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Clarence Larkin :: Chapter 29. The Trees to Which Israel Is Compared In Scriptures

These three trees are particularly fit symbols of Israel, for in Palestine the "Vine," the "Fig-tree," and the "Olive," stand for the fruitfulness of the land. And the "Vine" and "Fig-tree" prefigure the Millennial days when every man shall sit under his own "Vine" and "Fig-tree." Micah 4:3-4. When Jacob (Israel) was about to die he summoned his sons, and prophesied their future. Of Judah he said that his portion of Canaan should be so full of vineyards that asses should be tethered to the vines, and that the juice should be so plentiful that they would wash their clothes in it as in water. Gen. 49:9-12.

THE VINE is a symbol of Israel's Spiritual privileges.

THE FIG-TREE is a symbol of Israel's National privileges.

THE OLIVE TREE is a symbol of Israel's Religious privileges.

In Psalm 80:8-11, we read-

"Thou hast brought a 'VINE' out of Egypt: Thou hast cast out the heathen (the Canaanites), and planted it. Thou preparedst room before it, and didst cause it to take deep root, and it filled the land. The hills were covered with the shadow of it, and the boughs thereof were like goodly cedars. She sent out her boughs unto the sea (Mediterranean), and her branches unto the river (Euphrates)."

In these words the Psalmist graphically pictures the taking of Israel from the uncongenial soil of Egypt, and the planting of them in the land of Canaan.

It was the Almighty with His "outstretched arm" that did it, for without His Divine help they never could have escaped from the Land of Pharaoh. He was the "Divine Husbandman" who transplanted them. And it was all of grace, for the moral and spiritual condition of Israel in Egypt was that of a degenerate vine. And it was the Almighty who cast out the heathen nations of Canaan in order to "clear the ground" for their transplanting, for it was a land of "walled cities" and "giants." Num. 13:26-33.

Once the "Vine" was transplanted it began to grow and spread over the land, until in the words of the Psalm it sent out its boughs unto the Mediterranean Sea, and its branches unto the Euphrates river, as in the reign of King Solomon. Deu. 11:24. This is to be completely fulfilled during the Millennium. The prophet Isaiah beautifully describes this "Vineyard."

"Now will I sing to my Well-Beloved a song of my Beloved touching His Vineyard. My Well-Beloved hath a VINEYARD in a very fruitful hill (Canaan) and He fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the CHOICEST VINE, and built a Tower in the midst of it, and also made a Winepress therein." Isa. 5:1-2.

No nation was ever more greatly favored than Israel, and God could truthfully say-"What could have been done more for my 'Vineyard,' that I have not done in it?" Vs. 4. Great therefore was the disappointment of God when he looked for Israel to bring forth grapes proportionate with her advantages, but found them to be "WILD GRAPES." The Prophet Jeremiah records God's complaint of Israel's failure in these words-"I had planted thee a 'NOBLE VINE,' wholly a right seed how then art thou turned into the DEGENERATE PLANT OF A STRANGE VINE unto me?" Jer. 2:21.

What was God to do to His Vineyard for its miscarriage? Note the punishment: "And now go to; I will tell you what I will do to my Vineyard: I will TAKE AWAY THE HEDGE THEREOF, and it (the Vine) shall be eaten up; and BREAK DOWN THE WALL THEREOF, and it (the Vineyard) shall be trodden down; and I will lay it WASTE: it shall not be pruned, nor digged; but there shall come up briers and thorns: I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it." And now, that there may be no mistake as to what is meant by the "Vineyard" and the "Vine," God adds-"For the 'Vineyard' of the Lord of Hosts is the 'HOUSE OF ISRAEL,' and the men of Judah (Jews) His 'PLEASANT PLANT' (Vine)." Isa. 5:5-7.

How faithfully this punishment has been meted out to Israel is seen when we consider the physical condition of Palestine (The Vineyard) today, and the uprooted members of Israel (The Vine) scattered throughout the world. The Lord told Israel through the Prophet Ezekiel, that a vine, unless it bear fruit, is fit for nothing but fuel. "What is the 'vine tree' more than any tree, or than a branch which is among the trees of the forest? Shall wood be taken thereof to do any work? or will men take a pin of it to hang any vessel thereon? Behold, it is cast into the fire for fuel. . . .As the vine tree among the trees of the forest, which I have given to the fire for fuel, so will I give the inhabitants of Jerusalem," etc. Ezekiel 15:1-8. The Emblem of Israel is a bush, burning and unconsumed. Ex. 3:1-3. Israel is now passing through the "fires of persecution." As she is not bearing fruit, she is only fit for fuel. But it is only the stem that is being consumed, the "root" is alive, and the "Vine" will again spring up, and the "Vineyard" (Palestine) again be fruitful in Millennial days.

In the New Testament Jesus, in the "Parable of the Vineyard," (Matt. 21:33-41) reveals why the husbandmen or keepers of the Vineyard, the Jewish nation, have been cast out of the Vineyard (Palestine). It was because they took the HEIR (Jesus) and crucified Him, and so they were cast out of the Vineyard, and it has been let to other husbandmen, the Gentiles. The "Vine" then is a symbol of Israel's SPIRITUAL Privileges.

The "Fig-tree" is a New Testament symbol or figure of Israel and was used by Jesus Himself. As Jesus sat upon the Mount of Olives, on the 'Tuesday evening preceding His Crucifixion, His Disciples came to Him and asked a threefold question-"Tell us, when shall these things be (the destruction of the Temple)? and what shall be the SIGN of Thy Coming, and of the end of the world (Age)?" Matt. 24:3. These three questions Jesus answered in His "Olivet Discourse" which followed. In His answer to the question-"What shall be the SIGN of Thy Coming?" Jesus mentioned three signs.

  1. The appearance of the "ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION" (the "DESOLATOR"-Antichrist), spoken of by Daniel the prophet (Dan. 9:27) in the Holy Place of the rebuilt Temple at Jerusalem, as foretold by Paul in his Second Letter to the Thessalonians. 2 Thess. 2:1-4.
  2. The "SIGN OF THE SON OF MAN," which is a "CLOUD," such as He disappeared in when He ascended. Acts. 1:9. Matt. 24:30.
  3. The "FIG-TREE SIGN," or the re-gathering of the Jews back to their own land. In connection with this "Sign" Jesus said-
"Now learn a Parable of the 'FIG-TREE.' When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth LEAVES, ye know that summer is nigh: so likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it (He, R.V.), is near, even at the doors. Verily I say unto you, This GENERATION (the word means 'Race'-JEWISH RACE) shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away." Matt. 24:32-35.

The "Fig-tree" is a fit emblem of Israel. Its peculiarity is that the blossoms of the fruit appear before the leaves. Naturally, therefore, we should look for fruit on a tree in full leaf. This accounts for why Jesus cursed the Fig-tree that had on it nothing but leaves. Matt. 21:18-20. The presence of the leaves led Him to expect fruit, and when He found none He cursed the tree for its fruitlessness. Mark gives us another version of the incident. Mark 11:12-14. He says that Jesus found nothing but leaves, "for the time of figs was NOT YET." Why then curse the tree? This is easily explained. The early fruit, or blossoms, appear in spring before the leaves open, on branches of the last year's growth, and the first ripe fruit is ready in June or earlier. The late figs grow on the new wood, keep appearing during the season, and are ripe from August onward. The unripe fruit of autumn often survives the winter and ripens when vegetation revives in the spring. Now it was about the first of April that Jesus cursed the Fig-tree, and the time of figs was not yet, because they did not ripen before June. But fig-trees which have retained their leaves through the winter usually have some of the last year's figs also, and as April was too early for new leaves or fruit, Jesus knowing this, and seeing leaves on the tree, naturally expected to find some of last year's fruit, and when He found none He cursed the tree because of its deceptive character.

The application of this incident to Israel is simple. Naturally Jesus from their "leafy profession" would expect to find fruit on the tree of their National life, and when He found none He cursed them for their HYPOCRISY. Matt. 23:1-33.

In the Parable of the "Barren Fig-tree" (Luke 13:6-9) we have another picture of Israel. The "Fig-tree" is the Jewish nation. The "Fig-tree" was planted in a "Vineyard," which we have seen stands for the land of Palestine. The owner of the Vineyard and of the Fig-tree was God. He came in the person of His Son Jesus, and for three years of Jesus' ministry He had sought for fruit from the Jewish nation and found none. He therefore decided to cut down the tree, that is, remove the nation from the Vineyard.

But the tree was not destroyed immediately, for intercession was made for it, and the day of grace was lengthened out for forty years, and then the "axe-man" Titus, at the head of the Roman Army besieged Jerusalem in A.D. 70, and Israel, the Fig-tree, was cut down and cast out of the Vineyard into the field of the world.

But while the "Fig-tree" (Israel) was cut down and cast out of the "Vineyard" (Palestine), its root was not destroyed, the axe was only laid at the root of the "Tree" (Luke 3:7-9), the root itself was not killed or removed from the soil. It is clear then from the "Parable of the Fig-tree," (Matt. 24:32-34), that a new tree will spring from the root, that is, the nation of Israel will revive, and when it shall reach the point where it shall "put forth leaves" then we shall have the "FIG-TREE SIGN" that Christ's return is not far away. In this case the "Fig-tree" will bear leaves before it bears fruit, for Israel is to be revived nationally before she is converted. See my chapter on the Jews.

The "Signs of the Times" clearly point to the revival of the "Fig-tree;" and in "ZIONISM" and "ANTI-SEMITISM" we see the "putting forth of leaves." "ZIONISM" is the longing of the Jews to return to their own land and the establishment of a "Jewish State" there. There are three phases of it, "Religious," "Economic," and "Political" Zionism. The "Religious" phase is the revival of faith in the fulfilment of the Old Testament prophecies of the restoration of Jewish worship in a rebuilt Temple in the Holy Land. The "Economic" phase is the desire of Israel to escape from their condition of servitude in Russia, and other lands where they are persecuted, and by colonization in Palestine secure a home in the land associated with the most sacred memories of their race, where they can dwell safely under their own vine and fig-tree. The "Political" phase is the revival of their "national Hope" of a restored nation under the leadership of the promised and long-hoped-for Messiah.

"ANTI-SEMITISM" is the desire on the part of the nations to drive the Jews out of the countries where their number and habits have become a menace. It is a revival of Egyptian Bondage. Pharaoh did not want to part with Israel, he needed their service in the construction of public works and in the raising of cattle. All he purposed to do was by hard bondage to prevent their increase. Ex. 1:7-22. Israel's experience in Egypt is a type of the time that the Prophet Jeremiah speaks of as the time of "JACOB'S TROUBLE," when God will break the "YOKE" from off their neck, and burst their "BONDS," and strangers shall no more serve themselves of them. Jer. 30:4-9.

These two "Signs," Zionism and Anti-Semitism, which are becoming more and more marked, are evidence, like the budding of a tree in the springtime that it is about to send forth leaves, that "SUMMER IS NIGH," and that the return of the Lord is not far off. Matt. 24:33-35. The "Fig-tree" then is a symbol of Israel's NATIONAL Privileges.

In Jer. 11:16-17, Israel is called a "GREEN OLIVE TREE," fair, and of goodly fruit, but is warned that for its idolatry its branches shall be broken off. In Rom. 11:17-27 we have the Parable of the

"TWO OLIVE TREES."

One is called a GOOD Olive Tree, the other a WILD Olive Tree. The GOOD Olive Tree represents Israel, the WILD Olive Tree the Gentiles. The root of the Good Olive Tree is THREEFOLD. The main root is Abraham, the other two are Isaac and Jacob. "And God said moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the Children of Israel, The Lord God of your fathers, the God of ABRAHAM, the God of ISAAC, and the God of JACOB, hath sent me unto you: this is my name forever, and this is my memorial unto all generations." Ex. 3:15. Why should God speak of Himself in this "threefold" manner? Because He wished to reveal Himself in His "TRI-UNITY." Abraham is a type of God the Father, Isaac is a type of God the Son, and the Holy Spirit is seen in the guidance of Jacob.

The "Threefold root" of the Good Olive Tree was HOLY because separated, and as the "Root" was holy so were the "branches." We next read that "some," not all, of the branches were broken off. They were not broken off that the Gentiles might be grafted in, but they were broken off because of "UNBELIEF," and the Gentiles were not grafted in that they might supplant, or take the place of the branches that had been broken off, but that they, as branches of a "WILD Olive Tree," might be PARTAKER of the "root" and "fatness" of the GOOD Olive Tree. We see from this that the "GOOD Olive Tree" is not rooted up and destroyed and a "WILD Olive Tree" planted in its place, but it still remains alive and gives life to both the "Good" and "Wild" Olive branches. So we see that those who claim that the "Wild Olive Branches" that are grafted in represent the Church, and that the Church has taken the place of Israel, are in error, for the "Wild Olive Branches" do not remain on the "Good Olive Tree," but will be broken off that the original branches may be grafted back again. Jewish and Gentile believers in Christ are alike Abraham's spiritual children, and are joint partakers of the "root" and "fatness" of the "Good Olive Tree," for Christ was of the seed of Abraham. Those Jews who rejected Christ and thus broke away from the religion of Abraham, are the branches, who, through unbelief, are broken off.

In grafting the practice is to graft the "Good" Olive on the "Wild" Olive so as to improve the fruit of the "Wild" Olive. If the "Wild" Olive is grafted on the "Good" Olive the effect is the reverse, and the "Good" Olive will run to wildness. So Paul knew what he was talking about when he said that the grafting of the "Wild" Olive on the "Good" Olive Tree was "CONTRARY TO NATURE." From this we see that the injection of Gentilism into Judaism is not beneficial to Judaism. That Judaism is of purer stock than Gentilism, and for the purification of Judaism, Gentilism, or the "Wild" Olive branches, must be removed, or cut off, from the "Good" Olive Tree, and be replaced by the grafting back again of the "Natural Branches." Rom. 11:21. By Gentilism we mean that part of the Gentile world known as Christendom, or the professing Church, as described in the Kingdom of Heaven parables of Matt. 13. And it is only the Laodicean part of it that God says He will "SPUE OUT OF HIS MOUTH" (Rev. 3:16), that as "Wild" Olive branches God will remove from the "Good" Olive Tree, for all true believers who have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit, and that make up the true Church the "Body of Christ," and belong to the "Spiritual Israel" of God cannot be displaced.

The Parable of the "Two Olive Trees" teaches three things, and what is very important, the order in which these three things take place.

  1. "Blindness in part is happened to Israel until the 'FULNESS OF THE GENTILES BE COME IN.'"

    By the "FULNESS OF THE GENTILES" is not meant the "Times of the Gentiles," but those Gentiles who shall be saved through the Gospel. And when the last Gentile shall be thus saved the FULL NUMBER of saved Gentiles will be complete.

  2. That the "Wild Olive Branches" that are grafted in do not take the place of the branches that were broken off, and because they shall not "continue in God's goodness" they shall be broken off again.
  3. That God has not "Cast Away" His people Israel, and that He will revive the broken off branches and graft them back again.

Today we are witnessing the Apostasy of the "Wild Olive Branches," the professing Church. Soon they will be "cut off," and then the BLINDNESS shall be removed from Israel, and the "Natural Branches" will be grafted back again.

This Parable teaches us that we are not to look upon the unbelieving Jew as a cast-off and withered branch only fit for fire-wood, but we are to consider that his "casting away" as well as his "blindness" is only temporary, and that he will again take up his position among the nations of the earth.

The "Olive Tree" then is a symbol of Israel's RELIGIOUS Privileges, and it is worthy of note that while Israel is compared to trees, their oppressors, the Gentile Nations, are spoken of in the Scriptures as WILD BEASTS. Dan. 7:1-28.



CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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