Scholars are somewhat uncertain about the actual identity of the plant called hyssop in the Bible. Hyssop (ezov in Hebrew), should grow on a "wall" (I Kings 4:33) but it is generally acknowledged that it is another plant, Origanum syriacum, a relative of the well-known kitchen herbs oregano and marjoram, that is the Bible Hyssop. It never grows out of stone-built walls but is frequently to be found on rocky ledges and outcrops in the mountains that have been sensibly accepted as descriptions as walls.
Hyssop has been commonly known as wild oregano for many centuries.
Hyssop, had flavouring, medicinal, and cleansing properties, was prolific in the Middle East and was used in a variety of ways:
• Hyssop is known for its ability to purify the blood. It has medicinal significance. In Psalm 51:7 – “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow”.
• God tells the priests to use hyssop together with cedar wood, scarlet yarn, and the blood of a clean bird to sprinkle a person outcast because of a skin disease (e.g. leprosy) - but recently healed. This act would ceremonially cleanse the formerly diseased person and allow him or her to re-enter the encampment (Leviticus 14:1–7).
• In the New Testament, a sponge soaked in sour wine or vinegar was stuck on a branch of hyssop and offered to Jesus on the cross (John 19:29)
• Hyssop was often gathered in bunches and used as a brush or sprinkler for general purification rituals.
• Hyssop played an important part of the Passover. During the tenth and final plague, God passed through the land of Egypt and struck down the first-born of every household. But the Jews had been told to mark their doors with hyssop soaked with the blood of a lamb they had sacrificed — the Passover offering — and so God “passed over” their home. Exodus 12:22 “And you shall take a bunch of hyssop, dip it in the blood of the Passover lamb that is in the basin, and strike the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood that is in the basin”.
• The plant and/or its extracts were useful as laxatives
• In the Middle East to this day, hyssop is part of a popular mixture of spices. There are a wide variety of mixtures, but generally contain sesame seeds, ground sumac, wild oregano (Origanum syriacum – hyssop), and salt. The resulting combination is used on meats and vegetables, and can be mixed with olive oil to make a spread or dip.