The kopher is thought to be the henna plant Lawsonia inermis (also called Lawsonia villosus and Lawsonia lythraceae). The henna is a tall shrub or small tree which ranges in height from about two to nearly eight metres tall. It is multi-branched, with spine tipped small branches. 


Henna (Lawsonia inermis), thought to be the 'kopher' referred to in the Bible. PICTURE: Atamari (licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0


It is found in the tropical and subtropical regions of Africa and southern Asia. Henna powder is made from grinding leaves from this tree.
The kopher is only mentioned twice in the Old Testament, both times in the Song of Solomon.

Song of Solomon 1:14 locates the kopher at ‘Engedi’ - "My beloved is a cluster of henna [kopher] blossoms from the vineyards of Engedi".

Henna will tolerate extreme heat and drought, and can be found in semi-arid regions, such as exist around Engedi.

The flowers of the henna may be white, yellow, pink or red. They have four petals which grow in clusters. Dye is also obtained from this plant.

The second mention in Song of Solomon is in 4:12-15:
“You are a garden locked up, my sister, my bride;
you are a spring enclosed, a sealed fountain.
Your plants are an orchard of pomegranates
with choice fruits,
with kopher (henna) and nard,
nard and saffron,
calamus and cinnamon,
with every kind of incense tree,
with myrrh and aloes
and all the finest spices."

This is an edited excerpt from Alvin Johnson's iBook 'Biblical Flora', 2017. The book is available for free download on iTunes. A teacher's edition is also available for purchase.