Israel abounds in species of weeds, the climatic and soil conditions causing the speedy proliferation of both cultivated plants and weeds. Many of them are thorns . The prophets frequently warned that because of sin, misfortunes would befall Israel's agriculture and the land would produce weeds in place of cultivated plants. Isaiah in particular warns against the transformation of the sown and planted area into shamir and shayit ("briars and thorns"), a general term for all the species of weeds that flourish among cultivated crops. These weeds start as annual plants, then lowly shrubs grow, and finally the field turns into a forest (cf. Isa. 7). Normally weeds grow in fields of grain in Israel, the most conspicuous being tares , species of mustard , Scolymus thistle (ḥo'aḥ), and Ridolfia segetum (boshah, "noisome weeds"). Job (31:40) swears that if he has indeed sinned, then let him be cursed, "Let ḥo'aḥ grow instead of wheat, and boshah instead of barley." The amora Oshaiah observes that it can be deduced from this verse "that a field that produces ḥoḥim is good for wheat, while a field that produces boshah is good for barley" (Tanḥ. B. Deut. 25), showing that these weeds are indications to cultivate plants.
Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.