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Cannabis and the Bible

[Note: For medical patients, the latest medical research indicates that oral consumption (eating) small amounts has at least twice as many health benefits as vaporizing, as the medical compounds are beneficially-transformed in the liver. Therefore, for all medical patients, Nazarene Israel recommends oral consumption (eating) of the smallest effective dose of raw medical cannabis over vaporizing, in keeping with the laws of the governments where they live.]

This article presents what many might find to be surprising new information, so please take a moment to pray for His truth. Our goal is not to advocate anything, but only to explain what Scripture says, for we are to know the truth.

Many believers are taught that cannabis (or marijuana) is prohibited as a drug, based on Revelation 21:8, which tells us that sorcerers will not inherit the kingdom of heaven.

Hitgalut (Revelation) 21:7-8
7 He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his Elohim and he shall be My son.
8 But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”

When we look up the word sorcerers in the Greek we get Strong’s NT:5332, pharmakeus (φαρμακευ’ς).

NT:5332 pharmakeus (far-mak-yoos’); from pharmakon (a drug, i.e. spell-giving potion); a druggist (“pharmacist”) or poisoner, i.e. (by extension) a magician:
KJV – sorcerer.

The sorcerer of Revelation 21:8, then, is a pharmakeus. A pharmakeus is a druggist, or a “poisoner.” The poisons of a pharmakeius would be pharmakeia.

NT:5331 pharmakeia (far-mak-i’-ah); from NT:5332; medication (“pharmacy”), i.e. (by extension) magic (literally or figuratively):
KJV – sorcery, witchcraft.

Man-made chemical pharmaceuticals, then, are what constitute as the drug sorcery of Revelation 21:8. Examples of this kind of drug sorcery might be chemical medicines for depression, high blood pressure, diabetes and more, which suppress or mask the symptoms, but do not address the underlying source of disease.

In contrast to man-made chemicals, what Scripture tells us is that all plants Yahweh made, whose seed is within itself, is good (if it is used lawfully).

B’reisheet (Genesis) 1:29
29 And Elohim said, “See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food.”

The root of the Hebrew word for food is akal (אכל). This word refers to any kind of food that a human being might eat, consume, or otherwise burn up.

OT:398 ‘akal (aw-kal’); a primitive root; to eat (literally or figuratively):
KJV – at all, burn up, consume, devour (-er, up), dine, eat (-er, up), feed (with), food, freely, in … wise (-deed, plenty), (lay) meat, quite.

If we can accept that Genesis 1:29 means what it says, and that every herb that yields seed is good to consume (if done lawfully), then let us take a look at the spices in the priestly anointing oil, which was to be used to anoint the tabernacle, its utensils, and the priests.

Shemote (Exodus) 30:22-33
22 Moreover Yahweh spoke to Moshe, saying:
23 “Also take for yourself quality spices — five hundred shekels of liquid myrrh, half as much sweet-smelling cinnamon (two hundred and fifty shekels), two hundred and fifty shekels of sweet-smelling cane (קְנֵה בֹשֶׂם),
24 five hundred shekels of cassia, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, and a hin of olive oil.
25 And you shall make from these a set apart anointing oil, an ointment compounded according to the art of the perfumer. It shall be a set apart anointing oil.
26 With it you shall anoint the tabernacle of meeting and the ark of the Testimony;
27 the table and all its utensils, the lampstand and its utensils, and the altar of incense;
28 the altar of burnt offering with all its utensils, and the laver and its base.
29 You shall consecrate them, that they may be most set apart; whatever touches them must be set apart.
30 And you shall anoint Aharon and his sons, and consecrate them, that they may minister to Me as priests.
31 “And you shall speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘This shall be a set apart anointing oil to Me throughout your generations.
32 It shall not be poured on man’s flesh; nor shall you make any other like it, according to its composition. It is set apart, and it shall be set apart to you.
33 Whoever compounds any like it, or whoever puts any of it on an outsider, shall be cut off from his people.'”

In verse 23, the Hebrew for sweet cane or fragrant cane is kaneh bosem (קְנֵה בֹשֶׂם) Kaneh means cane, while bosem means fragrant.

OT:1314 besem (beh’-sem); or bosem (bo’-sem); from the same as OT:1313; fragrance; by implication, spicery; also the balsam plant:
KJV – smell, spice, sweet (odour).

When we look up the root at Strong’s OT:1313, it also refers to being fragrant.

OT:1313 basam (baw-sawm’); from an unused root meaning to be fragrant; [compare OT:5561] the balsam plant:

That is an accurate description of cannabis, as the buds are very pungent. Further, kaneh bosem is a linguistic match for cannabis, and the Encyclopedia Judaica agrees this is what it means. Some Jewish sources also point out that the rest of the ingredients of the oil are considered psychoactive (especially myrrh and cassia, which are considered very psychoactive). This gives us a very different picture of the priestly anointing oil.

Some say kaneh bosem is not cannabis, but calamus—yet calamus is also highly psychoactive. Calamus induces visual hallucinations, sometimes accompanied by vomiting–so it seems unlikely to be calamus, but even if we replace cannabis with calamus, the priestly anointing oil would still be highly psychoactive. If this is surprising, then what shall we say about these things?

We should never make this specific formula for use outside of a cleansed temple, on pain of death. However, that is not to say that the people are not to use of these spices, as Ezekiel 27 tells us both Judah and Israel (Ephraim) commonly traded wine, cassia, and cane (קָנֶה)—and if these things were traded, then they were consumed.

Yehezqel (Ezekiel) 27:17-19
17 Judah and the land of Israel were your traders. They traded for your merchandise wheat of Minnith, millet, honey, oil, and balm.
18 Damascus was your merchant because of the abundance of goods you made, because of your many luxury items, with the wine of Helbon and with white wool.
19 Dan and Javan paid for your wares, traversing back and forth. Wrought iron, cassia, and cane (קָנֶה) were among your merchandise.

If we are willing to receive it, in Isaiah Yahweh criticizes Judah and Israel, saying that even though He gave them abundance, they did not bring Him gifts of “good cane” (קָנֶה הַטּוֹב).

Yeshayahu (Isaiah) 43:22-24
22 “But you have not called upon Me, O Jacob; And you have been weary of Me, O Israel.
23 You have not brought Me the sheep for your burnt offerings, Nor have you honored Me with your sacrifices. I have not caused you to serve with grain offerings, Nor wearied you with incense.
24 You have bought Me no good cane (קָנֶה הַטּוֹב) with money, Nor have you satisfied Me with the fat of your sacrifices; But you have burdened Me with your sins, You have wearied Me with your iniquities.”

Yet in complete contrast to the psychoactive ingredients in the anointing oil, Yahweh is very clear that the sons of Aharon are not to drink on duty, lest they die.

Vayiqra (Leviticus) 10:8-9
8 Then Yahweh spoke to Aharon, saying:
9 “Do not drink wine or intoxicating drink, you, nor your sons with you, when you go into the tabernacle of meeting, lest you die. It shall be a statute forever throughout your generations….”

Let us also consider the voluntary Nazirite vow, in which the volunteer vows not to consume grapes or grape products, from seed to skin, for a certain length of time.

Bemidbar (Numbers) 6:2-4
2 “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When either a man or woman consecrates an offering to take the vow of a Nazirite, to separate himself to Yahweh,
3 he shall separate himself from wine and similar drink; he shall drink neither vinegar made from wine nor vinegar made from similar drink; neither shall he drink any grape juice, nor eat fresh grapes or raisins.
4 All the days of his separation he shall eat nothing that is produced by the grapevine, from seed to skin.”

If we take this altogether, on one hand we have the command to put cannabis and other highly psychoactive substances in the priestly anointing oil. Yahweh also tells the people they should bring His priests some “good cane.” All of these things are Genesis 1:29 plants.

On the other hand, priests may not use alcohol in the temple, and Nazirites are forbidden alcohol in any form. Now let us consider how Isaiah calls the house of Ephraim drunkards, saying they are overcome with wine.

Yeshayahu (Isaiah) 28:1-3
1 “Woe to the crown of pride, to the drunkards of Ephraim, Whose glorious beauty is a fading flower Which is at the head of the verdant valleys, To those who are overcome with wine!
2 Behold, Yahweh has a mighty and strong one, Like a tempest of hail and a destroying storm, Like a flood of mighty waters overflowing, Who will bring them down to the earth with His hand.
3 The crown of pride, the drunkards of Ephraim, Will be trampled underfoot;”

Ephraimite Vine Bias

Since the symbol for Ephraim and Joseph is the vine, the Ephraimites show preferences not only for wine, but also for other grape products, such as raisins.

Hoshea (Hosea) 3:1
3 Then Yahweh said to me, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by a lover and is committing adultery, just like the love of Yahweh for the children of Israel, who look to other gods and love the raisin cakes of the pagans.”

It is the Roman church and her daughters who have told us that some of Yahweh’s Genesis 1:29 plants are bad. Put this together with an Ephraimite bias toward grapes and grape products, and we see that many Ephraimites have inherited a distorted view of Yahweh’s plants.

Medical Cannabis and Alcohol in Scripture

If we are Yeshua’s, and we love Him, and want to do all that we can to build His kingdom, then we have His Spirit. If we let this Spirit move us around day by day, and moment by moment, then we will automatically want to maximize how we steward our lives for Elohim.

The Hebraic concept is one of self-regulation, to do the most for Yeshua that we can in this life. If we don’t desire wine in addition to the Sabbath and festivals, then we should listen to that voice of the Spirit, and consume only those foods and drinks His Spirit leads us to consume.

Qorintim Aleph (1 Corinthians) 10:23
23 All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify.

Although alcohol is technically an intoxicant, Timothy had a medical condition. Therefore Shaul told Timothy to take a little wine for the sake of his stomach, and his frequent infirmities.

TimaTheus Aleph (1 Timothy) 5:23
23 No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for your stomach’s sake and your frequent infirmities.

Apart from the fact that the priestly anointing oil contains psychoactive compounds, if someone has a medical need, then Scripture allows them to consume whatever will help them to maximize their health and their service to Yshua. We are not to be drunk recreationally with wine, for that leads to dissipation of energy. Rather, we are to walk circumspectly, redeeming the time, seeking to further His kingdom.

Ephesim (Ephesians) 5:15-18
15 See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise,
16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil.
17 Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of Yahweh is.
18 And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit…

It helps to know that medical cannabis works differently than alcohol, in that it can call for the user to maintain a certain blood level of CBD or THC, to treat the condition. Natural medicine considers it the responsibility of the patient to moderate his use in order to maximize his contribution to society, and this is the same principle as found in Scripture. To those familiar only with alcohol, this might look like habitual use, and it is—but to work, the blood levels must be maintained.

If we leave behind the Ephraimite bias toward the fruit of the vine, we get a very different view of Scripture. In fact myrrh and frankincense are also both psychoactive.

Mattityahu (Matthew) 2:11
11 And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Frankincense is also to be put in the incense that is burned on the golden altar of incense.

Shemote (Exodus) 30:34
34 And Yahweh said to Moshe: “Take sweet spices, stacte and onycha and galbanum, and pure frankincense with these sweet spices; there shall be equal amounts of each.”

Why does Yahweh command mind altering spices to be put in His sacrifices? The only answer we can imagine sounds like a divine riddle—that perhaps Yahweh wants both those who serve at His altar, as well as those who come up to His altar, to become altered in His presence? We hesitate to suggest such a thing, because there are those who will use it as an excuse for a different kind of drunkenness in His presence.

While we don’t know why Yahweh commands us to offer psychoactive spices on His altars, we cannot deny that Scripture says it. And given the fact that Genesis 1:29 plants were commonly consumed in ancient Israel, then the best guidance we can give is that if people consume them today, they should do so with the positive intent of drawing closer to Elohim, and His people.

Mattityahu (Matthew) 22:37-40
37 Yshua said to him, “‘You shall love Yahweh your Elohim with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’
38 This is the first and great commandment.
39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’
40 On these two commandments hang all the Torah and the Prophets.”

Advice to Elders:

If anyone has a medical need, or simply benefits from using Yahweh’s plants, it isn’t loving to put someone out of fellowship for consuming plants that our ancestors also consumed. However, there is a question regarding age.

Scientific studies today show a wide array of benefits for adults and seniors, with both CBD and THC. In contrast, studies also show that cannabis may be bad for children and teens (unless they have a medical condition which cannabis treats). Therefore, unless a child has a medical condition, our guidance is to restrict cannabis and wine to adults over the age of majority (except for the bread and the wine on Sabbath and festivals). In Scripture this age is 20, except that our forefathers counted differently. On the day of one’s birth they said the child was one year old, so with today’s count beginning at 0, the age of majority is 19. What that means is that unless a child has a medical condition which cannabis can benefit, the most loving thing is to keep it away from children and teens under the age of 19, and just explain to them that it can benefit adults and seniors, but that it is not really good for young people under 19. (If they understand that the rule is for their benefit, it is easier for them to hear.)

Regular users are encouraged to use a vaporizer, and not smoke, as smoke damages the lungs and health. If one is at Sukkot, and there will be children, explain to them that while cannabis benefits some adults, it is not good for children. If an area can be designated (perhaps the same as the smoking area), that can help parents to show their children that there is a right place for it, but that not everyone needs to partake.

There is an old rule of thumb for new users, not to drive for three hours. Medical users should not drive within an hour of vaporizing. Rules of thumb aside, one needs to remember to be responsible, and considerate of others.

We hope this provides some perspective on what the Bible says about cannabis. We also pray it provides some balanced and responsible guidance for elders as to how and why those who use it responsibly should be welcomed.

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