No, God Did Not Prescribe the Use of Cannabis in the Bible

There’s no more connection between Hebrew qaneh-bosem and Greek kannabis than there is between “Moses” and “mice.”

By Michael Brown Published on September 22, 2017

Just when you think you’ve heard it all, a pastor calls your radio show asking how to respond to a congregant claiming cannabis was sanctioned by God in the Torah. That’s right. Sanctioned by the Lord Himself. Not to be smoked, but burned in large quantities by the priests of Israel. Far out!

There was a time in my life when I would have believed something like this. I spent 1969-1971 as a heavy drug-using, hippie rock drummer, consuming everything from pot and LSD to speed and heroin. When my two best friends started reading the Bible, they told me about the more esoteric passages in the Scriptures — all kinds of visions, dreams and revelations. I jested, “What were they smoking?”

In fact, that’s what I asked the pastor (again, in jest) who called the show: What is this congregant smoking?

The “Scholarly” Basis for This Belief

There is an alleged scholarly basis for this bogus belief. It says the Hebrew words qaneh-bosem in Exodus 30:23 refer to marijuana, specifically hemp. And note the apparent similarity in the words: qaneh-bosem and cannabis. That proves it, right?

According to the Herb Museum website, it was in 1936 that a little-known Polish professor named Sara Benetowa (later Sula Benet) wrote, “The sacred character of Hemp in biblical times is evident from Exodus 30:22-23, where Moses was instructed by God to anoint the meeting tent and all its furnishings with specially prepared oil, containing hemp.”

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Other Hebrew scholars allegedly confirmed this. Of course, with the rising popularity of marijuana in today’s culture, arguments like this appeal to Christians who want to get high. Not only did their state pass a pro-pot law, but God’s into it too!

One website proclaims in bold, red letters: “The fact is that the Holy Oil contained 6 Pounds of (Marijuana) with other spices boiled into one gallon of Olive oil! The Holy Oil of God is illegal to obtain today!!!”

Really!

During my drug-using years, I often went to rock concerts at the Fillmore East in New York. I saw groups like Led Zeppelin, the Who, the Grateful Dead and Jethro Tull, among many others.

It was the perfect concert atmosphere, seating only about 2,000 people and with a dynamic light show behind the performers. But it was also a hippie paradise. The whole place smelled like pot. Is that what the ancient Temple smelled like in Jerusalem? Maybe the priests got high on mushrooms, too!

The Connection Isn’t There

Returning to reality, the alleged connection between qaneh-bosem and cannabis simply doesn’t exist.

Note first that qaneh-bosem is two words in Hebrew, not one. And the words are easily translated, qaneh meaning a stalk or reed, and bosem meaning “sweet smelling.”

Some scholars translate the words together to refer to “aromatic cane,” “scented cane,” or “sweet-smelling cane,” others “sweet calamus” or “fragrant calamus.”

But not a single scholarly, biblical Hebrew lexicon in the world connects these words with cannabis. I can say that emphatically because I own them all, in multiple languages. The alleged connection isn’t there.

Sobriety was a must for those coming into the presence of God.

It is also certain, for various phonetic and linguistic reasons, that the word cannabis, which comes from the Greek kannabis, is not related to these two Hebrew words. There’s no more connection between Hebrew qaneh-bosem and Greek kannabis than there is between “Moses” and “mice.”

As for those who can’t study the issue for themselves, note carefully this commandment to Aaron, the High Priest, and his successors: “Drink no wine or strong drink, you or your sons with you, when you go into the tent of meeting, lest you die. It shall be a statute forever throughout your generations” (Lev. 10:9). Sobriety was a must for those coming into the presence of God.

This makes the claim that the Lord commanded large amounts of pot to be burning in this very same holy place all the more ridiculous. Be sure not to drink any wine or strong drink, but go ahead and inhale deeply!

Proceed With Caution

As for those Christians who feel that smoking pot “in moderation” is fine since it’s now legal in their state, a word of caution.

First, pot remains a gateway drug. It often leads to the use of other, harder drugs, along with becoming addictive itself.

Second, pot today is far more potent than when I smoked it more than 46 years ago.

Third, new studies point to health and driving risks associated with marijuana. (See here on pot use in Colorado.)

Fourth, you’ll have a hard time fulfilling the biblical mandate to “be sober and vigilant” (1 Peter 5:8) while smoking a joint.

In any case, people will have to sort out the question of smoking pot, just as they sort out the question of drinking. (The subject of medical marijuana is another question entirely.)

What I can tell you without hesitation is that God never prescribed pot — as incense or to be smoked — anywhere in the Bible. That’s a fact.

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  • Howard Rosenbaum

    Yeah, “weed” has been politicized, monetized, spiritualized & it’s “virtues” dramatized.
    It’s been hybridized by “botanists”, patronized by celebrities & eulogized by lobbyists.
    Oh, & were it not both intoxicating & its fumes perhaps somewhat carcinogenic then
    the pot indulging child of God might not appear so compromised ……

  • Trilemma

    The apostle Paul admitted using marijuana.

    Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. – 2Corinthians 11:25 NASB

    Evidently, some Roman officers were afraid of a group of people who might have been using marijuana.

    Then the captain went along with the officers and proceeded to bring them back without violence (for they were afraid of the people, that they might be stoned). – Acts 5:26 NASB

    • I suggest you first repent of your sins, which strongly includes lying, and ask Jesus into your heart, then read the Bible in it’s entirety. Being stoned refers to someone actually throwing rocks at your body in order to punish and possibly kill you. A woman (or anyone actually) who is caught in adultery was often stoned with actual rocks.

      • FromWhereIAm

        I don’t think you are recognizing SATIRE when you read it. It is obviously meant to be a comedic comment.

        • I don’t know whether the poster, or you, are Christians, but any Christian knows that if harm the body, the Lord will destroy you. That’s not comedy at all..

          • Trilemma

            Do tattoos and body piercings count as harming the body?

          • FromWhereIAm

            Actually yes. Tattooing is forbidden in Leviticus 19:28. That alone should make one consider carefully. My personal opinion is that they’re just unattractive and maybe it’s my age but I find them trashy. I have nieces and nephews who get them and I do dearly love my family members, but I still don’t approve of them, and that was before I read that passage, even. I would keep my skin clean and clear, that’s my advice. But pray about it for yourself and listen to your conscience. I try to avoid anything the Scriptures warn against.

          • Trilemma

            Leviticus 19:28 only applied to Old Testament Jews and would not apply to Christians. Maybe it’s my age too but my personal opinion is pretty much the same as yours except I have seen a few I thought were attractive. Tattoos seem to be addictive because people seem to end up covering their bodies with them.

          • FromWhereIAm

            Yeah, I keep hearing that and I may have a minority view of that concept, but I just don’t agree with it. I think God is expressing His displeasure with the marking of the flesh and I don’t think He suddenly changed His mind about it. And yes, I wear 100% cotton and when I eat meat, I don’t eat anything bloody and I eat only those creatures that are considered clean. And yes, I believe we are wise to follow God’s outline there. When we look at what those industries (synthetic “poly” fabrics and hog farms, for example) have done to Creation in terms of pollution, God’s word makes even more sense. And I would extend His admonitions concerning seeds to a disapproval of genetically modified organisms not being “fit food”. (Boy, here it comes, the ire of the Big Agribusiness wings of the so-called “Right” – I opened up a can of worms here…!)

          • FromWhereIAm

            So many Christians ready to throw each other into hell.

  • So, now spicy cinnamon is equal to pot smoking? Wow!

  • sheepdog writer

    The same federal government that says its good and moral to butcher babies agrees, its the devil weed. So it must be true.

  • Michael Altimore

    Gen !:29 ~ And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing SEED, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding SEED; to you it shall be for MEAT.1st Timothy #5:23 ~ 23Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities. Depends on how you interpret. Just saying.

  • FromWhereIAm

    Marijuana is not a “gateway drug” – I have to disagree with the good doctor here. I smoked it in the 70’s and never went on to “stronger drugs.” Many have had the same experience. Marijuana, aka Cannabis, is a God-created medicinal herb that was used by doctors for centuries before it was made illegal in the US in the late 1930’s, all for falsified reasons. I strongly suggest that Dr. Brown read the book, “The Emperor Wears No Clothes” – by a fellow Jew, in fact: Jack Herer. Herer brings historical evidence to the table which explains how this medicinal herb was demonized in the tabloid “yellow press” of the day in order to ensure that hemp would NOT become competitive with the lumber market at the very same time that International Harvester had just perfected a decorticating machine for hemp which would cause it to outproduce wood for paper. Please apply your scholarly mind to reading the evidence Herer offers, Dr. Brown – I think you’ll be quite surprised, in a very good way.

    • If it’s a “God-created medicinal herb then it would be a fact that it’s a medicine. However when the good doctor used it back in 1969-71, and when The Beatles used it, etc…it was not even for medical purposes. Futhermore, if your “God-created marijuana” argument stands, then the medical use of pot would be outlined somewhere within the pages of the Bible itself. It’s clearly not. The rest of your post….is a losing argument.

      • FromWhereIAm

        You wrote, “then the medical use of pot would be outlined somewhere within the pages of the Bible itself. It’s clearly not.” God did not list all the medicinal herbs in the pages of the Bible — there are thousands! He created them all and told us that He gave them to us. That is VERY clear. Read Genesis 1, especially Genesis 1:29-30: “Then God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to every thing that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food”; and it was so.…” It’s CLEAR that EVERY PLANT YIELDING SEED THAT IS ON THE SURFACE OF THE EARTH is for our use and has been GIVEN to us by GOD. If you don’t see that, it’s because you don’t want to.

        • “I have given every green plant for FOOD”…unless I am wrong, the body only has one way to digest food, and that’s by eating it.
          Please explain how the smoking of weed is the same as eating food. Weed doesn’t even taste good enough to eat it.

          • FromWhereIAm

            The context of the quote, Eddy, is that green plants are to be ingested into the body. Medicinal plants of all types can be eaten in a variety of ways as well as taken in tincture form (with a grain alcohol) by dropper into a liquid; rubbed on the body; injected into the bloodstream; taken sublingually (under the tongue) and yes, even smoked. (Smoking whether by a vaporizer or rolled into a cigarette .) Not every plant is “tasty” – not many of us can endure the raw taste of garlic, for example – but without a doubt, it is the best broad-spectrum natural antibiotic we have. Plants have properties that God meant for us to explore fully, not simply with our palates. Every plant on the surface of the planet was meant for our benefit in some manner. Cannabis is a vaso-dilator – that is, it opens up the blood vessels. This is why it was prescribed by doctors for migraines and bronchitis, among other ailments. It has many important applications which scientists are still exploring to this day. Can it be abused? I believe so. So can many good things. Take honey. You can actually ingest too much honey and then it becomes bad for you – but not because it is inherently bad – but because it can be abused.

          • I fully understand what you are saying. But we are still commanded to be sober minded…meaning clear minded 1 Peter 5:8-9. This is why we are taught not to get drunk, or take drugs that will lead to impaired judgement. Yes, many plants are edible, lettuce, corn, cactus..but many of these are impossible to smoke.

            Like you said..it can be abused. However, the one abusing it usually will deny that they are abusing it. As a matter of fact, the insinuating party will often catch the wrath of the abuser. Does the abuser sound like a loving Christian in such a case?

          • FromWhereIAm

            The effects of cannabis cannot be compared to drunkenness. There is no evidence of this, and as a matter of fact, Dr. Brown stated in his video on his past that when he smoked marijuana it had no effect whatsoever on him and so he moved on to something else, hoping for a high. When people are of the mindset to “experiment with drugs” they will do it, regardless of where they start. Not every one who takes cannabis has that goal in mind. The most-reported effect is a greater mental awareness, as there is increased blood flow through the brain and body – and increased energy (depending on the strain — some have a more calming effect.) Police officers and others who have dealt with marijuana smokers (and only because of its illegality in some states) are on record that marijuana smokers do not present as inebriated unless they have ingested other substances as well.

    • benevolus

      And propaganda movies like “Reefer Madness,” which is now comical to watch. If this stuff is so bad for us, why do we have cannabinoid receptors in out brains (or, for that matter, opiate receptors)? God couldn’t have made a mistake, although it could be the fallen world we live in.

  • John

    Just bc the Hebrew word bears no connection to the Greek word doesn’t mean anything. Why would 2 independent languages have to have same sounding word for something , the word for Twinkie in English in different than the Mandarin version.

    • Paul Burgett

      Twinkies are differently pronounced, and universally loved.

  • For those of you who are for pot/weed, let me remind you of the fact that both pot/weed and cigarettes are made out of plants/leaves. Cigarette smokers pose a high risk of developing lung cancer. It says so right on the cigarette box. If you inhale either cigarettes or marijuana you will develop lung cancer, since it’s the inhaling of the chemicals that cause lung cancer. I know most of you pot smokers already have smokers cough, you wake up with it every single morning.

    Cigarette smoke contains over 4,000 chemicals, including 43 known cancer-causing (carcinogenic) compounds and 400 other toxins. These cigarette ingredients include nicotine, tar, and carbon monoxide, as well as formaldehyde, ammonia, hydrogen cyanide, arsenic, and DDT. Nicotine is highly addictive.

    Yeah, cigarettes do damage to your lungs. While pot damages your brain cels, thanks to THC.

    A lot of people think smoking marijuana is better than cigarettes, but one joint has the same amount of harmful affects (tar buildup in lungs etc.) as five cigarettes. Marijuana has other bad affects like irritability, stress, and “munchies” that cigarettes don’t always have.

    • Trilemma

      My mother used to dry marijuana leaves out and make tea with them. No lung cancer.

      • How can you get lung cancer from drinking tea?

        • Trilemma

          You can’t. That’s my point. You don’t have to smoke it to enjoy it. You can also bake it into something like brownies and eat it as food.

          • benevolus

            You can also vape it. Plus, even the smoked amount is much lower than what it used to be because of the increased potency of the plant.

    • benevolus

      There have been many studies, and every one says there is NO increased risk of lung cancer in those who smoke MJ only and do not smoke tobacco, just like there a few asbestos-caused cancers in people who never smoked, but many in those who did (and almost almost everybody did, back in the day), far more than can be accounted for by tobacco alone. Scientists have not been able to explain why MY does not cause lung cancer, because it does contain a lot of tar.

  • FromWhereIAm

    For those who believe that marijuana kills brain cells, I urge you to google the article (I’m not sure that links are allowed on this site): www[dot]drugpolicy[dot]org[slash]blog[slash]does-marijuana-kill-brain-cells. Here is an excerpt: “In terms of marijuana and its effects on brain cells, or neurons, there is little evidence to suggest that any of the active ingredients in the marijuana plant administered at doses appropriate for human consumption have neurotoxic effects.”

    • benevolus

      Except we haven’t had enough research on the extracts available today, which are often dabbed rather than smoked. These can be absurdly high doses, and there are few if any studies.

  • FromWhereIAm

    My satire? Uh, no, it wasn’t mine, I simply recognized it while the other fellow took him seriously. God is not truly mocked. Read it again, it wasn’t that serious. Not saying that this fellow might not have actual mockery in mind, as I can’t read his mind, but based on what he wrote, I’d say it was merely being a little playful with words.

    I’ll just leave the actual judgement of this fellow and his comment up to the only One judge who actually has the job, thank you – and urge you and the other “hanging judge” to lighten up a bit.

    • idonotknowhatusernametochoose

      You lied and used a double standard by being a hypocrite.
      How so? By you judging me and others.
      Jesus commands people to judge but to do so properly.
      The other fellow judged improperly, so did you, and so far I have judged properly.

      • FromWhereIAm

        I haven’t lied, so I can’t imagine to what you’re referring, but it is a false argument in any case as I’ve been honest and truthful.

        In any case, all of these side arguments only detract from the main issue of this article; and I think it prudent not to participate in them further.

        • idonotknowhatusernametochoose

          You did it and it again, lying hypocrite. (diverting too)

          Anyway, take care…

  • Mark Bristow

    Ephesians 4:18
    They are darkened in their understanding and alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardness of their hearts.

    Jeremiah 9:14
    but have walked after the stubbornness of their heart and after the Baals, as their fathers taught them,

    JOHN 1 ;10
    He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.

    JOHN 14 ;17
    the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.

    GENESIS 1 ;29
    Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.

    Isaiah 44:20
    He feeds on ashes; a deceived heart has turned him aside. And he cannot deliver himself, nor say, “Is there not a lie in my right hand?”

    Jeremiah 2:5
    Thus says the LORD, “What injustice did your fathers find in Me, That they went far from Me And walked after emptiness and became empty?

    Psalm 41:12
    As for me, You uphold me in my integrity, And You set me in Your presence forever.

    Psalm 51 ;6.
    ..Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom.

    Genesis 8:21
    The LORD smelled the soothing aroma; and the LORD said to Himself, “I will never again curse the ground on account of man, for the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth; and I will never again destroy every living thing, as I have done.

    ISAIAH 66;2
    Has not my hand made all these things, and so they came into being?” declares the LORD. “These are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word.

    ROMANS 1;21
    For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.

    Jeremiah 2:5
    Thus says the LORD, “What injustice did your fathers find in Me, That they went far from Me And walked after emptiness and became empty?

    Ephesians 4:17
    So I tell you this, and testify to it in the Lord: You must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking

    ROMANS 12 ;2.. (NIV)
    2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will

    Jeremiah 17:9
    “The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it?

    Hebrews 4:12 (NIV)
    12 For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

    1 Timothy 5:21
    I solemnly charge you before God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels to maintain these principles without bias, and to do nothing out of partiality.

    Matthew 5:3
    “Blessed are the poor in the spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

    Matthew 5:4
    Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted

    1 Peter 1:13-21New King James Version (NKJV)
    Living Before God Our Father

    13 Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 14 as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; 15 but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.”[a]

    17 And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear; 18 knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. 20 He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you 21 who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

    AMEN , IN JESUS NAME

  • Trilemma

    I made a humorous play on words. There was no mockery.

  • benevolus

    Jesus neither prescribed nor proscribed cannabis. There is not a single scripture in the NT about it. He did allow, and himself, drink wine, as was allowed under the OT. So getting a buzz is not unscriptural, but too much runs against the injunction, “be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess, but be filled with the Spirit.” There are plenty of times when God allows us to get high (wedding feasts and Timothy’s aliments come to mind), but to rely on substances for happiness (being habitually drunk or stoned) is to attempt to solve a spiritual problem with chemicals, and to deny the Comfort of the Holy Spirit. To this end, for purely prophylactic reasons, I abstain from alcohol and do not buy cannabis. I do not want to become dependent on any substance for my feeling of well-being (although I am on medically prescribed mood-altering drugs for diagnosed conditions).

    I also think “sober and vigilant” is taken out of context. It means watchful waiting for the return of our Savior, not a command to be abstinent of all psychoactive substances.

    As for pot being stronger now, that’s true, even in plant form. What I find in people who use today, though, is that while they used to smoke a few joints in the 70s, now just one hit of the stronger pot is all they need.

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