This flower is not mentioned in the Bible, and the earliest reference to it occurs in Ecclus. (Sirach) xxiv. 14. It is mentioned in the Mishnah and the later Apocrypha, while in the Targum and with many subsequent exegetes it takes the place of the Lily in Canticles. The rose is apparently mentioned also in Ecclus. (Sirach) xxxix. 13 and l. 8, although the presumptive Hebrew read probably (lily) in both passages. In Wisdom ii. 8, on the other hand, there is an unmistakable allusion to roses; and in III Macc. vii. 17 the Egyptian city of Ptolemais is described as "rose-bearing," while the phrase "red as the rose" occurs in Enoch, lxxxii. 16; cvi. 2, 10; and the Christian passage II Esd. ii. 19 mentions the rose and the lily together.
The rose grows wild in Palestine and Syria, its principal varieties being Rosa phænicia, Boiss.; Rosa canina, Linn. (throughout the mountains), and its variety Rosa collina, Boiss.; Rosa glutinosa, S. and Sm., Rosa dumetorum, Thuill., Rosa Thureti, Burnat and Gremli (these in Lebanon and the last-named also in Hermon); Rosa lutea, Mill. (Amanus); Rosa dumetorum, var. Schergiana, Boiss. (Antilebanon); and Rosa arabica, Crep. (Sinai); while the chief cultivated variety is Rosa sulphurea, Ait. (Post, "Flora of Syria, Palestine, and Sinai," p. 308; Bornmüller, "Zur Kenntnis der Flora von Syrien und Palästina," 1898, p. 46).
According to an old mishnaic tradition, there was at Jerusalem, where no other garden is said to have been allowed, a rose-bed dating from the time of the ancient prophets (Ma'as. ii. 5; Neg. vi. 625, 15; B. Ḳ. 82b), but it is significant that the rose is not mentioned among the perfumes which were imported from India at a very early time. The rose, like the myrtle, however, formed part of the bridegroom's garland (Yer. Soṭah xv. 322, 5). The Mishnah contains, furthermore, halakic regulations concerning the rose (Sheb. vii. 6; Yer. 37b) and the oil which was extracted from the preserved flower (Sheb. vii. 7). The oil was used by the upper classes instead of common oil (Shab. xiv. 4), and was no rarity at Sura (Shab. 111b). It is mentioned in a haggadah, which says that as asses' fat in oil of roses receives perfume but loses it again, so Hagar and Ishmael became renegades after they left the presence of Abraham ("Agadat Bereshit," ed. Buber, p. 74). The Talmudic "mishḥah kebishah" consisted, according to a geonic tradition, of roses and violetspreserved in sesame-oil: and a number of other cosmetic and medicinal preparations and confections of roses are mentioned, including rose-water, the favorite perfume of the East, and comfits of roses and honey or sugar.
There was no special eulogy for the rose; and it became a moot question whether it should be considered a perfumed wood or a perfumed fruit. Hai Gaon, Maimonides, and others inclined to the former view, while many of the casuists held the latter.In Rabbinical Literature.
In post-Biblical Hebrew poetry and in the Haggadah the rose is scarcely mentioned, although there is a haggadic reminiscence in the Syriac statement that roses had no thorns before the fall of man ("Book of the Bee," xviii. 8). Proverbs mentioning this flower also are comparatively rare; but it is said that "youth is a garland of roses, but age a crown of thorns" (Dukes, "Rabbinische Blumenlese," No. 323), while an erroneous variant of a well-known apothegm declares that "Poverty becomes Israel as a red rose does a white horse" (Ḥag. 9b). In a figurative sense "rose" is used in the Talmud of the membrane of the lungs or their medial lobes.
Medicinal powers were long ascribed to this flower. Maimonides frequently used rose-water and other rose preparations in his dietetics; and similar use of the rose was made by Meïr Aldabi and Menahem ibn Zeraḥ in the fourteenth century. Tobias Cohen includes in his pharmacopæia (148c, 153b) red, white, and yellow roses, and the dog-rose.
Symbolically the rose is associated with paradise; for the dawn is the reflection of the roses of heaven, as the sunset glow reflects the flames of hell (B. B. 84a). Eight hundred of these flowers adorn the tent of each pious man in heaven ("Gan 'Eden," p. 25, in "B. H." v. 42). A Persian satrap to whom Raba brought a gift sat up to his neck in roses (or, according to Rashi, in a bath of rose-water), attended by odalisks, and asked, "Have ye aught like this in paradise?" ('Ab. Zarah 65a). According to a medieval legend, finally, R. Löw, a famous cabalist of Prague and a favorite of the emperor Rudolph II., died of the perfume of a rose, which form Death had assumed, since he could not gain access to the sage in any other way.
The "rose of Jericho" is not a rose, but the crucifer Anastatica Hierochuntina, Linn., or the composite Odontospermum pygmæum (DC.), Benth. and Hook. (Asteriscus pygmæus, Coss. and Dur).