"What is hyssop? What was hyssop used for in the Biblical times, what is its sinificance?"
Hyssop is a name of Greek origin.(a holy herb), because it was used for cleaning sacred places. It is refered to in the Scriptures: 'Purge me with Hyssop, and I shall be clean.' Ps 51:7
It is an evergreen, bushy herb, growing 1 to 2 feet high, with square stem, linear leaves and flowers in whorls, six- to fifteen-flowered.
Used as a kitchen herb.. Expectorant, used in salad, medicinal use. The healing virtues of the plant are due to a particular volatile oil, which is stimulative. Hyssop Tea is also a grateful drink, well adapted to improve the tone of a feeble stomach, and the green herb, bruised and applied, will heal cuts promptly
Hyssop, an herb in the mint family with cleansing, medicinal, and flavoring properties, was prolific in the Middle East and was used in a variety of ways.
In the Old Testament. In Leviticus, God commanded His people to use hyssop in the ceremonial cleansing of people and houses. In one example, God tells the priests to use hyssop together with cedar wood, scarlet yarn, and the blood of a clean bird to sprinkle a person recently healed from a skin disease (likely leprosy). This act would ceremonially cleanse the formerly diseased person and allow him to reenter the camp (Leviticus 14:1–7). The same method was used to purify a house that had previously contained mold (Leviticus 14:33–53).
Hyssop is also used symbolically in the Bible. When the Israelites marked their doorposts with lamb’s blood in order for the angel of death to pass over them, God instructed them to use a bunch of hyssop as a “paintbrush” (Exodus 12:22). This was probably because hyssop was sturdy and could withstand the brushing, but it also likely signified that God was marking His people as “pure” and not targets of the judgment God was about to deal out to the Egyptians.
David also mentions hyssop in Psalm 51:7: “Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.” David does not refer to physical cleansing—rather, he is asking God to cleanse him spiritually as he confesses his sin.
Hyssop also appears at Jesus’ crucifixion, when the Roman soldiers offered Jesus a drink of wine vinegar on a sponge at the end of a stalk of hyssop (John 19:28–30). This was, in fact, Jesus’ last act before He declared His work on earth finished and gave up His spirit. While the hyssop stalk may have been used for purely practical purposes (i.e., it was long enough to reach to Jesus’ mouth as He hung on the cross), it is interesting that that particular plant was chosen. It is possible that God meant this as a picture of purification, as Jesus bought our forgiveness with His sacrifice. Just as in the Old Testament blood and hyssop purified a defiled person, so Jesus’ shed blood purifies us from the defilement of our sin.
Hyssop represents common faith. Hyssop was a weed that grew practically anywhere. The blood is applied by common faith in God's word.
Exodus 12:22 And ye shall take a bunch of Hyssop, and dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and strike the lintel and the two posts with the blood that is in the basin; and none of you shall o out of the door of the house until morning
Numbers 19:6 And the priest shall tae cedar wood, and hyssop, and scarlet, and cast it into the midst of the burning of the heifer.
Hyssop represents the first step of salvation, believing on the Lord through common faith (justification). Scarlet represents the blood sacrifice which atones for our sins, and being set aside for service (sanctification). Cedar represents a Holy God coming to dwell in our hearts (baptism of the Holy Ghost).
The reference to hyssop in John 19:29 ties together the Old Testament prefigure of the red heifer (who died for the sins of the people) with the death of Christ (who died "once for all"). There on Golgotha was Hyssop, the Blood Sacrifice (Scarlet), and Emmanuel (God with Us, Cedar).
The bunch of hyssop was dipped into the blood, and per God's instructions, that blood was sprinkled or brushed on the doorposts and lintel of each home. The Israelites were then told to stay within those homes, separated from the Egyptian people and their normal routines. That night, there was to be no interaction or communication with any aspect of the Egyptian civilization. Their very lives depended on their following this command to the letter.
Exodus 12:23-27 tells us why:
For the Lord will pass through to strike the Egyptians; and when He sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the Lord will pass over the door and not allow the destroyer to come into your houses to strike you. And you shall observe this thing as an ordinance for you and your sons forever. It will come to pass when you come to the land which the Lord will give you, just as He promised, that you shall keep this service. And it shall be, when your children say to you, "What do you mean by this service?" that you shall say, "It is the Passover sacrifice of the Lord, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt when He struck the Egyptians and delivered our households." So the people bowed their heads and worshipped.
The sacrificial blood, sprinkled or smeared by the bunch of hyssop, graphically represented a separation and a protection of Israel against the deadly havoc that God wrought upon Egypt that night. The blood ceremonially cleansed and protected the people inside those homes against the plague of death that struck a people who practiced the filthy abominations of godlessness.
Later, in the books of Leviticus and Numbers, hyssop was used as part of sacrificial ceremonies. The hyssop was always tied into bunches for use in sprinkling the blood of the sacrificed animal. In some sacrifices, the priest sprinkled the blood onto the person making the sacrifice.
In Numbers 19, Moses gives instructions for one who is unclean due to touching a dead body. These instructions include taking a bunch of hyssop, dipping it into clean, running water, and sprinkling the unclean individual, his tent, and possessions. This example clearly connects the use of hyssop and clean water for cleansing.
Over the years, some have suggested that hyssop contains valuable antiseptic or cleansing properties that would "disinfect" the contaminated person or his possessions. This cannot be the point because such an idea contradicts the fact that God is the only Source of true purification. The biblical use of hyssop in the Passover, the sacrifices, and the ceremonial cleansing rituals was a constant reminder, painting a detailed picture of the washing, cleansing, saving, purification, and salvation from death itself that come only from the eternal God.
This is the kind of cleansing that David requested of God when he asked to be purged with hyssop.
There is a final use of hyssop in John 19:28-30:
After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, "I thirst!" 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. So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, 'It is finished!" And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.
In the final moments of His physical life on earth, God orchestrated that Jesus Christ be given hyssop, an identifying element that
» connected Him to the Passover lamb centuries before in Egypt;
» associated Him with the sacrificial and cleansing ceremonies; and
» recalled David's request to be purified of his sins.
Water is indeed the most wonderful physical means to clean and cleanse that God has created. Yet, it is through the life, the shed blood, the death, and the resurrected, eternal, glorious life of our God and Savior that we can experience the ultimate cleansing and purification, as typified in the use of hyssop in the pages of the Bible. Through this spiritual cleansing and purification, we can, like David, anticipate the end of our physical lives and hope to dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Anthony Custodio Fiacre DIAS.
+91 98821342681 Bombay INDIA