A species of Valeriana spica Vahl = Nardostachys Jatamansi De Candolle, growing in eastern Asia. It was well known to the ancients as a perfume because of the pungent but pleasant odor of its root; and it formed, under the name of "spica nardi" or "nardus Indica" the chief component of spikenard oil and ointment.
In the Bible it occurs only in Cant. i. 12; iv. 13, 14. The nard does not grow in Palestine, being merely a plant of the poet's imaginary garden (see Horticulture). Costly spikenard ointment is mentioned in the New Testament also (Mark xiv. 3; John xii. 3). In the Mishnah nard, which is a constituent of the sacred incense, is called "shibbolet nerd." This is explained by Hai Gaon as the "sunbul al-nardin" of the pharmacologists. The same rendering is given by Maimonides ("Yad," Kele ha-Miḳdash, ii. 3) and by Abudarham (ed. Prague, 38b), who says, "It is so called because it consists of delicate filaments, like an ear of corn"; and Rashi likewise alludes to this resemblance (comp. Ex. xxx. 34).
In the Targum "narda" is used only in Cant. i. 12, where it is retained from the text and is used in a haggadic connection. Elsewhere (iv. 13-14) the Targum has (plural ), which has not yet been explained, notwithstanding the Syriac "reshaḳa de-warda" = "rose-seed" (Löw, "Aramäische Pflanzennamen," p. 21b).
- Delitzsch on Cant. i. 12;
- Fabricius, Periplus, p. 151;
- Gildemeister and Hoffmann, Die Aetherischen Oele, p. 361, Berlin, 1899;
- Lagarde, Gesammelte Abhandlungen, p. 67;
- idem, Mitteilungen, ii. 26.