(1) ro'sh, or rosh (De 32:32 only, "grapes of gall"): Some very bitter plant, the bitterness as in (2) being associated with the idea of poison. De 29:18 margin "rosh, a poisonpus herb"; La 3:5,19; Jer 8:14; 9:15; 23:15, "water of gall," margin "poison"; Ho 10:4, translated "hemlock"; Am 6:12, "Ye have turned justice into gall"; Job 20:16, the "poison of asps": here rosh clearly refers to a different substance from the other references, the points in common being bitterness and poisonous properties. Hemlock (Conium maculatum), colocynth (Citrullus colocynthus) and the poppy (Papaver somniferum) have all been suggested as the original rosh, the last having most support, but in most references the word may represent any bitter poisonous substance. Rosh is associated with la`anah, "wormwood" (De 29:18; La 3:19; Am 6:12).
(2) mererah (Job 16:13), and merorah (Job 20:14,25), both derived from a root meaning "to be bitter," are applied to the human gall or "bile," but like (1), merorah is once applied to the venom of serpents (Job 20:14). The poison of these animals was supposed to reside in their bile.
(3) chole (Mt 27:34), "They gave him wine to drink mingled with gall"; this is clearly a reference to the Septuagint version of Ps 69:21: "They gave me also gall (chole, Hebrew rosh) for my food; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink." In Mr 15:23, it says, "wine mingled with myrrh." It is well known that the Romans gave wine with frankincense to criminals before their execution to alleviate their sufferings; here the chole or bitter substance used was myrrh (Pliny Ep. xx.18; Sen. Ep. 83).
E. W. G. Masterman