Luke 23:31
For if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(31) If they do these things in a green tree.—The word for “tree” primarily meant “wood” or “timber,” the tree cut down. In later Greek, however, as, e.g., in Revelation 2:7; Revelation 22:2; Revelation 22:14; Revelation 22:19, it was used for “tree.” The “green tree” is, therefore, that which is yet living, capable of bearing fruit; the “dry,” that which is barren, fruitless, withered, fit only for the axe (Matthew 3:10; Luke 13:7). The words have so much the character of a proverb that the verb may almost be treated as practically impersonal. So far as any persons are implied, we must think of our Lord as speaking of the representatives of Roman power. If Pilate could thus sentence to death One in whom he acknowledged that he could find no fault, what might be expected from his successors when they had to deal with a people rebellious and in arms? In 1Peter 4:17 we have the same thought in a more general and less figurative form.

23:26-31 We have here the blessed Jesus, the Lamb of God, led as a lamb to the slaughter, to the sacrifice. Though many reproached and reviled him, yet some pitied him. But the death of Christ was his victory and triumph over his enemies: it was our deliverance, the purchase of eternal life for us. Therefore weep not for him, but let us weep for our own sins, and the sins of our children, which caused his death; and weep for fear of the miseries we shall bring upon ourselves, if we slight his love, and reject his grace. If God delivered him up to such sufferings as these, because he was made a sacrifice for sin, what will he do with sinners themselves, who make themselves a dry tree, a corrupt and wicked generation, and good for nothing! The bitter sufferings of our Lord Jesus should make us stand in awe of the justice of God. The best saints, compared with Christ, are dry trees; if he suffer, why may not they expect to suffer? And what then shall the damnation of sinners be! Even the sufferings of Christ preach terror to obstinate transgressors.For if they do these things in a green tree ... - This seems to be a proverbial expression. A "green" tree is not easily set on fire; a dry one is easily kindled and burns rapidly; and the meaning of the passage is - "If they, the Romans, do these things to me, who am innocent and blameless; if they punish me in this manner in the face of justice, what will they not do in relation to this guilty nation? What security have they that heavier judgments will not come upon them? What desolations and woes may not be expected when injustice and oppression have taken the place of justice, and have set up a rule over this wicked people?" Our Lord alludes, evidently, to the calamities that would come upon them by the Romans in the destruction of their city and temple. The passage may be applied, however, without impropriety, and with great beauty and force, to the punishment of the wicked in the future world.

Thus applied, it means that the sufferings of the Saviour, as compared with the sufferings of the guilty, were like the burning of a green tree as compared with the burning of one that is dry. A green tree is not adapted to burn; a dry one is. So the Saviour - innocent, pure, and holy - stood in relation to suffering. There were sufferings which an innocent being could not endure. There was remorse of conscience, the sense of guilt, punishment properly so called, and the eternity of woes. He had the consciousness of innocence, and he would not suffer forever. He had no passions to be enkindled that would rage and ruin the soul. The sinner is "adapted" to sufferings, like a dry tree to the fire. He is guilty, and will suffer all the horrors of remorse of conscience. He will be punished literally. He has raging and impetuous passions, and they will be enkindled in hell, and will rage forever and ever. The meaning is, that if the innocent Saviour suffered "so much," the sufferings of the sinner forever in hell must be more unspeakably dreadful. Yet who could endure the sufferings of the Redeemer on the cross for a single day? Who could bear them forever and ever, aggravated by all the horrors of a guilty conscience, and all the terrors of unrestrained anger, and hate, and fear, and wrath? "Why will the wicked die?"

31. green tree—that naturally resists the fire.

the dry—that attracts the fire, being its proper fuel. The proverb here plainly means: "If such sufferings alight upon the innocent One, the very Lamb of God, what must be in store for those who are provoking the flames?"

See Poole on "Luke 23:27" For if they do these things in a green tree,.... Or it may be rendered impersonally, "if these things are done in a green tree"; by which is meant the Lord Jesus Christ, who is often compared to a tree, as to a green fir tree, an apple tree, a vine, and is called the tree of life: and may be said to be a moist or green tree; because, as a green tree is full of juice, so is he of grace and goodness; as that is flourishing, so was he in the fame of his doctrine and miracles, in the spread of his Gospel, and in the increase of his kingdom and interest; and as that is fruitful and useful, so was he in preaching the Gospel, and healing diseases; and as that is not proper to be cut down, nor fit fuel for the fire, so he was not deserving of death, or to be used in the manner he was; the metaphor seems designed to express the righteousness and innocence of Christ; see Ezekiel 20:47 who was pure in his nature, without sin in his life, harmless in his conversation, and did no hurt to any man's person or property: his enemies could find nothing, nor prove any thing against him; nor even the devil himself, but owned him to be the Holy One of God; and he was also declared innocent by his judge, the Roman governor: and yet, how many hard and grievous things were done unto him! He was persecuted in his infancy, and his life was sought for; he was despised and reproached by men all his days; he was apprehended as if he had been a thief, and was bound as a malefactor; and arraigned at the bar of men, as if he had been the greatest criminal on earth; he was mocked, buffeted, and spit upon in the palace of the high priest; be was scourged by Pilate, and misused by his soldiers, who arrayed him with a scarlet robe, put a crown of thorns on his head, and a reed in his hand, and in a mock way bowed the knee to him, and saluted him as King of the Jews; they crucified him between two thieves, and as he hung on the cross mocked him, and gave him gall and vinegar to drink. To which may be added, that he was forsaken by his God, and Father, and his wrath was poured out upon him, as he sustained the persons, and bore the sins of his people; the curse of the law was executed on him: and justice drew its sword, and sheathed it in him: and now if all these things were done to such an useful, holy, harmless, and innocent person, what shall be done in the dry? by whom wicked men are designed; who, as dry trees are without juice, so are they destitute of grace and righteousness, and all that is good, and bring forth no fruit, neither to God, nor themselves, nor others; but, like dead and withered trees, are dead in trespasses and sins, and full of all manner of sin, and rottenness, and impurity; and are deserving to be cut down, and are fit fuel for the fire of divine wrath and displeasure, both in this, and in the other world. The wicked Jews that rejected Christ, and crucified him, are particularly meant; and if such evil things were done by them to so just a person, what may not be expected will fall on them in retaliation for such usage? and if the Roman soldiers, under their encouragement acted such a part to Christ, who had never done them any injury, what will they not do to these men, when provoked by their insults and rebellions? and if such things were done to Christ by his Father, according to the requirement of the law, and the strictness of divine justice, when he was made sin for his people, though he knew none, nor committed any himself, what vengeance will fall on them, who must answer for their sins in their own persons? What devouring flames, and everlasting burnings, will such dry trees be exposed to, as being fit for them, and deserving of them? so the children of men are, by the Jews, in their writings, called, , "dry trees" (u); the Targumist on Ezekiel 17:24 paraphrases the words thus;

"I have humbled the kingdom of the nations, which was strong as a green tree, and I have strengthened the kingdom of the house of Israel, which was weak as a dry tree.''

It is a common proverb with the Jews (x);

"two dry sticks, or brands, and one green, the dry burn up the green:''

intimating, that a few righteous persons among wicked men suffer with them; but if righteous men suffer, how much more the wicked? see 1 Peter 4:17.

(u) Zohar in Lev. fol. 14. 2.((x) T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol. 93. 1.

For if they do these things in a {e} green tree, what shall be done in the dry?

(e) As if he said, If they do this to me who is always fruitful and flourishing, and who lives forever by reason of my Godhead, what will they do to you who are unfruitful and void of all active righteousness?

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Luke 23:31. The sense of this proverbial phrase is obscure, but the connection demands this general idea: what is happening to me now is nothing to what is going to happen to this people. The green tree represents innocence, the dry tree guilt, ripe for the fire of judgment. Vide Ezekiel 20:47; Ezekiel 21:3. Pricaeus cites as a parallel from Catullus: “quid facient crines quum ferro talia cedant?” The Rabbinical proverb, “si duo fuerint ligna arida et unum viride, arida illud lignum viride exurunt,” does not seem to bear the same meaning.—ἐν ὑγρῷ ξύλῳ, in the wet tree, in ligno humido, Grotius. ξύλον χλωρὸν= lignum viride, in Ezekiel.31. For if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?] Rather, what must happen in the dry? The meaning of this proverb is not clear, and hence it early received the most absurd explanations. It can however only mean either (1) ‘If they act thus cruelly and shamefully while the tree of their natural life is still green, what horrors of crime shall mark the period of its blighting?’—in which case it receives direct illustration from Ezekiel 20:47; comp. Luke 21:3-4; or (2) ‘If they act thus to Me the Innocent and the Holy, what shall be the fate of these, the guilty and false?’—in which case it expresses the same thought as 1 Peter 4:17-18. (See Proverbs 11:31; Ezekiel 20:47; Ezekiel 21:4; Matthew 3:10, and p. 385.) For the historic fulfilment in the horrors of a massacre so great as to weary the very soldiers, see Jos. B. f. vi. 44.Luke 23:31. Ὅτι, For) By this adage Jesus either shows why He Himself desires the daughters of Jerusalem to weep; or rather brings before us the persons who desire to be overwhelmed beneath the mountains, stating the grounds of their terror. Therefore we may take the green tree as typifying the young, strong, and healthy: the dry tree (comp. Isaiah 56:3, “Neither let the eunuch say, Behold I am a dry tree;” Ezekiel 21:3 [Ezekiel 20:47], Ezekiel 31:3,[257] etc.), the old, feeble, and barren. A remarkable passage occurs in Joseph., B. vi. de B. J. ch. 44. f 968, ed Lips. “When the soldiers were wearied out in killing the Jews, and a great multitude seemed still to be left surviving, Cæsar ordered that those alone who were armed and offered resistance should be slain, and that the rest should be made captives. But the soldiers μετὰ (the sense requires κατὰ) τῶν παρηγγελμένων, contrary to what had been commanded, slew the old and feeble (ΤΟΥΣ ΑΣΘΕΝΕΙΣ), (ΤΟ Δʼ ΑΚΜΑΖΟΝ), but shut up in confinement those who were vigorous and serviceable,” etc. Therefore in this crowning calamity they began debating with one another, as usually happens, which was the more miserable. Tending to the same view of the words is the fact, that ξύλον denotes either a tree that is standing, or the wood of a tree that has been cut, which latter also is wont to be either moist (for so Erasmus renders ὑγρὸν, humidum, still retaining the sap) or else dry. Elsewhere indeed Christ is the tree of life, perfect in its verdure: men, whilst outside of Him, are dry wood. See John 15:1-2. But His suffering (punishment) was truly more severe than that of any Jew, after the city was taken.

[257] Where the Assyrian is called “a cedar in Lebanon.” Comp. Luke 17:24, “I the Lord have dried up the green tree, and made the dry tree to flourish.”—E. and T.Verse 31. - For if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry? Bleek and others interpret this saying here thus: The green wood represents Jesus condemned to crucifixion as a traitor in spite of his unvarying loyalty to Rome and all lawful Gentile power. The dry wood pictures the Jews, who, ever disloyal to Rome and all Genesis the authority, will bring on themselves with much stronger reason the terrible vengeance of the great conquering empire. Theophylact, however, better explains the saying in his paraphrase, "If they do these things in me, fruitful, always green, undying through the Divinity, what will they do to you, fruitless, and deprived of all life-giving righteousness?" So Farrar, who well summarizes, "If they act thus to me, the Innocent and the Holy, what shall be the fate of these, the guilty and false?" Tree (ξύλῳ)

Originally wood, timber. In later Greek, a tree. Used of the cross by Peter, Acts 5:30; Acts 10:39; and 1 Peter 2:24. Compare Galatians 3:13.

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