Updated: Jul 25
Oh. You aren't kidding.
People have been reading articles online for a few years about marijuana being such a wonderful thing. It is even stated that marijuana use is supported by the Bible. This chorus is getting so loudly sung these days that many poorly trained Christians are even falling victim to this nonsense.
The first verse offered is that the word, "Calamus" in the Bible is the word for Marijuana.
The word "Calamus" in the Bible is found three times, all listed here.
Take thou also unto thee principal spices, of pure myrrh five hundred shekels, and of sweet cinnamon half so much, even two hundred and fifty shekels, and of sweet calamus two hundred and fifty shekels,
Song of Solomon 4:14
Spikenard and saffron;
Calamus and cinnamon, with all trees of frankincense;
Dan also and Javan going to and fro occupied in thy fairs: bright iron, cassia, and calamus, were in thy market.
The Word, in Hebrew, looks like this - קָנֶה֙
Now, you may have noticed that the first word is a combination word. It looks like this in Hebrew
The word would be pronounced similarly to this transliteration, Qaneh Bosem.
In these next two graphics, you can see the words with their individual English Translations.
The word Qaneh, in the Bible, is actually found 62 times in 38 verses....Generally meaning "a Reed."
The word Bosem is found 9 times in 8 verses generally meaning spice, or spices.
This word Qaneh Bosem (Sweet Calamus) will be our focus, because those who promote the use of Marijuana, and use the Bible as their support, say that this word is the word for Marijuana.
Where is this odd idea coming from?
Back in the early part of the 20th century, there was a Polish anthropologist by the name of Sara Benetowa - 1903-1982 (otherwise known as Sula Benet) which appears to be credited with starting this aberration of etymology which flies in the face of all other antiquities authority. She first revealed this theory about Qaneh Bosem in 1936. She basically came up with this theory based on the use of comparative etymology (a very sloppy word study). Later on, someone by the name of Chris Bennett (a high school dropout and marijuana advocate) expanded upon her work, and he has developed some pretty far-fetched ideas (e.g. One reference stated that he received a special revelation in an "epiphany" where he learned that the tree of life mentioned in Revelation 22:2 was actually cannabis. He also apparently believes that Jesus and the apostles could have possibly healed people with cannabis). Chris is identified in various places on the Internet as "one of the foremost authorities on the history of Cannabis."
May I say, respectfully, "give me a break!" This is utter nonsense and needs to be called out as such! There is is not one shred or sliver of legitimate evidence that the Bible supports marijuana use in any way shape form or fashion.
Let us bring the light of Biblical understanding to this topic.
Lets look at the word Qaneh (Qaneh Bosem), in several well respected commentaries and other references.
1. The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia
REED, rēd: (5) קָנֶה, ḳāneh - (meaning) - Translated in various places as
“stalk” (Gen 41:5, 22);
“shaft” (Ex 37:17, etc);
“reed,” or “reeds” (1 K 14:15; 2 K 18:21; Isa 36:6; 42:3; Ps 68:30, AV “spearman”);
“calamus” (Ex 30:23; Cant 4:14; Ezk 27:19);
“sweet cane,” in “calamus” (Isa 43:24; Jer 6:20);
“bone” (Job 31:22); used of the cross-beam of a “balance” (Isa 46:6);
“a measuring reed” (Ezk 40:3);
“a staff of reed,” i.e. a walking-stick (Isa 36:6; Ezk 29:6); the “branches” of a candlestick (Ex 37:18).
(The Greek equivalent is)
(6) κάλαμος, kálamos (meaning),
“a reed shaken with the wind” (Mt 11:7; Lk 7:24);
“a bruised reed” (Mt 12:20);
they put “a reed in his right hand” (Mt 27:29, 30);
“They smote his head with a reed” (Mk 15:19);
“put it on a reed” (Mt 27:48; Mk 15:36);
“a measuring reed” (Rev 11:1; 21:15, 16); “a pen” (3 Jn ver 13).
It is clear that ḳāneh (Hebrew) and its Greek equivalent kalamos mean many things. Some refer to different uses to which a reed is put, e.g. a cross-beam of a balance, a walking-stick, a measuring rod, and a pen (see above), but apart from this ḳāneh is a word used for at least two essentially different things:
(1) an ordinary reed, and
(2) some sweet-smelling substance
Reed (Arundo donax).
(1) The most common reed in Palestine is the Arundo donax (N. O. Gramineae), known in Arab. As ḳaṣabfarasi, “Persian reed.” It grows in immense quantities in the Jordan valley along the river and its tributaries and at the oases near the Dead Sea, notably around ‛Ain Feshkhah at the northwest corner. It is a lofty reed, often 20 ft. high, of a beautiful fresh green in summer when all else is dead and dry, and of a fine appearance from a distance in the spring months when it is in full bloom and the beautiful silky panicles crown the top of every reed. The “covert of the reed” (Job 40:21) shelters a large amount of animal and bird life. This reed will answer to almost all the requirements of the above references.
(2) Ḳāneh is in Jer 6:20 qualified קָנֶה הַטּוֹב, ḳāneh ha-ṭōbh, “sweet” or “pleasant cane,” and in Ex 30:23, קְנֵה בֹשֶׂם, ḳenēh bhōsem, “sweet calamus,” or, better, a “cane of fragrance.” Cant 4:14; Isa 43:24; Ezk 27:19 all apparently refer to the same thing, though in these passages the ḳāneh is unqualified. It was an ingredient of the holy oil (Ex 30:23); it was imported from a distance (Jer 6:20; Ezk 27:19), and it was rare and costly (Isa 43:24). It may have been the “scented calamus” (Axorus calamus) of Pliny (NH, xii. 48), or some other aromatic scented reed or flag, or, as some think, some kind of aromatic bark. The sweetness refers to the scent, not the taste. See also Bulrush; papyrus.
E. W. G. Masterman
E. W. G. Masterman, “Reed,” ed. James Orr et al., The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia (Chicago: The Howard-Severance Company, 1915), 2544–2545.
2. The Lexham Bible Dictionary
Calamus (קָנֶה, qaneh; κάλαμος, kalamos). A sweet-smelling ingredient used in anointing oil (Exod 30:23; Song 4:14; Isa 43:24; Jer 6:20). Also translated “sweet cane.”
John D. Barry et al., eds., “Calamus,” The Lexham Bible Dictionary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016).
3. Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary
CALAMUS (Călʹ ȧ·mŭs) Ingredient of holy anointing oil (Ezek. 30:23). It was a good-smelling spice made from an imported reed. It is also translated “fragrant cane” (NIV, NASB) or “aromatic cane” (NRSV). See Plants.
Chad Brand et al., eds., “Calamus,” Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003), 250.
4. Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible
Calamus (Acornus calamus, Andropogon aromaticus). A plant, or its aromatic root; any of a variety of tropical Asiatic palms. One of the plants that grew in Solomon’s garden (Sg 4:14). It was possibly also among the substances ordered by the Lord for the holy anointment of the tabernacle (Ex 30:23 kjv), and is mentioned as one of the products in the markets of Tyre (Ez 27:19). The sweet flag, Acornus calamus, and the beardgrass, Andropogon aromaticus, have been suggested as the plants from which calamus came. The sweet flag is highly aromatic and grows in Europe and Asia, but it is not known in the Holy Land. Indigenous to India, beardgrass is highly odoriferous when bruised, and is believed to have furnished the calamus of the Bible. It yields an oil known as ginger-grass oil.
Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, “Plants,” Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 1706.
5. The Illustrated Bible Dictionary and Treasury of Biblical History, Biography, Geography, Doctrine and Literature.
Calamus—the Latin for cane, Hebrew Kaneh, mentioned (Ex. 30:23) as one of the ingredients in the holy anointing oil, one of the sweet scents (Cant. 4:14), and among the articles sold in the markets of Tyre (Ezek. 27:19). The word designates an Oriental plant called the “sweet flag,” the Acorus calamus of Linnaeus. It is elsewhere called “sweet cane” (Isa. 43:24; Jer. 6:20). It has an aromatic smell, and when its knotted stalk is cut and dried and reduced to powder, it forms an ingredient in the most precious perfumes. It was not a native of Palestine, but was imported from Arabia Felix or from India. It was probably that which is now known in India by the name of “lemon grass” or “ginger grass,” the Andropogon schoenanthus. (See CANE.)
M. G. Easton, Illustrated Bible Dictionary and Treasury of Biblical History, Biography, Geography, Doctrine, and Literature (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1893), 116.
6. A Biblical and Theological Dictionary
CALAMUS, קנה Exod. 30:23; Cantic. 4:14; Isa. 43:24; Jer. 6:20; Ezek. 27:19. An aromatic reed, growing in moist places in Egypt, in Judea near lake Genezareth, and in several parts of Syria. It grows to about two feet in height; bearing from the root a knotted stalk, quite round, containing in its cavity a soft white pith. The whole is of an agreeable aromatic smell; and the plant is said to scent the air with a fragrance even while growing. When cut down, dried, and powdered, it makes an ingredient in the richest perfumes. It was used for this purpose by the Jews.
Richard Watson, “Calamus,” A Biblical and Theological Dictionary (New York: Lane & Scott, 1851), 191.
7. The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament
Ludwig Koehler and Walter Baumgartner, The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, vol. 1, Walter Baumgartner and Johann Jakob Stamm, rev., M.E.J. Richardson, trans. and ed. (Leiden: Brill, 2001), 163
Not one mention of marijuana by any of these authorities.