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WORMWOOD (לַעֲנָה, H4360; ἄψινθος, G952). The Gr. word apsinthos really means “undrinkable,” and yet absinthe is one of the most popular aperitifs in France! It certainly has a most objectionable taste to the uninitiated. This is the plant Artemesia absinthium; it is a herbaceous perennial which bears masses of small, yellow flowers. The alcoholic drink is now manufactured in Jordania.

Wormwood is mentioned seven times in the OT and twice in the NT, in the same verse (Rev 8:11). It is probable that the drink was known in the OT, for Jeremiah complained “He had sated me with wormwood” (Lam 3:15). On the other hand, reference is made more than once to the bitterness and unpleasant taste of the wormwood: “in the end she is bitter as wormwood” (Prov 5:4) and “a root that beareth gall and wormwood” (Deut 29:18 KJV).

The wormwood has come to be used symbolically to describe sorrow, calamity, and even cruelty.

There are two other species grown in Pal.—Artemesia herba-alba, which has a camphor scent and is extremely bitter, and Artemesia judaica. This latter plant was used, and still is in some places, to keep the maggots or moths away from woolen garments. The dried plants are laid in between them.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

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