“References to thorns are throughout the Bible, found in the Old and New Testaments. These references affirm the negative connotation of the word and the desolation associated with thorns.” *
In doing research on this topic, what I found was there are 56 instances in 13 different translations of the Bible where it speaks about “thorns”. The first one being in Genesis 3. God is confronting Adam and Eve for their sin in the garden of Eden, after they disobeyed His command not to eat from a specific tree. In verses 17b-18a (NET) God says: “‘…the ground is cursed because of you. All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it. It will grow thorns and thistles for you, though you will eat of its grains.’” To me, that seems to indicate that the thorns were to be obstacles in the way of an easier life – and they brought it on themselves through their sin.
Then one of the last references to “thorns” in the Bible is when three of the four gospels speak about how Jesus wore a crown of thorns when crucified. That crown of thorns was not a typical part of crucifixion – it was being used as a way to further physically hurt Jesus as well as a way to mock and humiliate Him. John 19:1-3 (AMP): “So then Pilate took Jesus and had Him scourged (flogged, whipped). And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on His head, and put a purple robe around Him; and they kept coming up to Him, saying [mockingly], ‘Hail, King of the Jews [Good health! Peace! Long life to you, King of the Jews]!’ And they slapped Him in the face.” In this instance the thorns were a tool for harm and humiliation.
In Numbers 33:1-49 you will read the story of the Israelites’ journey as they left Egypt. Moses kept a detailed journal of every place they were as they traveled to their promised land. Verses 50-55 (ERV) says: “There, the Lord spoke to Moses and said, ‘Speak to the Israelites and tell them this: You will cross the Jordan River. You will go into the land of Canaan. You will take the land from the people you find there. You must destroy all of their carved statues and idols. You must destroy all of their high places. You will take the land and you will settle there, because I am giving this land to you. It will belong to your family groups. Each of your family groups will get part of the land. You will throw lots to decide which family group gets each part of the country. Large family groups will get large parts of the land. Small family groups will get small parts of the land. The lots will show which family group gets which part of the land. Each tribe will get its part of the land. You must force these other people to leave the country. If you let them stay in your country, they will bring many troubles to you. They will be like a needle in your eye and a thorn in your side. They will bring many troubles to the country where you will be living.’”
The Lord spoke very clearly about what He expected of the Israelites – things they needed to accomplish in order to have the best lives possible once they arrived to the land that had been promised to their forefathers. He also clearly stated to them that if they did not follow His directions things would not go well with them. He knew that the influence of the people they would be encountering that worshiped idols, would be a stumbling block for them. So in order to live the best life possible they needed to push the other people out as directed. To prevent the “thorns” from causing them problems they needed to follow His directions.
In Matthew 13 Jesus is telling a group of people a parable about planting seeds, describing what will happen to the seeds that fall onto different kinds of ground. In verse 7 (NKJV) He says: “‘And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them.’” Martin G. Collins says this about the topic of the thorns in that verse: “The thorny ground represents those who are consumed by the cares and anxieties of this physical life and the deceitful enticements of wealth. The constant pressures of ordinary life—providing for our needs, education, employment, social duties, etc.—can be distracting, causing us to ignore God and Christian growth.” I really appreciate Mr. Collins’ slant on this topic, it seems very relevant for us today. We live in very turbulent and busy times and tend to let too many things become thorns in our side as he described.
I believe that we need to be hyper-alert to all of the perversity that is in our world today – it seems the temptations come at us from every side; and, if we do not use caution, we will be sucked into the enticements of it all. On my daily prayer calendar February 14 this was what it said: “Lord, help me to guard my soul from any perverse influence, whether it be from people I associate or work with, or from any media I allow into my home and my life. Give me discernment so that I will not accept as norm something You have declared to be perverse. Help me to be sensitive to Your Spirit and what grieves You. Help me to not accept things into my soul that are unacceptable to You.” ** And the scripture that was referenced was Proverbs 22:5 (NKJV): “Thorns and snares are in the way of the perverse; He who guards his soul will be far from them.”
So it seems to me that the bottom line is this, if we want to prevent thorns in our sides – we need to do our best to live our lives as honorable people that protect ourselves from stepping into obvious areas of sinfulness. The best way to do that is to study God’s Word and obey what He expects from us, avoiding the temptations that lie before us. We need to lean into Him to prevent the pressures of life weighing us down.
*Quote from Bible Study Tools – Article titled Why Was Jesus Given a Crown of Thorns?” by Pamela Palmer
**Quote from Prayers For Emotional Wholeness by Stormie Omartian
[All bold and underline emphasis is mine]
Written by Karran Martin – February 17, 2023