“It is good to listen to the rebuke of the wise in contrast to the man who listens to the song of the fools. For as the sound of thorns under a pot, so is the sound of the laughter of fools. And this also is vanity.”
How often it is that people surround themselves with those who will laugh with them but not with those who will cry with them. And the latter is so much more valuable. People who will tell you what you want to hear bolster the ego but they rarely bolster wisdom. How valuable it is when we have people in our midst who will tell us the difficult things we need to hear and who will tell those things to us in love and grace.
The illustration that Solomon uses to make his contrast is that of placing a pot on the fire (presumably to prepare dinner). Those of us who have made fires, whether in the hearth or out at a campsite, know that while you might use some briars and softwoods to get the fire started, but that to sustain a good fire and have hot coals, one needs solid and dried out hardwoods. Furthermore, briars and other things like that pop and crack as they burn. They are noisy and unstable, producing light but no good heat. And in addition to that, they also put off a lot of soot, which, if you are cooking on an open pot, will go into your soup and can ruin the dish.
Those that would offer simple-minded laughter and agreement to anything that you say ought to be like the pops and cracks of thorns in the fire. One here or there is fine, but if that is the dominant sound, you need to change the makeup of the people you are spending time with and whom you have hired to work with you. Their voices should pop and crackle, whereas the voice of the wise (like good, seasoned, hardwood) should be welcomed. The wise will not always rebuke you and sometimes they will tell you what you want to hear (if you are right); at the same time, the rebuke of the wise, unpleasant in the moment as it might be, is far better and more productive than the songs of praise that come from the sycophantic fools.
“And they stripped him and laid a scarlet cloak on him. And they twisted together a crown from a thorn vine and put it on his head with a reed in his right hand, and they knelt before him and mocked him saying, ‘Hail, king of the Jews.’ And they spat on him and took the reed and beat him on the head.”
“And they clothed him with a purple cloak and they put on him a crown woven from a thorn vine and they began to recognize him: ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ And they were striking him on the head with the reed and spitting on him and bowed the knee to worship him.”
“And the soldiers wove a crown from a thorn vine and put it on his head and clothed him with a garment of purple. And they came up to him and said, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ And they gave him blows.”
Yet, the robe isn’t the only counterfeit item placed upon Jesus to mock him…there is a reed and a crown as well. The crown is often what attracts the most attention given the cruelty of the act. The term used in the Greek is a¡kanqa (akantha) and refers to a very specific bramble known commonly as the “Rest Harrow” or scientifically as the “Onanis spinoza L.” for those of you who prefer to be technical. This is a vine that grows up in fields with a thick, woody vine with long spiny thorns (hence the distinction: spinoza). They are called “Rest Harrows” because they were so strong and stubborn to pull out that they would grab the farmer’s harrowing tool and bring it to rest. They are common in Israel both modern and ancient and bring grief to farmers both modern and ancient.
These are the thorns that Jesus spoke about in the parable of the sower which choked the seed out as it tried to grow (Matthew 13:7,22) representing the cares of this world. They are also the thorns of which Jesus spoke when he talked about good fruit not coming from a thorn bush (Matthew 7:16) and similarly is employed by the author of Hebrews to speak of a life that is worthless (Hebrews 6:8, also see 2 Samuel 23:6 for the same term in the LXX). In the Greek translation of the Old Testament, they are the hedge of thorns that represents the life of the sluggard (Proverbs 15:19), the crackling of the laughter of fools (Ecclesiastes 7:6), and it is the fruit of the carefully tended vineyard of Israel in Isaiah 5:1-6 (though our translations typically render this word here as “wild grapes” in favor of the Hebrew, not the Greek, reading).
Yet, the most significant reference to this word is found in Genesis 3:18 in the Greek translation of the Old Testament. The punishment for Adam and Eve’s sin is that the ground will now produce thorns and thistles — “rest harrows.” And thus, our Lord is symbolically crowned with the thorn that is the symbol of mankind’s sin and rebellion. Again, this is God’s design, there is no random chance that these things are brought together in this way without a divine hand at work.
Jesus is indeed crowned with our sin on the cross, bearing the guilt of our sin before His Father’s wrath and anger so that we might be redeemed to trust in Christ’s completed work. My prayer for you is that you are doing just that. If not, my prayer is that God will use these humble words to spark something within you that He will use to draw you in faith to himself. Jesus bore the sins of his own on that cross and as the Second Adam, he too faced the Rest Harrow and the sweat of his brow.