What is hyssop?

The Question:

I have been doing some Bible reading and I would like to know: what is the significance of hyssop in the Bible? I notice a verse that says; "Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean." I would like to know more about hyssop.

- Verise from Henderson


The Answer
Part 1: The scoop on hyssop

What is hyssop? (Part 1)

Hyssop is a common herb which grew in Bible times and still grows extensively today in many varieties all over the world. It's possible you have seen it in a garden near you. Common varieties grow to about two feet tall and spread about a foot. It has beautiful purple blue flowers and a strong mint smell. If you have ever seen or grown catmint, hyssop looks somewhat similar.

In "the old days" - before grocery store shelves were lined with cleaning products for every conceivable need, people used nature's products. Hyssop was readily available, especially in the Middle East. Because it had detergent properties, it was widely used to clean sacred places such as temples.

Here are some times it was used in the Bible:

  • A bunch of hyssop was used to dip in the basin of blood of the Passover lamb to apply to the lintel and doorpost before the Israelites left Egypt. (Exodus 12:22) Since hyssop has strong woody stalks it could stand up to being shaken.
  • Cleansing ceremony for a leper in Leviticus 14:1-8. Again, hyssop was the dipping agent into blood of a bird and used to sprinkle over the unclean person.
  • In John 19:29, it was used at the crucifixion. "Now a vessel full of sour wine was sitting there; and they filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on hyssop, and put it to His mouth."

The scripture you mention in your question from Psalm 51:7 says; "Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow." This was a plea from King David to the Lord for forgiveness. He had sinned with Bathsheba and had been called to account for it by Nathan the prophet.

David is asking for deep heart cleansing and uses hyssop to symbolize that since it is a common cleaning agent. It is interesting that when he says "wash me" he is talking about the way clothes were washed in his time, with beating and pounding. He is so deeply sorry; he wants more than a quick wash up. He wants the very desire for sin to be washed out of him. Do we ever feel that repentant over our own sin?

See more Straight Talk Questions and Answers.

ask a question
Top