kaneh-bosm (cannabis) in the Bible
THE HIDDEN STORY OF CANNABIS IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
By Chris Bennet
Part 3 in a series on the
History of Cannabis and
THEN GOD SAID, I GIVE YOU EVERY SEED-BEARING
PLANT ON THE FACE OF THE WHOLE
EARTH, AND EVERY TREE THAT
HAS FRUIT IN IT.”
Those words seem straightforward enough, and yet cannabis and most other psychoactive medicine plants are outlawed in our society. Those who use these plant gat eways to other states of consciousness are jailed for doing so.
Ironically, the major force for continuing this plant prohibition is a group referred to as the Christian Right. They claim to believe in both the Bible and old Yahweh, yet Yahweh’s opinion on the matter is stated quite clearly in the above quotation.
This article shows how the Old Testament Prophets were none other than ancient shamans, and that cannabis and other entheogens played a very prominent role in ancient Hebrew culture.
THE ROOTS OF KANEH-BOSM
The first solid evidence of the Hebrew use of cannabis was established in 1936 by Sula Benet, a little known Polish etymologist from the Institute of Anthropological Sciences in Warsaw (1).
The word cannabis was generally thought to be of Scythian origin, but Benet showed that it has a much earlier origin in Semitic languages like Hebrew, and that it appears several times throughout the Old Testament. Benet explained that “in the original Hebrew text of the Old Testament there are references to hemp, both as incense, which was an integral part of religious celebration, and as an intoxicant (2).”
Benet demonstrated that the word for cannabis is kaneh-bosm, also rendered in traditional Hebrew as kaneh or kannabus. The root kan in this construction means “reed” or “hemp”, while bosm means “aromatic”. This word appears five times in the Old Testament; in the books of Exodus, the Song of Songs, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel.
The word kaneh-bosm has been mistranslated as calamus, a common marsh plant with little monetary value that does not have the qualities or value ascribed to kaneh-bosm. The error occurred in the oldest Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, the Septuagint in the third century BC, and was repeated in the many translations that followed (3).