And he ran before, and climbed up into a sycomore tree to see him: for he was to pass that way.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)And climbed up into a sycomore tree.—The name of “sycomore” has been variously applied—(1) to a species of maple (Acer pseudo-platanus); (2) to the mulberry (Morus nigra), more properly, “sycamine,” as in Luke 17:6; and (3) to the fig mulberry (Ficus sycomorus). The last is the tree here meant. It grew to a considerable height in the Jordan valley, and was much used by builders and carpenters (1Kings 10:27). The care taken by St. Luke to distinguish between the “sycamine” of Luke 17:6 (where see Note), and the “sycomore” here, may fairly be noted as an instance of botanical accuracy, such as was likely to be found in a physician. We can picture the scene to our mind’s eye—the eager, wistful, supplicating face looking down from the fresh green foliage (it was early spring), and meeting the gaze of Jesus as He passed,Luke 17:6. See Poole on "Luke 19:3"
and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him: which sort of trees were very common about Jericho: hence we read of, , "beams of sycamore" in Jericho, which those that were strong took up in their arms, and the owners stood and devoted them to God (g); and among the things which the men of Jericho did, this was one, that they permitted the branches of trees devoted to sacred uses, and of the "charub" tree, and of the "sycamore", to be cut down and used (h). This sort of trees used to grow in plains and valleys, as appears from some passages of Scripture, 1 Kings 10:27 and from Jewish writings (i); and certain it is, that Jericho was in such a situation. Josephus (k) says, it was seated in a plain; and Strabo says (l), that Jericho is a plain surrounded with mountains; to which agrees the account that (m) Justin gives of it. There is a valley, which is enclosed by mountains on all sides, as with a wall, like a castle; the space of the place is two hundred acres, and it is called Jericho. Hence we read of the plains and valley of Jericho in Scripture, Deuteronomy 34:3 so that it is very probable sycamore trees grew there in great plenty; though the place was more famous for palm trees: hence it is called the city of the palm trees, Deuteronomy 24:3 which the Targumist, in both places, interprets, the city of Jericho: to which agree the accounts given of it by Pliny (n), Strabo (o), and Justin (p), who all affirm, that it abounded with palm trees; and the latter says also with balsam trees, from the sweet smell of which it might have its name: so the Jews say (q), the ointment of balsam is called the ointment of our land, because it grows in Jericho, and because of the smell of it, it is called Jericho; though some think it has its name from the plain, being in the form of a half moon; the moon, in the Hebrew language, being called (r). This tree seems to have been without the city: and indeed, according to the Jewish canon, it ought to be, which runs thus (s);
"they set a tree at a distance from a city, twenty and five cubits, but a "charub tree", and "sycamore", fifty cubits.''
The reason of the greater distance of the latter is, as one of their commentators says (t), because their branches were large; and this is the reason why Zacchaeus went up into one of these trees, because it was large and able to bear him, and tall, from whence he could have a full view of Christ:
for he was to pass that way; or rather, "pass by that"; for the word "way" is not in the text; and the sense is, he was to pass by that tree; or "under" it, as the Arabic version renders it. The tree stood by the road side, in which Jesus came, for which reason Zacchaeus made choice of it, as fit for his purpose.
(g) T. Bab. Pesachim, fol. 57. 1. & Juchashin, fol. 69. 1.((h) T. Bab. Menachot, fol. 71. 1. & Pesachim, fol. 56. 1.((i) Misn. Sheviith, c. 9. sect. 2.((k) De Bello Jud. l. 4. c. 27. (l) Geograph. l. 16. (m) Hist. l. 36. c. 3.((n) Nat. Hist. l. 5. c. 14. (o) Ut supra. (Geograph. l. 16.) (p) Ib. (q) Gloss. in T. Bab. Beracot, fol. 43. 1.((r) Vid. Masium in Josh. c. 2. p. 37. (s) Misna Bava Bathra, c. 2. sect. 7. (t) Bartenora in ib.And he ran before, and climbed up into a sycomore tree to see him: for he was to pass that way.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Luke 19:4. εἰς τὸ ἔμπροσθεν, in front of the crowd, to make sure; stationed at any point opposite the crowd he might miss his chance.—συκομοραίαν, a fig mulberry tree, as many think = συκάμινος in Luke 17:6; but why then not use the same word in both places, the only two places in N.T. where they occur, both used by the same writer? To this it has been replied: “Although it may be admitted that the sycamine is properly and in Luke 17:6 the mulberry, and the sycamore the fig mulberry, or sycamore fig, yet the latter is the tree generally referred to in the O.T. and called by the Sept sycamine, as 1 Kings 10:27, 1 Chronicles 27:28, Psalm 78:47, Amos 7:14. Dioscorides expressly says Συκόμορον, ἔνιοι δὲ καὶ τοῦτο συκάμινον λέγουσι, lib. i., cap. 180” (Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible, s. v. Sycamore). This is in effect to say that through the influence of the Sept and following common usage Lk. used the two words indifferently as synonyms.—ἐκείνης: supply ὁδοῦ, cf. ποίας, Luke 5:19.
 Septuagint.4. into a sycomore tree] Not the same as the sycamine (mulberry) of Luke 17:6, or with our sycamore (or pseudo-platanus) but the Egyptian fig, of which the low spreading branches are very easy to climb.Luke 19:4. Προδραμὼν, having run on before) with great eagerness.—ἀνέβη, he climbed up) External etiquette and manners would not allow a man of rank to climb up into a tree; but faith conquers every other consideration.—συκομορέαν, a sycamore) The sycamore, a tree of a nature standing midway between a fig-tree and a mulberry tree; a tree which grows to a great height. Comp. ch. Luke 17:6, note.—ἐκείνης) viz. ὁδοῦ, χώρας. There is an ellipsis of διὰ, as in ch. Luke 5:19, where see the note. Some have supplied the διά.
 Rec. Text has δἰ ἐκείνης: a has “per illa parte.” But ABQ have ἐκείνης only; bc “illâ parte:” Vulg. and d, ‘inde.’—E. and T.Verse 4. - Into a sycomore tree. Floss sycomorus, the fig-mulberry, is here meant. It grew in the Jordan valley to a considerable height; the low, spreading branches were easy to climb. "We can picture the scene to our mind's eye. The eager, wistful, supplicating face looking down from the fresh green foliage - it was early spring - and meeting the gaze of Jesus as he passed" (Dean Plumptre).
From συκῆ, fig-tree, and μόρον, the mulberry. The fig-mulberry, resembling the fig in its fruit, and the mulberry in its leaves. Some old writers derived it from μωρὸς, foolish, because it produced worthless figs. Dr. Thomson says that it bears several crops yearly, which grow on short stems along the trunk and the large branches. They are very insipid, and none but the poorer classes eat them. Hence Amos expresses the fact that he belongs to the humblest class of the community, by calling himself a gatherer of sycamore fruit (Amos 7:14). It grows with its large branches low down and wide open, so that Zacchaeus could easily have climbed into it. It is a favorite and pleasant conceit with old commentators that Zacchaeus' sycamore that day bore precious fruit.
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