A question about hyssop?

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by Old Union Brother, Jan 3, 2011.

  1. Old Union Brother

    Old Union Brother
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    In Exodus during the Passover hyssop is used to dip in the blood and strike the door post and lintel and in John hyssop is used to put the sponge with vinegar to Jesus mouth while on the cross. See the verses below:

    (Exo 12:22) And ye shall take a bunch of hyssop, and dip it in the blood that is in the bason, and strike the lintel and the two side posts with the blood that is in the bason; and none of you shall go out at the door of his house until the morning.

    (Joh 19:29) Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar: and they filled a spunge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth.

    I understand that every scripture in the OT points towards Christ and his sacrifice on the cross. So now my question. What is the connection between the hyssop in Exodus 12:22 and John 19:29?
     
  2. InTheLight

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    As far as I know, there is no connection between the hyssop itself. Here is something I wrote about 5 years ago regarding this topic.

    One of the fascinating studies of scriptures for me is the study of the symbolism of Christ in the Old Testament. For believers, looking for clues of Jesus’ future work in stories of the Old Testament can be very rewarding.

    One of my favorites is the Passover story. It has many examples of symbols of Christ’s redemptive work for mankind in it. I’m sure you are familiar with it—Jews selected a sacrificial lamb without blemish, killed it and put blood on their doorposts and lintel (top frame of door) so the angel of death would pass over them and spare their firstborn son.

    I want to discuss the putting of the blood on the doorposts and lintel, the symbolism of it, and compare how different versions of the Bible tell the story.

    Perhaps you’ve seen the movie “The Ten Commandments” and Hollywood’s rendition of this event. In it you see the male of the Jewish household dip some clippings of the hyssop plant into a small pail of blood and then smear or paint a section of the doorpost and lintel with the blood. The area painted looks like the rough outline of a rectangle about eight to ten inch long and perhaps three to four inches wide. (Picture dipping a four inch wide paintbrush into a can of paint and painting a stroke about eight inches long.) You will see just how wrong this picture is when you consider the characteristics of the hyssop plant, described below.

    Indeed this is the picture you would probably draw if you read some of the newer versions of the Bible. The story can be found in Exodus 12; the application of the blood in Exodus 12:7 and Exodus 12:22. But if you read it in the King James Version you get a much clearer picture and the symbolism jumps out at you. I want to zero in on verse 22 where Moses instructs the elders on exactly the method they should use when applying the blood. Let’s look at it, first in the New International Version and then in the King James.

    22 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. Not one of you shall go out the door of his house until morning. [NIV]

    Pretty vague, huh? “Dip a bunch of hyssop in the blood and put blood on the top and on both side of the doorframe.” You could imagine several configurations for the blood to be put on the doorframe here—from smallish dabbed-on spots to wide, lengthy rectangles (as in the Ten Commandments).


    Now look at the King James Version:

    22And ye shall take a bunch of hyssop, and dip it in the blood that is in the bason, and strike the lintel and the two side posts with the blood that is in the bason; and none of you shall go out at the door of his house until the morning. [KJV]


    Now here is a much clearer picture of the application of the blood. First of all, consider the hyssop plant. It is a green bushy plant that grow shoots about twelve to eighteen inches tall. The leaves are small, soft and spongy, actually limp. They are not stiff, so couldn’t be used like a paint brush. (Google "hyssop plant" in Google Images)


    Now notice the difference in wording between “put” and “strike”. Once you consider the structure of the hyssop plant there really is only one way to apply the blood, namely, striking the limp plant against the doorposts and lintel. I picture the person thwacking the hyssop plant against the doorframe. I imagine this application would leave a three to four inch circular splotch of blood about chest high on both the doorposts and a similar splotch centered directly overhead on the lintel (maybe some of the blood from the top doorframe drips down to the ground). Now here’s the beauty of the King James Version description—an observer looking at the pattern of blood would see a cross, a cross of blood formed by an imaginary line connecting the two spots of blood chest high on the vertical portion of the doorframe with the horizontal, overhead portion of the blood dripping down from the lintel.


    I think that picture of the cross on the Passover doorframe is awesome symbolism!
     
  3. Old Union Brother

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  4. Jerome

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    Exodus - hyssop used - the firstborn spared
    Gospels - hyssop refused - the Firstborn not spared
     
    #4 Jerome, Jan 3, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 3, 2011
  5. Amy.G

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    Brother you don't ask easy questions do you? :tongue3:

    After searching through my commentaries and illustrated dictionary, all I could find was that hyssop was a symbol of purity and because of it was a leafy bush it was suited well to the sprinkling of blood.
     
  6. Old Union Brother

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    I had thought for a long time that there had to be a connection between hyssop in Exodus and John. Thank you.
     
  7. BobinKy

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    Perhaps the Biblical connection between the OT hyssop (Ex. 12:22) and NT hyssop (John 19:29) can be seen in Psalm 51:7 where David (a type of Christ) asked in prayer: "purge me with hyssop," obviously referring to the "application of the blood of the lamb, for it is only, Scripture says, with the shedding of blood that there can be remission of sin." (Shewell-Cooper, 1976, vol. 3, p. 235).

    However, I agree with InTheLight that there is no botanical connection between the plant rendered Hyssop in Ex. 12:22 and a different plant rendered Hyssop in John 19:29.

    Walker (1957, p. 100-103) identifies the OT Hyssop as Origanum maru, var. aegptiacum, Hebrew: ezob; and the NT Hyssop as Sorghum vulgare var. durra, Latin: hyssopus.

    Hyssop (O.T.)
    Origanum maru, var. aegptiacum, Hebrew: ezob.
    This hyssop is a marjoram, in the mint family, native to Egypt. It is not the Western variety with the blue flowers. The plant has a hairy stem, strong and wiry, from which shoot out bunches of golden flowers with small leaves. It holds water very well, and Moses directed that it be used to flick the blood of the sacrifice onto the doorposts of the Israelite homes. This was to identify and save them from the death in store for the Egyptians (Ex. 12: 21-23). Hyssop was used in cleansing lepers (Lev. 14:4). David recognized in it a property for purification (Ps. 51:7).

    Hyssop (N.T.)
    Sorghum vulgare var. durra, Latin: hyssopus.
    The last few moments of Christ's agony on the cross were relieved by moistening his lips with a sponge filled with sour wine. This sponge was raised on a cane of dhura, referred to here as hyssop. It is a tall plant with strong stems, in maturity reaching a height of over six feet. Hyssop is clear yellow-green, and the grains rise out of the wide ribbon-like leaves. These are beautiful when young, and are cut and woven into light portable panniers or baskets. Later the plant turns light buff or fawn, and the foliage dries, then droops on the stalk. Students of the Bible date this grain reed to prehistoric times. In Palestine hyssop is known as 'Jerusalem corn,' a main and nutritious part of the people's diet. The grains are gathered and ground for meal used in baking coarse bread. A single seed head is of such enormous size that one can supply a meal for a large family. The pith is brittle and dry and hence of no value. It is suggested by some students that the 'parched corn' Ruth received from Boaz was the grain of this reed (Ruth 2:14).​


    References

    Shewell-Cooper, W. E. (1976). Hyssop. In Tenney, M. C. (gen. ed.), The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, vol. 3, p. 235. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

    Walker, W. (1957). All the Plants of the Bible. New York: Harper & Brothers.


    ...Bob
     
    #7 BobinKy, Jan 3, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 3, 2011
  8. BobinKy

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    More information on Hyssop.

    Discovering Natural Israel

    "Hyssop, or zatar, grows on rocky slopes in most parts of Israel. Its fuzzy, gray-green leaves, which smell wonderfully aromatic when crushed, are dried and mixed with sesame seeds and olive oil as a savory spread on pita. In Egypt, just before the Exodus, the Hebrews dipped the humble plant in lamb's blood to mark the lintels of their homes during the plague of the killing of the firstborn" (Strutin, 2001, p. 28-29)

    "Hyssop, called zatar in Arabic, has been used for centuries as a remedy for stomachaches. More immediately important, zatar was what flavored the top of pita we packed for lunch. Hyssop is so popular as a flavoring that many people picked slopes clean of hyssop, to sell and export. To save the wild plant from 'industrial' harvesting, the government declared hyssop a protected species. Hyssop is translated from the Hebrew esov. In cooking and medicinally, it has been used since the time of the Exodus. This was the plant the Hebrews used to daub lamb's blood on their lintels so the angel of death would know to pass over their homes the night before they left Egypt. Hyssop was used ceremonially as a purifying agent in Temple sacrifices because, as a small, low plant, it was the symbol of humility. Purification rituals also included hyssop's antithesis, the lofty and proud cedar" (Strutin, 2001, p. 264).

    . . .

    Healing Foods from the Bible

    "Beginning with the Passover in Egypt, hyssop was often referred to in the Old Testament in connection with purification rites. David, for example, prayed to be purified with hyssop (Ps. 51:7). Some modern scholars say that the hyssop of the Hebrew Scriptures may have been a type of marjoram. This plant--part of the mint family--is common in Palestine. One variety of hyssop that grew abundantly in Israel and Sinai in biblical days is still used extensively by many people there today to flavor cooking and in medicinal teas. The Romans brought hyssop from the Middle East to Europe where even today hyssop tea is a standard home remedy for relief of rheumatism and respiratory complaints. The hairs on the stem of the plant are often used to prevent blood from coagulating, which may explain why the Jews in Egypt were told to use it at the time of the Passover (Ex. 12:22).

    The medicinal use of hyssop is found elsewhere in the New Testament (John 19:29-30). The vinegar mentioned in this passage was not the vinegar we think of today, but a form of cheap wine. Apparently, say Bible scholars, the hyssop/vinegar mixture was offered compassionately, especially if the hyssop was marjoram, which gives off a strong, but refreshing scent. In modern experiments, hyssop has halted the growth of the herpes simplex virus, which causes cold sores and genital herpes. And to support its age-old reputation as a decongestant and a remedy for the symptoms of colds and flu, scientists have found that the herb contains several soothing camphor-like substances which help loosen phlegm so it can be coughed up more easily.

    Here's a modern version of a hyssop 'tea' that will ease respiratory problems:

    Hyssop Tea
    1 cup honey
    1/4 cup water
    2 Tbs dried flowering hyssop tops (or 1/3 cup chopped flowering tops if fresh hyssop is available)
    1 tsp anise seed

    Pour the honey into a heavy saucepan and stir in the water, a tablespoon at a time, until the consistency resembles pancake syrup. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Dampen the dried hyssop with a tablespoon or so of water. Crush the anise seeds with a spoon and stir both into the honey. Cover and simmer over very low heat for 30 minutes.

    Uncover and let cool slightly. While still warm, strain it into a jor or bottle with a screw-on lid and cap after the syrup is cool.​

    The anise seed adds a pleasant licorice flavor that offsets the pungent tast of the hyssop without diminishing its effect" (Ward, 1998, p. 49-51).

    . . .

    Planting a Bible Garden

    Marjoram, 'Hyssop' (Origanum)
    "This is the biblical 'hyssop,' at least in several of the verses where the word is used (in others it refers to sorghum, see p. 25). A bunch of 'hyssop' was used for sprinkling blood on the door lintels and posts at the time of Passover (Ex. 12:22) and during the sacrifices in the Tabernacle (Lev. 14:4, 6, 52; Nu. 19:6, 18). The hairy, wiry stems of this mint-like plant, Origanum syriacum, would be suitable for such a purpose. It grows on rocks in dry country in the Holy Land. A suitable substitute for a biblical garden is pot marjoram, O. onites, which has a similar appearance with small heads of white flowers. Another option is sweet marjoram, O. majorana, the well-known herb which has purple flowers, but there is a white variety. Nowadays 'hyssop' is applied to an entirely different garden plant, Hyssopus officinalis of S. Europe.

    Cultivation
    Both pot and sweet marjoram require good soil in an open situation. Their tiny seeds can be sown in a frame in early spring, covering the seeds very lightly and transplanting the seedlings outdoors when they are large enough to handle, or sown outside in warmer weather. As the plants are perennial it is possible to propagate them by division, which should be done in any case every three or four years. In cool regions they may not survive the winter and it is best to consider them as annuals. If you wish to use them for culinary purposes, gather the shoots in midsummer just before flowering time, and dry them in a shady place before storing.

    Species
    Origanum majorana (also called Majorana hortensis), sweet or knotted marjoram, N. Africa, 30-60cm (12-24in.), rather tender half-hardy perennial.

    O. onites, pot marjoram, Mediterranean region, 30cm (12in).

    O. syriacum (also called O. maru), E. Mediterranean region, 45-100cm (18-40in.), rather tender, the biblical species.

    O. vulgare, common or wild marjoram, Europe, is a hardy, vigorous grower with purple (or white) flowers in heads. It should be used as a substitute for the biblical species in colder climates (Hepper, 1998, p. 38-39)


    Sorghum millet, 'Hyssop' (Sorghum)
    "When the Lord Jesus Christ was crucified he was thirsty on the cross 'So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth (John 19:29). Commentators have wondered what plant the 'hyssop' could have been since a bunch of marjoram twigs (see p. 38) would be unsuitable. Matthew actually says that a 'reed' was used and this is much more likely. Such a stick could have been from a common reed or giant reed, but some commentators suggest the reed-like stem of the sorghum cereal. This is grown in warm countries as an annual crop about the height of a person with a nodding cluster of grains at its head. It was introduced into lowland Palestine in New Testament times.

    Cultivation
    Probably the easiest way to obtain sorghum seeds is from a pet shop. Sow them in garden soil in a very warm position in full sunlight where they can grow up to their full height. Though the plants may not mature their grains, sorghum is worth growing as an ornamental grass at the back of the bed.

    Species
    Sorghum bicolor (S. vulgare) millet, dura, Guinea corn, tropical Africa, annual up to 5m (16ft) high" (Hepper, 1998, p. 25).

    . . .


    REFERENCES

    Hepper, F. N. (1998). Planting a Bible Garden. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House. Amazon.com link: Planting a Bible Garden.

    Strutin, M. (2001). Discovering Natural Israel. Middle Village, NY: Jonathan David Publishers. Amazon.com link: Discovering Natural Israel.

    Ward, B. (1998). Healing Foods from the Bible. Boca Raton, FL: Globe Communications. Amazon.com link: Healing Foods from the Bible.


    ...Bob
     
    #8 BobinKy, Jan 4, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 4, 2011

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