they have committed. The sacrifice of the innocent lambs is only temporary until Jesus, the son of God, viewed as the Passover Lamb, will sacrifice himself to atone for the sins of mankind. Thus, hyssop, in this case, is a pathway to move towards better beginnings. 

2. Leviticus 14 – 

Leviticus 14
Image Credit: Jace Bower

“This shall be the law of the leper in the day of his cleansing…hyssop be brought for the person to be cleansed…” 

Let us explain this format of metaphorical cleansing – 

Lepers in previous times were thrown out of their community. Now the query stands – how and what is hyssop in the Bible for this? The herb, as mentioned, along with scarlet and cedar wood, is used for cleansing a healed individual before sending him back to the community. Additionally, this cleansing mode became increasingly important since only after the physical purification could the person return to pray at the Tabernacle.

3. The Numbers 19:18 – 

Bible hyssop scene
Image Credit: My Bible

“…kept for the water for impurity for the congregation of the people of Israel…”

This book of Numbers refers to the ritual of ceremonial cleansing of those who had come in contact with dead individuals. To explain with clarity, hyssop-drenched water, when sprinkled on the tent of the dead or those who have touched a corpse, purifies them of the negativity. This water is for ceremonial cleansing and removing the evil spirits that are traditionally associated with the dead. 

4. Psalm 51:4, 7 – 

psalm 51 7 bible hyssop cleansing
Image Credit: Bible Hub

“Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow…” 

Wondering what is hyssop in the Bible concerning this extract? We will unveil the details – 

In this segment, Nathan the Prophet, with a heavy heart, confronts King David about the sin he committed with Bathsheba (had her husband murdered). Naturally, David’s heart is full of remorse, and he asks for a moment of mercy from God to wash away the sin that he has committed. 

Herein, the hyssop bush is characteristically used as a plant with cleansing properties. As we have seen before how, lepers were cleansed using this blood; similarly, David asks for internal cleansing. Ultimately this stands for the belief that if – as humans we repent, then there’s nothing that can stop God’s mercy from reaching us. His restoration and mercy can be achieved with relentless perseverance. 

5. Book of John 19: 27-30 

what is hyssop in Bible Book of John
Image Credit: Scripture Images

“A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips…”

This is the stage of the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ. The son of God, Jesus, has sustained beatings, and with excruciating pain, he asks to quench his thirst. In this case, as well, he has died to save humanity. As he atones for the sins of mankind, hyssop here metaphorically is used to aid the shedding of Jesus’ blood on the cross. This bloodshed purifies the human race and cleanses it of its innumerable sins. 

6. Hebrews 9:12-15 – 

Image Credit: The King James Version Bible

“The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled…will the blood of Christ…so that we may serve the living God!” 

This implies a process of ultimate purification, providing you with a life of vibrant worship. The hyssop plant, in this case, acts as – a mode to wash out the sins and a chance to understand that God uses even our mistakes to help us become better individuals. 

To expand this idea in a better manner, author Francis De Sale stated – “Truly, by the watering of our Saviour’s blood, made with the hyssop of the cross…snows of innocence.” 

Thus, on the whole, the recurring image of hyssop in the Bible refers to a sense of redemption and ultimate cleansing. It is the purification of the soul that we are talking of. 

How is it used today? 

Image Credit: IndiaMART

You have already figured out what is hyssop in the Bible and its significance. However, the question lingers as to how it has gained popularity in today’s times. We will give you the answers – 

According to noted medical experts – 

  • A 2014 survey shows hyssop’s (part of the Lamiaceae family) capacity to destroy cancer cells. Further lab test results in 2017 revealed – hyssop extracts’ capacity to kill cervical cancer cells.  
  • Hyssop has specific antioxidant properties (thanks to the presence of polyphenols) that free the radicals in the body.  
  • Traditionally, hyssop is used to treat indigestion issues and stomach ulcers. Medically, further reports are awaited. 
  • Back in 2016, certain Iranian medicines with hyssop extracts were tested for their antiviral properties. The results stated that this extract was able to slow down the spread of HSV-1 infection in mice up to 50%! 
  • Apart from these, traditionally, hyssop has been used to treat health conditions like – gallbladder issues, UTIs, sore throat, dysmenorrhea, and poor appetite. 

This bushy plant is still under medical review and its further results will testify to its space in the upcoming medical domain. 

Does it have any side effects? 

upset stomach due to hyssop oil
Image Credit: Medanta Hospital

If any of you following traditional medical format, wish to use hyssop, there are a couple of things you must remember – 

  • Its side effects include – anxiety attacks, tremors, and upset stomach. In extreme cases, it may include allergic reactions, seizures, and even miscarriages. 
  • Pregnant women, lactating mothers, children, and people with a history of epilepsy are advised against taking hyssop. Always consume it under strict medical guidance. 
  • No such standard dosage has been prescribed for this. It depends on your age, body structure, and other health conditions. 

Parting thoughts 

Not many would have imagined that this herb would hold such significance in the religious domain when it initially made a comeback. However, now that you know what is hyssop in the Bible and its importance, it is only natural to want to gather more information. From its traditional healing and spiritual symbolism to its range of medical uses, the herb’s span of usage is increasing with every passing day. 

Let us know in the comments section if you liked this post and if you would want to know more about such topics. 


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *