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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Thorn

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is the rendering, in many passages of the A.V., of eleven different Hebrew words and two (accurately only of one) Greek words; but, as we will see below, there are no less than twenty-two words in the original languages of the Bible variously translated "thorn," "thistle," "brier," etc., and signifying thorny and prickly plants. Some of these, however, are probably so interpreted only because they are unknown, and may merely denote insignificant shrubs. We have elsewhere treated most of these in detail, and we therefore briefly recapitulate them below alphabetically, though we can hardly hope to throw much additional light upon what has already baffled so many inquirers. The difficulty of identifying them does not arise from any deficiency of thorny plants to which the Biblical names might be applied, but from the want of good reasons for selecting one plant more than another; for, as Celsius has said, "Fuerunt in Judaea haud pauca loca a spinis diversorum generum denominata, quod. esset htec terra non tantum lacte et mellefluens, sed herbis quoque inutilibus, et spinis multifariis passim infestata." As examples, we may mention the genera of which some of the species are thorny, such as Acacia, Astragalus, Acanthodium, Alhagi, Fagonia, Tribulus, Berberis, Prunus, Rubus, Cratsegus, Solanum, Carduus, Cnicus, Onopordon, Eryngium, Rhamnus, Zizyphus; and of species which are named from thischaracteristic, Anabasis spinosissima, Paliurus aculeatus, Ruscus aculeatus, Forskalea tenacissima, Aristida pungens, Salsola echinus, Echinops spinosus, Bunias spinosa, Lycium spinosum, Poterium spinosum, Atraphaxis -spinosa, Prenanthes spinosa, Ononis spinosa, Smilax asper, Spartium spinosum, Zizyphus Spina Christi. (See BOTANY).

In the morphology of plants it is now recognized that thorns are abortive or undeveloped branches, and in many cases under cultivation thorns become true branches. A spine or thorn, of which we have examples in the hawthorn and the sloe, must be distinguished from the prickles (aculei) which belong to the integumentary system of the plant, and which are really hardened hairs. Of these last we have examples in-the bramble and the rose, and in the animal economy we have something analogous in the spines of the hedgehog and the quills of the porcupine. "May we not see in the production of injurious thorns-an arrestment by the fiat of the Almighty in the formation of branches, and thus a blight passed on this part of creation a standing memorial of the effects of sin on what was declared at first to be very good? It is remarkable to notice that when Christ became a curse for his people, the Jews mocked him by putting on him a crown of thorns, and thus what was an indication of the fall of mal was used by them to insult the seed of the woman who came to bruise the head of the serpent. The removal of the curse from creation, which is now groaning and-travailing in pain, is frequently set forth by illustrations taken from the disappearance of briers and thorns (Isaiah Iv, 13; Ezekiel 28:24)" (Balfour, Bot. and Relig. p. 110-115).

Dr. Thomson (Land and Book, 1, 81) illustrates Isaiah 33:12, "The people shall be as the burning of lime, as thorns cut up shall they be burned in the fire," by the following observation: "Those people yonder are cutting up thorns with their mattocks and pruning-hooks, and gathering them into bundles to be burned in these burlings of lime. It is a curious fidelity to real life that when the thorns are merely to be destroyed they are never cut up, but set on fire where they grow. They are cut up only for the lime-kiln" (see also ibid. 1, 527 sq. for other scriptural allusions).

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Thorn'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/t/thorn.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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