Some sites claim that kaneh bosem from Exodus 30:23 is ganja.

I've seen this verse translated variously as:

  • fragrant calamus
  • aromatic cane (from cane balsm)
  • sweet calamus
  • fragrant reeds

However, there is a speculation that kaneh bosem is a plural form of kaneh bos. I don't know of any Bible translation that translates it this way even though it seems to fit some properties.

Is there any evidence that this phrase should be translated 'ganja'?


2 Answers 2


Is there any evidence that this phrase should be translated 'ganja'?


Exodus 30:23 (ESV) reads:

Take the finest spices: of liquid myrrh 500 shekels, and of sweet-smelling cinnamon half as much, that is, 250, and 250 of aromatic cane (qənêh-bōśem)

The OP points out:

there is a speculation that kaneh bosem is a plural form of kaneh bos.

This is based, presumably, on a misunderstanding of the ending em on bōśem. This is superficially similar to the masculine plural -ı̂m ending in Hebrew. However, the term qənêh-bōśem is singular (i.e. 250 shekels-worth of q-). The letter m is part of the root bśm.1 The word qənêh- (spelled qāneh when alone) is a common term for "cane" or "reed". The phrase, then, is literally "cane of spice". The second noun bōśem is taken attributively, hence "fragrant cane". "Bos" means nothing in this context.2

As for the actual plant referred to in Exodus, I will believe William Propp's account:

fragrant cane. Qənē(h) bōśem is also called qāne(h) haṭṭôb ‘the sweet cane’ (Jer 6:20; cf. Akkadian qanû ṭābu) and simply qāne(h) 'cane' (Isa 43:24; Ezek 27:19). Although reeds are found in Israel itself, it is clear from the prophets that this special cane, like frankincense, was imported "from a distant land." Of various grasses valued in Antiquity for their aromatic essences...the variety most familiar to my readers will be East Asian "lemongrass."

Propp equates the terms bōśem and beśem earlier in the verse (there constructed with "cinnamon"). The emphasis is on their fragrance; there is no evidence of psychedelic properties attributed these plants in the Exodus account.

1. Were it plural, it would be bəśāmı̂m.
2. The etymologically related botanical term is is not cannabis but balsam.

  • So do you know for certain which species kaneh bosem is?
    – user4951
    Jan 11, 2016 at 3:49
  • People feel "presence" of Yahweh when consuming or inhaling the stuff. Such properties are called entheogenic. Which is psychedelic.
    – user4951
    Jan 11, 2016 at 23:29

To put this as a purely linguistic question: Hebrew qānē is the same word as Sumerian gin, Akkadian qanū, Ugaritic qn, Greek κάννα, Latin canna, all meaning “reed” or “cane”.

Greek κάνναβις, Latin cannabis, English “hemp” is a different word, perhaps ultimately from Sumerian kunibu, all meaning “hemp”.

These two words cannot very well be connected.

  • so there is no connection between kanna and kannabis. notice the other alternative, calamus, is herbal ecstasy that's actually poisonous
    – user4951
    Jan 4, 2016 at 16:53
  • 3
    @JimThio Both in this comment and your original question, you're chasing false cognates. The site you linked also makes this mistake and demonstrates very poor understanding of the languages it comments on. You should let these much more educated answers set the record straight. No, the connection you are trying to make is not there.
    – Caleb
    Jan 5, 2016 at 8:41

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