Tag Archives: Sarcopoterium spinosum

Laughter of Fools

Bible Reference: Ecclesiastes 7.6

Possibly, Ecclesiastes was written by Solomon, one of his offspring, or a learned teacher in the Israelite assembly.  Within Ecclesiastes, the writer referred to himself as “Teacher.” One saying the Teacher wrote was, “Like the crackling of thorns under the pot, so is the laughter of fools. This too is meaningless” (Ecclesiastes 7.6 NIV).

Israelite cooking fires were located in outer courtyards or inside homes. The time of year influenced where the fire was located.  In hot weather, the cooking fire was outside the home. In cooler or cold weather, the fire was located inside the home to give heath. Many poorer Israelites cooked over a simple hole in the ground surrounded by rocks (a fire pit). Wealthier Israelites had ovens, either inside the home or in the courtyard.

In ancient Israel, wood was the primary fuel used for cooking; however, in Ecclesiastes 7.6, thorns fueled fire. Thorn bushes burn faster and with less heat than dense wood, i.e., oak, olive. Many times when thorns were collected and burned, green branches were present at the base, even when the thorn bush appeared dry on top and in the middle. When burned, green branches emitted a crackling sound. Thorns, as fuel, made the point of the Teacher’s saying: The laughter of fools is like a short-lived fire fueled by thorns, not dense wood. A fool’s laughter, although perhaps loud, doesn’t last very long. It is relatively valueless or meaningless.

In ancient Israel, wood was the primary fuel used for cooking; however, in Ecclesiastes 7.6, thorns fueled fire. Thorn bushes burn faster and with less heat than dense wood, i.e., oak, olive. Many times when thorns were collected and burned, green branches were present at the base, even when the thorn bush appeared dry on top and in the middle. When burned, green branches emitted a crackling sound. Thorns, as fuel, made the point of the Teacher’s saying: The laughter of fools is like a short-lived fire fueled by thorns, not dense wood. A fool’s laughter, although perhaps loud, doesn’t last very long. It is relatively valueless or meaningless.

The thorn plant of Ecclesiastes is the Sarcopoterium spinosum. Other names are the thorny burnet and prickly burnet.9,10 On the female flower, ovaries are set in four-or-five joined sepals so that female flowers resemble a covered pot. These flower pots are numerous on stems. When the female flower is young, it is green, and turns red-orange at maturity and rusty brown as it dries.  In the heat of a fire, the flower “pots” produce a small explosive sound when they pop open. The sound resembles crackling. On the thorny burnet, thorns grow up to four inches. Individuals who harvest and prepare the thorny burnet for fuel and other purposes have a high chance of being scratched by thorns.

In Ecclesiastes 7.6, the meaning of thorny burnet was futility. Futility implies an action that has no use or purpose.3 Synonyms are ineffective, pointless, and vainness; an  antonym is useful. Although a thorny burnet fire can snap, crackle, and pop, and be pleasing to the ears, the sound adds little to the heat.

Paul identified several ways and situations where man’s thoughts were futile, i.e., useless and ineffective. Two points seem particularly important today.  First, God is revealed through his creation, yet unrighteous men neither glorified God, nor give him thanks. Instead their thinking becomes futile and their foolish hearts  darkened. They exchanged worship of the immortal God for worship of man-made images such as birds, animals,  and reptiles. Most men and women in the twenty-first century don’t worship animals, but, sometimes, they hang onto the words of men/women rather than focusing on God’s instruction for life.

Writing to the Corinthian church, Paul stated that “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sin” (1 Corinthians 15.17 NIV). Redemption of our bodies, eternal life in Christ, depends on a risen Lord. When I was in college, The Passover Plot.11 was required reading for anyone trying to be intellectual.  The book argued that Jesus and disciples implemented an elaborate ruse to have Jesus declared Messiah. Jesus never died on the cross. He was taken from the cross and hidden by close associates. Then, Jesus reappeared three days later to fulfill Jews’ expectations for the Messiah.

The problem with The Passover Plot’s argument is the lived experiences of individuals who saw both Jesus’s death and his resurrected body. Evidence of Jesus’s death comes from eye-witness accounts of non-believers as well as believers. In his resurrected body, Jesus appeared at least eleven times to over 500 people.

My reading The Passover Plot allowed me to appear intellectual when I discussed arguments against Jesus’s death during my college years. Yet, my arguments were as the crackle of thorn bushes in a cook fire—not of much value. Recently, I read another book, None Like Him.12 The author said that God is self-sufficient. That means that God doesn’t need my arguments for or against his existence. The phenomenon of Jesus’s death and resurrection may confound the wise, but, that doesn’t make it any less real. My take away message from reading both books, one futile and one valuable for Christian growth, is that reading and believing commentaries on the Bible should never take the place of reading (and believing) God’s word.

Reflection: What are you spending your time doing that isn’t of much value? Let me assure you that it didn’t take me more than a second to come up with several time-wasters in my life. How can you, more importantly, how are you going to eliminate these time-wasters from your life? If you spent more time promoting Christ’s message, how would that benefit the USA?

Copyright April 4, 2019. All rights reserved.