THORNS AND THISTLES >> Selfish and Worldly Intelligence
We have seen in the chapter on the shittah tree that there is a kind of thorniness which designs no harm, but is intended for useful protection; which, in that instance, is borne by a tree both noble and graceful, and useful in many ways. The thorns of roses, likewise, seem intended naturally for protection to the plant; and spiritually they appear to represent the caution, and even the jealousy, of friendship to prevent careless intrusion.
Besides the acacia there are very many thorny and prickly plants in Palestine. The nubk-apple is a small tree beset with strong thorns, and bearing small hard fruit, which the natives eat. There is a low thick bush, spreading one to two feet, full of slender thorns an inch or two long; the camels gather it in with their leathery lips and horny tongue, and do not seem to be pricked in the least.
There are thistles which in the plain of Gennesaret, and no doubt elsewhere, grow eight to ten feet high, and are so strong and sharp that horses cannot penetrate among them. There are nettles also which are not only sharp but stinging. These last, useless and almost maliciously hurtful in themselves, and preventing all useful productiveness, are certainly evil, and are like ill-natured minds, centered in self, and extending towards others only hard, repelling, censorious, and even malicious thoughts. When Adam and Eve were sent forth from the Garden of Eden, it was said that thenceforth the earth should produce for them thorns and thistles, representing the change in the state of mind from the bounteous kindliness produced while they were open to the Lord’s love, to unfruitful censoriousness when they turned to self. A similar curse was pronounced upon the house of Israel by the prophet Isaiah: “Upon the land of my people shall come up thorns and briars” (Isaiah 32:13). And in Hosea it is said, “The thorn and the thistle shall come up on their altars” (Hosea 10:8). Our Lord spoke of seed sown among thorns, as the truth “choked by cares, and riches, and pleasures of this life”—the thorns standing for selfish and worldly intelligence in general, which is intent upon exclusive advantages to self.
Author: JOHN WORCESTER 1875