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Ezov is the Hebrew name of a plant mentioned on several occasions in the Bible, in the context of religious rituals. In some English-language Bibles, the word is transliterated as ezob.

The herb is believed to have been used in the Passover ritual, where it is mixed with lamb's blood and the mixture is sprinkled on door posts and lintels[1]; it is used in the ritual for cleansing from leprosy[2]; it is used in the ritual of the Red Heifer, in which it is part of the mixture used as water for ritual purification[3]; and in the Psalms, the sprinkling of it is used allegorically to refer to purification of the heart, particularly in the Miserere[4].

Though the Septuagint translates the name into the phonetically similar word Hyssop, and English translations of the Bible often follow this rendering, Jewish tradition and most modern scholars believe that ezov does not refer to the plant now known as hyssop. In the Bible, ezov is described as being a small plant found on or near walls[5], with an apparently aromatic odour[6][7], and while it is true that the Greek term hyssop was used in Greek literature to refer to a plant with purifying qualities, the plant now known as hyssop was not historically native to the land of Israel or Egypt[7]. Maimonides, and earlier Jewish commentators, argued that ezov referred to the same herb as the Arabic term za'atar, a name that may refer to any of various local herbs, including marjoram, oregano and thyme, which have aromatic and cleansing properties, grow wild (and historically grew wild) on walls in the historic land of Israel, and could easily be bunched together to be used for sprinkling[7].

The New Testament (written in Koine Greek) mentions that hyssop was used, along with vinegar, to alleviate the thirst of Jesus, during his Passion; Origanum has quite short stems, and some scholars consider that it would have been too short to reach the mouth of Jesus during crucifixion[8]. A number of modern scholars have proposed that it is more likely for ezov to refer to the same herb as the cognate Arabic term azaf, meaning the Caper[7]; the caper is a plant with long stems, which is not only native throughout the Mediterranean Basin, but was also traditionally considered in the Middle East to have had cleansing properties[7]. The Roman Catholic Church, and also some sects, interpreting ezov as the herb now called hyssop, have adopted the biblical practice of sprinkling with water infused with ezov, in order to ritually cleanse objects (including Churches) and people, in a ritual termed Aspersion during the Asperges.

References

  1. ^ Exodus 12:22
  2. ^ Leviticus 14:4-7, 14:49-51
  3. ^ Numbers 19
  4. ^ Psalm 50 (septuagint numbering) / Psalm 51 (masoretic numbering)
  5. ^ 1 Kings 4:33
  6. ^ Numbers 19:6
  7. ^ a b c d e Jewish Encyclopedia
  8. ^ Catholic Encyclopedia

See also

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