(מסוּכָה , mesukah; ;for משׂוֹכָה, or perhaps simply from the interlacing of the briers; Sept. κανών ; Vulg. sepes), a hedge-row of thorny plants (Mic 7:4). The formidable character of-the thorny thickets in Palestine is noted by almost every traveler. Near Jericho Mr. Tristram records as the principal tree "the Zizyphus spina Christi, growing twenty, or thirty feet high, with its sub angular branches studded with long, pointed, and rather reflex thorns a true wait-a-bit tree. No one can approach it with impunity unless clad in leather; and in three days the whole party were in rags from passing through the thickets" (Land of Israel, p. 202). In the same way Messrs. M'Cheyne and Bonar mention how Dr. Keith was baffled in his attempt to climb a verdant-looking hill by "strong briers and thorns," through which he found it impossible to force a passage. They add, "Some time after, when sailing up the Bosphorus, conversing with a gentleman whom we had met in Palestine, who appeared to be a man of the world, we asked him if he had climbed Mount Tabor to obtain the delightful view from its summit. His answer was, 'No; why should I climb Mount Tabor to see a country of thorns?'He was thus an unintentional witness of the truth of God's Word" (Mission of Inquiry, p. 119). Such predictions as Isa 7:23-24; Isa 32:12-15; Ho 9:6. acquire additional force from the circumstance that it is so often in the midst of magnificent ruins once pleasant "tabernacles" -or in regions which must formerly have been rich and fruitful fields, that these thorns and briers now maintain their undisputed and truculent empire. Thus, at Beth-nimrah, the traveler says, "The buildings may have been extensive, but-the ruins are now shapeless, and generally choked by the prickly vegetation" (Tristram, Land of Israel, p. 522). Again, "We rode up the Ghor, through a maze of zizyphus bush, which encumbers a soil of almost incredible richness; watered every mile by some perennial brook, but without trace of inhabitant or cultivation. Now and then we saw a clump of palm-trees, the ruined heap of some old village, or a piece of a broken water-course, to tell us that once the hand of civilization was here. Myriads of turtledoves peopled these thickets. We put them up absolutely by scores from every bush. The nests of the marsh-sparrow bore down the branches by their weight, and the chirping was literally deafening. The bushes and weeds were laden with seeds" (ibid. p. 570). In his last words king David compares the sons of Belial to "thorns thrust away, because they cannot be taken with hands; but the man that shall touch them must be fenced with iron and the staff of a spear" (2Sa 23:6-7). A traveler tells how out of one of these bushes of nubk he tried to get a dove, which, when shot, had fallen into it; "but, though I had my gloves on, each attempt made my hand bleed and smart most painfully, as the thorns will not yield in the least. I failed in like manner when I tried to cut a stick" (Gadsby, Wanderings, 2, 60). When we remember that a single thorn is sometimes a couple, of inches long, "as sharp as a pin and as hard as a bone," we can appreciate the force of the allusions in Nu 33:55; Pr 26:9; Eze 28:24; 2Co 12:7; and we can understand what a hopeless barrier was a "hedge of thorns" (Pr 15:19; Ho 2:6). The nubk, or zizyphus, is much used for fuel. Occurring everywhere, it is easily obtained; its slender twigs, intensely dry, flash up at once in a fierce, brilliant flame, and, although very different from the steady glow of retem charcoal, "coals of juniper," a successive supply is sufficient to heat the kettle of the camping traveler. To its rapid ignition the psalmist alludes, "Before your pots can feel the thorns, he shall sweep them away as with a whirlwind" (Ps 58:9); where "the brightness of the flame, the height to which it mounts in an instant, the fury with which it seems to rage on all sides of the vessel, give, force and even sublimity to the image, though taken from one of the commonest occurrences of the lowest life-a cottager's wife boiling her pot" (Horsley, ad loc.). Exploding so quickly, they are as speedily quenched (Ps 118:12); and there is small result from their noisy reputation (Ec 7:6). "Ridicule is a faculty much prized by its possessors yet, intrinsically, it is a small faculty. A scoffing man is in no lofty mood for the time; shows more of the imp than the angel. This, too, when his scoffing is what we call just and has some foundation in truth. While, again, the laughter of fools-that vain sound-said in Scripture to resemble the crackling of thorns under a pot (which they cannot heat, but only soil and begrime), must be regarded in these later times as a very serious addition to the sum of human wretchedness" (Carlyle, Miscellanies, 2, 119). Dr. Tristram further remarks, "I have noticed dwarf bushes of the zizyphus growing outside the walls of Jerusalem in the Kedron valley; but it is in the low plains that it reaches its full size and changes its name to the dhom tree. It is sometimes called the lotus-tree. The thorns are long, sharp, and recurred, and often create a festering wound. The leaves are a very bright green, oval, but not, as has been said, of the shape of the ivy. The boughs are crooked and irregular, the blossom small and white, and the fruit a bright yellow berry, which the tree continues to bear in great profusion from December to June. It is the size of a small gooseberry, of a pleasant, subacid flavor, with a stone like the hawthorn, and, whether fresh or dried, forms an agreeable dish, which we often enjoyed, mixing the berries with leben, or sour milk. There is no fence more impervious than that formed of nubk; and the Bedawin contrive to form one round their little corn plots with trifling labor. They simply cut down a few branches and lay them in line as soon as the barley is sown. No cattle, goats, or camels will attempt to force it, insignificant as it appears, not more than a yard high; and the twigs and recurved spines become so interwoven that it is in vain to attempt to pull the branches aside" (Nat. Hist. of the Bible, p. 429). SEE THORN.
The fences of prickly pear or Indian fig (Opuntia vulgaris), now so common in the lands of the Bible, were unknown in Bible times, the plant having only found its way to the Old World after the discovery of America (Tristram, Nat. Hist. of the Bible, p. 432). At present, however, it forms the common hedge-thorn of Palestine, especially in the villages of the Plain of Sharon. It grows to the size of a large shrub, the stem of which is as thick as a man's body. The leaf is studded with thorns, and is of oval shape, about ten inches long, six wide, and three fourths of an inch thick; the stem and branches are formed by the amalgamation of a certain number of those succulent leaves that grow together the year after their first appearance, when each is laden with fifteen or twenty yellow blossoms, which are rapidly, matured into a sweet and refreshing fruit of the size and shape of a hen's egg. SEE HEDGE.