Hemlock appears in the Auth. Vers. as the rendering of two Heb. words in some of the passages where they occur.
1. ROSH (ראֹשׁ and רוֹשׁ) is thought originally to signify "poison," and is therefore supposed to indicate a poisonous, or, at least, a bitter plant. This we may infer from its being frequently mentioned along with laanah or "wormwood," as in De 29:18, "Lest there should be among you a root that beareth gall (rosh) and wormwood (laanah);" so also in Jer 9:15; Jer 23:15; and in La 3:19, "Remembering mine affliction and my misery, the worm-wood and the gall." That it was a berry bearing plant has been inferred from De 32:32, "For their vine is of the vine of Sodom, and their grapes are grapes of gall (rosh); their clusters are bitter." In Jer 8:14; Jer 9:15; Jer 23:15, "water of gall" (rosh) is mentioned, which may be either the expressed juice of the fruit or of the plant, or a bitter infusion made from it. That it was a plant is very evident from Ho 10:4, where it is said "their judgment springeth up as hemlock (rosh) in the furrows of the field;" also in Am 6:12, "For ye have turned judgment into gall (laanah, 'wormwood'), aiff the fruit of righteousness into hemlock (rosh)." The only other passages where it occurs are in speaking of the "poison" (Job 20:16) or "venom" of asps (De 22:30), or "gall" in a figurative sense for sorrow (La 3:5), or as food (Ps 69:21). SEE GALT; SEE POISON.
Though rosh is generally acknowledged to indicate some plant, yet a variety of opinions have been entertained respecting its identification: some, as the Auth. Vers. in Ho 10:4, and Am 6:12, consider cicuta or hemlock to be the plant intended. Tremellius adopts this as the meaning of rosh in all the passages, and is followed by Celsius (Hierobot. 2, 49). The cuta of the Romans, the ρχιᾷΕτΟῃ of the Greeks, is generally acknowledged to have been what we now call hemlock, the conium maculatum of botanists. There can be no doubt of its poisonous nature (Pliny, Hist. Nat. 25:13). Celsius quotes the description of Linnaeus in support of its growing in the furrows of fields, but it does not appear to be so common in Syria. Celsius, however, adduces Ben-Melech, the most learned of Rabbins, as being of opinion that rosh was conium or hemlock. But there does not appear any necessity for our considering rosh to have been more poisonous than lacnah or wormwood, with which it is associated so frequently as to appear like a proverbial expression (De 29:18; Jer 9:15; Jer 23:15; La 3:19; Am 6:12). The Sept. translators render it agrostis, intending some species of grass. Hence some have concluded that it must be loliumn tenulentum, or darnel, the zizanium of the ancients while others have thought that some of the solaneae or luridae of Linnaeus, as the belladonna or the solanun nigrum, common nightshade, or still, again, the henbane, is intended. But no proof appears in favor of any of this tribe, and their sensine properties are not so remarkably disagreeable as to have led to their being employed in what appears to be a proverbial expression. Hiller, in his Hierophyticon (ii, 54), adduces the centaury as a bitter plant, which, like others of the tribe of gentians, might answer all the passages in which rosh is mentioned, with the exception of that (De 32:32) where it is supposed to have a berried fruit. Dr. Harris, quoting Blayney on Jer 8:14, says, "In Ps 69:21, which is justly considered as a prophecy of our Savior's sufferings, it is said, They gave me rosh to eat,' which the Sept. have rendered χολήν, gall. Accordingly, it is recorded in the history, Mt 27:34, They gave him vinegar to drink, mingled with gall,' ὄξος μετὰ χλῆς. But in the parallel passage (Mr 15:23) it is said to be 'wine mingled with myrrh,' a very bitter ingredient. From whence I am induced to think that χολή, and perhaps rosh, may be used as a general name for whatever is exceedingly bitter: and, consequently, when the sense requires, it may be put specially for any bitter herb or plant, the infusion of which may be called 'waters of rosh.' SEE MYRRH.
2. LAANAH' (לֲעִנָה) occurs in the passages above cited and in a few others, where it is translated "wormwood" (De 29:18; Pr 5:4; Jer 9:15; Jer 23:15; La 3:15,19; Am 5:7); and only in a single passage is it rendered "hemlock" (Am 6:12). SEE WORMWOOD.