The desire to understand the natural world of our ancestors, their language and the environment in which they lived and worked, motivates us to be interested in and to research plants mentioned in Biblical sources.
There are about one hundred plants mentioned in the Old Testament, and about four hundred that are mentioned in the Mishnah and the Talmud. The plants are mentioned in different contexts. For example, plants were used for ritual purposes (the Priests (Cohanim) would concoct incense from plants for use in the Temple) as metaphors and as allegories. Our ancestors also used plants in everyday life as well as in the fulfillment of religious commandments. They are mentioned in the sources in contexts of payment of offerings and tithes, Orlah (prohibition of eating or deriving benefit from the fruit of a tree during the first three years after planting), Leket, Shikhehah, Pe'Ah (gifts to the poor – the parts of the crops that a farmer must leave in the field for the poor), in rituals of impurity and purification, in questions pertaining to the use of agricultural produce such as Shaatnez (the prohibition of wearing a cloth made of a fabric that contains both wool and linen), Kil'ayim ("mixture" – the prohibition of crossbreeding seeds or animals, and mixing wool and linen), as raw materials for dyeing and for the soap industry, as symbols of love and longing (Song of Songs), etc. Most of the descriptions do not deal with the botanical aspect of the plant.
According to tradition, there existed a “Popular Hebrew Medical Book" in which most of the mentioned medicines were made from plants. Tradition attributes the book to King Solomon, and King Hezekiah concealed it (Bereita, Pesachim).