Enemies of the Harvest

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In his famous Parable of the Sower, Jesus referred to seed sown in soil that was full of thistles. What did these thistles look like, and how did they succeed in choking the grain plants?

A view of the fields and hillside terraces in Israel on a hot summer day could reveal two prevalent residents: stones and thistles. An old Jewish fable apprises that ninety percent of the world’s stone was dropped on Israel during creation. A close competitor to that ninety percent of stone is the percent of thorny plants. Some sources claim there are approximately two hundred species of such plants in Israel. Surely there are many more than that!

Stones and Thistles

Common Thistle. Plant towering over six feet on the Megiddo tell.

How appropriate it is that stones and thorny plants are mentioned so often in the Scriptures! How appropriate it is that Jesus mentions them in his parable teaching! In the Parable of the Sower—or of the “Good Soil,” or of the “Seeds”—he includes both stone and thistles. Together with birds, they are enemies of the harvest.

As part of a series on Gospel flora, this article concentrates on the thistle. Yes, thistles! Most translations insist on using the word “thorns” for the Greek ἄκανθα (akantha) found in Gospel passages. As mentioned in my JP article, “Beating the (Thorny) Bushes,” both Greek and English translators of the Scriptures have had a great deal of trouble in identifying thorny plants of Israel. There are at least twenty Hebrew words in the Hebrew Scriptures that refer to thorny plants.

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This article originally appeared in issue 53 of the Jerusalem Perspective magazine. Click on the image above to view a PDF of the original magazine article.

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  • Gloria Suess [1932-2010]

    Gloria Suess [1932-2010]

    Gloria E. M. Suess (1932-2010) lived in Israel for several years. The amazing multitude and variety of Israeli wildflowers inspired Suess to start photographing all she could find. As volunteer secretary, editor and artist for the Institute of Holy Land Studies in Jerusalem, she was…
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