Luke 17:6
And the Lord said, If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you.
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(6) If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed.—The words remind us, and must have reminded the disciples, of those of Matthew 17:20, which were called forth by the failure of the disciples to heal the demoniac boy after the Transfiguration. The “sycamine tree” (probably not the same as the “sycamore,” but identified by most botanists with the mulberry tree, still cultivated on the slopes of the Lebanon and in the neighbourhood of Jerusalem and Nablous, both for its fruit and as supplying food for silkworms) takes the place of “this mountain,” sc. Hermon, as an illustration of what true faith could do. If we suppose the conversation to have taken place near the Sea of Galilee, both features of the comparison gain a local vividness. It is remarkable that our Lord meets the prayer with what sounds like a reproof; and such a reproof, we must believe, was needed. The most elementary faith would have been enough to teach them (assuming the connection that has been traced above) that God is love, and that He would help them to overcome all hindrances to their love being after the pattern of His own. There was something, it may be, false in the ring of that prayer, an unreal diffidence asking for that as a gift which really comes only through active obedience and the experience which is gained through it.

17:1-10 It is no abatement of their guilt by whom an offence comes, nor will it lessen their punishment that offences will come. Faith in God's pardoning mercy, will enable us to get over the greatest difficulties in the way of forgiving our brethren. As with God nothing is impossible, so all things are possible to him that can believe. Our Lord showed his disciples their need of deep humility. The Lord has such a property in every creature, as no man can have in another; he cannot be in debt to them for their services, nor do they deserve any return from him.See Matthew 17:20. "Sycamine-tree." This name, as well as sycamore, is given, among us, to the large tree commonly called the buttonwood; but the tree here mentioned is different. The Latin Vulgate and the Syriac versions translate it "mulberry-tree." It is said to have been a tree that commonly grew in Egypt, of the size and appearance of a mulberry-tree, but bearing a species of figs. This tree was common in Palestine. It is probable that our Lord was standing by one as he addressed these words to his disciples. Dr. Thomson ("The Land and the Book," vol. i. p. 22-24) says of this tree: "It is generally planted by the wayside, in the open space where several paths meet." (Compare Luke 19:4.) "This sycamore is a remarkable tree. It not only bears several crops of figs during the year, but these figs grow on short stems along the trunk and large branches, and not at the end of twigs, as in other fruit-bearing trees. The figs are small, and of a greenish-yellow color. At Gaza and Askelon I saw them of a purple tinge, and much larger than they are in this part of the country. They were carried to market in large quantities, and appeared to be more valued there than with us. Still, they are, at best, very insipid, and none but the poorer classes eat them. It is easily propagated, merely by planting a stout branch in the ground, and watering it until it has struck its roots into the soil. This it does with great rapidity and to a vast depth. It was with reference to this latter fact that our Lord selected it to illustrate the power of faith.

Now, look at this tree - its ample girth, its wide-spread arms branching off from the parent trunk only a few feet from the ground; then examine its enormous roots, as thick, as numerous, and as wide-spread into the deep soil below as the branches extend into the air above the very best type of invincible steadfastness. What power on earth can pluck up such a tree? Heaven's thunderbolt may strike it down, the wild tornado may tear it to fragments, but nothing short of miraculous power can fairly pluck it up by the roots."

6. sycamine—mulberry. (See on [1685]Mr 11:22-24.) Matthew hath in effect the same, Matthew 17:20, though he saith, ye shall say unto this mountain;

See Poole on "Matthew 17:20". I cannot be of their mind who think that our Saviour in this, and the parallel place, speaks only of a faith that works miraculous operations; the object of which must be a Divine revelation or promise made to particular persons, that they shall be able to do things (by the power of God) out of and beyond the ordinary course of nature. I do believe that in both texts our Lord designs to show the great honour he will give to the exercise of the grace of faith, so as nothing which shall be for the honour of God, and the good of those that exercise it, and which God hath promised, shall be too hard or great an achievement for it: yet will it not thence follow, that if we had faith, that is, a full persuasion, that God would do such a thing by us, and a rest and confidence in God relating to it, we might remove mountains, or cast sycamine trees into the sea; for no such faith in us now could have a promise for the object, so as such a persuasion would be no faith, but a mere presumption. But there are other things as difficult, for which all believers have promises:

Sin shall have no dominion over you. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you, &c. And there are duties to be performed by us, as hard in the view of our natural eye as removing mountains; amongst which this of forgiving injuries is not the least, especially to some natural tempers. But, saith our Saviour, do not think it impossible to do: you have said well to me, Lord, increase our faith, for if you had faith as a grain of mustard seed, either so small as a grain of mustard seed, (if true), or so lively and working, that had such a principle of life in it as a grain of mustard seed, you might do any duty, resist any temptation, mortify any corruption; and you that have a power given you, and a promise made you, for working miracles, might say to this sycamine tree, Be removed, &c.

And the Lord said,.... In answer to the disciples. The Syriac version leaves out the word "Lord": and the Persic version, in the room of it reads, "Jesus":

if ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed; See Gill on Matthew 17:20.

ye might say unto this sycamine tree; which was near at hand; for in Galilee, where Christ now was, such trees grew, especially in lower Galilee: hence those words (u);

"from Caphar-Hananiah, and upwards, all the land which does not bear "sycamines", is upper Galilee, and from Caphar-Hananiah, and downwards, all which does bear "sycamines", is lower Galilee.''

This, by Maimonides (w), is said to be a wild fig tree; but the Vulgate Latin, Syriac, Arabic, and Ethiopic versions render it, the "mulberry tree": and that the sycamine and mulberry tree are the same, Beza shows from Dioscorides, Athenaeus, and Galen; though whether it is the same with the sycamore in Luke 19:4 is not certain. The first of these writers makes them to be the same; and the last asserts they are different, and so they should seem by their different names.

Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea, and it should obey you: for such a tree to be plucked up by the root at a word speaking, is very wonderful and miraculous, and beyond the power of nature; and much more for it to remove into the sea, and plant itself there, where trees grow not; and to believe this should be done, and such a word of command obeyed, one should think required very great faith; and yet, if it was but as a grain of mustard seed, which is very small, it might be done. The design is to show, what great things are done by faith, and what an increase of it they should have.

(u) Misna Sheviith, c. 9. sect. 2.((w) In Misna Demai, c. 1. sect. 1. & in Bava Bathra, c. 2. sect. 11.

And the Lord said, If ye had faith as {a} a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you.

(a) If you had no more faith, but the quantity of the grain of mustard seed.

Luke 17:6. εἰ ἔχετε. εἰ with pres. in protasis, the imperf. in apodosis with ἄν. Possession of faith already sufficient to work miracles is here admitted. In Mt. the emphasis lies on the want of such faith. Another instance of Lk.’s desire to spare the Twelve.—συκαμίνῳ, here only in N.T. = συκομορέα, Luke 19:4, the fig mulberry tree (vide there). A tree here, a mountain in Mt.; and the miraculous feat is not rooting it out of the earth but replanting it in the sea—a natural impossibility. Pricaeus cites a classic parallel: τὸ πέλαγος πρότερον οἴσει ἄμπελον.

6. as a grain of mustard seed] “which is the least of all seeds,” Matthew 13:32.

unto this sycamine tree] The ‘this: is interesting because it shews that our Lord was teaching in the open air, and pointed to the tree as He spoke. The sycamine (Hebr. shikmah, 1 Chronicles 27:28) seems to be a generic name for various kinds of mulberries (e.g. the Morus alba and nigra), which were freely cultivated in the East. The black mulberry is still called sycamenea in Greece (see Luke 19:4). In Matthew 17:20 we have a similar passage with the variation of “this mountain,” which our Lord doubtless spoke pointing to Mount Hermon. The Jews gave to a great Rabbi the title of ‘uprooter of mountains,’ in the sense of 4 remover of difficulties;’ and our Lord here most appropriately expresses the truth that Faith can remove all difficulties and obstacles, Mark 9:23, Luke 11:23. Perhaps the warning never to be spiritually elated springs from the magnificence of this promise.

Be thou plucked up by the root] Literally, “Be instantly uprooted;” and yet it is a tree with very deep roots. See p. 384.

Luke 17:6. Εἰ) if) This IF itself sharpens the energies of minds striving after faith, and enlarges their powers so as to reach it. [By the very fact of setting forth the efficacy of faith, faith itself is increased.—V. g.]—συκαμίνῳ) שקמים, which the LXX. render συκάμινοι. The morus or mulberry tree, a tree often met in Palestine. See 1 Kings 10:27. Sometimes the συκομορέα is distinguished from it. See ch. Luke 19:4. See the lexicographers, and Bexa, on this passage. The wild fig-tree is a tree most deeply rooted.[180]—φυτεύθητι, be thou planted) with thy roots, so as to remain in the sea. It is a similar effect to this which is produced on believers themselves.—ἐν τῇ θαλάσσῃ, in the sea) They were at the time near the sea; comp. Matthew 17:20; Matthew 17:27.—ὑπήκουσεν ἂν, it would obey you) Metaphysicians term it the obediential power. The recognition of the Divine omnipotence, which faith apprehends, increases faith.

[180] The συκάμινος is the mulberry tree, Lat. morus, black and white, Theophr. Caus. Pl. Luke 6:6; Luke 6:4. Συκόμορος or συκομορέα is the fig-mulberry, Th. σῦκον μόρον; an Egyptian kind that bears its fruit on the branches, and has leaves like the white mulberry. Ficus sycomorus, Linnæus.—E. and T.

Verse 6. - And the Lord said, If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you. The Lord signifies that a very slight real faith, which he compares to the mustard seed, that smallest of grains, would be of power sufficient to accomplish what seemed to them impossible. In other words, he says, "If you have any real faith at all, you will be able to win the victory over yourselves necessary for a perpetual loving judgment of others." The sycamine tree here mentioned in his comparison is not the sycamore; he was probably standing close by the tree in question as he spoke. The sycamine is the black mulberry, Morns nigra, still called sycamenea in Greece. Luke 17:6Sycamine

Or mulberry. Luke distinguishes between this and συκομορέα, the fig-mulberry (Luke 19:4). The names were sometimes confused, but a physician would readily make the distinction, as both were used medicinally.

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