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                        Ishtar of Nineveh
'For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have Everlasting Life' St. John 3:16 KJV



Drug Abuse in Scripture and Other extra-Biblical Writings





‘She [Nineveh] is a fair harlot, (Hebrew זונה znh, LXX πόρνη prne) and well-favoured, skilled in sorcery (Heb כשפים kashphim, the magical plant ‘off-cuttings’, LXX φαρμάκων pharmkon drug enchantments, potions, spells and charms etc.)...that sells the nations by her fornications, and peoples (KJV ‘families’) by her sorceries - literally ‘her pharmacopeia’ Nahum 3:4 LXX trans. Benton.

Confer Nahum 3:4 KJV - Heb - LXX - NIV etc. see below for full versification.

Ancient Nineveh נינוה was the capital of Great Assyria which flourished from early times until the fall of the Empire in about c. 612-609 BC. It was to this ‘great  city’ that the Prophet Jonah was sent by God to preach repentance: for they knew not ‘their right hand from their left’. Jonah 4:11

The Lord had spoken:

 “Their wickedness is come up before me” Jonah 1:2

The religion of pagan Assyria was polytheist, derived mainly from Babylonian when Assyria was still part of the early Babylonian empire. The national god was Ashur, the god of war, in later neo-Babylonian pronounced Assr, unique in the Assyrian pantheon in that, according to the later scribes of the time his name was a Ashur_god (ii) Public domaincorruption of that of the  primeval deity An-sar, meaning the ‘upper firmament’. In Christian and Judaic cosmology synonymous with the ’upper waters’ of the High Eternal Heaven from which also the Genesis Angels are said to have fallen. Cf. Genesis 1:7, (Enoch 15:2-6) ISBE vol. 1 p.293 plus column right The Firmament.

Relief: The Assyrian Ring with Wings. Symbol of the Chief Deity Ashur, God of War Public domain

His female counterpart and goddess of Nineveh was the fertility goddess Ishtar,  goddess of love, war and sex. Sacred prostitution was central to the cult of Ishtar throughout the ancient east where one of her cities, ancient Erech of 216px-Babylonska_astartefigurer,_naken,_Nordisk_familjebok opMesopotamia was actually named ‘town of the sacred courtesans’. Scholars maintain that the ‘love goddesses’ of the ancient east, Ishtar/Astarte and the other female deities were “as cruel as they were wayward” (Mackenzie). Wikilink

Image: The Babylonian Astarte - The Ishtar of Nineveh Public domain

It is sometimes disputed that the temple harlot herself, the Hebrew קדשה Qedes literally ‘a  separated one’ (in the male form the קדש qades) was  a prostitute in strict sense of the word, where, according to the Ugaritic tablets she is seen as a priestess salaried by the temple where ritual copulation was part of her religious duties. The story of the widow Tamar at Genesis Chapter 38 would clearly indicate however that the rle of consecrated קדשה Qedes (verse 21) and the common harlot, the Hebrew זונה (זוה) znh  (verse 15) were interchangeable. The LXX translates both these words with the Greek singular πόρνη prne.

Scripture and other historical evidence, partic. from Herodotus and Strabo would plainly assert that the pagan temple, forbidden in Israel under the Deuteronomic code,  (Deut. 23:17-18) was in fact often a licensed brothel legalized under the pagan cultis and as such employing both the common harlot, the Hebrew זונה znh, and the consecrated קדשה Qedes.

The Hebrew prophets give graphic accounts as to the extent which heathen adulteries and idolatries had syncretized with the sanctuaries of Israel and the worship of Yahweh, and yet, as Jesus Himself did not place the harlots beyond the pale of redemption (St. Matthew. 21:31-32) a merciful God proclaimed of a people that lacked understanding: (Cf. Jonah 4:11).

Hosea 4.14 Heb-NIV

Hosea 4:14 NIV

The cult of the Qedes exists to this day

(Wikipedia article ‘Religious Prostitution’ ancient and modern)



‘Harlotry and wine - new wine’ LXX μέθυσμα ‘strong drink’ Hosea 4:11

In common with Babylon and the ‘hanging gardens’ Nineveh was also famed for its herbal plantations ‘above and below the city’. The cylinder of Sennacherib, who rebuilt Nineveh and ruled from c. 705 - 681 BC records ‘He laid out plantations, wherein grew all the sweet-smelling herbs of Palestine and Phoenicia’. ISBE vol. 5 p.2150.

The ‘new wine’ of Hosea 4:11 (Heb. ותירוש trsh lit. something ‘squeezed’ or ‘pressed out’) where connected with harlotry and idolatry and translated ‘strong wine’, μέθυσμα mthusma in the LXX probably reflects an original שכר shekr ‘strong drink’ which denotes an intoxicating draught of any sort and seen often to stand alongside or synonymous with, among others, the Hebrew ממסך mimskh ‘a spiced wine’ as either mixed or mingled. Many of these ‘mixed wines’ prepared with herbs and spices of various kinds, were highly potent and widely used for medicinal or recreational purposes. ISBE vol. v p.3086-7.

Some also were narcotic, where it known from Scripture and other ancient records (partic. the Jewish Baba mezia 83b) that wine drugged with opium, myrrh and possibly mandrake, (the Biblical ‘love apples’ of Genesis 30:14, Song of Solomon 7:13) were prescribed as anesthetic, medicinal or recreational in ancient times. Also, although classed as an illicit ‘sorcery’ at least in Hebrew law, (e.g. Exodus 22:18) it is clear from the Biblical narratives that addictive and harmful substance was widely employed for occult purposes in the ancient near-east. For a possible cannabis citation in Scripture download Free eBook.

See Concordance for versification.

E.g.. Isaiah 5:22, 65;11, Proverbs 23:30 St. Mark 15:23. St. Matthew 27:34 HBD vol. iii p.332.

Nahum, who prophesied against Nineveh between c. 663 BC and the fall of the City in 612 BC plainly asserts:

She [Nineveh] is a fair harlot (Heb. זונה znh, LXX πόρνη prne) and well-favoured, skilled in sorcery...

(LXX φαρμάκων pharmkon ‘drug enchantments’ KJV ‘witchcrafts’ again from the Hebrew כשפים kashphim, the magical plant ‘cuttings’ or ‘off cuttings’)


...that sells the nations by her fornication (LXX πόρνεία prneia ‘harlotry, pornography’)  and peoples (KJV ‘families’) by her pharmacopeia (LXX φαρμάκοις pharmkois ‘charms’ ‘philtres’ ‘love potions’ etc. )

Cf. Nahum 3:4 KJV

 Based on Brenton’s LXX translation (1844)  ‘pharmacopeia’ is the only amplification made to Brenton’s English

Available Internet Archive - Public domain


See also Isaiah 47:8-15 concerning Babylon.

Confer also The Apostolic Bible (Trans. Van der Pool) Greek/English LXX p.1215




 The men of Nineveh shall rise up in judgement on this generation and shall condemn it: for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, a greater than Jonah is here”. St. Luke 11:32

Apart from harlotry, herbal abuses and military prowess  Nineveh was also famed for its great Cuneiform and Akkadian interlinear library. Discovered in 1850 it was found to include a history much in agreement with the Old Testament, along with treaties on mathematics, botany, medicine, ancient lexicography and etymologies. The doorway to the library was guarded on either side by figures of Ea, the god of letters and culture, in his priestly robe of fishskin. A fish-god Dagon (from דג dag, ‘a fish’) was also worshipped by the Canaanites. samson_fishgod1

The city of Nineveh itself, situated on the  left bank of the Tigris opposite what is now Mosul in modern Iraq, was originally called Ninua or Nin meaning ‘enclosed water’ which scholars maintain implies a connection with the Semitic nun, metaphorically ‘water born’ though again literally ‘a fish’. Although some dispute the etymological connection the idea of a sacred fish was pre-eminent in the lower pantheon. The temple destroyed by Samson was dedicated to the fish-god Dagon. Judges 16:23-30.

Graphic: The Fish-god Dagon Courtesy The Blue letter Bible


The Story of Jonah

(A Dove)

A Parabolic and Allegoric History

The Prophet Jonah was called by God to preach repentance to the heathen city of Nineveh between c. 785-760 BC.

Jonah, as a Hebrew, had little compassion however for the sinful nation, - should God save the Assyrian , the enemy of Israel! - and Jonah ‘rose up to flee from the presence of the Lord’. Jonah 1:3

In disobedience to God he forsook his commission and fled to Joppa where he boarded a ship bound for Tarshish. God however sent ‘a great wind’ at which Jonah, knowing he had disobeyed God’s call was willing that the fearful and superstitious mariners should throw him overboard as the instigation of the evil. (Heb. ‘calamity’) and the tempest stilled.

Yet God, in foreseeing all things had prepared דג־נדול dg gdl ‘a great fish’, LXX κήτει μεγάλω originally ‘a sea-monster’, only in later Greek ‘a whale’, which swallowed Jonah who remained in the belly of the fish three days and three nights as Jesus also was ‘three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.’ Jonah 1:17 = St. Matthew 12:40.

And Jonah, from the belly of the fish made supplication, and prayed unto the Lord:

Jonah ch 2. Cf. vv 1-10

And again God commanded Jonah:

Arise go unto Nineveh and prophesy against it that I bid thee ” Jonah 3:2

And Jonah arose, and went to the great city and prophesied:

“ Yet forty days and Nineveh shall be overthrown “ Jonah 3:4

And the king declared a fast, and issued a decree, that the people should repent of all the evil that was Nineveh, and the violence of there hands. And God saw their works, that they had turned from their evil, and God spared Nineveh.

For the full story of Jonah in the KJV or other versions with full commentary and lexicon  please visit

Blue Letter Bible


The Whale

Many commentaries point out  that it is far from certain that ‘a whale’ is meant in the story of Jonah. The NT κήτους at St. Matthew 12:40 may be derived from a redundant primary meaning ‘a chasm’, ‘to gape or yawn’ hence many prefer ‘sea-creature’ or ‘sea-monster’ as the RVmg at St. Mt. 12:40. The Hebrew word for ‘whale’ at Jonah 1:17 is גדול דג dg qdl ‘a great fish’ as the KJV. In the LXX this word translates, from later Greek κήτει  μεγάλω ‘a whale’ as generally in the English New Testament at Mt.12:40.

The Old Testament LXX and Hebrew synonyms appear variously: δράκων ‘a dragon’, ‘serpent’ or  ’sea-moster’, AVmg ‘sea-calves’ at Lam. 4:3 from the Hebrew תנים tannim at e.g  Ezekiel 32:2 (Genesis 1:21) a plural form which is probably a scribal slip for תנין tannin  meaning, in the very literal, ‘a creature of ululation’ hence ‘a whale’ at Jonah 1:17 in the LXX, a sense also applied to  non-aquatic creatures in the Revised Version at Lamentations 4:3

. CfHBD vol. i p.620,  vol iii p.332. NBD p.1325. ISBE vol v p.3082.

Strong’s Concordance No. H8577, G2785, G5490



Historical and Prophetic

Whatever ‘the whale’ may  or may not have been there is no doubt, from the amount of recorded detail alone that the story of Jonah has a factual and historical basis even where an element of ‘the miraculous’ is present. As such the narrative has always been accepted by the Jews.  The story was also proclaimed by Jesus in the Gospels as a prophetic ‘sign of the times’. Mt:12:39-40, Luke 11:30. There is sadly however apparently no mention of the preaching of Jonah in the great library of Nineveh where much was destroyed by the Babylonians at the fall of the city in 612 BC.

The Parabolic

As a didactic or teaching from history the story of Jonah has clearly also a moral interpretation. The parabolic view cannot be used however as an expedient to remove the miraculous from the narrative. To do so would invalidate Christ’s reference to the story as God’s prophetic work in history.

The Allegoric

The allegoric interpretation is more complex than the parabolic but no less probable. Jonah represents Israel and the Christian Church were the Gospel of Salvation is universal, preached even to the enemies of Israel. The fish is Nineveh and Babylon in the world term in which, as Israel was captive, the Church is buried with Christ in Death. (Romans 6:3-14, 1 Peter 5:13). The ‘three days and three nights’ are the decent into hell (‘the heart of the earth’ Mt 12:40 ) from which Christ will rise [is risen] in ascendent Glory. The story of ‘the whale’ and Jonah’s deliverance can also be seen allegorically as a parabolic of the ‘end times’ tribulation and the final victory of good over evil. See St. Matthew:12:39-41, 24:21. St. Luke 11:30-32,  etc.


ixthus Courtesy Gospelgifts.com

Image courtesy Gospelgifts .com

Note: The Greek  ΙΧΘΥΞ  adopted by the Early Christians as a sign of faith was acrostic for ‘Jesus [Ι] Christ, [Χ] God [Θ] the Son [Υ] and Saviour [Ξ]’ and although the acronym spelled literally ‘fish’ and undoubtedly carried overtones of the ‘Spirit’ or ‘water-born of baptism’ - the Early Christians did actually term themselves ‘the little fish of the sea’ -  this was in no way connected with  any form of fish-worship which was in fact outlawed by the Deuteronomic Code at Deuteronomy 4:18


For a further elucidation of Nineveh and Babylon in the world term with full OT and NT Lexicon and Concordance



FREE eBOOK Drug Abuse in Scripture.



Biblical Source Index

(i) International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia, (ISBE) 1960, vol v p.3082. .(EErdmans) (ii) New Bible Dictionary,(NBD) IVF  1962, p.1325.  (iii) Hastings Bible Dictionary, 1902, (HBD)  vol i p.620, vol.iii p.332.


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and the Genesis Creation Account

‘The skies (or ‘heavens’ ) He spread...over empty space...and hung the Earth on nothing’

Job 26:7 KJV

LXX ουδέν ‘naught’, Cf. e.g.  God’sWord Translation, or pos. from the Hebrew compound בלימה ‘over the decay’ as the Concordant Literal Version (the law of thermodynamics?). The Latin Vul.=  nihilum.

Analytical Hebrew Lexicon


(Some editions = LXXXVI)


A concept often little understood in Scripture is that of the celestial firmament  or ‘vault of heaven’ of the Genesis creation account.

The monotheistic universal creation  as outlined in Scripture is uniquely Hebrew, and at least to date no account has ever been found in other ancient cosmologies which explicitly deal with the creation of the physical universe itself. The related ancient near-eastern cosmologies are more concerned with  complex polytheistic organization and the universal  cultural process rather than any explicit creation theory itself.  Cf. NBD p.272.(iii)

Scholars have long agreed that the Massoretic or ‘transmitted’ text of Genesis from which the Bible is generally translated is woven together from an original and long lost P (Priestly)  J  (Yahweh) and  E (Elohistic)  source material.  This material itself may be derived from sources far older as either written or oral tradition.

In Hebrew cosmology God Himself as the creator of heaven and earth, is portrayed as one walks ‘in the celestial circle’, the  חוג hgh of the high eternal  Heaven. Job 22:14. The same word occurs at Isaiah  40:22 as ‘the circle of the earth’ and is further delineate at Proverbs 8:27 as a  primordial ‘compass’ on the face of the deep. There is little evidence that the Hebrews ever viewed the ‘circle of the earth’ as predominantly flat which survives as at least a medieval concept apparently derived from Babylonian and later Egyptian cosmologies.

In the Genesis account the celestial firmament, the Hebrew רקיע rka, meaning ‘solid’ or ‘hammered out’ divides the ‘upper waters’ of the high heavens from the ’lower waters’ of the primordial seas. In the translation Greek of the LXX termed the στέρεωμα streoma, from which is derived in modern English e.g. stereophonic, from the Greek word streos  ‘solid’ and phne-ic ‘sound’ hence literally ‘solid sound’:-

does this mean we cannot place our hands between the twin speakers?

such also is the concept of the ‘hammered out’ or ‘vaulted dome’ of the celestial firmament, the Hebrew רקיע rka  in which are also ‘windows’,  ארבות ‘rubh‘ a latticed network’. Genesis 7:11. Isaiah 24:18, 2 Esdras 4:7 (Apoc.).

The clear firmament, the appearance of heaven, is further seen at Exodus 24:10, where aligned with  Ecclesiasticus 43:1 (Apoc.) as a translucent crystalline of azure or sapphire blue,  hence the skies of day and night, and to such, on the fourth day it was the ‘giving’, the Hebrew ויתן nathan or ‘setting’  of the  luminaries and stars   for the ‘signs’ or ’lights’ of the astronomical calendar, not the physical creation of the stars or luminaries as such, for the stellar heavens of the  universe itself are clearly seen as  pre-existent - a creation from the relative ex nihilo at the word of God at Genesis 1:1, a concept which also appears in the Gospel of St. John 1:1-3 and Hebrews 11:3 See also Job 26.7 above.

Also and equally important, if we recall that ancient Hebrew tenses, particularly the so-called waw conversive or consecutive of the  creation account at Genesis 1:6-21 f. does not indicate the date of an action, but the state of an action,  as complete or incomplete, then a case can be made for an evolving creation, sometimes called Theistic evolution (to avoid atheistic confusion also termed BioLogos) where evolution and time itself are part of the creation process.

The  ancient grammatical construction itself  is sometimes called the

relatively-progressive imperfect (Ewald)

and was  noted by the Grammarian G. J. Spurrell, a contemporary of Charles Darwin, in his classic

 Notes on the Text of Genesis pp.5,6 Oxford 1887.

Read online

(p.5, note 4. וירא ‘Impef. with waw conv.’ etc.)

From this it can only be deduced that the Book of Genesis and the creation narrative, partic. the story of Adam and Eve, is, at least in the view of the author, far more a supernatural paradigm than a natural history. In such a view  the elements of universal creation are retained and creationism  itself remains valid. For example  the creation of the Stellar heavens as pre-existent at Genesis 1:1, and the dual accounts of the creation of mankind, as both natural and  supernatural, at Genesis 1:27 (P) and 2:7 (J). (Cf. Romans 5:14).

Hence, from Genesis 4:14-17 (Who was Cain’s wife? etc.) and the dual creation accounts, is it far from certain that Adam and Eve, as dwellers in Eden, were in fact the first physically created, even as Christ, the second man, (v. 45 ‘the last Adam’) was made a quickening [S]pirit. Cf. 1 Corinthians 15:45-47).

In further example of how Scripture in the original was, (or became) ‘double written’ many of the more modern Bible translations, e.g.  the Concordant Literal Version (ISA) at Genesis.1:1; = “In the, or, ‘a’ beginning” God created etc...the Hebrew  בראית b-rshth, LXX άρχή arch from a primitive root meaning ‘stretched out’ or ‘to be long [ago]‘ where the root idea is still connected with time, the primal άρχή arch, the ‘chief part’ or ‘principle’ of the primal creation process. Cf e.g. ISBE vol i, p.426.

Further, from the similar sense of  the Hebrew (some maintain as a consequence of Satan’s  rebellion and the fallen angels) Genesis 1:2 may read the earth became void etc. as now translate e.g. the New International Version (Gen.1:2 mg) and again the more modern Concordant Literal Version.  (free from ISA).

Lastly, the ancient Hebrew tense or ‘relative progression’ and sequence of the creation narrative must also maintain that the primordial ‘day’ of the creation was not seen as a literal day as such, but as a figurative  ‘age’ or ‘eon’ even from early times. Cp. e.g. Psalm 90:4, 2 Peter 3:8.

To conclude, a paradigm or creation model as outlined above, although containing elements of Theistic evolution, (BioLogos) would not deny the efficacy of the creation narrative.  To do so would be to invalidate not only the theology of the Book of Genesis but also the redemptive work of Christ Himself.

Romans 5:14, 1 Cor 15:22, 45,, Jude 14.)


For a further synopsis of the ‘latticed network’ and the firmament of heaven as conceived in other extra-Biblical literature, partic. the Book of Enoch which deals with the initial abode of the fallen angels


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Drug Abuse in Scripture


Source & Links

ISBE vol i p.426, vol  ii, p.798.HBD vol i pp.501-503 NBD pp 268-273

 Thermodynamics: TV The Universe Prof. Brian Cox

The BioLogos Foundation


Last revision July 2014