When thus it shall be in the middle of the land among the people, there shall be as the shaking of an olive tree…
Explaining the figure used in this verse, Thomson says, "Early in autumn the olive berries begin to drop of themselves, or are shaken off by the wind. They are allowed to remain under the trees for some time, guarded by the watchman of the town - a very familiar Bible character. Then a proclamation is made by the governor that all who have trees go out and pick what has fallen. Previous to this, not even the owners are allowed to gather olives in the groves. This proclamation is repeated once or twice, according to the season. In November comes the general and final summons, which sends forth all Hasbeiya. No olives are now safe unless the owner looks after them, for the watchmen are removed, and the orchards are alive with men, women, and children. Everywhere the people are in the trees, 'shaking' them with all their might, to bring down the fruit. The effort is to make a clear sweep of all the crop; but, in spite of shaking and beating, there is always a gleaning left. These are gathered by the very poor, who have no trees of their own; and by industry they collect enough to keep a lamp in their habitation during the dismal nights of winter, and to cook their mess of pottage and bitter herbs." Reference may be to the few poor who were left in the land of Judah to till the fields, when the great mass of the people were carried away captive. God has always kept a remnant. Noah and his family in the time of the Flood. Seven thousand in the time of Ahab, an election of grace. And remnants have always their witness to make and their work to do.
I. REMNANTS WITNESS OF GOD'S JUDGMENTS. They compel us to ask - Why are they thus but remnants? and so the Divine dealings are recalled to mind. There was punishment because there was sin; there was overwhelming punishment because the cup of iniquity had become full. The nation is destroyed as a nation because the world must be taught, over and over again, that "righteousness exalteth a nation, but sin is a rebuke to any people."
II. REMNANTS WITNESS TO GOD'S MERCY IN JUDGMENT. They say God's judgments are never absolutely destructive. God cuts down the tree, but leaves the stock in the ground. God removes the nation, but leaves a few to keep up possession and rights. Self-vindication is only a part of God's meaning in his judgments. Correction is his chief purpose, and his mercifulness calls for repentance.
III. REMNANTS WITNESS TO GOD'S RESTORING MERCY THROUGH JUDGMENT. For they only keep possession till better days, though their possession declares that the better days will come. The "election of grace" has this to say: "All Israel shall be saved." These points may be applied to the few that are kept faithful in times of worldliness and spiritual decay in connection with Christ's Church. - R.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: When thus it shall be in the midst of the land among the people, there shall be as the shaking of an olive tree, and as the gleaning grapes when the vintage is done.