A wild shrub, generally identified as Origanum syriacum (rather than the European hyssop), belonging to the mint family and still used medicinally and as an herb in the Near East. It is an insignificant plant, contrasted with the cedar in 1 Kings 4.33. Hyssop stalks were used for sprinkling blood and water in purificatory and apotropaic rituals (Exod. 12.22; Lev. 14.4–6, 49–52; Num. 19.18; Ps. 51.7; Heb. 9.19). Its mention in John 19.29 is puzzling, since the plant on which Jesus is offered wine at the crucifixion is called a reed in Mark 15.36 par., and hyssop would not have been entirely suitable; John's use of the hyssop may therefore be symbolic.

Michael D. Coogan