thorn in one’s side; thorn in the flesh

something that persistently bothers, irritates, or causes pain
—I like all of the committee members except Jason. He disagrees with everything I say and has really become a thorn in my side.

As the Israelites entered Canaan, God told them to force out all the people living there:

But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land before you, then those whom you allow to remain will be irritants in your eyes and thorns in your side [thorns in your sides—KJV], and will cause you trouble in the land where you will be living (Numbers 33:55).

Much later, Paul uses a similar phrase to describe a personal problem. After writing about a vision that he received from God, he continues,

In the New Testament, Paul writes in his second letter to the Corinthian church that he has seen a vision from God but adds that it would be wrong for him to boast or become proud:

Therefore, so that I would not become arrogant, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to trouble me—so that I would not become arrogant. I asked the Lord three times about this, that it would depart from me. But he said to me, “My grace is enough for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:7-9)

Though there have been many ideas about what Paul’s “thorn” is, Paul does not say.

Comments are closed.
  • All scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, are from the NET Bible® copyright ©1996-2017 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. http://bible.org. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

    Scripture in brackets is from the King James Bible.

  • Creative Commons License
    This work is licensed by Craig Thompson under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

    Any reproduction of this content using passages from the NET Bible must follow NET Bible's copyright policy for use of those passages.

    For information on creating translations of Putting Words in Our Mouths, please go here.

  • Visit My Blog: Clearing Customs

    Don’t Just Missionary On [—at A Life Overseas]

    Onward, Christian soldiers. Soldier on, Christians. These don’t mean the same thing, at least not to me. Paul uses the word soldier to describe someone faithfully acting in obedience to God when he exhorts Timothy, “Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 2:3 NIV). It’s a good thing to be […]

    Sing Along with Me: How Long? [—at A Life Overseas]

    Returning to the States after serving overseas was a hard time for my wife and me. We were grieving our losses and were struggling with the difficulties we’d already faced and those we saw ahead. We prayed and prayed but didn’t receive clear direction from God. In our spiritual malaise it was hard to slide […]