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Plants in the Bible: Aloe & Capers

By Yona Williams    7/25/11

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Today, aloe is respected as one of the most effective natural healing remedies in the world. It has been around for centuries – playing an important role in medicinal circles. In this article, you will learn how the aloe plant has played a role in religious history, as well as the mention of the caper in the Bible.


As for the Bible, there are a variety of references to the aloe plant, such as Psalm 45:8 ("All your robes are fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia; from palaces adorned with ivory the music of the strings makes you glad." [New International Version]) and Proverbs 7:17 ("I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon." [English Standard Version]).  

In the description of ancient burial practices, John 19 illustrates a final act of devotion when two men request the battered body of Jesus and make preparations for burial. A plant called aloe is mentioned in the text. This reference is different than the plant referred to in Psalm 45:8 and other parts of the Old Testament. The aloe of the New Testament is Aloe barbadense – a plant that is no longer in existence.

The passage from John 19 in the New International Version reads: "Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jews. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there."


The caper (also known as Capparis spinosa) is one of the most common shrubs found during Biblical times. It is a curious plant as it loses its leaves during rainy seasons, but keeps them when the weather is dry. Caper flowers are large and eye-catching. They produce a fruit that resembles a berry. In commercial products, it is the immature flower bud that is used. Some people believe the plant can be used as an aphrodisiac.

A mention of capers in the Bible is found in Ecclesiastes 12:5 – "Remember him before you become fearful of falling and worry about danger in the streets; before your hair turns white like an almond tree in bloom, and you drag along without energy like a dying grasshopper, and the caperberry no longer inspires sexual desire. Remember him before you near the grave, your everlasting home, when the mourners will weep at your funeral." [New Living Translation]

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