Luke 13:7
Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(7) Why cumbereth it the ground?The Greek verb means more than that the fig-tree was what we call a useless burden or incumbrance, and implies positive injury. It is commonly rendered by “bring to nought,” or some like phrase. (In 1Corinthians 13:8 it is rendered “fail.”) This would seem, indeed, to have been the old meaning of the English verb. Comp. Shakespeare’s Julius Cœsar, iii. 1:—

“Domestic fury, and fierce civil strife.

Shall cumber all the parts of Italy.”

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.

7. three years—a long enough trial for a fig tree, and so denoting probably just a sufficient period of culture for spiritual fruit. The supposed allusion to the duration of our Lord's ministry is precarious.

cut it down—indignant language.

cumbereth—not only doing no good, but wasting ground.

See Poole on "Luke 13:6"

Then said he unto the dresser of the vineyard,.... If by the owner of the vineyard is meant God the Father, then by the dresser of the vineyard Jesus Christ is intended; but as he seems rather designed by the owner, the vinedresser, or "the gardeners", as the Persic version reads, in the plural number, may signify the ministers of the word, to whom Christ, who is Solomon's antitype, lets out his vineyard to dress and cultivate it, and to keep the fruit of it; see Sol 8:11,

behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none; or "behold, there are three years since I came"; so read the Vulgate Latin and Persic versions, and Beza's most ancient copy. Some think Christ here refers to the three years of his public ministry, which he had now gone through among the Jews with little success; but he seems rather to allude to the nature of fig trees, which, if fruitful, bear in three years time; for even , "a sort of white figs", which are the longest before they bring forth fruit to perfection, yet their fruit is ripe in three years time. These trees bear fruit once in three years; they bear fruit indeed every year, but their fruit does not come to maturity till after three years (i); and this may be the reason why this number is fixed upon; for if such fig trees do not bring forth ripe fruit in three years time, there is little reason to expect any from them: and thus it was time after time with the Jewish nation; and so it is with carnal professors: hence it follows,

cut it down, why cumbereth it the ground? or "that it may not cumber"; or "render the ground useless", as read the Arabic version, and one of Beza's copies; for unfruitful trees suck up the juices of the earth, and draw away nourishment from other trees that are near them, and so make the earth barren, and not only hurt other trees, but stand in the way and place of fruitful ones; and therefore it is best to cut them down. So barren professors, as were the Jews, are not only useless and unprofitable themselves, being fruitless, but make churches barren, and stand in the way of others, who are stumbled by them; they are grieving to God, to Christ, and to the blessed Spirit, and are troublesome and burdensome to churches, ministers, and true believers: and the cutting them down may regard the judgment of God upon the nation of the Jews, which Christ would not have his apostles and ministers interpose for the averting of; or the excommunication of such worthless and hurtful professors out of the churches by them.

(i) T. Hieros. Sheviith, fol. 35. 4. Jarchi, Maimon. & Bartenora in Misn. Demai, c. 1. sect. 1. & Sheviith, c. 5. sect. 1.

Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why {c} cumbereth it the ground?

(c) Make the ground barren in that part which is otherwise good for vines.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Luke 13:7. ἀμπελουργόν, the vine-dresser (ἄμπελος, ἔργον) here only in N.T.—ἰδοὺ, lo! as of one who has a right to complain.—τρία ἔτη, three years, reckoned not from the planting of the tree (it is three years after planting that it begins to bear fruit), but from the time that it might have been expected in ordinary course to yield a crop of figs. Three years is not a long period, but enough to determine whether it is going to be fruit-bearing, the one thing it is there for. In the spiritual sphere in national life that cannot be determined to soon. It may take as many thousand years.—ἔρχομαι, I keep coming, the progressive present. The master comes not merely once a year, but again and again within the year, at the seasons when fruit may be found on a fig tree (Hahn). Cf. δουλεύω in Luke 15:29.—οὐχ εὑρίσκω, I do not find it. I come and come and am always disappointed. Hence the impatient ἔκκοψον, cut it out (from the root).—ἵνα τί καὶ: καὶ points to a second ground of complaint. Besides bearing no fruit it occupies space which might be more profitably filled.—καταργεῖ (here and in Paul’s epistles), renders useless; Vulgate, occupat, practically if not verbally the right rendering. A barren fig tree renders the land useless by occupying valuable space.

7. unto the dresser of his vineyard] It seems clear that in the truth which the parable shadows forth, Christ corresponds to the vine-dresser, and Jehovah to the owner (Isaiah 5:7). Some however prefer to see in the vine-dresser the Holy Spirit as Intercessor.

Behold, these three years] Many suppose an allusion to the length up to this time of our Lord’s ministry. Others explain it of the periods of the Judges, Kings, and High Priests. It is very doubtful how far these lesser details—which are essential to the colouring of the parable—are intended to be pressed.

cut it down] at once—as the tense implies (Matthew 3:10; John 15:2). It was fulfilled in the rejection of Israel (Romans 11:22).

why cumbereth it the ground?] Rather, why doth it also sterilise the ground? i.e. it is not only useless, but positively mischievous by preventing other growth.

Luke 13:7. Τρία, three) A number in some measure decisive and determinate. The Lord was beginning His third year of teaching, as the true harmony of the Evangelists shows.—ἔρχομαι, I come) An abbreviated expression, as in ch. Luke 15:29, τοσαῦτα ἔτη δουλεύω, these so many years I (have served and still) serve thee.—ἔκκοψον, cut it off [down]) (Great, severity (stern strictness in punishing) is expressed in this word: as also there is implied the great power of the ἀμπελουργὸς, Vine-dresser.—ἵνα τί καὶ, why even [not expressed in the Engl. Vers.]) Not only is it of no use, but it even draws off the juices, which the vines would otherwise extract (suck) out of the earth, and intercepts the sun’s rays; and it takes up valuable room.

Verse 7. - Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none. Some expositors see in this period of three years an allusion to the storied past of Hebrew life, and in the number 3 discern the three marked epochs, each lasting several centuries, of the high priests, judges, and kings. This, however, is a very doubtful reference, owing to the impossibility of separating the first two periods of the rule of high priests and judges, as these interchange and overlap each other. Another school of interpreters sees a reference to the three years of the public ministry of Jesus. A better reference would be God's successive calls to Israel by the Law, the prophets, and by Christ. It is, however, safer, in this and m many of the Lord's parables, not to press every little detail which was necessary for the completion of the picture. Here the period of three years in which the Lord of the vineyard came seeking fruit, represents by the number 3 the symbol of complete-ness - a period of full opportunity given to the tree to have become fruitful and productive. Cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground? better rendered, why doth it make the ground useless? It is an unproductive tree, and occupies the place which another and a fertile tree might fill. Luke 13:7These three years Icome

The best texts insert ἀφ' οὗ, from which, or since. "It is three years from the time at which Icame."

Cut it down (ἔκκοψον)

Rather, "cut it out" (ἐκ) from among the other trees and the vines.

Why cumbereth it

The A. V. omits the very important καὶ, also (Rev.), which, as Trench observes, is the key-word of the sentence. Besides being barren in itself, it also injures the soil. "Not only is it unfruitful, but it draws away the juices which the vines would extract from the earth, intercepts the sun, and occupies room" (Bengel). The verb cumbereth (καταργεῖ) means to make of no effect. So Romans 3:3, Romans 3:31; Galatians 3:17. Cumbereth expresses the meaning in a very general and comprehensive way. The specific elements included in it are expressed by Bengel above. De Wette, makes the land unfruitful. See on barren and unfruitful, 2 Peter 1:8.

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