Thorns and Thistles in the Bible


See: Thorns, Thistles and Prickles
list of spinescent species in the Israeli flora



  • Thorns are modified branches or stems.
  • Spines are modified leaves, stipules, or parts of leaves.
  • Prickles are more comparable to hairs, i.e. they are extensions of the cortex (the outer layer of the stem) and epidermis (the dermal tissue system of leaves, stems, roots, flowers, fruits, and seeds).


  • There are many Hebrew words for thistle: kotz, dardar, barkan and hoah etc. The very first mention of thistles appears in the beginning of Genesis, after that Adam and Eve eat from the forbidden tree and God curses the land for Adam: "Thorns and thistles will it bring forth for you" (Genesis 3:18).
    The Bible refers to "thistles and prickles" as a symbol of desolation or wilderness and about 20 different words relate to some kind of prickly or thorny plant. They are one of the most common wildflowers in Israel, rapidly taking over any open patch of wasteland or untended meadows.
    Israel has many varieties of thistle, mostly in shades of pinks and purples, but also some in bright yellow, from the Syrian and spotted golden thistles to the artichoke and holy milk thistle and the cheery purple globe thistles which dot the landscape with color at the brownest part of the dry season.

    List of thorns and thistles mentioned in the Bible, starting with transliteration (except the Greek names), Hebrew and the english translation used, followed by the Bible verse(s).

    Acanthus syriacus, Syrian bear's breech,  Kotsitz Suri,קוציץ סורי,חרול,charûl, شوك آف الدب
    Akanthos, (Greek) άκανθος, thorn plant from acantha, ακανϑα, thorn, thistle; "ake," a sharp point; Septuagint akantha.
    1. Matthew 7:16
      By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?
    2. Matthew 13:7
      Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants.
    3. Matthew 13:22
      The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful.
    4. Matthew 27:29
      and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand. Then they knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said.
    Lycium europaeum, Lycium intricatum, Lycium mediterraneum, Boxthorn, European matrimony-vine, European tea tree, אטד אירופי
    Atad, אטד = thorn-bush, bramble; Lycium (derived from the Greek word λυκιον (lycion), which was a name applied by Pliny the Elder (23-79) and Pedanius Dioscorides (ca. 40-90) to a plant known as dyer's buckthorn. It was probably a Rhamnus species and was named for Lycia, the province in which it grew.
    1. Genesis 50:10-11
      10 When they reached the threshing floor of Atad, near the Jordan, they lamented loudly and bitterly; and there Joseph observed a seven-day period of mourning for his father. 11 When the Canaanites who lived there saw the mourning at the threshing floor of Atad, they said, “The Egyptians are holding a solemn ceremony of mourning.” That is why that place near the Jordan is called Abel Mizraim.
    2. Judges 9:14
      “Finally all the trees said to the thornbush, ‘Come and be our king.’
    3. Psalm 58:9
      Before your pots can feel the heat of the thorns— whether they be green or dry—the wicked will be swept away.
    Notobasis syriaca, Cirsium syriacum, Cnicus syriacus, Syrian Thistle,خرفيش ,ברקן סורי
    Barkan, ברקן = briar, thorn; Notobasis (Notobasis syriaca, Syrian Thistle), a thistle-like plant.
    1. Judges 8:7
      Then Gideon replied, “Just for that, when the LORD has given Zebah and Zalmunna into my hand, I will tear your flesh with desert thorns and briers.”
    2. Judges 8:16
      He took the elders of the town and taught the men of Sukkoth a lesson by punishing them with desert thorns and briers.
    Urtica pilulifera, Urtica dodartii, Roman nettle , סרפד הכדורים
    Charul, חרול = thorn, nettle, bramble; Nettles, Urtica
    1. Job 30:7
      They brayed among the bushes and huddled in the undergrowth ) Charul, חרול).
    2. Proverbs 24:31
      thorns had come up everywhere, the ground was covered with weeds, and the stone wall was in ruins.
    3. Zephaniah 2:9
      Therefore as I live," saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, "surely Moab shall be as Sodom, and the children of Ammon as Gomorrah" even the breeding of nettles and salt pits, and a perpetual desolation. The residue of My people shall despoil them, and the remnant of My people shall possess them."
    Centaurea iberica, Iberian knapweed, Spanish Centaury-thistle, דרדר מצוי
    Dardar, דרדר = thistle, thorn, Centaurea (Centaurea, gets its name from the centaur, Chiron, who is said in mythology to have taught us the healing power of herbs).
    1. Genesis 3:18
      It will produce thorns and thistles (Kotz weDardar, (קוץ ודרדר for you, and you will eat the plants of the field.
    2. Hosea 10:8
      The high places of wickedness will be destroyed— it is the sin of Israel. Thorns and thistles (Kotz weDardar, (קוץ ודרדר will grow up and cover their altars. Then they will say to the mountains, “Cover us!” and to the hills, “Fall on us!”
    Solanum villosum, Solanum luteum,Woolly nightshade, סולנום שעיר
    Hedek, חדק = thorn, thorn-bush, “stinging”; a species of thorn shrub used for hedges. Solanum.
    1. Proverb 15:19
      The way of the sluggard is blocked with thorns, but the path of the upright is a highway.
    Scolymus hispanicus, Spanish oyster plant,Spanish Golden-thistle, חוח ספרדי , سنارية إسبانية
    Hoah, חוח = briar, thistle; thorn. Scolymus [Song of Solomon 2:2 Like a lily among thorns (Keshoshana Ben Hachochim, כְּשׁוֹשַׁנָּה בֵּין הַחוֹחִים) is my darling among the young women].
    1. 2 Kings 14:9
      But Jehoash king of Israel replied to Amaziah king of Judah: “A thistle in Lebanon sent a message to a cedar in Lebanon, ‘Give your daughter to my son in marriage.’ Then a wild beast in Lebanon came along and trampled the thistle underfoot.
    2. 2 Chronicles 25:18
      But Jehoash king of Israel replied to Amaziah king of Judah: “A thistle in Lebanon sent a message to a cedar in Lebanon, ‘Give your daughter to my son in marriage.’ Then a wild beast in Lebanon came along and trampled the thistle underfoot.
    3. 2 Chronicles 33:11
      So the LORD brought against them the army commanders of the king of Assyria, who took Manasseh prisoner, put a hook in his nose, bound him with bronze shackles and took him to Babylon.
    4. Job 31:40
      then let briers come up instead of wheat and stinkweed instead of barley.”
    5. Job 41:2
      Can you put a cord through its nose or pierce its jaw with a hook?
    6. Hosea 9:6
      Even if they escape from destruction, Egypt will gather them, and Memphis will bury them. Their treasures of silver will be taken over by briers, and thorns will overrun their tents.
    7. Song 2:2
      Like a lily among thorns is my darling among the young women.
    8. Isaiah 34:13
      Thorns will overrun her citadels, nettles and brambles her strongholds. She will become a haunt for jackals, a home for owls.
    9. Proverbs 26:9
      Like a thornbush in a drunkard’s hand is a proverb in the mouth of a fool.
    10. 1 Samuel 13:6
      When the Israelites saw that their situation was critical and that their army was hard pressed, they hid in caves and thickets, among the rocks, and in pits and cisterns.
    Carduus australis, Carduus pycnocephala, Italian thistle,
קרדה דרומית
    Kotz, קוץ = thorn, thistle; thornbush, prickle, spine, blackthorn, briar, brier; especially the genera Carduus (Carduus is Latin for a thistle), Cirsium ('Cirsium' derives from the Greek word kirsos meaning 'swollen vein'. Thistles were used as a remedy against swollen veins), and Onopordum (Onopordum, an early Latin name for a group of thistles, derived from the Greek onos, meaning "ass", and porde, flatulence, because of the belief that the plant caused flatulence in donkeys).
    1. Genesis 3:18
      It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field.
    2. Exodus 22:6
      “If a fire breaks out and spreads into thornbushes so that it burns shocks of grain or standing grain or the whole field, the one who started the fire must make restitution.
    3. Judges 8:7
      Then Gideon replied, “Just for that, when the LORD has given Zebah and Zalmunna into my hand, I will tear your flesh with desert thorns and briers.”
    4. Judges 8:16
      He took the elders of the town and taught the men of Sukkoth a lesson by punishing them with desert thorns and briers.
    5. 2 Samuel 23:6
      But evil men are all to be cast aside like thorns, which are not gathered with the hand.
    6. Psalm 118:12
      They swarmed around me like bees, but they were consumed as quickly as burning thorns; in the name of the LORD I cut them down.
    7. Isaiah 32:13
      and for the land of my people, a land overgrown with thorns and briers— yes, mourn for all houses of merriment and for this city of revelry.
    8. Isaiah 33:12
      The peoples will be burned to ashes; like cut thornbushes they will be set ablaze.”
    9. Jeremiah 4:3
      This is what the LORD says to the people of Judah and to Jerusalem: “Break up your unplowed ground and do not sow among thorns.
    10. Jeremiah 12:13
      They will sow wheat but reap thorns; they will wear themselves out but gain nothing. They will bear the shame of their harvest because of the LORD’s fierce anger.”
    11. Ezekiel 28:24
      “‘No longer will the people of Israel have malicious neighbors who are painful briers and sharp thorns. Then they will know that I am the Sovereign LORD.
    12. Hosea 10:8
      The high places of wickedness will be destroyed— it is the sin of Israel. Thorns and thistles will grow up and cover their altars. Then they will say to the mountains, “Cover us!” and to the hills, “Fall on us!”
    Crataegus aronia, Crataegus azarolus, Spiny Hawthorn,Neapolitan medlar, עוזרר קוצני, رورعز
    Mesukhah, מסוכה = hedge, thorn-hedge, hurdle; occurs only in Micah 7:4, where it means a "thorn hedge."
    1. Micah 7:4
      The best of them is like a brier, the most upright worse than a thorn hedge. The day God visits you has come, the day your watchmen sound the alarm. Now is the time of your confusion.
    Rhamnus lycioides, Rhamnus palaestinus, Palestine Buckthorn,
אשחר ארץ-ישראלי
    Na’azutz, נעצוץ = "thorn hedges", thorn-bush, ditch, (fig.) wicked person. The word is derived from the root na`ats, "to prick," or "pierce," and probably applies to any prickly plant. Some suggest Lycium or Rhamnus, others the thorny burnet, Poterium spinosum.
    1. Isaiah 7:19
      They will all come and settle in the steep ravines and in the crevices in the rocks, on all the thornbushes and at all the water holes.
    2. Isaiah 55:13
      Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow. This will be for the LORD’s renown, for an everlasting sign, that will endure forever.”
    Xanthium strumarium, Xanthium occidentale, Xanthium pungens,Cocklebur, לְכִיד הַנְּחָלִים
    Qimmosh, קמוש = thistle; plural qimmeshonim, קמושים; Xanthium
    1. Isaiah 34:13
      Thorns will overrun her citadels, nettles and brambles her strongholds. She will become a haunt for jackals, a home for owls.
    2. Hosea 9:6
      Even if they escape from destruction, Egypt will gather them, and Memphis will bury them. Their treasures of silver will be taken over by briers, and thorns will overrun their tents. plural Proverbs 24:31
      thorns had come up everywhere, the ground was covered with weeds, and the stone wall was in ruins.
    Saravim, סרבים ,briers, thorns
    Saravim, סרבים (plural) = briers (briars), thorns
    1. Ezekiel 2:6
      And you, son of man, do not be afraid of them or their words. Do not be afraid, though briers and thorns are all around you and you live among scorpions. Do not be afraid of what they say or be terrified by them, though they are a rebellious people.
    Shamir VeShayit, שמיר ושית - brier and thorns, waste land
    Shayit, שית = thorn-bush, belonging exclusively to Isaiah and always associated with shamir, always translated thorns. Shamir VeShayit, שמיר ושית - brier and thorns, waste land.
    1. Isaiah 5:6
      I will make it a wasteland, neither pruned nor cultivated, and briers and thorns will grow there. I will command the clouds not to rain on it.”
    2. Isaiah 7:23-25
      In that day, in every place where there were a thousand vines worth a thousand silver shekels, there will be only briers and thorns. 24 Hunters will go there with bow and arrow, for the land will be covered with briers and thorns. 25 As for all the hills once cultivated by the hoe, you will no longer go there for fear of the briers and thorns; they will become places where cattle are turned loose and where sheep run.
    3. Isaiah 9:18
      Surely wickedness burns like a fire; it consumes briers and thorns, it sets the forest thickets ablaze, so that it rolls upward in a column of smoke.
    4. Isaiah 10:17
      The Light of Israel will become a fire, their Holy One a flame; in a single day it will burn and consume his thorns and his briers.
    5. Isaiah 27:4
      I am not angry. If only there were briers and thorns confronting me! I would march against them in battle; I would set them all on fire.
    Acanthus syriacus, Syrian bear's breech,  Kotsitz Suri,קוציץ סורי,חרול,charûl, شوك آف الدب
    Shamir, שמיר = thistle, brier, Shamir VeShayit, שמיר ושית - brier and thorns, waste land.
    1. Isaiah 32:13
      and for the land of my people, a land overgrown with thorns and briers— yes, mourn for all houses of merriment and for this city of revelry.
    Zilla spinosa, Spiny Zilla, סילון קוצני
    Silon, סילון = thorn, briers; zilla (plant)
    1. Ezekiel 28:24
      “‘No longer will the people of Israel have malicious neighbors who are painful briers and sharp thorns. Then they will know that I am the Sovereign LORD.
    Sikkim, שכים ,prickle, thorn
    Sikkim, שכים (plural of Sech, שך) = prickle, thorn, prick
    1. Numeri 33:55
      But if ye will not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you; then it shall come to pass, that those which ye let remain of them shall be pricks in your eyes, and thorns in your sides, and shall vex you in the land wherein ye dwell. (KJV)
    Sarcopoterium spinosum, Poterium spinosum, Thorny burnet,Pricky Burnet, Brushwood, סירה קוצנית , نتش بلان
    Sirim, סירים (plural); sira, סירה = great burnet, poterium
    1. Ecclesiastes 7:6
      Like the crackling of thorns under the pot, so is the laughter of fools. This too is meaningless.
    2. Isaiah 34:13
      Thorns will overrun her citadels, nettles and brambles her strongholds. She will become a haunt for jackals, a home for owls.
    3. Hosea 2:6
      Therefore I will block her path with thornbushes; I will wall her in so that she cannot find her way.
    4. Nahum 1:10
      They will be entangled among thorns and drunk from their wine; they will be consumed like dry stubble
    5. Amos 4:2 Siroth, is translated "fish-hooks."
      The Sovereign LORD has sworn by his holiness: “The time will surely come when you will be taken away with hooks, the last of you with fishhooks.
    Urtica urens, Small nettle, Dwarf stinger, Dog nettle,
סרפד צורף
    Sirpad, סרפד = nettle, Urtica
    1. Isaiah 55:13
      Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow. This will be for the LORD’s renown, for an everlasting sign, that will endure forever.”
    Skolops,σκόλοψ, thorn, a splinter
    Skolops, (Greek) σκόλοψ, thorn, a splinter
    1. 2 Corinthians 12:7
      or because of these surpassingly great revelations. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn (skolops) in my flesh (σκόλοψ τῇ σαρκί), a messenger of Satan, to torment me.
    Tribulus terrestris, Puncturevine, Caltrop, Cathead, Yellow vine, Goathead,מצוי קוטב
    Tribolos, (Greek) τρίβολος ; three-pronged= brier, thistle, a prickly wild plant, hurtful to other plants.
    1. Matthew 7:16
      By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?
    2. Hebrews 6:8
      But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned.
    Tzinnin - צנין, tzeninim - צנינים = thorn, prick, sting</font></font></font></font>
    Tzinnin - צנין, tzeninim - צנינים = thorn, prick, sting
    1. Job 5:5
      The hungry consume his harvest, taking it even from among thorns, and the thirsty pant after his wealth.
    2. Proverbs 22:5
      Thorns and snares are in the way of the froward: he that doth keep his soul shall be far from them.(KJV)

      tzeninim - צנינים
    3. Numeri 33:55
      “‘But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land, those you allow to remain will become barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides. They will give you trouble in the land where you will live.
    4. Joshua 23:13
      then you may be sure that the LORD your God will no longer drive out these nations before you. Instead, they will become snares and traps for you, whips on your backs and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from this good land, which the LORD your God has given you.


    see: Thorns, Thistles and Prickles
    list of spinescent species in the Israeli flora


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