09.03.09 Lk. 13:6-9
UNFRUITFUL FIG TREE.
6 And He told this parable: “A man had a fig tree that was planted in his vineyard. He came looking for fruit on it and found none. 7 He told the vineyard worker,
‘Listen, for three years I have come looking for fruit
on this fig tree and haven’t found any.
Cut it down! Why should it even waste the soil?’
8 “But he replied to him,
‘Sir, leave it this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it.
9 Perhaps it will bear fruit next year,
but if not, you can cut it down.’”
It normally takes three years for a fig tree to mature and produce fruit. After that there are three seasons of fig production every year.
- The early fig. The bekurah fig ripens at the end of June, sometimes earlier, in the Jerusalem area. This tasty fruit is said to be the forerunner of the main crop in Isaiah 28:4.
- The summer fig which is the main crop ripens in August and is preserved in the form of fig cakes.
- The pag is the winter fig or unripe fig. It ripens only after the leaves have fallen off the tree.
The fig tree has always been symbolic of national Israel, and Israel had been God’s chosen people for centuries, yet this “tree” remained fruitless. The “fruit” that Israel was to produce was to declare the wonders of God to the world, to be evangelistic, and to spread the news of the divine covenant to the entire human race. Instead, Israel became smug and conceited as being God’s only chosen people. Those Gentiles who did convert to Judaism became just as evil as many of their mentors. Jesus would reveal His plan later when He was in Caesarea Philippi (Mt. 16:18) and again in Jerusalem (Mt. 21:43). This new plan would be the fulfillment of ancient prophecies through which God would minister to humanity through the present church age.
It should be noted that even though some Pharisees were very evangelistic, Jesus apparently did not give any credit for this. In fact, He condemned it saying that the converts were as bad as they were (Mt. 23:15). One Jewish scholar said this zeal for evangelism was based upon Isaiah 2:20 and Jeremiah 16:18 and peaked in the Hasmonean period (c. 165 – 37 B.C.). Therefore, by the time Jesus spoke on the issue, the Pharisees had a long history of evangelism that Jesus considered to be “bad fruit.” His message was understood by all.
“A man had a fig tree that was planted in his vineyard.” Vineyards at this time included more than grapevines, they contained fruit trees as well. The word “vineyard” encompassed the definition for “orchard.” The tradition began in Egypt where the winemaker included other fruits in his wine to modify the flavor.
The tree had no fruit which indicated that it was useless in light of its purpose – to have fruit. Likewise, the unbelief of the Jews could not “make of none effect” the faithfulness of God. In essence, it was as if they abolished (Gk. katargeo, 2673) God’s Word.
“For three years I have come looking for fruit.” The length of the ministry of Jesus is unknown but has generally been assumed to be three and one-half years in duration. This time period is problematic because it compresses too many events into the final six months of the life of Christ. Some scholars have suggested that this parable offers a logical solution in that Jesus implied that He would have a four and a half year ministry. Regardless, the fig tree in Scriptures has been symbolic for national Israel similar to the vine of Isaiah 5:1-7. In this sense, the people are given additional time to receive the Word from the Lord.
. Geikie, The Life and Words. 2:640.
. Isa. 60:21; Jer. 45:4; Jubliees 1.16; 7.34; 21.24; 1 Enoch 10:16; 84.6; 93.2; 1 QS 8.5; 11.8; CD 1.7. See discussions on the fig tree in 02.03.04 “Education,” and 13.02.01.
. Kaufmann, Matenot Ha-Kodesh 101-15; Moseley, Yeshua: A Guide to the Real Jesus and the Original Church. 125.
. Freeman, The New Manners and Customs of the Bible. 508.
. Vine, “Abolish.”Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary. 2:3.
. Cheney, The Life of Christ in Stereo. 226-28.
. In an historic sense, two trees have symbolized Israel, the fig and the date palm. The image of date palms is seen on ancient coins and relief carvings. However, only the fig tree has any biblical references and symbolism to the people and nation.