Tag Archives: Thorns

Resilient Hawthorn

 

In the Bible

The Bible mentions the hawthorn tree only once (Job 30:4). In Job, often Bible translations don’t use the word hawthorn; rather broom tree is used.  One hawthorn trees grow in the Israeli landscape:  Crataegus aronia also known as Crataegus azarolus and commonly called the spiny hawthorn. It is deciduous (not an evergreen) tree . In ancient Israel, it grew on both sides of the Jordan River. Some believe the crown of thorns worn by Christ was made from the hawthorn; but likely the crown of thorns was made from another plant.

Tree characteristics

Crataegus means strong or sharp point in Greek. The Greek name is appropriate because the tree is strong and has thorns (sharp points). In the United States, the primary hawthorn tree is the Crataegus phaenopyrum. We call it the Washington hawthorn. American gardeners love this tree because in spring it has a beautiful cream to white flowers which turn into red berries (about ¼ inch in diameter) in autumn.  

Generally, hawthorn berries remain on trees throughout the winter. Birds and squirrels eat them. If any berries are left over in the spring, migrating spring birds finish them.

Another plus for the Washington hawthorn is that in autumn leaves turn copper to scarlet. They are spectacular. Trees are small to medium size and rarely reach over 30 feet in height although the crown spreads up to 30 feet. Washington hawthorn are tough trees which survive through droughts and don’t seem to be bothered by urban pollution. Often, trees are planted closely together to give

privacy. The tree prefers full sun and grows best in an acid to neutral pH. In the U.S., the Washington hawthorns grows readily in plant hardiness zones are 4 – 8.

Thorns and Legends

The downside to the Washington hawthorn is its thorns, particularly if planted in a play area. Alternatively, thorns can assist when the tree is planted to promote privacy. Depending on the variety of hawthorn, the thorns on the tree’s branches, twigs, and even trunks can be straight or curved. Some thorns measure

up to four inches long. Not only can the thorns cause puncture wounds, there have been responsible for bacterial infections and allergic reactions. A United States legend is that Paul Bunyan used a hawthorn tree as a back scratcher because of its thorns.

In our church Bible garden, we have several redbud trees which are aged. I am considering planting the Washington hawthorn when the redbud trees finally succumb to age. The Washington hawthorn is more stable than both a redbud tree and the Bradford pear tree which is a common tree in southwestern Virginia.

Reflection: Resilient, drought tolerant, grows in diverse environments. Does that describe you?

Copyright September 26, 2017; Carolyn Adams Roth. All rights reserved.

Note: Please check out my website: www.CarolynRothMinistry.com for books on Bible plants. Much of the material for this post was from the Arbor Day Foundation and Missouri Botanical Garden.Save

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Parable: Trashy Thorns

Rhamnus_lycioides_leaves

The Hebrews author inserted a short two-verse parable (Hebrews 6:7-8) to foster readers’ intuitive understanding of more difficult Christian doctrine identified in verses 4-6. He must have believed that an agricultural parable of the land producing crops versus thorns and thistles was an illustration that even the most urban reader of the first century would understand.

Hebrews was addressed to Jewish Christians, but had great applicability to Gentile readers. For centuries biblical scholars believed that Paul wrote the letter to the Hebrews. Within the past five hundred years other writers, i.e., Barnabas and Apollos, have been postulated. Who wrote Hebrews is not as important as its message.

Immediately prior to the parable of productive versus non-productive land, the writer reprimands readers because they were slow to learn (Hebrews 5:11-14). He wants them to become more mature in their faith, moving beyond learning or relearning elementary teachings about Jesus and Christianity to more mature doctrine (Hebrews 6:1-2).

What follows in Hebrews 6:4-6 is a series of statements that includes some of the most hotly contested beliefs among Christian scholars, not to mention among Christian denominations. The writer asked: if an individuals who has rejected Christ after he has been enlightened and shared in the blessings of the Holy Spirit be brought back to repentance?. He goes on to say, that these believers—who have fallen away—crucify Jesus all over again and subject Jesus to public disgrace.

Then, the writer provided this parable to illustrate his point:

Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned.                                                       —  Hebrews 6:7-8 NIV

Notice that the subject of the parable is the land – not rain, nor a farming process, not a crop, nor even a farmer, but land. The land receives rain and does something with the rain. In one instance the land responds by producing a useful crop. In other words, the land produced grains, trees, herbs, etc. that gave the farmer food for his family. Possibly, the crop was abundant enough so some could be sold and provide food security for an entire community. Other land responds to the rain by producing thorns and thistles. This land is worthless to that farmer. It is in danger of being cursed; in the end it will be burned.

Thorns Rhamnus_lycioides_branch

 Thorns were first mentioned in Genesis as a way God cursed the ground when he expelled Adam and Eve from Eden. Thorns grew on the acacia tree in the Sinai desert and on Jotham’s thorn tree in the Promised Land.  Isaiah warned Ahaz that the land around Jerusalem would become thorn infested because of his disobedience. In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ asked if people can pick grapes from thorn bushes. As these exemplars show, many thorn producing trees and plants were mentioned in the Bible.

The Mediterranean buckthorn (Rhamnus lycoides) is a slow growing thorn bush common in the Mediterranean Basin where Jewish converts lived in the first century Christian church. The buckthorn is an unattractive shrub that doesn’t normally grow in cultivated gardens or fields. It actually likes to grow in poor soil that is gritty and highly eroded. Along with the thistle, the buckthorn is the last species to disappear when livestock over-grazed an area.

Most gardeners and farmers do not view the Mediterranean buckthorn as attractive. Its form is tangled and many branched. Grayish stems are topped with thorny spikes. Small flowers are yellowish, inconspicuous, unattractive, and may appear in the winter. Fruit is small, initially green, but turns black when mature. Although birds like the fruit, humans find it bitter. It acts as a purgative and in large quantities is toxic to humans. Aphids are attracted to the Mediterranean buckthorn. If the buckthorn grows in a damp climate, it tends to develop fungal disease. Once aphids and fungus appear on plants, they often spread to more valuable plants in the area. Overall the Mediterranean buckthorn has no value for either man or livestock. Burning land that it inhabits is one strategy to get rid of it.

Symbolism – Trash

Throughout the Bible thorns don’t have a good reputation; often they symbolized desolation and devastation.  The Hebrew word for the thorn in Isaiah 7:23-25 is shayith which is translated as scrub, thorn, or trash (Strong, 2010).  Trash is debris from plant materials, something worth little or nothing, and something thrown away.  Trash is an excellent symbol for men and women who learned what Christ did for them, tasted the heavenly gift and goodness of the word of God, shared in the Holy Spirit and then turned back, or fallen away from the goodness of God. The outcome for these individuals is not the storehouse of God but a burning trash heap.

Reflection:  Consider the parable in this chapter.

  1. Will increasing the amount of rain that falls on the thorn-infested land, make the land more productive for crops?
  2. Will additional fertilizer add to the productivity of the land?
  3. What do you think God is going to do with the thorn-infested land?

I love Bible plants along with their symbolism. If you want to learn more about them, read my two books: 1) Rooted in God and 2) God as a Gardener. You can purchase them from my website: Carolyn Roth Ministry at http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com/

Copyright: June 20, 2016; Carolyn A. Roth

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