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Written by Victoria Radin   

THE PARABLE OF THE TREES

The Olive Tree, The Fig Tree, The Vine, And The Bramble

By Victoria Radin

The parable of the trees recorded in Judges 9 relates the ‘trees’ to a relationship between G-d and His people. While Christians can spiritualize these scriptures in a personal application, it is important to keep in mind that there is a natural, literal interpretation that always takes precedence. The interpretation of Jotham’s “parable of the trees” was local and historical to Israel at the time it was written, but the application of its fulfillment is prophetic in that it painted a picture of the Israelites (the ‘privileged’ trees) looking for a king to rule over them.

The olive tree, fig tree, and vine are used to illustrate the religious, national and spiritual privileges afforded by G-d to the nation of Israel: G-d desired to be their king. He, therefore, gave them the privilege to worship Him through prescribed religious rituals (pictured in the Olive Tree). He gave them the privilege of being a nation in His sight (pictured in the Fig Tree). And, finally, He gave them the privilege of having a personal relationship with Him (pictured in the Vine). The Trees (privileged Israel) were meant to rule over the world under G-d’s absolute authority. But they wanted an earthly king like the rest of the world and refused to take their place of authority in any capacity afforded by G-d. 

The Olive Tree:

In the parable, the olive tree wanted only to produce oil rather than take the responsibility of its privileged place at the ‘head’ of the trees (the world). The olive tree being a symbol of peace (Genesis 8:11) and light (Exodus 25:6; 35:8, 28) is illustrative of G-d bringing peace between man and Himself through the sacrificial system taught only to the Israelites. They were cultivated to bring the ‘Light’, Yeshua the Messiah, into the world. Yeshua would fulfill the sacrificial system for all mankind.

Jeremiah records the L-rd’s words to Israel in which He calls her an olive tree:

“The L-rd called your name, Green Olive Tree, Lovely and of Good Fruit......For the L-rd of hosts, has planted you....(from Jeremiah 11:16, 17)

Hosea also records the L-rd’s words concerning Israel, the olive tree:

“I will be like the dew to Israel; he shall grow like the lily, and lengthen his roots like Lebanon. His branches shall spread; his beauty shall be like an olive tree, and his fragrance like Lebanon.” (Hosea 14:5, 6)

The physical attributes of the olive tree mirror characteristics the Israelites have displayed throughout the ages. Their history in the Diaspora (exile from Israel into all the nations of the world), testifies of their enduring nature in hostile, foreign lands (represented by wild olive trees).

Its branches are gnarled and twisted and will grow where other trees cannot survive. It clings to life and is enduring. Some olive trees live as long as 3000 years. Only one flower in 100 bears fruit––the others fall off. Cultivated olive tree branches can be grafted into wild olive trees to improve the wild olive tree; but rarely are the branches of the wild olive grafted into a cultivated olive tree.

While it was rare for a wild olive branch to be grafted into a cultivated olive tree, the apostle Paul uses just this illustration to demonstrate that G-d was bringing Gentiles (wild branches) into His cultivated olive tree (Israel’s religious privilege and favor) through the Messiah, Yeshua. He makes it clear that while Israel is not cast aside (verse 1) only a remnant (verse 5) believed and the rest fell in order to bring the richness of salvation to the Gentiles of the world. Verse 17 and 24 illustrate that Israel is the olive tree:

“And if some of the branches be broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them became a partaker of the root and fatness of the olive tree (i.e. became a partner in the religious privileges of Israel), do not boast against the branches (Israel). But if you do boast, remember that you do not support the root, (the Jewish religion established by G-d through the patriarchs) but the root supports you.”

“For if you were cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree (privileged Israel) how much more will these, who are natural branches be grafted into their own olive tree (be returned to G-d’s privilege and favor)? (Romans 9:24)

The Fig Tree:

In the parable of the trees, the fig tree ‘said’ it was more important to bear fruit than to rule as king. Again, the nation shunned its responsibility of authority over the trees (nations).

The fig tree, symbolizing Israel’s national privilege, bears two crops annually––winter figs and summer figs. Figuratively, it speaks of the first and second advent of the Messiah to the nation of Israel. At the first advent, the Nation as a whole rejected Him. At the second advent, the Nation will receive Him.

The fruit of the fig appears first––before the flower. The fig is symbolic of the Israelites and the flower is illustrative of the land of Israel. G-d acknowledged the Israelites as a nation before He gave them a land in which to live (Exodus 4:22).

The New Testament records several parables about ‘the fig tree’; but the passage in Luke, clearly identifies the two advents of the Messiah:

“A certain man (G-d/Yeshua) had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none (His first advent). Then he said to the keeper of his vineyard, ‘Look, for three years (the length of Yeshua’s reign on earth) I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none. Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?’  But he answered and said to him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. And if it bears fruit, well. But if not, after that you can cut it down’” (in speaking of His second advent). (Luke 13:6-9)

Probably the most quoted parable about the fig tree appears in Matthew in the midst of Yeshua’s Olivet Discourse––His teaching about the end-of-the-age:

“Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. So you also, when you see all these things, know that it (the coming of the L-rd to ‘harvest’ the earth) is near––at the doors.” (Matt. 24:32, 33)

This parable connects the ‘blossoming’ of the fig tree with the coming of the L-rd. The blossoming of the fig tree refers to Israel becoming a nation again after having not existed for almost 2000 years. 

The Vine:

In the Judges 9 parable, the vine also abrogates its responsibility of leadership among ‘the trees’. Psalm 80 describes Israel as the vine that the L-rd brought out of Egypt––the vineyard, which G-d’s right hand planted. In Jeremiah 2:21 G-d says he planted Israel as a noble vine, a seed of highest quality.

The fruit of the vine produces wine, which is spiritually symbolic of joy. The grape vine, representing Israel’s spiritual privilege with G-d, has branches that wrap themselves around another, branches that depend upon the nourishment and strength of the vine. Yeshua described Himself as the Vine and His followers as the branches:

“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches.  He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:4, 5) 

The Bramble:

The bramble bears no fruit, only thorns––the product of the curse pronounced by G-d on mankind in Eden after the fall. It is such a low bush that one would have to stoop low to get in its shadow as is suggested should be done in Judges 9:13.

The bramble (Abimelech) in the parable foreshadows the antichrist, the one whom Israel will accept as king; and the one who will eventually attempt to devour that nation as described in verse 20. Abimelech ruled for three years and was then killed by a woman (a type of the nation of Israel), indicating that Israel will be victorious in the end.

Because Israel did not use her G-d-given authority, G-d allowed her to have kings. But, the kings abused her and rejected G-d. Eventually, Israel’s rebellion resulted in expulsion from the land.

As the second advent of our L-rd draws near, Israel is once again a nation (the fig tree) preparing to rebuild the Temple of G-d and resume the sacrificial system (the olive tree). As she prepares for the coming of the Messiah, Israel will again be tested to see if she has born fruit (the vine).

“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: ‘May they prosper who love you.’” (Psalm 122:6)

Barukh HaShem (Blessed is the Name of the L-rd)

 
 
 
 
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