NKJV - 6 He also spoke this parable: "A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none.
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I am not a horticulturist, but my consultation of secular sources produced a reference to the practice of planting fig trees in the corners of vineyards to allow maximum utilization of available physical planting space.
Although planting trees in a vineyard might serve a practical purpose, we should be mindful that Luke 13:6-9 is a parable, and parables are not necessarily all rooted in reality – they use symbols to teach a deeper truth. It appears that the parable is also a prophecy. The vineyard’s owner came looking for fruit but found only leaves. The tree appeared healthy enough to bear fruit but had no fruit. The vineyard represents Israel (Isa 5:1-7; Jer 12:10; Ps 80:8-16). The vineyard owner gives four years for the fig tree to bear fruit and will be cut down. Israel was cut down as God's people in AD 34 when they stoned Stephen and in AD 70 Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed. Although Israel was cut down, its roots were not destroyed, and the Gentiles were grafted into the stump of Israel (Rom 11:17-24).
I agree with Aurel Gheorghe that we must read it as a parable and not a literal story. Parables are fictional stories that convey "a truth." The characters or features of the parable are symbolic of something greater. For instance, God in parables is often depicted as a king (Matt. 22:1-14, a father (Luke 15:11-32), a judge, a shepherd (Luke 15:3-7), or a Gardner (vineyard owner) (Mark 12:1-12). Each of these would be familiar to someone living in Israel in the first century. Some common symbols are being used in this parable: 1. "a man" (vineyard owner) - this is probably intended to represent God. In the beginning, God had a garden called the Garden of Eden. In Isaiah 5:1-2, God plants a vineyard. 2. "vineyard" - Israel is often depicted as a "vineyard" (Isaiah 5:1-2). Sometimes, Israel is pictured as an orchard with Olive Trees. Either way, it is a metaphor that everyone in Jesus' audience would understand. 3. "fig trees" - The fig tree depicts the spiritual/religious leaders of Israel (the Priests, Levites, or Pharisees) and also the spiritual health of Israel. In the Old Testament, when Israel is doing well spiritually, the metaphor is that of a productive fig tree (1 Kings 4:25; Zech. 3:10). 4. "the vinedresser" - is Jesus as the Messiah. We should notice that he does not advocate the destruction of the tree right away. He wants to encourage repentance. Jesus tells other parables like this - the Parable of the Weeds (Matthew 13:24-34). In both of these parables, Jesus encourages patience and that one day there will be a judgment for those who do not produce fruit. It seems then, this parable is told against the religious leaders of Israel who aren't producing the fruit expected of them. Jesus comes in judgment against those religious leaders (and the Temple) who take advantage of the regular people. Many of the priests in Jesus' day were very wealthy and would make sure they had power and wealth at the expense of the people of the land. At the same time, Jesus comes with a message of forgiveness and to allow God's justice to be played out. He does not want his followers to resort to violence against the priets or the temple. There are many excellent resources on Parables. One that I would recommend is called "The Parables" by Brad Young.
I see this as a parable for Christians who do not grow spirituality and produce “fruits”. For a period of time a Christian may be dormant and useless, deserving to be “cut down”. But Christ intervenes, He brings suffering (trench and manure) which should motivate a change in a Christian. If the Christian dose not change his ways with this intervention by Christ he is truly not worth having in the garden. Disturbing the ground and adding an unpleasant substance is just what a dormant tree (a non-producing Christian) needs. How many times I have sustained suffering, always due to my walking away from my Christian path, to be corrected by Christ and resulting in me again producing the “fruit” desired by my Savior.
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