With an attractive appearance, myrtle (also known as Myrtus communis) produces evergreen leaves and small white flowers that emerge in the middle of summer. Known for its pleasant scent and ornamental qualities, myrtle makes a handful of appearance in the Bible. In this article, you will learn more about the plant as it pertains to this religious text.
Under the right circumstances, the myrtle plant can reach impressive heights , up to 24 feet. Small, blackberry-like fruit that resemble a blueberry grow, and while they are edible, people rarely eat the berries. The entire plant offers pleasantly scented oil. Since it looks nice, the plant has become a popular ornamental shrub over the years.
The first time myrtle makes an initial appearance in the Bible in Nehemiah 8:15 as it pertains to the celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles. This reference is seen in the New Living Translation: “He had said that a proclamation should be made throughout their towns and in Jerusalem, telling the people to go to the hills to get branches from olive, wild olive, myrtle, palm, and other leafy trees. They were to use these branches to make shelters in which they would live during the festival, as prescribed in the Law.”
Other references of myrtle include:
Isaiah 41:19: “I will put the cedar in the wilderness, The acacia and the myrtle and the olive tree; I will place the juniper in the desert Together with the box tree and the cypress…”[New American Standard Bible]
Isaiah 55:13: “Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall make a name for the LORD, an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.” [English Standard Version]
Zechariah 1:8-11: The beauty and fragrance of myrtle is mentioned in Zechariah 1:8-11, where the experience of a man standing in a ravine among myrtle trees is described: “During the night I had a vision”and there before me was a man riding a red horse! He was standing among the myrtle trees in a ravine. Behind him were red, brown and white horses. I asked, “What are these, my lord?” The angel who was talking with me answered, “I will show you what they are.” Then the man standing among the myrtle trees explained, “They are the ones the Lord has sent to go throughout the earth.” And they reported to the angel of the Lord, who was standing among the myrtle trees, “We have gone throughout the earth and found the whole world at rest and in peace.”
Myrtle in Ancient Times
The ancient Greeks found many different uses for myrtle. The ancient Greek physician, Dioscorides praised the plant for its antiseptic properties, and suggested adding the macerated leaves of the plant to wine to create a treatment for bladder and lung infections. The plant was also associated with treating dysentery, diarrhea, menstrual cycle regulation, and skin ailments. Today, myrtle is still used in aromatherapy circles, as well as for natural healing.