Luke 13:6
He spake also this parable; A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none.
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(6) A certain man had a fig tree.—The parable stands obviously in very close connection with the foregoing teaching. The people had been warned of the danger of perishing, unless they repented. They are now taught that the forbearance and long-suffering of God are leading them to repentance. The sharp warning of the Baptist, “Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down” (Matthew 3:10), is expanded into a parable. As regards the outward framework of the story, we have only to note that the joint culture of the fig-tree and the vine was so common as to have passed into a proverb (2Kings 18:31; Song of Solomon 2:13). The interpretation of the parable as to its general drift is easy enough. The barren fig-tree is the symbol of a fruitless profession of godliness; the delay represents the forbearance of God in allowing yet a time for repentance. When we come to details, however, serious difficulties present themselves. If we take the fig-tree as representing Israel, what are we to make of the vineyard? If the owner of the vineyard be Christ, who is the vine-dresser? Do the three years refer to the actual duration of our Lord’s ministry? Answers to these questions will be found in the following considerations:—(1) The vineyard is uniformly in the parabolic language of Scripture the symbol of Israel. (See Note on Matthew 21:33.) (2) The owner of that vineyard is none other than the great King, the Lord of Hosts (Isaiah 5:7). (3) If this be so, then the fig-tree must stand for something else than Israel as a nation, and the context points to its being the symbol of the individual soul, which inheriting its place in a divine order, is as a tree planted in the garden of the Lord. (Comp. Psalm 1:3; Jeremiah 18:8.) (4) The “three years” in which the owner comes seeking fruit can, on this view, answer neither to the three stages of Revelation—Patriarchal, Mosaic, and Prophetic—nor the three years of our Lord’s ministry, but represent, as the symbol of completeness, the full opportunities given to men, the calls to repentance and conversion which come to them in the several stages of their lives in youth, manhood, age. (5) The dresser of the vineyard, following the same line of thought, is the Lord Jesus Himself, who intercedes, as for the nation as a whole, so for each individual member of the nation. He pleads for delay. He will do what can be done by “digging” into the fallow ground of the soul, and by imparting new sources of nourishment or fruitfulness. If these avail, well. If not, the fig-tree, by implication every fig-tree in the vineyard that continued barren, would be cut down.

Luke 13:6-7. And he spake also this parable — With a view to awaken them more effectually to a deep and serious repentance: A certain man had a fig-tree in his vineyard — And because it was planted in good soil, he came and sought fruit thereon — Having good reason to expect it. Observe, he did not send, but came himself, which manifested his great desire to find fruit. Thus God came in the person of his Son, to his vineyard, the Jewish Church, Isaiah 5:1-7, seeking the fruits of righteousness. Observe, reader, the God of heaven requires and expects fruit from those that have a place in his vineyard, that are favoured with his word and ordinances, and the various means of edification and salvation. The leaves of an outward profession will not satisfy him; the crying Lord, Lord; nor will the blossoms of beginning well and promising fair suffice: there must be fruit; fruits meet for repentance, and proper to manifest that the gospel is not heard, and the ordinances of God administered and attended, in vain. And found none — Little or no fruit did the Lord Jesus find produced by the Jewish people when he came to visit them. There was profession, indeed, in abundance, but little fruit. And it is an awful consideration still how many enjoy the privileges of the gospel, and yet bear no fruit to God’s glory; neither ceasing to do evil, nor learning to do well, perhaps in almost any one instance; but going on in their old course of sin and vanity, unchanged, unreformed, both in principle and practice. Then said he to the dresser of his vineyard — To the vine-dresser, as Dr. Campbell renders it. We may either understand God the Father by him that had the vineyard, and Christ by him that kept and dressed it; or Christ himself is he that hath it, and his ministers are the keepers and dressers of it. Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig-tree — The length of time it has been barren, while it has been favoured with all advantages for being fruitful, shows that it is good for nothing. Cut it down — Root it out, and throw it away; why cumbereth it the ground? — That is, not only beareth no fruit, but taketh up the ground of another tree that would bear some. This is spoken either by God the Father to Christ as the dresser of the vineyard, to whom all judgment is committed, or by him to the ministers of his gospel, who are in his name to declare this doom. “Many have supposed that the three years here mentioned allude to the time of Christ’s personal ministry, which, as most have computed the chronology of the New Testament, had now lasted three years; but it is certain the patience of God bore with them much longer than another year. Grotius, therefore, thinks it more probable it may refer to the nature of a fig-tree, which, if it bear at all, generally begins to do it within three years after it is planted; but might certainly be looked on as barren, if it had disappointed the expectation of the planter three years together, after the time in which it should have yielded fruit.” — Doddridge. Or, perhaps, the years in this parable may denote the whole duration of the Jewish dispensation. God came seeking fruit of the Jews in one space of time before the Babylonish captivity; in another, after their restoration; and in another again, in and by the preaching of John the Baptist, and of Christ himself. “But though this parable was originally meant of the Jews, it may be applied to unfruitful professors of religion in every age; for it exhibits a rule observed in the divine administration which should strike terror into all who enjoy spiritual privileges without improving them. Every man is allowed a certain time of trial, during which he enjoys the means and helps necessary to piety. If he continues ignorant of God’s visitation, despises the riches of the divine mercy, and goes on obstinately in sin, these advantages are commonly taken away from him, his day of grace ends, the utmost term of God’s patience is passed for ever, the Divine Spirit, being grieved, is provoked to depart, and the man is delivered over to a hardened heart, after which his repentance and salvation become impossible.” — Macknight.

13:6-9 This parable of the barren fig-tree is intended to enforce the warning given just before: the barren tree, except it brings forth fruit, will be cut down. This parable in the first place refers to the nation and people of the Jews. Yet it is, without doubt, for awakening all that enjoy the means of grace, and the privileges of the visible church. When God has borne long, we may hope that he will bear with us yet a little longer, but we cannot expect that he will bear always.This parable - See the notes at Matthew 13:3.

Vineyard - A place where vines were planted. It was not common to plant fig-trees in them, but our Lord represents it as having been sometimes done.

6-9. fig tree—Israel, as the visible witness of God in the world, but generally all within the pale of the visible Church of God; a familiar figure (compare Isa 5:1-7; Joh 15:1-8, &c.).

vineyard—a spot selected for its fertility, separated from the surrounding fields, and cultivated with special care, with a view solely to fruit.

came and sought fruit—a heart turned to God; the fruits of righteousness; compare Mt 21:33, 34, and Isa 5:2, "He looked that it should bring forth fruit"; He has a right to it, and will require it.

Ver. 6-9. This parable very fitly coheres with the preceding discourse: there he had let his hearers know, that though God spareth some sinners, and hath a longer patience with them than others, though they be every whit as great transgressors, in expectation still that they should bring forth fruit; yet if they answer not the means which God useth, with them to bring them to repentance, they shall not be spared long, but vengeance shall overtake them also. Those who think that this parable concerned not the Jews only, but all mankind, or more especially those who are in the pale of the church, judge well, provided that they allow it to have been spoken with a primary reference to that nation, amongst whom Christ had now been preaching and working miracles three years, and expected the fruits of repentance and reformation from them in vain. I do not think it any prejudice to this, that the vine dresser begged but for one year longer, whereas after this Christ had patience with them forty years, before they were destroyed; for one year may not be intended strictly, (though the three years be), but to signify some little time more, that the apostles might use all probable means to reclaim them, and make them more fruitful. Grotius thinks the term of three years is used, because every fig tree (not wholly barren) brought forth fruit one year in three; which notion (if true) of that plant is valuable, but may be of ill consequence, if any should thence conclude, that men’s days of grace exceed not three years: yet thus much is observable, that when God sends a faithful minister to a place, the greatest success and blessing of his ministry is within a few of his first years in a place. The parable doubtless extendeth much further than to the people of the Jews, and learns us all these lessons:

1. That where God plants any one within the pale of his church, he looks he or she should bring forth the fruits of repentance and faith.

2. That many are so planted, yet bring forth no fruit.

3. That there is a determined time beyond which God will not bear with barren souls.

4. That barren souls are not only useless, but also spoil others; thn ghn katargei, they make the soil unprofitable: a quench coal spoils the fire.

5. That faithful ministers will be very earnest with God to spare even barren souls.

6. That it is their work and duty to use all probable means to make barren souls fruitful. I will dig about it, and dung it.

7. That bearing fruit at last will save souls from ruin and destruction.

8. That out it every soul, though standing in God’s vineyard, will at last perish eternally.

He spoke also this parable,.... That is, Jesus spake, as the Persic version expresses it, that which follows; and at the same time, and upon the above occasion; setting forth the patience of God towards the Jewish nation, their unfruitfulness, and the danger of their being destroyed, in case of non-amendment:

a certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard. This was not at all contrary to the law in Deuteronomy 22:9 "thou shalt not sow thy vineyard with divers seeds": for according to the Jewish canons (e),

"the prohibition on account of divers seeds in a vineyard, concerned divers sorts of corn, (as wheat, barley, &c.) and divers sorts of herbs only: but it was lawful to sow other sorts of seeds in a vineyard, and there is no need to say other trees.''

And there are cases put, and instances given, which express, or suppose fig trees, particularly, to have been planted in vineyards; for it is said (f),

"if a man carries a vine over part of a tree for meat, he may sow seed under the other part of it--it happened that R. Joshua went to R. Ishmael to Cephar Aziz, and he showed him a "vine", carried over, , "part of a fig tree".''

Again, more than once it is said in a parabolical way (g),

"this is like unto a king that has a paradise, or orchard planted, , "a row of fig trees, and of vines", and of pomegranates, and of apples, &c.''

By the "certain man" may be meant, either God the Father, who is sometimes called an husbandman; or rather the Lord Jesus Christ, who is truly man, as well as properly God; and "by his vineyard" may be meant, the Jewish nation; see Isaiah 5:1 which were his own nation and people, from whence he sprung, and to whom he was particularly sent, and among whom he had a special property; and may also be applied to the church of God in any age or nation, which is often compared to a vineyard, consisting of persons separated from the world, and planted with various plants, some fruitful, pleasant, profitable, and valuable, and are Christ's by his Father's gift, and his own purchase. And by "the fig tree planted" in it, may be principally meant the Scribes and Pharisees, and the generality of the Jewish people; who were plants, but not of Christ's Father's planting, and therefore to be cut down, or rooted up: and may be accommodated to professors of religion; some of which are true and real, and may be compared to the fig tree, because of its large and green leaves, expressive of their profession; and become fruitful, as they are, being filled with the fruits of the Spirit, of righteousness, and of grace; and because it puts forth its fruit before its leaves, as there should be the fruit of grace before a profession of faith is made. Others are only nominal professors; and are like a fig tree, of which sort was this in the parable, that has large leaves, but no fruit; make a large profession, but bring forth no fruit to the glory of God; and though they are planted in the house of God, yet not by God the Father, nor by Christ, only at best by ministers and churches hoping well of them, but mistaken in them:

and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. This, if understood of God the Father, designs his coming to the Jewish people by his servants and prophets, time after time, and at last by John the Baptist, and Jesus Christ, and his apostles, seeking and requiring fruits of holiness, righteousness, and judgment, but found instead thereof the wild grapes of wickedness, oppression, and violence: but if of Christ, which sense is rather to be chosen, it denotes his incarnation, or his coming into the world in human nature, and seeking by his ministry, the fruits of faith in himself, and repentance towards God among the people of the Jews, but found none; at least instances of faith in Israel were very rare, and few repented of their evil works; and hence he upbraided many with their impenitence and unbelief; see Matthew 11:20.

(e) Maimon. Hilchot Celaim, c. 5. sect. 6. (f) Misn. Celaim, c. 6. sect. 4. (g) Vajikra Rabba, sect. 23. fol. 164. 3. Shirhashirim Rabba, fol. 9. 2.

{2} He spake also this parable; A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none.

(2) Great and long suffering is the patience of God, but yet he eventually executes judgment.

Luke 13:6-9. Doctrine: the forbearance of God (of the Lord of the vineyard) endures only a short time longer; the ministry of me (the ἀμπελουργός) to you is the last attempt, and on it follows the decision—the decision of the Messianic judgment. Comp. Luke 3:9. Explanations entering more into detail, for instance, of the three years (Augustine, Theophylact, Bisping, and others: the times of the law, the prophets, and Jesus; Euthymius Zigabenus: the τρεῖς πολιτείαι of the judges, the kings, and the high priests), in which, moreover, are not to be found the years of the ministry of Jesus (Jansen, Bengel, Michaelis, Wieseler, Synopse, p. 202, but that there would appear, besides the three years, a fourth also, in which the results of the manuring were to show themselves), mistake the colouring of the parable for its purpose.[161]

συκῆν εἶχέ τις] a certain person possessed a fig-tree. The fig-tree in the vineyard is not opposed to Deuteronomy 22:9, for there trees are not spoken of.

Luke 13:7. According to the reading τρ. ἔτη ἀφʼ οὗ (see the critical remarks): It is three years since I, etc. Comp. Thucyd. i. 18. 2.

ἱνατὶ καὶ κ.τ.λ.] wherefore also (besides that it itself bears nothing), see Hermann, ad Viger. p. 837; Klotz, ad Devar. p. 635 ff. The καί belongs, as is often the case in questions, to the whole sentence (Baeumlein, Partikeln, p. 152).

καταργεῖ] it makes the land useless—to wit, by useless occupation of the space, by exhausting and shading it. Examples of καταργεῖν, inertem facere, Eur. Phoen. 760; Ezra 4:21; Ezra 4:23; Ezra 5:5; Ezra 6:8.

Luke 13:8. καὶ τοῦτο τὸ ἔτος] the present year also—as already those three ineffectual past years.

ἕως ὅτου κ.τ.λ.] until the time that I shall have dug, etc.—whereupon there shall occur, even according to the result, what is said at Luke 13:9.

κἂν μὲν ποιήσῃ καρπόν] and in case perchance it shall have brought forth fruit—even in the classical writers a frequent aposiopesis of the apodosis καλῶς ἔχει. See Valckenaer, Schol. p. 217; Hermann, ad Viger. p. 833; Buttmann, Neut. Gr. p. 339 [E. T. 396]. On the interchange of ἐάν and ΕἸ in such antitheses, in which the first conditional sentence is spoken with reference to the result, comp. Sauppe, ad Xen. Mem. ii. 6. 37; Stallbaum, ad Plat. Phaed. p. 93 B, Gorg. p. 470 A; Winer, p. 263 [E. T. 369].

εἰς τὸ μέλλον] sc. ἔτος, at the following year, which therefore comes in with the next year’s fig-harvest, thou shalt cut it down. Let it still therefore remain so long. Comp. on Luke 1:20. To supply ἔτος is by means of the correlation to ΤΟῦΤΟ ΤῸ ἜΤΟς, Luke 13:8, more strictly textual than the general notion postea (as it is usually taken).

ἐκκόψεις] “Non dicit vinitor: exscindam, coll. Luke 13:7, sed rem refert ad dominum; desinit tamen pro ficu deprecari,” Bengel.

[161] Grotius aptly says that the three years indicate in general the whole period before Christ: “quo Deus patientissime expectavit Judaeorum emendationem.” Within three years, as a rule, the tree when planted bore fruit, Wetstein in loc. The people addressed are the τινές, ver. 1 as ver. 2, but as members of God’s people (the vineyard), not as inhabitants of Jerusalem (Weizsäcker).

Luke 13:6-9. Parable of the barren fig tree, peculiar to Lk., probably extemporised to embody the moral of the preceding narratives; takes the place in Lk. of the cursing of the fig tree in Mt. and Mk.

6. a fig tree planted in his vineyard] The corners of vineyards were often utilised in this way, as they still are (Tristram, Nat. Hist. Bib. p. 352). Here the Jewish nation is compared to the fig-tree (Hosea 9:10; Jeremiah 24:3), as in the acted parable of the Barren Fig- tree (Matthew 21:19); more often Israel is compared to the Vine or the Vineyard (Psalm 80:8-11; Isaiah 5:2).

Luke 13:6. Συκῆν, a fig-tree) a tree which in itself has no rightful place in a vineyard. God took Israel as His people by the freest exercise of grace.—αὐτοῦ, His) The Father has a vineyard, and Christ cultivates and dresses it, עבד יהוה. Comp. Luke 13:8, Lord [which implies, the vineyard has Him for its Lord and owner]: or else Christ has the vineyard, and His ministers cultivate it.—πεφυτευμένην, planted) designedly.

Verse 6. - He spake also this parable: A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard. And then, without any further prelude, Jesus spoke this parable of the barren fig tree, which contained, in language scarcely veiled at all, warnings to Israel as a nation - the most sombre and threatening he had yet given utterance to. "Hear, O people," said the Master. "In the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is a fig tree, long planted there, but utterly unfruitful. It is now on its last trial; indeed, were it not for the intercession of the Gardener, the Lord of the vineyard had already pronounced its final doom." "The very intercession, though, is ominous; the Vinedresser shows his mercifulness by deprecating immediate cutting down, but the careful specification of conditions, and the limitation of the period within which experiments are to be made, intimate that peril is imminent... The restriction of the intercession of the Vinedresser for a single year's grace indicates Christ's own sympathy with this Divine rigour... The Vinedresser knows that, though God is long-suffering, yet his patience as exhibited in the history of his dealings with men is exhaustible, and that in Israel's case it is now all but worn out. And he sympathizes with the Divine impatience with chronic and incurable sterility" (Professor Bruce). A fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. It is not an uncommon practice to plant fig trees at the corners of vineyards, thus utilizing every available spot of ground. Still the Lord's choice of a fig tree as the symbol of Israel, the chosen people, is at first sight strange. This image was no doubt selected to show those Pharisees and other Jews, proud of what they considered their unassailable position as the elect of the Eternal, that, after all, the position they occupied was but that of a fig tree in the corner of the vineyard of the world - planted there and watched over so long as it promised to serve the Lord of the vineyard's purpose; if it ceased to do that, if it gave no further promise of fruit, then it would be ruthlessly cut down. Luke 13:6
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