The Bible records hyssop being used for the ceremonial cleansing of individuals and homes. A member of the mint family, this herb was one of various naturally occurring resources people in the Middle East used for hygienic and medicinal purposes during biblical times.
Leviticus 14:1-7 contains God’s instructions for priests to ceremonially cleanse people recently healed of skin disease by sprinkling them with the blood of a clean bird using a combination of hyssop, cedar wood and scarlet yarn. The ritual permitted previously defiled individuals to re-enter camps.
According to Exodus 12:22, God directed the Israelites to use hyssop to brush their door posts with lamb’s blood in part to distinguish His people as pure. This gesture exempted Israelites from the Angel of Death during the 10th plague of Egypt.
In the New Testament, the sponge Roman soldiers use to offer Jesus a drink as he hangs on the cross is attached to a hyssop stalk, which is a symbol of purification. The purpose of this stalk in the Bible might be to signify Jesus purchasing mankind’s forgiveness through His shed blood. This symbolism echoes the manner in which blood and hyssop purified a defiled person in the Old Testament.