American Tract Society Bible Dictionary
Thistles and Thorns
Under these terms, together with brambles, briers, and nettles, are included numerous troublesome plants, many of them with thorns, well fitted to try the husbandman's patience, Genesis 3:18 . Plants of this class were a symbol of desolation, Proverbs 24:31 , and were often used as fuel, Psalm 58:9 Ecclesiastes 7:6 Isaiah 33:12 . They also served for hedges, Hosea 2:6 . A petty village on the plain of Jericho is now protected against Arab horsemen by a hedge of thorny Nubk branches.
Dr. Eli Smith, visiting the plain where Gideon once threatened to tear the flesh of the princes of Succoth with thorns and briers, noticed such plants there of remarkable size, some of the thistles rising above his head on horseback, Judges 8:7 . Few of the Hebrew terms can now be affixed with certainty to particular varieties among the many found in Syria. The plant of which the thorny crown of the Savior was made, with the design to mock rather than to torture him, is supposed to have been the Zizyphus Spina Christi, a common tree with dark and glossy leaves, having many small and sharp spines on its round and pliant branches, Matthew 27:29 John 19:2-3 . Paul's "thorn in the flesh," 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 , may have been some bodily infirmity, unfavorable to the success of his public ministrations. Compare Galatians 4:13-14 2 Corinthians 10:10 .
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