Luke 13:8
And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it:
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(8) And dung it.—Literally, and put dung. Homely as the imagery is, it suggests fertilising and gracious influences not less vividly than the dew or rain from heaven, and points, perhaps, specifically to such as are working on us in our earthly surroundings, as contrasted with the directly supernatural action of God’s grace.

Luke 13:8-9. And he said, Let it alone this year also — Here we have the vine-dresser’s intercession for the barren fig-tree. Thus Christ the great Intercessor interceded for the Jewish Church and people, and thus, as he ever liveth, he continues to intercede for all unfruitful professors, and other sinners. And all faithful ministers of the gospel are intercessors for their flocks. They that dress the vineyard intercede for it, and pray for those to whom they preach. Observe, reader, the vine-dresser does not pray that the barren tree might never be cut down, but that it might not be cut down immediately; that a little further space might be granted to try whether it would bear fruit. Till I shall dig about it, &c. — Here the vine-dresser promises to improve this reprieve, if it be granted, for our prayers must always be seconded by our endeavours. When we request God’s grace, it must be with an humble resolution to do our duty, otherwise we mock God, and show that we do not rightly value the mercy we pray for. He engages to dig about the tree and dung it: for unfruitful Christians must be awakened by the terrors of the law, which, as it were, break up the ground, and then encouraged by the promises of the gospel, which may be compared to the application of warming and fattening manure to a tree: both methods must be tried, the one preparing for the other, and both are found by experience to be scarce sufficient. If it bear fruit, well — There being evidently an ellipsis in the original here, (for there is nothing answering to the word well,) Mr. Wesley and Dr. Campbell render the verse, Perhaps it will bear fruit; but if not, thou mayest afterward cut it down — Though God bear long, he will not bear always with unfruitful professors: his patience, if abused, will have an end, and will give way to that wrath which will have no end. And the longer he hath waited, and the more cost, so to speak, he has been at with sinners, the greater will be their destruction when it comes. And those who now intercede for them, and take pains with them, if they persist in their unfruitfulness, will be even content to see them cut down, and will have no more to plead in their behalf. Their best friends will acquiesce in, nay, will approve of, and applaud the righteous judgment of God, in the day of the manifestation of it; Revelation 15:3-4. Thus, in this parable, primarily intended, as we have observed, to be applied to the Jews, our Lord represented to that people God’s displeasure against them for having neglected to improve, or, to speak more properly, for having abused the many advantages and opportunities vouchsafed to them, as planted in the vineyard of his church; and in an awful manner intimated, that though they had hitherto, at his intercession, been spared, and a further time of trial afforded them; yet, if they continued unfruitful under the additional cultivation they were shortly to receive, on the descent of the Holy Spirit, and the proposal of the gospel, in its full extent and evidence; that is, under the last and best means with which they should yet be favoured, no more pains would be taken with them, nor had they any thing to expect but speedy, irresistible, and irrecoverable ruin.

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.The dresser of his vineyard - The man whose duty it was to trim the vines and take care of his vineyard.

These three years - These words are not to be referred to the time which Christ had been preaching the gospel, as if he meant to specify the exact period. They mean, as applicable to the vineyard, that the owner had been "a long time" expecting fruit on the tree. For three successive years he had been disappointed. In his view it was long enough to show that the tree was barren and would yield no fruit, and that therefore it should be cut down.

Why cumbereth it the ground? - The word "cumber" here means to render "barren" or "sterile." By taking up the juices of the earth, this useless tree rendered the ground sterile, and prevented the growth of the neighboring vines. It was not merely "useless," but was doing mischief, which may be said of all sinners and all hypocritical professors of religion. Dr. Thomson ("The Land and the Book," vol. i. p. 539) says of the barren fig-tree: "There are many such trees now; and if the ground is not properly cultivated, especially when the trees are young - as the one of the parable was, for only "three" years are mentioned they do not bear at all; and even when full grown they quickly fail, and wither away if neglected. Those who expect to gather good crops of well-flavored figs are particularly attentive to their culture - not only plow and dig about them frequently, and manure them plentifully, but they carefully gather out the stones from the orchards, contrary to their general slovenly habits."

This parable is to be taken in connection with what goes before, and with our Saviour's calling the Jewish nation to repentance. It was spoken to illustrate the dealings of God with them, and their own wickedness under all his kindness, and we may understand the different parts of the parable as designed to represent:

1. God, by the man who owned the vineyard.

2. The vineyard as the Jewish people.

3. The coming of the owner for fruit, the desire of God that they should produce good works.

4. The barrenness of the tree, the wickedness of the people.

5. The dresser was perhaps intended to denote the Saviour and the other messengers of God, pleading that God would spare the Jews, and save them from their enemies that stood ready to destroy them, as soon as God should permit.

6. His waiting denotes the delay of vengeance, to give them an opportunity of repentance. And,

7. The remark of the dresser that he might "then" cut it down, denotes the acquiescence of all in the belief that such a judgment would be just.

We may also remark that God treats sinners in this manner now; that he spares them long; that he gives them opportunities of repentance; that many live but to cumber the ground; that they are not only useless to the church, but pernicious to the world; that in due time, when they are fairly tried, they shall be cut down; and that the universe will bow to the awful decree of God, and say that their damnation is just.

8. he answering, &c.—Christ, as Intercessor, loath to see it cut down so long as there was any hope (see Lu 13:34).

dig, &c.—loosen the earth about it and enrich it with manure; pointing to changes of method in the divine treatment of the impenitent, in order to freshen spiritual culture.

See Poole on "Luke 13:6"

And he answering, said unto him, Lord,.... Which, if understood of God the Father, may intend the intercession of Christ with him, who not only intercedes for his elect, for those that are unconverted, that they may be converted; and for converted ones, for the carrying on of the work of sanctification; for fresh discoveries of pardoning grace; for consolation and support under trouble; for their final perseverance, and eternal glorification: but also for his enemies, for profane sinners, and for formal professors; for the sake of his own people among them, and for their preservation, and for the averting of divine judgments from them, at least as yet: and so the Jewish nation was spared for some time after this, though now deserving of immediate destruction. But rather, the intercession of the ministers of Christ, and other good men, may be here meant; who, as Abraham interceded for Sodom, and Moses and Aaron for Israel, so do they for a sinful nation, a barren and unfruitful church and people, and particular persons, that they may be spared, at least a little longer, as here:

let it alone this year also; have patience one year more, or a little while longer. The Ethiopic version renders it, "until the winter", that being a time for digging about, and dunging of trees, as follows,

till I shall dig about it, and dung it; these same phrases are used in the "Misna" (k),

, "they dung and dig" in gardens of cucumbers, and gourds, until the beginning of the year:''

upon which their commentators say (l), that they carry dung into their gardens to moisten the earth, and dig about the roots of the trees, and lay them bare, and cover them again, and prune them, and smoke them to kill the worms. And by these phrases may be signified the various means Christ made use of by his own ministry, and by the ministry of his apostles, to make the Jews a fruitful people; and rather the means Christ's ministers make use of, as did the apostles with the Jews, to reach the cases of barren professors; as by "digging", striking at, and exposing some secret sin or sins, which are the root and source of their barrenness; showing them, that they have no root in Christ, nor the root of the matter in them; and declaring to them the insufficiency of a mere profession of religion to save them: and "dunging", which as it supposes want of heat, or coldness, which is the cause of barrenness, and signifies, that such professors are without spiritual life, and without spiritual heat, or real warmth of love to Christ, his truths, ordinances, and people, and discharge their duty in a cold and lifeless manner; so it may design the means they make use of to warm and fire them with zeal for God, and true religion; by preaching the soul quickening doctrines of the Gospel, and by laying before them the agreeableness of a becoming zeal, and the disagreeableness of a lukewarm spirit and disposition, an indolence and unconcern for the glory of God, and interest of Christ.

(k) Sheviith, c. 2. sect. 2.((l) Jarchi, Maimon. & Bartenora in ib.

And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it:
Luke 13:8. τοῦτο τὸ ἔτος, one year more; he has not courage to propose a longer time to an impatient owner.—κόπρια (neuter plural from adjective κόπριος), dung stuffs. A natural proposal, but sometimes fertility is better promoted by starving, cutting roots, so preventing a tree from running to wood.

8. Lord] Rather, Sir, as far as the parable is concerned.

this year also] “The Lord... is longsuffering to us ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance,” 2 Peter 3:9. In “this year also” it is better to see generally the respite of forty years between the crucifixion and the destruction of Jerusalem, than merely the yet remaining period of our Lord’s ministry. God never strikes without warning, because He desires to save.

Luke 13:8. Ἀποκριθεὶς, having answered) By reason of His tender affection for the tree, inasmuch as being the object of His care as its dresser.—ἄφες, let it alone) This is akin to an argument drawn from its costing no great trouble or expense, [To such a degree are even they benefited by the intercession of Christ, who if left to themselves would have long since perished.—V. g.]—τοῦτο τὸ ἔτος, this year) the third, year, on which Jesus most especially visited them (in mercy), ch. Luke 19:42; Luke 19:44; and perfected the work of redemption, and sent His apostles: Acts 2. [It follows from this parable, that three Passovers in all elapsed between the baptism and resurrection of Christ.—Harm., p. 403.]—κόπρια) Greg. Naz., κόπρια περιβαλεῖν. Sing. κόπριον.

Verse 8. - And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it. The last year - the year of grace they who listened to him then were living in. It was the last summons to repentance, the final reminder to the old covenant people that to their high privileges as the chosen race there were duties attached. They prided themselves on the privileges, they utterly forgot the duties. The period represented by this last year included the preaching of John the Baptist, the public ministry of Jesus Christ, and the forty years of apostolic teaching which followed the Crucifixion and Resurrection. The last chance was given, but in the Vinedresser's prayer to the Lord of the vineyard there is scarcely a ray of hope. The history of the world supplies the sequel to this parable-story. Luke 13:8
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