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Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary

Thorn

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A general name for several kinds of prickly plants. 1. In the curse denounced against the earth, Genesis 3:18 , its produce is threatened to be "thorns and thistles," קוצ ודרדר , in the Septuagint ακανθας και τριβολους . St. Paul uses the same words, Hebrews 6:8 , where the last is rendered "briers;" they are also found Hosea 10:8 .

The word kutz is put for "thorns," in other places, as Exodus 22:6 ; Judges 8:7 ; Ezekiel 2:6 ; Ezekiel 28:24 ; but we are uncertain whether it means a specific kind of thorn, or may be a generic name for all plants of a thorny kind. In the present instance it seems to be general for all those obnoxious plants, shrubs, &c, by which the labours of the husbandman are impeded, and which are only fit for burning. If the word denotes a particular plant, it may be the "rest-harrow," a pernicious prickly weed, which grows promiscuously with the large thistles in the uncultivated grounds, and covers entire fields and plains, in Egypt and Palestine. From the resemblance of the Hebrew dardar, to the Arabic word dardargi, Scheuchzer supposes the cnicus to be intended.

2. תות , from its etymology, must be a kind of thorn, with incurvated spines, like fish hooks, similar to those of the North American "witch hazel." Celsius says that the same word, and of the same original in Arabic, is the" black thorn," or "sloe tree," the prunus spinosa of Linnaeus.

3. סירים . It is impossible to determine what plants are intended by this word. Meninski says that serbin, in the Persic language, is the name of a tree bearing thorns. In Ecclesiastes 7:6 , and Nahum 1:10 , they are mentioned as fuel which quickly burns up; and in Hosea 2:6 , as obstructions or hedges; it may be the lycium Afrum.

4. סלון , mentioned Joshua 23:13 ; Ezekiel 2:6 ; Ezekiel 28:24 . From the vexatious character ascribed to this thorn in the places just referred to, compared with Numbers 33:55 ; Judges 2:3 ; it is probably the kantuffa, as described by Bruce.

5. By שבים , Numbers 33:55 , may be intended goads, or sharp-pointed sticks, like those with which cattle were driven.

6. The שית , Isaiah 5:6 ; Isaiah 10:17 , must mean some noxious plant that overruns waste grounds.

7. The word צנים , Numbers 33:55 ; Joshua 23:13 ; Isaiah 5:5 . It seems, from its application, to describe a bad kind of thorn. Hiller supposes it to be the vepris. Perhaps it is the rhamnus paliurus, a deciduous plant or tree, a native of Palestine, Spain, and Italy. It will grow nearly to the height of fourteen feet, and is armed with sharp thorns, two of which are at the insertion of each branch, one of them straight and upright, the other bent backward.

8. ברקנים , translated "briers," Judges 8:16 . "There is no doubt but this word means a sharp, jagged kind of plant: the difficulty is to fix on one, where so many offer themselves. The Septuagint preserves the original word. We should hardly think Gideon went far to seek these plants. The thorns are expressly said to be from the wilderness, or common hard by; probably the barkanim were from the same place. In our country this would lead us to the blackberry bushes on our commons; but it might not be so around Succoth. There is a plant mentioned by Hasselquist, whose name and properties somewhat resemble those which are required in the barkanim of this passage: "Nabka paliurus Athenaei, is the nabka of the Arabs. There is every appearance that this is the tree which furnished the crown of thorns which was put on the head of our Lord. It is common in the east. A plant more proper for this purpose could not be selected; for it is armed with thorns, its branches are pliant, and its leaf of a deep green like that of ivy. Perhaps the enemies of Christ chose this plant, in order to add insult to injury by employing a wreath approaching in appearance that which was used to crown emperors and generals." In the New Testament, the Greek word translated "thorn," is ακανθα ; Matthew 7:16 ; Matthew 13:7 ; Matthew 27:29 , John 19:2 . The note of Bishop Pearce on Matthew 27:29 , is this: "The word ακανθων may as well be the plural genitive case of the word ακανθος , as of ακανθα : if of the latter, it is rightly translated ‘of thorns,' but the former would signify what we call ‘bear's foot,' and the French branche ursine. This is not of the thorny kind of plants, but is soft and smooth. Virgil calls it mollis acanthus. So does Pliny; and Pliny the elder says that it is laevis, ‘smooth;' and that it is one of those plants that are cultivated in gardens. I have somewhere read, but cannot at present recollect where, that this soft and smooth herb was very common in and about Jerusalem. I find nothing in the New Testament concerning this crown which Pilate's soldiers put on the head of Jesus, to incline one to think that it was of thorns, and intended, as is usually supposed, to put him to pain. The reed put into his hand, and the scarlet robe on his back, were meant only as marks of mockery and contempt. One may also reasonably judge by the soldiers being said to plat this crown, that it was not composed of such twigs and leaves as were of a thorny nature. I do not find that it is mentioned by any of the primitive Christian writers as an instance of the cruelty used toward our Saviour before he was led to crucifixion, till the time of Tertullian, who lived after Jesus' death at the distance of above one hundred and sixty years. He indeed seems to have understood ακανθων in the sense of thorns, and says, ‘ Quale oro te, Jesus Christus sertum pro utrogue sexu subiit? Ex spinis, opinor, et tribulis.' [What kind of a crown, I beseech you, did Jesus Christ sustain? One made of thorns and thistles, I think.] The total silence of Polycarp, Barnabas, Clemens Romanus, and all the other Christian writers whose works are now extant, and who wrote before Tertullian, in particular, will give some weight to incline one to think that this crown was not platted with thorns. But as this is a point on which we have not sufficient evidence, I leave it almost in the same state of uncertainty in which I found it." See GARDEN .


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Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Thorn'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/wtd/t/thorn.html. 1831-2.

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