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Calamus or Cannabis?
by Wayne Blank
The area in which I live in southern Ontario is well-known in this country for its tobacco farms. Although the industry has been in serious decline since the smoking-cancer link was proven, and society's attitude toward "second-hand smoke" has changed, there are still hundreds of producers in this area, from about where I live in Brant county, down to the shores of Lake Erie. The local tobacco industry is the reason that two of my closest neighbors were originally from the USA, from Virginia and Georgia. They came to work in the Ontario tobacco harvest (which begins here just as the harvest in the South is finishing), liked it here, remained, bought their own farms and became citizens - their children are Canadian born.
Before the tobacco industry began here on a large scale in the 1930s, another crop was competing for acreage, and may have become as big as the tobacco industry did, if that particular crop, hemp, also known as marijuana, hadn't been made illegal. Although many people are not aware of it, hemp has many perfectly-legitimate uses, primarily from the fiber of the plant that could be used to produce numerous products, from rope to paper, even clothing and canvas (like cotton is used - just as a point of interest, we had very few, if any, opossums in this area until about 30 years ago when a number of them, according to one theory, hitched a ride on a freight train full of cotton from the US South that was delivered to a local textile factory; now there are tens of thousands of fast-breeding possums around here, a few even come to eat the winter food that I put out for the stray cats) - but hemp was made illegal when a few highly-publicized fools began using it for "dope." Some believe that the Government in this country, and many other countries, over-reacted by killing a legitimate industry because of the actions of a then small number of "reefer madness" misfits - a failed response since, as is all too obvious in the world today, outlawing the production of cannabis for industrial usage obviously hasn't eliminated its use as "dope."
Calamus or Cannabis?
Occasionally, someone writes to tell me that they think that a study that I did about Calamus (shown in the illustration), or Sweet Cane, is a mistranslation, and that the "sweet calamus" of the Bible was actually cannabis i.e. marijuana. They claim that it was an ingredient in the Holy Anointing Oil, as specified by God in Exodus. Some even go so far as to suggest that Jesus Christ was a "user" of cannabis oil - and that He and those He anointed were "stoners" who got "high" from it. By no coincidence, almost all who make that outrageous claim are "dope heads" who smoke marijuana and want it legalized. Are they interpreting the Scriptures to justify their illegal drug use? It seems very obvious that they are. Jesus Christ was not a "dope head," and neither are any true Christians. Dope is for dopes.
But what about the translation itself? Was the original word calamus, or cannabis?
Proponents of the theory claim that in Exodus 30:23, "calamus" was actually "kineboisin" - which is a Hebrew word for cannabis, or marijuana. Even some (non-drug using?) Hebrew etymologists (language experts who study the origin of words) have suggested it.
So what does it say? And even if it was cannabis, rather than calamus (which I do not believe it was, even though, as already explained, cannabis also has many legitimate, non-dope uses), so what? I emphasize the translated word in question in bold type:
"Moreover The Lord spake unto Moses, saying, 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, And of cassia five hundred shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary, and of oil olive an hin: And thou shalt make it an oil of holy ointment, an ointment compound after the art of the apothecary: it shall be an holy anointing oil." (Exodus 30:22-25 KJV)
As plainly described, the Biblical reference to calamus is merely as one of the ingredients in the Holy Anointing Oil. It doesn't justify drug use, particularly in light of what else it has to say about how the oil was to be used, and who was permitted to use it.
"And thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel, saying, This shall be an holy anointing oil unto Me throughout your generations. Upon man's flesh shall it not be poured, neither shall ye make any other like it, after the composition of it: it is holy, and it shall be holy unto you. Whosoever compoundeth any like it, or whosoever putteth any of it upon a stranger, shall even be cut off from his people." (Exodus 30:31-33 KJV)
As plainly stated above, the Holy Anointing Oil was to be used only for anointing articles of the Tabernacle and the priests. It was not to be used for anything, or anyone, else - anyone who did was cut off from Israel, and God. The "dope" proponents carefully leave that part out of their "proof" because what they are pushing is a self-serving delusion. It destroys their argument.
What else does the Word of God say about getting "drunk," which literally means "stupefied (i.e. made stupid) by a chemical substance," whether from dope, or from excessive alcohol consumption? Is it "holy to get high"?
"Who hath woe? who hath sorrow? who hath contentions? who hath babbling? who hath wounds without cause? who hath redness of eyes? They that tarry long at the wine; they that go to seek mixed wine. Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright. At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder." (Proverbs 23:29-32 KJV)
Fact Finder: Does the Word of God plainly warn that "drunkards" are among those who will not be in the Kingdom of God?