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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible

Thorns, Thistles, Etc

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THORNS, THISTLES, ETC . So many words are used in the Heb. for thorny plants, and they are so variously translated, that it will be convenient to consider them all in one group. In the great majority of cases it is impossible to identify the special species referred to.

1 . ’âtâd , Judges 9:14 f. AV [Note: Authorized Version.] , ‘bramble,’ mg. ‘thistle,’ RVm [Note: Revised Version margin.] ‘thorn’; Psalms 58:9 AV [Note: Authorized Version.] and RV [Note: Revised Version.] ‘thorns.’ In Genesis 50:10-11 , Atad occurs as a proper name. The ’âtâd is probably the buckthorn ( Rhamnus palestina ), a lowly bush.

2 . barqânîm ( Judges 8:7; Judges 8:10 ‘briers’ ), some kind of thorn. Arab. [Note: Arabic.] berqân is the Centaurea scoparia , a thorny-headed composite common in Palestine.

3 . dardar ( Genesis 3:18 , Hosea 10:8 ), some thistly or thorny plant. In modern Arab. [Note: Arabic.] shauket el-dardar is applied to the star thistles or knapweeds of which Centaurea calcitrapa and C. verutum are common Palestine forms.

4 . chçdeq ( Proverbs 15:19 ‘thorn,’ Micah 7:4 ‘brier’; cf. Arab. [Note: Arabic.] chadaq ‘to enclose’), some prickly plant used as a hedge ( Proverbs 15:19 ).

5 . chôach ( 2 Kings 14:9 , 2 Chronicles 25:18 , and Job 31:40 ‘thistle’; 2 Chronicles 33:11 , Song of Solomon 2:2 , and Hosea 9:6 ‘thorns’; Isaiah 34:13 AV [Note: Authorized Version.] ‘brambles’; 1 Samuel 13:6 ‘thickets’; Job 41:2 ‘thorn,’ where ‘book,’ as in RV [Note: Revised Version.] , would be better), some shrub, species unknown, with very strong spines.

6 . mĕsûkâh , a thorn hedge ( Micah 7:4 ).

7 . na‘utsûts ( Isaiah 7:19 ‘thorns,’ Isaiah 55:13 ‘thorn’), from Aram. [Note: Aramaic.] na’ats ‘to prick’), a general term for a thorn.

8 . sîrîm ( Ecclesiastes 7:6 , Isaiah 34:13 , Hosea 2:6 , Nahum 1:10 ‘thorn’). The reference to the ‘crackling of thorns’ suggests the thorny burnet, which is burned all over Palestine in lime-kilns. sîrôth , Amos 4:2 , means ‘books.’

9 . sillôn ( Ezekiel 28:24 brier ’; sallônîm , Ezekiel 2:6 ‘thorns’).

10 . sârâbîm ( Ezekiel 2:6 ‘briers,’ lit. ‘rebels,’ as in mg., but text doubtful).

11 . sirpâd ( Isaiah 55:13 ‘brier,’ lit. the ‘burner,’ hence perhaps ‘nettle’).

12 . tsinnîm ( Job 5:5 , Proverbs 22:5 ‘thorns’); tsÄ•nînîm ( Numbers 33:55 , Joshua 23:13 ‘thorns’).

13 . qôts ( Genesis 3:18 , Exodus 22:6 , Judges 8:7; Judges 8:18 etc.), the commonest and most general word for ‘thorns.’

14 . qimmôs ( Proverbs 24:31 ‘thorns’), elsewhere ‘nettles.’ See Nettle.

15 . sikkîm ( Numbers 33:55 ‘pricks’), cf. Arab. [Note: Arabic.] shauk ‘thorn.’

16 . shayith , only in Is. ( Isaiah 5:8; Isaiah 7:23 f., Isaiah 9:17 , Isaiah 10:17 , Isaiah 27:4 ), always with shâmîr (‘brier’), and tr. [Note: translate or translation.] ‘thorns.’

17 . shâmîr , in Is. (see above) always tr. [Note: translate or translation.] ‘brier’; cf. Arab. [Note: Arabic.] samur ‘a thorny tree.’

18 . rhamnos (Gr.), Bar 6:71 (AV [Note: Authorized Version.] and RV [Note: Revised Version.] ‘thorn’).

19 . skolops (Gr.), 2 Corinthians 12:7 ‘thorn’ (RVm [Note: Revised Version margin.] ‘stake’). See Medicine, p. 600 b; Paul, p. 688 a .

20 . akanthai (Gr.) = Heb. qôts , Matthew 7:16; Matthew 13:7; Matthew 13:22; Matthew 27:29 etc. ‘thorns.’

21 . tribolos (Gr.), Matthew 7:16 ‘thistle,’ Hebrews 6:8 brier .’

The variety of words used to describe these prickly plants is not surprising, when it is remembered that such plants are ubiquitous throughout Palestine, and for many months of the year are almost the only living uncultivated vegetation. They form the common food of goats and camels; they are burned (Ecclesiastes 7:6 ), specially the thorny burnet (Arab. [Note: Arabic.] billân ), in ovens and lime-kilns, large areas of land being diligently cleared every autumn for this purpose. Gigantic thistles, sometimes as high as a horse’s head, cover whole acres of fallow land and have to be cleared by fire before ploughing can begin. ‘Thorns’ of various kinds, e.g. brambles, oleasters, etc., are commonly used as hedges; and tangled masses of dead thorny branches from the Zizyphus and similar trees are used, particularly in the Jordan Valley, as defences round fields, flocks, or tents ( Proverbs 15:11 , Micah 7:4 etc.).

E. W. G. Masterman.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Thorns, Thistles, Etc'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hdb/t/thorns-thistles-etc.html. 1909.

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