Thistles

THISTLES (דַּרְדַּר, H1998, חוֹחַ, H2560; τρίβολος, G5560). The Heb. word dardar is “thistle” or “bramble,” and hôah is “thorn,” “bramble” or “thicket.” Tribolos is undoubtedly “thistle” in Matthew 7:16.

Adam was promised the competition of weeds (thistles) after he was put out of the Garden of Eden for sin (Gen 3:18). The amusing parabolic conversation of a thistle and a cedar in 2 Kings 14:9; and 2 Chronicles 25:18, is emphasized by being mentioned twice. Is the word “thistle” used here, correctly, however?

Job 31:42 “Let thorns grow instead of wheat,” could mean “a thicket of weeds,” say, the “darnel” of the parable of the wheat and tares again.

Is the Job thistle the Notobasis syriaca, the true Syrian thistle, which was a common weed on Job’s farms? If so, then the plant is one that grows three ft. high and is erect and branched. The leaves are smooth above and hairy below; they are prickly.

Thistles are, however, very common in Pal., and the Israeli Agricultural experts claim that there are over 120 species found in Israel today. Some kinds grow to a height of six ft. like the Onopordon arabicum of Great Britain.

Moffatt trs. the word dardar uniformly as “thistle,” but when the word ḥôaḥ occurs, as in Job 31:40, the tr. becomes “thorns.” This seems very reasonable.

The thistles of Isaiah 34:13 are tr. “brambles,” yet it is the word ḥôaḥ again. This could be a reference to yet another very common Palestinian thistle, Scolymus maculatus, the spotted golden species. This would be suitable for decorating the rundown palaces and fortresses. The leaves of this three ft. plant are margined white and the flowers are gold.

The most common thistle of all is claimed to be Centaurea iberica, often called the Iberian thistle. It could be that the Heb. word “dardar” is used generically to cover a number of different kinds of thistles, and if so, one should undoubtedly include Centaurea calcitropa, the Star thistle; Silybum marianum, the Lady’s Thistle; and Centaurea verutum, the Dwarf Thistle. All of these are common weeds in Pal.

In the reference to thistles in Matthew 7:16, the tr. should undoubtedly be “briars.” In fact, the word is tr. as such in Hebrews 6:7, i.e. “thorns and briars.”

Probably the only time that the word dardar should read “bramble” is in the story of the Tree of Lebanon and the “upstart” in 2 Kings 14:9; 2 Chronicles 25. It is more likely that a tree would speak to a tree, and so the tr. be “thorn bush.” There are many thorny Acacias which grow profusely in Palestine and Lebanon.

See also

  • Thorns