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Bible Encyclopedias

The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia

Thorns and Thistles

The desert flora of Palestine is unusually rich in thorns and thistles, containing a whole series of acanthaceous shrubs and various thistles, including Acanthus, Carduus (thistle), Centaurea Calcitrapa (star-thistle), Cirsium acarna, Linn. (horse-thistle), Cnicus benedictus, Linn. (blessed thistle), Cynara Syriaca, Linn. (cardoon), Echinops (globe-thistle), Eryngium nitraria, Noea, Notobasis Syriaca, Linn. (Syrian thistle), Ononis antiquorum, Linn. (tall rest-harrow; var. leiosperma, Post), Onopordon (down-thistle), Phæopappus scoparius, Sieb., Silybum Marianum, Linn. (milk-thistle), Tribulus terrestris, Linn. (land-caltrops), and others, some of them in many subspecies. All these plants were very troublesome to the farmer (Proverbs 24:31), who frequently set fire to his fields to get rid of them (Isaiah 10:17), while the Prophets threatened the people with a plague of briers and thistles (Isaiah 5:6; Jeremiah 12:13). The tyrant is compared to the useless bramble (Judges 9:14); and King Amaziah is likened to the thistle (2 Kings 14:9). Instead of fruit the earth is to bring forth "thorns and thistles" (Genesis 3:18), which must, therefore, be edible, and which are considered by the Midrash to be artichokes.

Many names for these plants are found in the Bible as well as in post-Biblical literature. Acanthaceous trees and shrubs, some of them admitting of classification, constitute the first group, which includes: , Bible and Mishnah (also Assyrian, Phenician, and Aramaic) = Lycium Europæum, Linn. (not Rhamnus), box-thorn; , Bible, Mishnah, and Aramaic = Rubus sanctus, Schreb., blackberry; = Acacia; , Mishnah, and , Talmud = Cratægus Azarolus, Linn., hawthorn; , Mishnah, and , Talmud = Zizyphus lotus, Lam., jujube, and Zizyphus spina-Christi, Linn., Christ's-thorn; , Mishnah, and , Talmud =Zizyphus vulgaris, Lam., common jujube.

The second group comprises acanthaceous or prickly herbs, shrubs, and nettles: (?), Bible, , Mishnah, and , Talmud (Assyrian, "egu" [?])= Alhagi Maurorum, DC., alhagi; and , Mishnah, and , Talmud = Carthamus tinctorius, Linn., safflower; , Bible, and , Talmud = Centaurea Calcitrapa, Linn., starthistle; (?), Bible, , Mishnah and Talmud = Echinops spinosus, Linn., or Echinops viscosus, DC., echinops (?); = Eryngium Creticum, Lam., button-snakeroot; = Cynara Scolymus, Linn., artichoke; = Cynara Syriaca, Boiss., and Cynara Cardunculus, Linn., cardoon (the heads of which are well described by Rashi in his commentary on Psalms 83:14); = Paliurus aculeatus, Linck., garland-thorn; (?), Bible = Phæopappus scoparius, Sieb., phæopappus; = Solanum coagulans, Forsk., nightshade; (?), Bible, and , Talmud = Urtica urens, Linn., nettle.

General terms, some of them applied also to thorns, are , and in the Bible, and , and in the Mishnah and Talmud.

I. Lö.

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These files are public domain.

Bibliography Information
Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for 'Thorns and Thistles'. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. 1901.

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