Biblical History of Spices

April 13, 2016 | By


Seeking a deeper meaning in your daily cooking? Did you know that several familiar spices and herbs have a biblical history?

Here are many popular spices, along with their biblical names and Scriptural citations.


Aloe, listed biblically as ahalim, was used in ancient times to prepare a body for burial.

This biblical spice is found in John 19:39: “[Joseph of Arimathea] was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds.”


Anise, listed biblically as anethon, is also known as cummin. This biblical spice was viewed as a valuable commodity in New Testament times.

Matthew 23:23 mentions this: “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spicesmint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the lawjustice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.


Balm, listed biblically as tsori, was a comfort remedy.

Jeremiah 46:11 mentions this biblical spice: “Go up to Gilead and get balm, O Virgin Daughter of Egypt. But you multiply remedies in vain; there is no healing for you.”


Bay leaf, a perennially popular herb, is listed biblically as ezrah.

This biblical spice appears in Psalm 37:35: “I have seen a wicked and ruthless man flourishing like a green [bayleaf] tree in its native soil.”


Cinnamon, listed biblically as cinnamon, was part of Moses’ sacred anointing oil for the Tent of Meeting, the Ark of the Testimony, the holy objects, and the high priests.

Exodus 30:22-24 mentions this biblical spice: “Then the LORD said to Moses, Take the following fine spices: 500 shekels of liquid myrrh, half as much (that is, 250 shekels) of fragrant cinnamon, 250 shekels of fragrant cane, 500 shekels of cassiaall according to the sanctuary shekeland a hin of olive oil.'”


Coriander is listed biblically as gad.

This biblical spice is described in Exodus 16:31 as similar in hue to heavenly manna: “The people of Israel called the bread manna. It was white like coriander seed and tasted like wafers made with honey.”


Cumin, listed biblically as kamon, is a Mediterranean herb in the parsley family.

This biblical spice is described in Isaiah 28:27, along with caraway: “Caraway is not threshed with a sledge, nor is a cartwheel rolled over cummin; caraway is beaten out with a rod, and cummin with a stick.”


Frankincense, listed biblically as levonah, was one of the gifts the Magi brought to the infant Jesus. This is both symbolic and prophetic, as frankincense was used in biblical times for temple offerings to God.

This biblical spice is found in Matthew 2:11: “On coming to the house, they saw the child with His mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped Him. Then they opened their treasures and presented Him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.”


Mint, listed biblically as menta, was seen as a valuable item in biblical times.

This biblical spice is seen in Luke 11:42: “”[Jesus said] Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone.'”


Mustard is listed biblically as sinapis.

This biblical spice appears in a well-known parable. “[Jesus] told them another parable: The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and perch in its branches'” (Matthew 13:31).


Myrrh, listed biblically as mor, was a precious gift from the three magi (kings or wise men) to the baby Christ, as well as a spice used in anointing (particularly for burial).

This biblical spice appears in Mark 15:23: “Then they offered Him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it.”


Nard, listed biblically as spikenard, was used in perfume and anointing oils.

This biblical spice appears in the original language of Matthew 26:6-7, which reads: “While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table.”


Salt, listed biblically as halas, has been used for millennia as a spice and preservative.

Jesus used this biblical spice for one His most quoted metaphorical teachings: “”You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men” (Matthew 5:13).

Many other herbs and spices make appearances in Scriptures. You can search for these biblical spices and perhaps discover new interest in some of your older recipes!

All Scriptures taken from the New International Version, Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society.

Category: Food

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