Heb. la'anah, the Artemisia absinthium of botanists. It is noted for its intense bitterness ( Deuteronomy 29:18 ; Proverbs 5:4 ; Jeremiah 9:15 ; Amos 5:7 ). It is a type of bitterness, affliction, remorse, punitive suffering. In Amos 6:12 this Hebrew word is rendered "hemlock" (RSV, "wormwood"). In the symbolical language of the Apocalypse ( Revelation 8:10 Revelation 8:11 ) a star is represented as falling on the waters of the earth, causing the third part of the water to turn wormwood.
The name by which the Greeks designated it, absinthion, means "undrinkable." The absinthe of France is distilled from a species of this plant. The "southernwood" or "old man," cultivated in cottage gardens on account of its fragrance, is another species of it.
A bitter plant; bitterness.
For the lips of a strange woman drop as an honeycomb, and her mouth is smoother than oil: but her end is bitter as WORMWOOD, sharp as a twoedged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps take hold on hell. ( Proverbs 5:3-5 )
Four kinds of wormwood are found in Palestine-- Artemisia nilotica , A. Judaica , A. fructicosa and A. cinerea . The word occurs frequently in the Bible, and generally in a metaphorical sense. In ( Jeremiah 9:15 ; 23:15 ; Lamentations 3:15 Lamentations 3:19 ) wormwood is symbolical of bitter calamity and sorrow; unrighteous judges are said to "turn judgment to wormwood." ( Amos 5:7 ) The Orientals typified sorrows, cruelties and calamities of any kind by plants of a poisonous or bitter nature.
What the Hebrew la`anah may have been is obscure; it is clear it was a bitter substance and it is usually associated with "gall"; in the Septuagint it is variously translated, but never by apsinthos, "wormwood." Nevertheless all ancient tradition supports the English Versions of the Bible translation. The genus Artemisia (Natural Order Compositae), "wormwood," has five species of shrubs or herbs found in Palestine (Post), any one of which may furnish a bitter taste. The name is derived from the property of many species acting as anthelmintics, while other varieties are used in the manufacture of absinthe.
E. W. G. Masterman
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