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C. CREIGHTON, M.D. (1847 – 1927)

Evidence of the Hachish Vice in the Old Testament

Dr. Charles Creighton (1847-1927)

First published in Janus: Archives Internationales pour l'Histoire de la Medecine et la Geographie Medicale, Amsterdam, 1903.

Hachish, which is the disreputable intoxicant drug of the East, as opium is the respectable narcotic, is of unknown antiquity. It is known that the fibre of the hemp-plant, Cannabis sativa, was used for cordage in ancient times; and it is therefore probable that the resinous exudation, “honey” or “dew,” which is found upon its flowering tops on some soils, or in certain climates (Cannabis Indica), was known for its stimulant or intoxicant properties from an equally early date.

The use of the resin as an intoxicant can be proved from Arabic writings as early as the 6th or 7th centuries of our era (De Sacy, Chrestomathie Arabe) and we may assume it to have been traditional among the Semites from remote antiquity. There are reasons, in the nature of the case, why there should be no clear history. All vices are veiled from view; they are sub rosa; and that is true especially of the vices of the East. Where they are alluded to at all, it is in cryptic, subtle, witty and allegorical terms. Therefore, if we are to discover them, we must be prepared to look below the surface of the text.

In the Old Testament there are some half-dozen passages where a cryptic reference to hachish may be discovered. Of these I shall select two to begin with, as being the least ambiguous, leaving the rest for a few remarks at the end. The two which I shall choose are both made easy by the use of a significant word in the Hebrew text. But that word, which is the key to the meaning, has been knowingly mistranslated in the Vulgate and in the modern versions, having been rendered by a variant also by the Septuagint in one of the passages, and confessed as unintelligible in the other by the use of a marginal Hebrew word in Greek letters. One must therefore become philologist for the nonce; and I must apologise for trespassing beyond my proper sphere. My apology is, that if one knows the subject-matter, a little philology may go a long way. On the other hand, the Biblical scholars themselves cannot always be purely objective; they cannot avoid having some theory in the background of the exegesis; and the theory may be a caprice, where there is no insight into a subject which involves medical considerations.

The first passage which I shall take is Canticles  (Song of Solomon) 5:1: “I am come into my garden, my sister, my spouse; I have gathered my myrrh with my spice: I have eaten my honeycomb with my honey; I have drunk my wine with my milk.” In the Hebrew text, the phrase in italics reads: “I have eaten my wood (yagar1) with my honey (debash2).” St. Jerome, in the Vulgate, translated the Hebrew word meaning “wood” by favum, or honey-comb — comedi favum cum melle meo — which is not only a bold licence, but a platitude to boot, inasmuch as there is neither wit nor point in making one to eat the honeycomb with the honey. The Septuagint adopted a similar licence, but avoided the platitude, by translating thus: “I have eaten my bread with my honey.” And this is the reading that Renan has followed in his French dramatic version of Canticles (the first verse of the fifth chapter being transferred to the end of the fourth chapter). Where “honeycomb,” favus, is plainly meant by context, the Hebrew word is either tzooph3, as in Ps. 19:10 and Prov. 16:24 (where the droppings of honey from the comb are meant), or it is noh-pheth4, as in a passage of Canticles, 4:11, close to the one in question. (“Thy lips, O my spouse, drop as the honeycomb; honey and milk are under thy tongue.”) Again, the Hebrew word yagar, which the Vulgate translated favum for the occasion, is used in some fifty or sixty other places of the Old Testament, always in the sense of wood, forest, planted field, herbage, or the like. The meaning of Cant. 5:1 is clear enough in its aphrodisiac context: “I have eaten my hemp with my honey” — comedi cannabim cum confectione mellis, which is the elegant way of taking hachish in the East to this day. And this meaning of yagar (wood) in association with debash (honey) is made clear by the other passage with which I am to deal, namely I Samuel 14:27, the incident of Jonathan dipping the point of his staff into a “honey-wood,” and merely tasting the honey, so that his eyes were enlightened. The one is the aphrodisiac effect of hachish, the other is its bellicose or furious effect.

The correct exegesis of I Sam. 14: 25-45 is of great importance, not only for understanding Jonathan’s breach of a certain taboo, but also for the whole career of his father Saul, ending in his deposition from the kingship through the firm action of Samuel, and the pitiable collapse of his courage on the eve of the battle of Gilboa. The theory is that both Saul and Jonathan were hachish-eaters; it was a secret vice of the palace, while it was strictly forbidden to the people; Saul had learned it of the Amalekites; it was that, and not his disobedience in saving captives and cattle alive, which was his real transgression, and the real ground of his deposition from the kingship at the instance of the far-seeing prophet. No true statesman would have taken action on account of a merely technical sin of disobedience; the disobedience was real and vital; but the substance of it had to be veiled behind a convenient fiction. One great object of Jewish particularism was to save Israel from the vices that destroyed the nations around; and Samuel appears in that respect the first and the greatest of the prophets, the prototype censor morum.

The incident related in I Samuel 14 arose during a raid upon the Philistines, in which the Jewish leader, Jonathan, distinguished himself by the number of the enemy whom he slew, but at the same time broke a certain law or taboo, for which he was afterwards put upon his trial and condemned to death. The incident, previous to the slaughter, is thus described: “And all [they of] the land came to a wood, and there was honey on the ground. And when the people were come into the wood, behold the honey dropped; but no man put his hand to his mouth: for the people feared the oath. But Jonathan heard not when his father charged the people with the oath; wherefore he put forth the end of the rod that was in his hand and dipped it in an honey-comb (Heb. yagarah hadebash), and put his hand to his mouth; and his eyes were enlightened.” The exegesis of this passage has been started in an entirely false direction by the bold licence of the Vulgate in translating the two Hebrew words meaning “honey” and “wood” by favum, honey-comb. The earlier sentences, however obscure, show that the “honey” was of a peculiar kind, there being no suggestion of combs or bees. The Syriac version gives the most intelligible account of it, as follows, latine: “Et sylvas ingressi essent, essetque mel in sylva super faciem agri, flueretque mel” — expressing not inaptly a field of hemp with the resinous exudation upon the flower-stalks, which would flow or run by the heat. In The Bengal Dispensatory, by W. B. O’Shaughnessy, M.D. (London, 1842), there is the following illustrative passage (p. 582): “In Central India and the Saugor territory, and in Nipal, churrus is collected during the hot season in the following singular manner: Men clad in leathern dresses run through the hemp-fields brushing through the plants with all possible violence. The soft resin adheres to the leather, and is subsequently scraped off and kneaded into balls…. A still finer kind, the moomeea, or waxen churrus, is collected by the hand in Nipal, and sells for double the price of the ordinary kind. In Nipal, Dr. McKinnon informs us, the leathern attire is dispensed with, and the resin is gathered on the skins of naked coolies.” Jonathan’s mode of collecting was of the simplest: he dipped the end of a rod into a “honey-wood,” and carried it to his mouth; a mere taste of it caused his eyes to be enlightened. The whole incident is obviously dramatised, or made picturesque — the growing field of hemp, the men passing through it, Jonathan dipping the end of a rod or staff into the resin upon a stalk as he passed by. The real meaning is that Jonathan was a hachish-eater.

It is remarkable that the Septuagint translators had no suspicion of this cryptic meaning. Their Greek version is the most confused of any; but it appears that they were aware of something obscure, and that they made an honest attempt to give a meaning to the Hebrew pair of words “honey wood,” translating the word for “honey” by itself, and again, by itself, the word for “wood” in the Hebrew text (v. 25, 26), by bee-house. The Greek of the Septuagint is obviously a transliteration into Greek of a Hebrew word. Wellhausen, in his earliest work, Der Text der Buchen Samuelis (Gott. 1871, p. 91), has given an explanation, which I should not have recalled had it not been pronounced to be “remarkably clever” by Driver (Notes on the Hebrew Text of the Books of Samuel, Oxford, 1890). Wellhausen says:


δρυμὸς und μελισσῶνος ist Duplette, beides dem hebraischen yagar entsprechend. Demselben Worte aber entspricht nach v. 26 auch μελισσῶνα. Also haben wir hier ein Triplette.


I speak with deference; but I do not understand how δρυμὸς (Hebrew) can be a doublet of μελισσῶνος, still less how μελισσῶνα can be a doublet of either or both. δρυμὸς as a Hebrew word written in Greek characters appears to be exactly the part of a verb meaning “we have done foolishly,” or “they are foolish,” which would have been used as a marginal remark (although now incorporated in the text) to signify that the passage was unintelligible or corrupt. How it can stand for yagar, meaning “wood,” is probably clear to Hebraists; at all events, that is assumed in Wellhausen’s theory of a doublet, the sense being “there was honeycomb on the ground.” The idea is that of “honey” in some association with “wood,” which the Septuagint took to the bee-house. The natural association of “honey” with “wood” is “vegetable honey” or plant-honey; and it is clear from the powerful effect of a minute quantity of it, and from the kinds of effect (aphrodisiac and bellicose), that the honey-wood was the hemp-plant with the resinous exudation.

The effects, in the case of Jonathan, are unmistakable. A mere taste of the honey on the end of the rod caused his eyes to be enlightened. His defence, when put on his trial for breaking the taboo, was the smallness of the quantity he ate; a plea which reminds one of the famous apology of the young woman for her love-child, that “it was such a little one.” There is an old explanation of this enlightenment, discussed by F. T. Withof, “De Jonathane post esum mellis visum recipiente” (Opusc. philolog. Lingae, 1778, pp. 135–139). It turns upon the Talmudic saying, Oculi tui prae jejunio obscuranti sunt; and upon another passage in the same, where food is to be administered to one, “donec illuminentur oculi ejus.” Some colour is given to this idea of the illuminating effect of food for the hungry, by the context, I Sam. 14: 24–28, namely the formal words of the taboo, “Cursed be the man that eatheth food until the evening,” and the remark, that “the people were faint,” as if by abstinence from food. But the minute quantity tasted by Jonathan shows that all these references to “food” are merely cryptic or allegorical. Also the effect upon Jonathan was, that he ran amok amongst the Philistines; and it is implied not vaguely that, if his followers had also partaken of the same food, “there had been now a much greater slaughter among the Philistines.” Jonathan’s exceptional prowess upon the occasion was also the ground of his being rescued by the admiring populace from the death to which he had been condemned by his father for breaking the taboo.

The evidence that Saul himself was a hachish-eater is not so direct as in the case of Jonathan. There is not a hint of it until after the incident of the forbidden honey in the attack upon the Philistines; but, in the inquiry upon that breach of law, it is significant that Saul and Jonathan are ranged together upon one side of the trial by lot, and the people on the other, the second ballot being between Saul and Jonathan. The next chapter introduces the very old theme of revenge upon Amelek for treachery many generations before; Saul goes upon the expedition, brings back Agag with him, and disobeys the prophet’s orders in other respects. From that disobedience his ruin dates. Samuel had a most unaccountable animosity to Agag, so that he hewed him in pieces with his own hands. The presumption is that he had corrupted Saul by the evil example of his Amalekite ways. Next, we have the appearance of David upon the scene, in the capacity of a harper, to soothe Saul’s fits of fury and melancholy, when he was under the influence of the evil spirit. Dr. J. Moreau (de Tours) in his valuable work Du Hachish et de l’Alienation Mentale (Paris, 1845), has shown that music has no effect upon the ordinary run of melancholics (pp. 84–85); the idea that it might be useful in lunatic asylums comes from the misunderstood example of David playing before Saul. But this idea, says Dr. Moreau, “belongs to the domain of comic opera”; not only so, “mais nous avons maudit souvent la harpe de David et l’hypochondrie de Saul, qui ont manifestement produit toutes les billevesees.” The only kind of mental alienation that is influenced by music, as Dr. Moreau shows farther, is that due to the intoxication of hachish — “la puissante influence qu’exerce la musique sur ceux qui ont pris du hachish... La musique la plus grossiere, les simples vibrations des cordes d’une harpe ou d’une guitare vous exaltent jusqu’ au delire ou vous plongent dans une douce melancholie.” And yet Dr. Moreau does not suggest that Saul’s susceptibility to the music of David’s harp was owing to the fact that his “evil spirit” was hachish. The inference seems too obvious to have been missed, after he had distinguished between ordinary melancholia and hachish-intoxication in regard to the effects of music; and yet I do not find any such diagnosis of Saul’s malady in any part of his book. That diagnosis is not only consistent with several things told of his malady, but is also elucidative of his ruined career. The sudden throwing of his javelin at David as he played before him is as graphic an illustration as could be given of the ungovernable fits of temper which hachish produces. Also the extraordinary exhibition that Saul makes of himself in the end of chapter 19 is best understood as a fit of drunkenness. But the most significant, as well as the most pathetic, of all, is the failure of his courage on the night before the battle of Gilboa. Here we see the stalwart hero of the people with his nerves shattered by intoxicants now no longer able to stimulate him: “And when Saul saw the host of the Philistines he was afraid, and his heart greatly trembled.” Those who are acquainted with Robert Browning’s poem “Saul” will see how well the hypothesis of hachish fits in with the poet’s conception of a heroic life wrecked by some mysterious “error.” That he and Jonathan should have been practicing in secret that which was taboo to the people at large, is exactly parallel with Saul’s secret dealings in witchcraft, against which there was a public law. It is also of the same kind as the evils against which Samuel is reported to have cautioned the people when they demanded kingly rule — namely the autocratic self-indulgences of the palace. In his last desperate strait, Saul gets the witch to summon the spirit of Samuel, his old monitor; but Samuel is unable to help him; “Because thou obeyedst not the voice of the Lord, nor executedst his fierce wrath upon Amalek, therefore hath the Lord done this thing unto thee this day.” It is always Amalek; and Amalek was just that tribe of Arabs, of the southern desert, who were engaged in the carrying trade between the Arabian gulf and Lower Egypt or the Mediterraneae — the trade in gold, and spices, and drugs: probably the same Arabs among whom the name of hachashin was found in the medieval period, and from whom the latinised name of assassini was brought to Europe by returning Crusaders. (Silvestre de Sacy, l.c.)

In the two instances already given, the hemp-plant is pointed to somewhat plainly by the use of the Hebrew word for “wood” in association with the notion of “honey,” the translators having evaded the point in both cases: in the one by rendering the single word, yagar, by favus, honeycomb; in the other by rendering the remarkable and unique compound name, yagarah hadebash, also by favus. In those instances, the hypothesis of hachish rests upon the sure basis of a phrase in the original text which is otherwise unintelligible. But in the remaining instances there is no such support for the hypothesis; there is only a degree of probability, which must take its chance with rival interpretations. The probability, in the case of Samson’s riddle, arises from the cryptic association of “sweet” with “strong,” of honey with a lion; in the case of Daniel’s apologue of Nebuchadnezzar’s fall, it arises from the eating of “grass,” the Semitic word having both a generic and a colloquial meaning (hachish), as well as from the introduction of the subjective perceptions of hachish intoxication as gigantic or grotesque objects.


Samson’s riddle. According to old and new criticism, by Budde and others, there is a glaring contradiction between the real or original Samson, the boisterous village hero of whom many stories were told, and the religious Samson, the judge of Israel, who was dedicated to God as a Nazarite “from the womb to the day of his death.” It is admitted, however, that there is a peculiar unity in the text of the story as it has come down to us in the Book of Judges, notwithstanding the apparent incongruity of making Samson a Nazarite. The Nazarites are mentioned as early as the prophecies of Amos, having been allowed to drink wine in the laxity of morals then prevailing. Samson is not only the earliest Nazarite known, but he is a Nazarite indeed, inasmuch as his vow was not terminable after a certain period, as in the ritual of the Book of Numbers, but was imposed upon him from the womb to the day of his death. In that respect he has no compeer until John the Baptist. At the same time, he is the typical village hero, adored for his strength, boldness, cunning, and wit, and gratified by numerous amours. Budde remarks that many must have known a modern counterpart in village life. Two instances in literature occur to one as containing the elements of a modern Samson legend — the Oetzthal hero in Madame von Hillern’s Geier Wally, and the hero or jigit of the village on the Terek in Tolstoy’s early work, The Cossacks. Budde, who would eliminate altogether the Nazarite vow from the real Samson legend, is surprised that the hero does not eat and drink to excess: “Excess, or at least enormous capacity, in eating and in drinking strong liquors, is amongst the things that may almost be taken for granted. It is strange enough that this trait is not strikingly displayed in Samson. Who knows, whether from the store of legends that circulated regarding him, there may not have dropped out this or that portion dealing with the subject in question?” (See the article “Samson” in Hasting’s Dictionary of the Bible, Edin. 1902.) Josephus appears to have entertained a similar suspicion; for, in his paraphrase of Delilah’s attempts to bind Samson, he makes one of the attempts to be made upon him when he was drunk with wine. But it is impossible to take out the Nazarite vow from the story as we find it; that thread is woven inextricably into the tapestry; and it may be assumed that Samson’s unshorn head was meant to symoblise his constancy to the vow — or, at all events, to the letter of it. My view (which I submit with deference to the professed Biblical critics) is that the method of the literary artist who composed the existing story is consistently ironical and witty. Anyone who has had his attention directed to the point will have found that the instances of Biblical wit are more numerous than might be supposed from the solemnity of commentators. Why should not this ancient literature have had its sallies of wit and humour as well as another? The Hebrew grammars remark that the humorous figure of paronomasia, or pun, is more indigenous to the Semitic than to any other languages.

Samson’s riddle, on the surface, was a mild pleasantry, hardly worth investing with the dignity of enigma; it has even been questioned, whether it was a fair problem, considering that it was based upon one particular if not unique incident known to himself. He killed a young lion, and threw the carcase into a wood; in passing that way some time after, he turned aside to look at it, and found that a swarm of bees had built their combs inside the ribs. (This is the natural reading, which is adopted by Josephus in his paraphrase.) He ate some of the honey, and gave some of it to his father and mother; but, for some deep reason, he abstained from telling his parents that the honey had been taken from inside the skeleton of a lion. At his wedding feast some time after, he propounded a certain riddle to the thirty young men of Timnath, who were the wedding guests, and laid a wager that they would not guess the answer within a week. Being still at fault on the seventh day, they went to Samson’s wife, and induced her to coax the answer from her husband. Samson answered: “Be­hold, I have not told my father and my mother, and shall I tell thee?” However, he told her the incident of the lion and the bees, and she told the young men of the village, who came to Samson with this confident and jubilant solution, “What is sweeter than honey? What is stronger than a lion?” Samson answered oracularly, “If ye had not plowed with my heifer, ye had not found out my riddle.” This answer appears to have been given ironically, with his tongue in his cheek, the reservation being that their ploughing (with a heifer) had been but shallow, that they had not got to the bottom of the matter at all. He may be assumed to have been still in his ironical mood when he proceeded to pay the forfeit, by killing thirty other Philistines of Ashkelon and stripping them of their shirts to give to the thirty Philistines of Timnath.

Leaving these evidences of ironical behaviour, let us turn to the famous riddle itself. Is it possible that it can have any deeper meaning than the incident of the bees’ nest in the lion’s carcase?

What I suspect in Samson’s riddle is an ambiguity in the terms in which it was stated. To those who heard it, it might mean either what it means as printed in the text, or it might mean something else as an equivoque. Of course, no single text can reproduce an equivocal effect of spoken words, depending upon paronomasia. There is a good example in Hamlet, III. 2. 262: Ophelia: “Still better and worse.” Hamlet: “So you must take your husband.” This is the reading of the first quarto; but it is clear that “must take” is to be pronounced ambiguously, from the fact that the second quarto prints it: “So you mistake your husbands,” which is necessary to the innuendo, and is in the folio and in most later texts, although “must take” is the natural ductus idearum from the previous reference to the Marriage Service. The equivoque in Samson’s riddle is of the same kind. It may mean what the text makes it to mean, or it may mean exactly the converse, without changing the order and works; thus:


An eater came forth out of meat,
Strength came forth out of sweetness


namely, Samson’s strength from hachish. To understand how the spoken Hebrew words might be heard to bear either sense, according as they were apprehended by the ear, one must observe that the preposition “out of,” which governs the meaning by being placed in front of one or other of the two nouns, is the sound m’ (contraction of min), and that the same sound happens to begin the other nouns also:  

m’ ahachal
Out of the eater

came forth


m’ gaz
out of the strong

came forth



There appears to be no way of prefixing the prepositional m’ to the last noun of each line except by reduplicating the m which is already there, as if by stammering over it — m’ maachal, m’ mathok, which might be merely a slight stammer, or might mean respectively, “out of meat,” and “out of sweetness.” Again, to get rid of the preposition from before the first word of the first line, one must read (as the Septuagint had actually done) mah achal, the first syllable being a distinct word, the interrogative pronoun, quid, which would be used to introduce the riddle as a query: “What is this?” To get rid of the preposition from before the first word in the second line, one has to substitute for gaz, which is the adjective “strong,” its abstract noun magohz = “strength,” a substitution which is recommended as balancing mathok = “sweet­ness,” in abstract form. The concealed reading would then be:  


What is this?

An eater

came forth

m’ maachal
out of meat,


came forth

m’ mathok
out of sweetness.


Thus, to the ear, the riddle may really contain that deeper problem which ought to be in it if it is to stand for the riddle or secret of Samson’s own strength. The superficial meaning, which Samson’s wife jumped at and conveyed to the young Philistines of Timnath, is that food (honey) came forth out of the eater (the lion), sweetness out of the strong one. The deep meaning is just the converse — that the eater “came forth out of” meat, strength out of sweetness. Thus we arrive at some kind of “food” (not drink) which made one an eater, or a devourer, like a lion; a sweet food from which came strength. It is pointed out that the antithesis of the second line, between “sweet” and “strong,” is not a good one; and the Syriac version has gone so far as to change “strong” into “bitter” for the sake of the antithesis to “sweet.” But the author certainly wanted to introduce the idea of strength, even if it were no full antithesis to sweetness; and his reason, doubtless, was that he was thinking of Samson himself, and of the secret of his strength, which was a cryptic “sweetness.” From various points of view, we arrive at the conclusion, that the honey from the carcase of a lion was not the honey of bees, but an allegory of that strong kind of honey which caused Jonathan’s eyes to be enlightened; namely the resin of the hemp-plant. It was “sweeter than honey, stronger than a lion,” as the men of Timnath are the unconscious means of suggesting, by the mood and figure of the answer.

We are now able to follow the ironical purpose of the author in its entirety, in making Samson a Nazarite and yet a boisterous, free-living village hero of the most admired type. The stimulant which the hero used, was not drink, it was food; thus it was outside the purview of the Nazarite vow, which specified many things, but did not specify hachish: “wine and strong drink, vinegar of wine and vinegar of strong drink, liquor of grapes, grapes moist or dried, everything that is made of the vine from the kernels even to the husk.” Samson could be made to pose cleverly as a Nazarite, and yet have his fling all the same. Budde’s desideratum of strong drink, to complete the equipment of Samson as a village hero, is supplied by a subterfuge. It appears that the Jewish sense of humour ran strongly in that direction.

The story of Samson is not far removed in time, or in manner of telling, from that of Saul and Jonathan; so that, if I am right in my interpretation of the nature of the taboo which Jonathan broke, the period at the end of Judges and the beginning of the Kings was one in which the hachish-question had become actual. Thus it becomes probable that the strength of Samson had the same source in stimulants as the prowess of Jonathan upon a particular occasion. It is also remarkable that Samson’s “strength” collapses, just as Saul’s courage fails him; and that the failure in both cases is described by the same phrase: in the case of Samson the words are, “the Lord had departed from him”; in the case of Saul the narrative reads, “God is departed from me, and answereth me no more, neither by prophets nor by dreams.” The material sense of both I take to be that the stimulant had lost its power over them, it being a property of hachish to produce hebetude in those who have used it habitually over a long time. Samson’s recovery of his strength is, of course, for the sake of dramatic catastrophe.


The apologue of “Nebuchadnezzar” in Daniel. The beginning of these inquiries upon indications of hachish in the Bible was a suggestion made to me by the late R. A. Neil, of Cambridge, that the “grass” which Nebuchadnezzar was given to eat may have been “grass” in the colloquial Arabic sense of hachish, the word by which Indian hemp is now so commonly known being the same as the ordinary Arabic word for grass or green herbage in general (hachach). In seeking to follow up this idea one finds much to corroborate it in the details of the story of “morality” which is told of Nebuchadnezzar. The story begins with an account of dreams and visions of the night, in which the central object, the tree reaching to heaven and spreading to the ends of the earth, is highly characteristic of the elusive and infinite dimensions in the subjective perceptions of hachish intoxication (Com­pare Bayard Taylor, The Lands of the Saracens; the pyramid of Gizen came before him, with its sides resting against the vault of the sky).

Daniel, being asked to interpret the dream, declares that the tree is the mighty Nebuchadnezzar himself, and the fate of the felled tree his fate: “They shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field, and they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and they shall wet thee with the dew of heaven.” This fate, it appears, was on account of his sins and iniquities. But, as the root of the tree was to be left in the earth, so there was a power of recovery in the degraded prince, and he was to return to his kingdom after seven years. It happened as Daniel had said: “Nebuchadnezzar was driven from men, and did eat grass as oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, till his hairs were grown like eagles’ feathers, and his nails like birds’ claws. And at the end of the days, I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted up mine eyes unto heaven, and mine understanding returned unto me.” One might provide much amusement by recalling some of the many literal attempts, ancient and modern, to explain the nature of Nebuchadnezzar’s debasement. The double sense of the word “grass,” which may be assumed to have existed in the ancient Semitic languages or dialects as in modern Arabic, is a key to the whole enigma. There appears to be a cryptic reference to hachish not only in the recurring phrase “They shall give thee grass to eat, as oxen,” but also in the significant introduction of “dew” with equal reiteration, “they shall wet thee with the dew of heaven.” The allegory is easily extended to, “let a beast’s heart be given unto him,” “let his portion be with the beasts of the field,” and, “his body was wet with the dew of heaven.” But the most significant detail of all is that which follows the last quoted phrase: “until his hairs were grown like eagles’ feathers, and his nails like birds’ claws.” This is again the grotesque exaggeration and metamorphosis of one’s own features, etc., caused by the hachish subjectivity, which is unlike anything else in morbid imaginings. There have been real instances among Oriental rulers of hachish degradation such as “Nebuchadnezzar’s”; an example was rumoured when Upper Burma was occupied by the British some five-and-twenty years ago. The apologue of Daniel, told of one under a great historical name, is meant to be general, and has had a sufficiently wide application, doubtless, in ancient times as well as in modern.

Lastly, and still in the same Chaldaean atmosphere, we find in the first chapter of Ezekiel a phantasmagoria of composite creatures, of wheels, and of brilliant play of colours, which is strongly suggestive of the subjective visual perceptions of hachish, and is unintelligible from any other point of view, human or divine. This is the chapter of Ezekiel that gave so much trouble to the ancient canonists, and is said to have made them hesitate about including the book. Ezekiel was included in the Canon, but with the instruction that no one in the Synagogue was to attempt to comment upon Chapter I, or, according to another version, that the opening chapter was not to be read by or to persons under a certain age. The subjective sensations stimulated by hachish are those of sight and hearing. It would be easy to quote examples of fantastic composite form, and of wondrous colours, which have been seen by experimenters. I must content myself with the generality of Theophile Gautier (cited by Moreau, l.c., from Feuilleton in La Presse), that, if he were to write down all that he saw, he should be writing the Apocalypse over again (recommencer l’Apocalypse). If this contains an innuendo against the Apocalypse of John, I do not agree with it, inasmuch as I believe that no part of Scripture is more rational in its method, or more calmly inspired in its motives. But, as regards the apocalypse introductory to the prophecies of Ezekiel, one need not hesitate to assign it to the source indicated by the witty Frenchman.


1. Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance Hebrew index #3293
2. Strong’s #1706
3. Strong’s #6688
4. Strong’s #5317 

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