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There is just one verse in the New Testament that refers to hyssop and is not referring to the Old Testament:

John 19:29 (NLT)
A jar of sour wine was sitting there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put it on a hyssop branch, and held it up to [Jesus'] lips.

Why is the fact that a hyssop branch was used significant enough to mention it by name?

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4 Answers 4

up vote 9 down vote accepted

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 bason, and strike the lintel and the two side posts with the blood that is in the bason; and none of you shall go out at the door of his house until the morning.

In many of the Old Testament sacrifices (the two turtle doves for the cleansing of the leper, and especially the sacrifice of the red heifer), hyssop was burned in the fire, with the sacrifice, along with scarlet and cedar.

Numbers 19:6 And the priest shall take 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).

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Psalm 51:7 says,

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

According to Wikipedia,

Hyssop is also antibacterial, anticapillary fragility, antiinflamatory, etc., and can help with about 81 different medical conditions including cancer, bronchitis, insomnia, edema, colds, etc.

As a cleansing and medicinal agent, it has clear allegorical meaning. In the Old Testament, it is often associated with salvation.

I have never read or explored the presence of hyssop in the crucifixion so I am going to venture a guess as to its significance in this circumstance. The first two things that come to mind are that,

  • the hyssop foreshadows the cleansing that comes through Christ's death and resurrection, or,
  • that the fact that hyssop was offered by fallible humans represented a salvation through works or salvation offered by men. Jesus' rejection of the sponge would then mean Jesus' rejected the notion of salvation by works or by man in favor of salvation through faith in Jesus and his resurrection.

Again, those last two points are my "off-the-hip" speculation. +1 for a good, thought-provoking question.

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Just to add to what has already been said, here are a few other facts to note about the particular hyssop used in the Old Testament. Hyssop blooms in three colors--pink, white, and purpleish-blue--but only the purplish-blue hyssop releases the essential healing oil when crushed (Ex 12:22 - STRIKE the lintel). Since purple is the color of royalty, it would make sense that it was used in the Passover, as Christ is the King of kings.

The hyssop is also a perennial herb. Christ was 100% man but also 100% God, who has been since the beginning of time (Jn 1). God never changes; He is constant, permanent. Salvation through faith in His blood sacrifice on the cross are also permanent. Once we accept Christ as Savior, no man can take that salvation away.

Finally, hyssop is a fairly common herb that grows throughout the Mediterranian. Christ was born to a common couple and grew up in the common city of Nazareth. The fact that He rejected the vinegar on the cross could also signify, as was mentioned, that though He came from a common root, His sacrifice and our acceptance of it are not common at all. Just as he did not accept the common hyssop for salvation from thirst, we can not accept the common idea of a works salvation from our sin.

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Significant to note here as well is what was being offered here. Something I have yet to find someone ready to admit is that in John19 it says ..."and when He had received it...".

Jesus refused the same drink moments earlier according to the other gospels but accepts it now. Why? I'm not going to debate wether our Lord partook of fermented beverages but what needs to be understood is what is referenced. Jesus spoke about the wine making process in Matt. 9. This was not something he was ignorant of but he had a clear knowledge of how to make wine and not just miraculously. When grapes are allowed oxygen during the fermentation process, the product will not make good wine. It will turn to VINEGAR.

Jesus's reference to old wine being put into new wineskins was an allegory between the old and new covenants. As he hung there dying, the old covenant was in the ruination process. The old wineskin was about to burst because it would not hold the new wine or new covenant.

The hyssop is symbolic of the blood being applied to the doorposts, but the blood was not to be applied to Jesus, only a bitter cup of a cheap attempt at winemaking(christianity). This was the last fulfillment of prophecy because it was the last thing Jesus would do before He said "it is finished" or in Greek "paid in full".

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2  
Welcome to C.SE. When you get the chance, please check out our tour and specifically How we are different than other sites. I'll admit, I found this answer to ramble a bit, but towards the end, I think you started answering the question. You may want to consider what answers the question and what doesn't –  Yuletide Geek Dec 9 '13 at 21:09

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