Cedar and Hyssop

At Neot Kedumim the sign identifying the Cedar also mentions Hyssop which is growing among the trees.

You may click on the image for a larger one. Here is a copy of the text:

Cedar and Hyssop

The Cedrus Libani (cedar of Lebanon) is an impressive tree towering to great heights. It is the symbol of pride and prestige in Scripture. In contrast, the hyssop is a symbol of modesty and humility for it requires little water and soil and grows even in the smallest cracks in stone. Yet it has much to offer: food, spice, medicine and even kindling.

In Leviticus 14:4 we are told that a person cured of Leprosy must hold a ceremony in which he brings the High Priest cedar and hyssop.

This act is explained as follows: the leper was proud like the cedar and God humbled him like the hyssop that is crushed by all [for spice] (Midrash Hagadol Metzora 14:4). A common Hebrew proverb describing leadership problems in another example: “If fire consumes the cedars what shall avail the hyssop that grows on the rock?” (Babylonian Talmud Moed Katan 25b).

This hyssop is identified as Majorana syriaca or Organum syriacum. Frenkley says it is “a grayish shrub with thin woody branches” (see previous article here for the reference). She says,

It can survive with very little soil and water, sometimes growing out of the smallest cracks in stone, as though literally “out of the rock.” The hyssop is one of the most important edible plants of the Middle East, highly valued for its fragrance and flavor. It is used as a spice, as food, as a medicinal plant, and its dry branches make excellent kindling. Unassuming in size and color, useful in so many ways, the hyssop came to symbolize modesty and humility—in direct contrast to the haughty and glamorous cedar of Lebanon.

Hyssop at Neot Kedumim. Photo: ferrelljenkins.blog.

Hyssop growing near Cedar trees at Neot Kedumim. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Hyssop is mentioned 12 times in the Bible and no less than seven of these times in association with cedar wood.

  • The Israelites in Egypt were to use hyssop branches dipped in blood to place it on the lentil and doorposts of their houses (Exodus 12:22).
  • The Mosaic law commanded that the offering for the cleansed leper included two clean birds, cedar wood and scarlet yarn and hyssop” (Leviticus 14: 1-9).
  • King Solomon  spoke of both the cedar of Lebanon and the hyssop that grows in the wall (1 Kings 4:33).
  • Solomon imported cedar for his building projects in Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 2:7-10). He also planted cedars in abundance in Jerusalem (1 Kings 10:27). Cedar was a symbol of power; something kings could be proud of (Jeremiah 22:15).

At Neot Kedumim Hyssop is planted among the rocks and under the cedar trees. The tall, stately cedars stand in stark contrast to the lowly hyssop growing in the rocks.

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