Truth, Understanding, Insight

The Fig Tree

12th May 2007, seh, mgh


3) The Messiah and the Fig Tree

The Messiah spoke a parable related to the fig tree which is recorded in Luke 13: 6-9.

“A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. Then he said to the dresser of his vineyard, Behold these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down: why cumbers it the ground? And he answering said to him, Lord let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it: and if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shall cut it down.” (Luke 13: 6-9)

Undeniably this fig tree represented Israel. This parable was given in the closing days of the third year of the Messiah's ministry. It was autumn A.D 29. In the spring of the following year was the crucifixion. For three years the Jews had had the opportunity to recognise and acknowledge their Messiah.

That generation, forty years later, were to see the destruction of Jerusalem and many perished through civil war and by the Roman sword. For three years the fig tree had been carefully tended, but it had failed to respond and bore no fruit. The order was given that the tree was to be cut down if it bore no fruit that year. In the same manner as the nation had been previously invaded by the Babylonians, Israel would again suffer invasion. Some would escape from the Roman onslaught, but most would perish. For three years, as in the figurative use of this tending of the fig tree, the nation had been given the opportunity to acknowledge their Messiah. The corollary is that with the rejection of their Messiah by the Jewish leaders at the time of the crucifixion, the order had in effect gone forth for the cutting down of the fig tree, which occurred in 70CE, 40 years, a generation, later.

The fig tree prophecy

The fig tree figures again in a significant prophecy concerning the nation of Israel. Mark 11 takes us through a very significant series of events related to the fig tree. The Messiah had entered Jerusalem on the colt and garments and branches had been spread before him. The people cried out “Hosanna; Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord.” (verse 9). This is a quotation from Psalm 118: 26. Yahshua had come bearing the name of his father Yahweh. Yahshua entered the Temple and looked around. This is reminiscent of how the Priest under the Law looked upon a leprous house (verse 11).

On the following day, on his way to Jerusalem, the Messiah passes a fig tree, which was abundant in leaves but without fruit and he curses the fig tree and again enters the Temple (verses 13-14). This time he casts out the traders and money changers and in effect in symbol is cleansing the leprous house (verse 15). He accuses them of having made the Temple a “den of thieves”. The leaders had turned the house of prayer into a religious bazaar.

In the evening he and his disciples leave Jerusalem (verse 17). Peter comments on how the fig tree had withered and died (verses 20-21).

In this account we have an amazing analogy. The fig tree is here used as a figure for Israel, presenting in this image of the withered tree, the spiritual state of Israel and its destiny. The metaphorical use of figs as representing Israel had been used by Jeremiah. Jeremiah had been given the parable of the basket of good and bad figs. (Jeremiah 24) Jeremiah was shown that the good figs represented those Jews who would be carried into captivity by the Babylonians and who would survive, some of whom would return to their homeland, with their descendants and the descendants of those who went into captivity. The bad figs represented the Jews who would die and perish as a result of the Babylonian invasion.

Hosea had also used the fig tree as a symbol for Israel.

“I found Israel like grapes in the wilderness; I saw your fathers as the first ripe in the fig tree at her first time: but they went to Baal-peor, and separated themselves unto that shame.”(Hosea 9: 10)

The Messiah, when he cursed the fig tree and it subsequently withered, was using the analogy of the fig tree to demonstrate to the disciples the spiritual state of the Jewish nation,.