September 23, 2018

What Does the Bible Say About Weed?

September 23, 2018
The Bible and Weed: God Inhaled?

Cannabis in the Bible and the Meaning of Kaneh Bosem

As marijuana and its medical benefits become more accepted by the American public, there are many that still reject the use of cannabis on religious grounds, seeing weed consumption as a sinful. However, this perception of sinfulness may have more to do with the Puritanical edge of American Christianity than cannabis being forbidden by the Bible. In fact, many modern translations support the idea that the Israelites and even Jesus Christ used cannabis in the Bible. 

Note: Quotations of the Bible featured in this article are from the International Standard Version. 

What is Kaneh Bosm?

Holy Smoke: Cannabis was a plant of renown in the bibleThe word kaneh-bosm is a rough English translation of the original Hebrew. Etymologists have found that the word has been misconstrued at the very least and mistranslated at the worst, with kaneh-bosm frequently translated to the word calamus, a fragrant reed found in marshy climates areas of Egypt. Kaneh bosm is thought to be the true roots of the word cannabis. 

Where is Kaneh Bosm in the Bible? 

Look no further than Exodus 30:23: God, instructing Moses on how to create holy anointing oil, gave a very particular shopping list: “You are to take for yourself the finest spices: 500 shekels by weight of liquid myrrh, half as much fragrant cinnamon (250 shekels), 250 shekels of fragrant reeds…”  

Sula Benet, a Polish anthropologist specializing in Judaic customs posited in her 1975 essay, that the word cannabis has its roots in Semitic languages. In her estimation, the mistranslation of the phrase kaneh bosm in Exodus 30:23 dates back as far as the 3rd century B.C. from the translation to Greek from the original Hebrew. “In many translations of the Bible’s original Hebrew,” Benet wrote, “we find ‘kaneh bosm’ variously and erroneously translated as ‘calamus’ and ‘aromatic reed,’ a vague term.”

What Does The Bible Say About Weed?

There are a few key entries in the Old and New Testament that have been reinterpreted in recent history bringing into question interpretations and translations of sacred texts for thousands of years. 

Biblical Weed Verses

  • Genesis 1:29

God speaks with Adam on the bounty of His creation, and that Adam may partake of the fruit of the land:

“God also told them, ‘Look! I have given you every seed-bearing plant that grows throughout the earth, along with every tree that grows seed-bearing fruit. They will produce your food.’”

People will often quote this verse in their justification that God has gifted humanity with all the seed-bearing plants of the earth. Marijuana, a naturally occurring seed bearing plant, may then be considered among them. 

Where is kaneh bosm in the Bible? you might ask, look no further than Exodus 30:23.

  • Exodus 30:23

In this verse, God advises Moses on the creation Holy Anointing Oils:

“You are to take for yourself the finest spices: 500 shekels by weight of liquid myrrh, half as much fragrant cinnamon (250 shekels), 250 shekels of fragrant reeds…” 

This verse has caused much confusion over millennia due to a likely mistranslation from the original Hebrew. Often the original Hebrew word for the final ingredient on this list,  kaneh-bosm, was translated into “sweet calamus.” The root word of kan in Hebrew has a double meaning: “reed” and “hemp.” 

It’s also important to consider religious practices of the ancient Israelites likely carried over ritual traditions from the paganistic roots of the Semitic people. A recent article from details the findings of an Israeli archaeological site of an altar dating back to approximately 750 B.C. where cannabis residue served ritual use as incense along with a secondary altar where frankincense was burned. These shamanistic practices of pre-reformation Semites were eventually phased out.

Is Hemp Mentioned in the Bible?

Is hemp the "holy herb” in the Bible?The word found in the Bible in its original Hebrew, kaneh-bosm, is thought to be among the earliest roots of the word cannabis. The root word kan, as described by anthropologist Sula Benet, has a double meaning of “reed” and “hemp.”  The versatile plant was utilized for many purposes such as making rope and clothing, as well as used ritualistically predating Judaic monotheism. 

You can find hemp in the Bible in Exodus 30:23. Kaneh-bosm is mentioned there as one of the components dictated by God to Moses in making holy anointing oil. 

What was Anointing Oil Made of?

As outlined in Exodus 30:22-25, the recipe and shopping list for holy anointing oil is as follows:

The Lord told Moses, “You are to take for yourself the finest spices: 500 shekels[s]by weight of liquid myrrh, half as much fragrant cinnamon (250 shekels), 250 shekels of fragrant reeds (kaneh-bosm in Hebrew), 500 shekels of cassia—all according to the shekel of the sanctuary—and a hint of olive oil. You are to make them into a holy anointing oil, a perfume mixture made by a perfumer. It is to be a holy anointing oil. 

If you’re asking What does the Bible say about hemp oil? You can assuredly look deeper anytime you might encounter calamus in the Bible or want to find what calamus means in the Bible as  there’s a good chance that the original hebrew was referring to marijuana, or at least hemp

Cannabis in the Bible FAQs

How Many Times is Kaneh Bosm Mentioned in the Bible?

It is thought that the original Hebrew word kaneh-bosm in the Bible can be found a total of five times in the following Old Testament verses: 

  • EXODUS 30:22-23
  • SONG OF SONGS 4:8-14
  • ISAIAH 43:23-24
  • EZEKIEL 27:19
  • JEREMIAH 44:15-23

What Does Calamus Mean in the Bible?

Calamus is a reed grown in marsh climates, most likely encountered by the ancient Israelites in Egypt. It is thought by modern etymologists that the original Hebrew phrase kaneh-bosm was mistranslated over the course of millennia from its original meaning of cannabis to “sweet calamus.”


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