[Heb., ʼe·zohvʹ; Gr., hysʹso·pos].
The exact identification of hyssop is uncertain. The Hebrew and Greek terms may, in fact, embrace several different kinds of plants.
Some modern scholars say that the hyssop of the Hebrew Scriptures is probably marjoram (Origanum maru). This plant of the mint family is common in Palestine. Under favorable conditions it attains a height of 0.5 to 0.9 m (1.5 to 3 ft). Its branches and thick leaves are hairy, and as indicated at 1 Kings 4:33, it can be found growing in rock crevices and on walls.
Hyssop was used by the Israelites in Egypt to splash the blood of the Passover victim on the two doorposts and the upper part of the doorway of their houses. (Ex 12:21, 22) At the inauguration of the Law covenant, Moses employed hyssop in sprinkling the book of the Law and the people. (Heb 9:19) Hyssop also figured in the cleansing ceremony for persons or houses previously infected with leprosy (Le 14:2-7, 48-53; see CLEAN, CLEANNESS [Leprosy]) and in the preparation of the ashes to be used in “the water for cleansing,” as well as in the spattering of this water on certain things and persons. (Nu 19:6, 9, 18) David thus appropriately prayed to be purified from sin with hyssop.—Ps 51:7.
The hyssop mentioned in connection with Jesus Christ’s impalement (Joh 19:29) is thought by some to refer to durra, or Indian millet, a variety of common sorghum (Sorghum vulgare). It is a tall, small-grained plant with long, broad leaves. Since this plant commonly attains a height of at least 1.8 m (6 ft) in Palestine, it could have provided a stalk, or “reed,” of sufficient length to convey the sponge of sour wine to Jesus’ mouth. (Mt 27:48; Mr 15:36) Others think that even in this case hyssop may be marjoram and suggest that a bunch of marjoram may have been attached to the “reed” mentioned by Matthew and Mark. Still another view is that John 19:29 originally read hys·soiʹ (pike, javelin), not hys·soʹpoi (hyssop); hence the renderings “on a pike” (AT) and “on a spear” (Mo).