Speculations Galore: What Does the Bible Say About Wormwood?

Bible quote about Wormwood
Wormwood is an extremely bitter plant that has been mentioned in the Old Testament of the Bible for the very same reason―its bitterness. However, the Book of Revelation in the New Testament states a different connotation of this word. Buzzle throws light on what does the Bible say about wormwood. Is it implied to be a plant, star, or something different altogether?
Did You Know?
Many sources indicate the Chernobyl Disaster―the nuclear catastrophe in Ukraine that occurred on April 26, 1986―to be associated with the fulfillment of the prophecy associated with the wormwood star mentioned in the Book of Revelation. This is because the word 'Chernobyl' is translated to 'wormwood'.
Wormwood is a plant belonging to the genus Artemisia that is known for its bitterness. The word is generally used to depict something extremely undesirable or grievous. The Hebrew translation of wormwood is la`anah, which also means 'curse'. The Bible mentions the word 'wormwood' nine times in total; eight times in the Old Testament and once in the New Testament. It has always been used with a negative connotation. While in the Old Testament this word has been used to explain the undesirability or bitterness of the context, in the New Testament, it may very well imply the coming of a curse.

The Bible has always been the key to all the answers we seek, just that the answers are often not as direct and clear as we expect them to be. This statement stands true by every word especially in this particular case. The meaning of 'wormwood' and what the gospel author wished to convey through it has been interpreted by many scholars in many ways. The following section will throw some light on the same by going through the scripture.
Mention of 'Wormwood' in the Bible
As stated earlier, both the New and Old Testament mention wormwood, but quite differently when it comes to the implication of the word. After careful reading of the first eight verses, and comparing the implication with the last verse from the Book of Revelation, you will understand how different the two connotations are.
Amos, Chapter 5, Verse 7
"O you who turn justice to wormwood
and cast down righteousness to the earth!"
― English Standard Version
Amos, Chapter 6, Verse 12
"Do horses run on rocks?
Does one plow there with oxen?
But you have turned justice into poison
and the fruit of righteousness into wormwood-"
― English Standard Version

* Note that in the King James Version, wormwood is translated as 'hemlock', another plant known for its undesirable bitterness.
Deuteronomy, Chapter 29, Verse 18
"Lest there should be among you man, or woman, or family, or tribe, whose heart turneth away this day from the LORD our God, to go and serve the gods of these nations; lest there should be among you a root that beareth gall and wormwood;"
― King James Version
Jeremiah, Chapter 9, Verse 15
"Therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will feed them, even this people, with wormwood, and give them water of gall to drink."
― King James Version
Jeremiah, Chapter 23, Verse 15
"Therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts concerning the prophets; Behold, I will feed them with wormwood, and make them drink the water of gall: for from the prophets of Jerusalem is profaneness gone forth into all the land."
― King James Version
Lamentations, Chapter 3, Verse 15
"He has filled me with bitterness;
he has sated me with wormwood."
― English Standard Version
Lamentations, Chapter 3, Verse 19
"Remember my affliction and my wanderings,
the wormwood and the gall!"
― English Standard Version
Proverbs, Chapter 5, Verses 3-4
"For the lips of a forbidden woman drip honey,
and her speech is smoother than oil,
but in the end she is bitter as wormwood,
sharp as a two-edged sword."
― English Standard Version
Revelation, Chapter 8, Verses 10-11
"The third angel blew his trumpet, and a great star fell from heaven, blazing like a torch,
and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water.
The name of the star is wormwood.
A third of the waters became wormwood, and many people died from the water, because it had been made bitter."
― English Standard Version
Meaning
By reading the excerpts from the Bible, including both the testaments, it is easily understood that the Old Testament has always used this word to convey bitterness, grief, and unpleasantness of the situation, be it the emotional bitterness that the gospel writer speaks of in Lamentations, or the unpleasantness and grief associated with the forbidden woman mentioned in Proverbs. Even in Jeremiah, wormwood and gall are something that will be given to those who do not follow the way of the Lord, as a punishment. However, in the Book of Revelation, the word has been used twice: (i) as the name of a fallen star; and (ii) as a word used for bitterness, as it has been the case with the other mentions. Let us carefully analyze and understand what the New Testament speaks of the star called 'Wormwood'.
According to the Easton's Bible Dictionary, the Biblical meaning of wormwood is explained in the following words:

"The Artemisia absinthium of botanists. It is noted for its intense bitterness (Deut. 29:18; Prov. 5:4; Jer. 9:15; Amos 5:7). It is a type of bitterness, affliction, remorse, punitive suffering. In Amos 6:12 this Hebrew word is rendered "hemlock" (R.V., "wormwood"). In the symbolic language of the Apocalypse (Rev. 8:10, 11) a star is represented as falling on the waters of the earth, causing the third part of the water to turn wormwood. The name by which the Greeks designated it, absinthion, means 'undrinkable.'"
The Book of Revelation speaks of a vision, a prophecy where a great star called Wormwood falls on a third of the rivers and springs of water, making them all as bitter as wormwood (the plant) and killing all those who came in contact with this poisoned, bitter water. Now, after careful observation of this verse, we can determine that the statement is not as simple as it seems. To begin with, the star that looks like a blazing torch (possibly like that of a comet) falls only "on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water," leaving alone the oceans, seas, and land of the earth. Is that practically possible? This could only happen if the star falls in different pieces and not wholly at one spot. Secondly, deaths occur only due to the water contaminated by the fallen star, not due to any impact arising out of its powerful collision on earth. These points make us want to dig deeper into the actual interpretation of 'Wormwood'.
Interpretation
✝ What Exactly is the Fallen Star Wormwood?
Some speculators believe the fallen star to be none other than the fallen angel, Satan, who falls on the potable water of earth to contaminate and perish all those who drink from it. Note that water is considered to be the living source on earth, for we can survive a few days without food, but not without water. Even in the Bible, the phrase "Living Water" has been used numerous times to signify redemption, reformation, and renewal of our spiritual life in the Lord. Another point to note is that only rivers and water springs, and that too one-third of them all, are affected by Wormwood. Interestingly, some sources state that Christianity constitutes one-third of the total population of the world! Therefore, the fallen star Wormwood is considered by many as Satan who fell among the nourishing, drinkable waters of the earth (Christ's followers) and killed them through contamination.
✝ How Do the Rivers and Water Springs become Wormwood?
The star called Wormwood falls into the nourishing waters of the earth and makes them wormwood. It doesn't collide or affect the land and undrinkable water sources, but makes the rivers and water springs wormwood, meaning, mingles with the good water on earth and contaminates it with its own bitterness. Also, note what is written, "a great star fell from heaven, blazing like a torch, and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water." A torch is nothing else but a guiding light. This could be indicative of the false prophets, where the fallen angel would mingle among the 'good water' through false goodness and thereby pollute the believer's heart, mind, and body, taking them all to the road of doom and death.
✝ A Scientific Outlook to the Prophecy
With a scientific aspect, it is said that the star could more likely be a comet or asteroid because their contact with the atmospheric gases can alter the chemical composition, possibly turning the water poisonous and "bitter", as mentioned in the Bible. Many instances in the past have been linked with these words written in the Book of Revelation, one such instance being the Chernobyl catastrophic nuclear accident in Ukraine, the details of which are highlighted right at the beginning of this article.
Different speculators may view what the Bible states about wormwood in different ways, but the commonality that lies between all these interpretations is that it isn't something desirable and would lead to nothing but death of whoever comes in contact with the bitterness created by it. The Bible has always warned us regarding many perils of the earth, and wormwood is just one of them.
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