24 Sweet flag (Acorus calamus)
© Botanischer Garten, Uni Münster

botanical background


order: Acorales

family: Acoraceae

genus: Acorus

species: sweet flag (Acorus calamus)

attributes: herbaceous, triangular stem with broad-leaves, up to one meter in height, roots contain essential oils

origin: Asia and North America

habitat: entire northern hemisphere, by now also Indonesia and South Africa


in the Bible

And Jehovah spoke to Moses, saying, Take also to you principal spices, five hundred shekels of pure myrrh, and half as much of sweet cinnamon, even two hundred and fifty shekels, and two hundred and fifty shekels of sweet calamus, and five hundred of cassia, after the shekel of the sanctuary, and a hin of olive oil. And you shall make it an oil of holy ointment, an ointment compound after the art of the perfumer. It shall be a holy anointing oil.

Exodus 30,22-25


The Hebrew word for sweet flag used in the Old Testament is קָנֶה (qānæh). The Greek version reads κάλαμος (kalamos).

During the production of anointing oil, for example for Aaron and his descendants (Ex 30,23), balsam, myrrh (Nr. 23), incense and sweet flag are mixed. The plant is very aromatic, which is why it‘s also enumerated in the Song of Songs alongside other plants with strong scent (Hhld 4,14).


mentions: several

other text passages (selected): 

Exodus 30,23-24

Song of Songs 4,14

Jeremia 6,20

Isaiah 43,24

Hesekiel 27,19



Riede, Peter: Kalmus, in: Das wissenschaftliche Bibellexikon im Internet (Dez. 2016), URL: https://www.bibelwissenschaft.de/wibilex/das-bibellexikon/lexikon/sachwort/anzeigen/details/kalmus-2/ch/1f7e666e98fd3c1e9ae559956b8dc7a1/ (abgerufen 01.05.2023).

Modern King James Version.

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