Proverbs and the Tree of Life
Prior to this study, the book of Proverbs wasn't one of my favorite books of the Bible to read. Not that it lacked interesting and useful content, but for the most part it seemed merely practical and was very random throughout most of its mid-section.
In this presentation, we will discover that there is more than meets the eye. A deeper inspection will reveal a pattern, purpose, and design in Proverbs that fits into the tapestry of a much larger story.
The tree of life and its three strategic placements in the Scriptures is the common thread that we will trace from Genesis to Revelation. We will discover how the eternal life man was granted in the Genesis beginning, and then lost, was restored in the end at Revelation But not before it crosses through the natural world exhibit of Proverbs. It is at this crossroads we will discover the allegories and metaphors that will animate for us what happened in that garden event as well as foretell the glorious redemptive conclusion of eternal life with God.
The Tree of Life
The tree of life is noted four times in the book of Proverbs. There are only two other places in Scripture that it is named specifically, and these are in Genesis and Revelation, the first and last books of the Bible. There are three mentions in Genesis and three in Revelation which places the Proverbs mentions at the center of all its usages. The placement of these references forms a literary sandwich which is known as a chiasm.
A chiasm is a literary tool that places the main point at the center of a portion of text, and this central main theme is surrounded by parallel details with supporting information, on both sides. The outermost parallel texts are like the two slices of bread on a sandwich as we shall see in a bit.
This structure can also be viewed as an arrow that is pointing to something specific. This assembly is displayed below as it concerns Matthew 6:24, which just so happens to be conveniently related to our topic. Visually you can see the shape of an arrow made by the indentations, as each line moves towards the center and main idea of that portion.
The Chiastic Structure of Matthew 6:24
The Torah a Tree of Life
Love and devotion, represented by the "C's" above, are the central themes of Matthew 6:24. The meat of the sandwich or, the tip of the arrow points to the message that God is wanting to pointedly penetrate our hearts with.
What this arrangement reveals, in this case, is that what we love and devote ourselves to will be our master. Decisions about whom or what we will serve and devote ourselves to will be significant throughout the remainder of this study.
In relation to the arrow structure of the Scripture, it is interesting that the Hebrew word "Torah" most commonly translated law, is rooted in an archery term that means to aim at an intended target
The Torah is synonymous with God's Word, laws, and instructions that will aim us at the bull's eye of His will and intended purpose. This is, ultimately, always in our best interest. Torah is also the name given to the first five books of the Bible. The Word of God, Wisdom, the tree of life and the Torah and are all related in concept.
In Judaism, a Torah scroll is referred to as a tree of life. An authentic Torah scroll is made from parchment attached to olive wood dowels. Parchment is made of lambskin reminding us of the eternal Word of God
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.
— John 1:1-2
Jesus, the Lamb of God.
Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!
— John 1:29
The Olive wood is analogous to things eternal.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
But the word of our God stands forever — Isaiah 40:8
The Eternal Olive Tree
A side note about olive trees related to our study is that olive trees are a metaphor for eternal life, considering that they can live for thousands of years There are olive trees in Israel today that existed at the time of Christ. The olive tree is also associated with the tree of life in the Garden account by Jewish sages.
Back to the Torah, as was translated law, in most places, God did not make laws to confine us. His law was meant for our freedom and life and actually, means something more like instruction. It is the truth about how things function in both the spirit and natural realms. His command to not eat of the forbidden tree was to protect our freedom.
Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat
— Genesis 2:16
In Hebrew, the word "freely" is expressed as "eat" "eat". It's a double eat for the purpose of communicating the idea of abundance, as in "eat as much as you would like". In English, we might say "eat to your heart's content" The main thrust of the message is that nothing is being withheld that they would need nor desire.
Paul's prayer for wisdom, the main subject of this study, in his letter to the church at Ephesus, includes this same thought in terms of the abundance we have in Christ.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ...that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places...
— Ephesians 1:3,18-20
He continues with this same language of richness and abundance in chapter two.
But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus
— Ephesians 2:4-7
And again in chapter three.
For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
— Ephesians 3:14-21
Liberty and the Tree of Life
Paul's exposition details the freedom that Christ purchased for us. I believe it was the same freedom that was offered in the beginning had Adam and Eve chosen to believe God and obey.
It is obvious that the law was not for the purpose of restriction, but instead, it was for the unveiling of how God designed things to work, which is for our benefit, freedom, and fruitfulness.
Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free...the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.
— Galatians 5:1,22-23
These instructions given by God aren't simply suggestions or good advice, these are the laws of life.
Counts and Placements of the Tree of Life
Our look at the usages of the tree of life (three in Genesis, four in Proverbs, three in Revelation) will point to some very interesting revelations concerning this natural physical existence, and the eternal. The four Proverbs mentions, being in the center of the three, will lend to us some valuable insight and application to the garden temptation narrative.
Before we get to that, some understanding of Bible numbers will be useful to our study.
Four, in Biblical numerics, is the number that categorizes themes having to do with the natural created earthly realm which Proverbs will display and also explains its practical, and sometimes disorderly, presentation.
Three is the number that classifies spiritual heavenly things. The tree of life's three mentions in relation to The Garden of Eden in Genesis reveals a tabernacle of heaven on the earth. It was a place where heaven and earth met.
In Revelation, the tree of life, with its three mentions relative to the New Jerusalem, is portrayed as a spiritual city that comes down from heaven.
This is relevant in terms of how, the tree of life and it's physical realm application in the book of Proverbs, with its four uses, are sandwiched between three eternal mentions on either side. Heaven and earth will intersect at the juncture of Proverbs and the eternity we held in the beginning (Genesis -Eden) will "pass through" the natural realm of Proverbs to the other side in a Revelation eternity.
The total number of occurrences of the tree of life, when added together, is ten. Ten in Bible numbers is associated with man's obligation of responsibility and loyalty to God as is exhibited in the ten commandments. It most frequently is accompanied by a test as we shall see in the garden experience.
The Tree of Life Chiasm
Let's take a look at what this arrangement looks like in terms of all of the tree of life usages. Note as you read that the two outer sections of Genesis and Revelation occurrences are lettered according to their parallel matching themes which will be discussed and compared.
A) And out of the ground the Lord God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
— Genesis 2:7
B) Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever
— Genesis 3:22
C) So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life
— Genesis 3:24
The four uses in Proverbs.
She (wisdom) is a tree of life to those who take hold of her,
And happy are all who retain her.
— Proverbs 3:18
The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life,
And he who wins souls is wise.
— Proverbs 11:30
Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
But when the desire comes, it is a tree of life...
— Proverbs 13:12,18
A wholesome tongue is a tree of life,
But perverseness in it breaks the spirit
— Proverbs 15:4
And the three Revelation occurrences.
A) “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.”
— Revelation 2:9
B) In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations
— Revelation 22:2
C) Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city
— Revelation 22:14
It has been suggested that there was possibly a threshold, perhaps the river of life, between these two trees, that separated them. On the one side it might have been the spirit realm and on the other the natural physical realm. To access the tree of the knowledge of good and evil Adam and Eve would have had to cross over from the spirit side to the natural side to access it. Did Adam and Eve's horizontal move across a vertical realm follow the pattern of a cross in the beginning? This gives a whole new meaning to the "Passover" and understanding of what Christ did for us.
Sacrifices made at the thresholds of doorways was a widely used practice in the ancient Near East. The actual Passover in the book of Exodus displays this when they placed a basin at the threshold and painted the blood on the top and side posts. If we connected the spots of blood from threshold to top and from side to side it would form the shape of a cross.
Comparing the Parallel Themes
When comparing the "A's of Genesis and Revelation, they both show us the granting of access to the tree of life. In the Genesis, "A", man had the choice to either eat from the tree of life, which is synonymous with trusting God...
Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good;
Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!
— Psalm 34:8
...or he could eat from the tree of knowing good and evil which meant he wanted to independently experience and define for himself good and evil.
Because they hated knowledge
And did not choose the fear of the Lord,
They would have none of my counsel
And despised my every rebuke.
Therefore they shall eat the fruit of their own way,
And be filled to the full with their own fancies
— Proverbs 1:30-31
Adam already knew God and had experienced good. Evil was the only extra dish on this table. Everything God made was good. This good tree was mixed with something sinister, evil, and poisonous. The bite of that particular choice of fruit contained enough toxin to paralyze the human race into a sinful state of decay and death
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
— Romans 6:23
How interesting that the venom of a snake not only paralyzes but destroys the red blood cells of a person causing them to bleed to death both internally and externally wherever blood can escape.
the life of the flesh is in the blood Leviticus
The Revelation "A" reveals that eating from the tree of life is synonymous with hearing and obeying what God has said. Obedience is synonymous with faith.
Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?
— James 2:18-20
Another commonality of these bookend themes concerns the tree of life's location as in both being in the middle. In Genesis, it is in the middle of the Garden. In Revelation, it is in the middle of the Paradise of God.
These combined themes of tree placement and eternity are practically described in a Psalm of David
But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God; I trust in the mercy of God forever and ever.
— Psalms 52:8
Comparing the "B's"; In the Genesis event, man's right to the tree of life is broken. In Revelation it is healed.
Comparing the "C's"; there are guarded entrances to both the garden in Genesis and the gates in Revelation. In Genesis man is cast out. In Revelation, he is brought back in.
The Revelation account reveals that the Genesis event was a clear cut act of treason and disobedience and the rights to that tree were only for those who were loyal to the King of Kings commands and decrees.
We can see that on either side of Proverbs the eternal themes that seem to intersect and pass through this middle book. Like links in a chain, all three books, Genesis, Proverbs, and Revelation are connected by the tree of life.
So let's take a look at Proverbs and see how the natural more tangible concepts will animate for us the eternal truth and main message of all of Scripture.
An Introduction to the Book of Proverbs
The book of Proverbs will give us a deeper insight of how this event from eating from a forbidden tree was about so much more than food selection. It was about knowing, or could we say, shacking up with an immoral woman who is presented in chapter two of the book of Proverbs.
Before we look at the two women a little bit about the book the author and purpose of the book. The book of Proverbs is credited to the wise sayings of King Solomon. It begins with what the tree of life in the garden had on its menu.
To know wisdom and instruction,
To perceive the words of understanding,
To receive the instruction of wisdom,
Justice, judgment, and equity;
To give prudence to the simple,
To the young man knowledge and discretion—
A wise man will hear and increase learning,
And a man of understanding will attain wise counsel,
To understand a proverb and an enigma,
The words of the wise and their riddles.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge...
— Proverbs 1:1-7
The Wrong Crowd
The next section of the first chapter of Proverbs consists of a father's passionate plea to his son to choose good ways rather than evil. Extra special attention is given to be selective about who he listens to and what he chooses to partake of. Evil is personified here as, "the wrong crowd". A term many parents of teens could relate to. This illustration depicts who Adam was hanging out with on that fateful occasion. Why were Adam and Eve hanging out by this forbidden fruit?
The father in Proverbs makes a desperate plea in this discourse to not partake of the evil offerings of this crowd, and just like in Genesis, the father includes the end result of death for choosing this particular path. He begins his warning with...
My son, if sinners entice you...
— Proverbs 1:10
The "sinners" in Genesis may have been camouflaged evil spirit beings resident in the tree. One, in particular, was mentioned. He is called a serpent in our English translation but this word can also mean a shiny sparkling one. He is part of the wrong crowd enticing the newly created man to run with him. The father instructs his son...
Do not consent.
If they say, “Come with us,
Let us lie in wait to shed blood;
Let us lurk secretly for the innocent without cause;
Let us swallow them alive like Sheol,
And whole, like those who go down to the Pit;
We shall find all kinds of precious possessions,
We shall fill our houses with spoil;
Cast in your lot among us,
Let us all have one purse”—
My son, do not walk in the way with them,
Keep your foot from their path;
For their feet run to evil,
And they make haste to shed blood.
Surely, in vain the net is spread
In the sight of any bird;
But they lie in wait for their own blood,
They lurk secretly for their own lives.
So are the ways of everyone who is greedy for gain;
It takes away the life of its owners. ("you shall surely die")
— Proverbs 1:10-19
The Proverbs discourse reveals what was included with God's prohibition.
Also, the above description is very reminiscent of what happened with Cain, the very first offspring of Adam and Eve, and what happened after their fall from grace, in the fourth chapter of Genesis. The language of good and evil is presented in terms of doing well and not doing well.
So the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.”
Now Cain talked with Abel his brother; and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him
— Genesis 4:6-8
John in the New Testament explains a bit of the behind the scenes good and evil workings of this event.
For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another, not as Cain who was of the wicked one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil and his brother’s righteous
— I John 3:11-12
Two Trees and Two Women
In the third section of Proverbs chapter one, we are introduced to wisdom personified as a virtuous woman and represents the tree of life. She will be contrasted by an immoral woman in the second chapter who depicts the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The section begins with wisdom calling out in the open square.
Wisdom calls aloud outside;
She raises her voice in the open squares.
She cries out in the chief concourses
At the openings of the gates in the city
She speaks her words
Turn at my rebuke;
Surely I will pour out my spirit on you;
I will make my words known to you
— Proverbs 1:20-21
This is reiterated in more detail in chapter eight of Proverbs
Does not wisdom cry out,
And understanding lift up her voice?
She takes her stand on the top of the high hill, (Eden was on a hill)
Beside the way, where the paths meet. (cross)
She cries out by the gates, at the entry of the city,
At the entrance of the doors:
“To you, O men, I call,
And my voice is to the sons of men.
— Proverbs 8:1-4
"The way where the paths meet" is an interesting clause. It represents the moments when we must decide between good and evil. It's a crossroads. The choices that are made at these intersections of decisions will be based on who we serve, and where our loyalties lie, as was displayed in the chiasm at the beginning of the article. It is interesting that the cross made from a dead tree was the instrument of execution as well as a sign of a covenant.
It is also notable that the two "crying out in the streets" episodes of lady wisdom bookend this section of Proverbs, the first in chapter one and the second in chapter eight. This places Proverbs chapter four at the center of them. This particular chapter is titled "Security in Wisdom" in the NKJV translation and it contains Wisdom's entire appeal. Nothing is compared or contrasted to the pure and chaste lady wisdom in this chapter.
Other than in chapter four, Wisdom is contrasted in Proverbs by the immoral woman who calls out in the street as well. She is like the second tree in the garden. Both of these women, the wise and immoral, cry out in the streets hoping to attract the hearts of men and give animation to the two trees in the middle of the garden.
she sits at the door of her house,
On a seat by the highest places of the city,
To call to those who pass by,
Who go straight on their way:
“Whoever is simple, let him turn in here”;
And as for him who lacks understanding, she says to him,
“Stolen water is sweet,
And bread eaten in secret is pleasant.”
— Proverbs 2:16-19
The immoral woman is depicted in illustrious detail as a seductive adulterous, in Proverbs chapter five. She lends us a glimpse of the craftiness of temptation and how the very event in the garden was nothing short of an illicit affair.
For the lips of an immoral woman drip honey,
And her mouth is smoother than oil
— Proverbs 5:2
The father explains that if his son will choose the right woman (wisdom/tree of life) She will deliver him from the seductress. The immoral woman is revealed in chapter two to be an adulterous apostate, as was the inhabitant of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
When wisdom enters your heart,
And knowledge is pleasant to your soul,
Discretion will preserve you;
Understanding will keep you,
To deliver you from the way of evil,
To deliver you from the immoral woman,
From the seductress who flatters with her words,
Who forsakes the companion of her youth,
And forgets the covenant of her God.
— Proverbs 2:10-12, 16-17
God is not on scene at the moment of temptation in the garden. It had to be their own non-coerced decision or it would not be chosen love, and love that is not chosen is coerced. God will not force nor manipulate us to love Him.
This same scene of absence is portrayed when the seductress makes her appeal
For my husband is not at home;
He has gone on a long journey;
He has taken a bag of money with him,
And will come home on the appointed day.”
With her enticing speech she caused him to yield,
With her flattering lips she seduced him
— Proverbs 7:19
And just like in Genesis there is a word of warning from the father concerning where this path leads should he choose the adulterous journey.
For her house leads down to death,
And her paths to the dead;
None who go to her return,
Nor do they regain the paths of life
— Proverbs 2:18-19
Before we are quick to blame temptation itself Wisdom corrects us.
His own iniquities entrap the wicked man,
And he is caught in the cords of his sin.
He shall die for lack of instruction,
And in the greatness of his folly he shall go astray
— Proverbs 5:22-23
Temptation likes to imagine that God won't know and won't see.
He who planted the ear, shall He not hear?
He who formed the eye, shall He not see?
— Psalm 84:8-9
For the ways of man are before the eyes of the Lord,
— Proverbs 5:21
And temptation always minimizes or completely dismisses the consequences.
Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die
— Genesis 3:4
...or flat out denies its wrong
This is the way of an adulterous woman:
She eats and wipes her mouth,
And says, “I have done no wickedness
— Proverbs 30:20
Temptation twists the truth and invites us to be our own lords.
Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil;
Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness;
Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!
Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes,
And prudent in their own sight!
...Because they have rejected the law of the Lord of hosts,
And despised the word of the Holy One of Israel
— Isaiah 5:20-21,24
The father in Proverbs urges his son otherwise. Imagine the "Father" in heaven with Adam in the Garden. As you read it, ponder the possibility that all of this was included in God's appeal for Adam to choose the right woman/tree metaphorically speaking.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.
Do not be wise in your own eyes;
Fear the Lord and depart from evil. (again why were they hanging out by the tree?)
It will be health to your flesh
And strength to your bones.
— Proverbs 3:5-8
It's About Loyalty
When God renews His covenant (marital contract) with the children of Israel before entering the promised land, an image of Eden or paradise, He, once again, places before them a decision of loyalties that hearkens back to Eden. The terms of this covenant are not in fine print. They are a loud and clear and He gives them twice, once at the beginning of Deuteronomy and again at the end. They are asked to choose between life and good, death and evil, which are connected to blessing and cursing. This reveals that there were blessings in the tree of life and curses in the other.
“Behold, I set before you today a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you today; and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the Lord your God, but turn aside from the way which I command you today, to go after other gods which you have not known.
— Deuteronomy 11:26-28
See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil, in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments, His statutes, and His judgments, that you may live and multiply; and the Lord your God will bless you in the land which you go to possess. But if your heart turns away so that you do not hear, and are drawn away, and worship other gods and serve them, I announce to you today that you shall surely perish; you shall not prolong your days in the land which you cross over the Jordan to go in and possess. I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; that you may love the Lord your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days
— Deuteronomy 30:15-20
Joshua details this scene even further upon their entrance to the promise land
Now therefore, fear the Lord, serve Him in faithfulness and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord! And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord
— Joshua 24:14-15
God's presentation of options came with a hearty appeal for their love and faithfulness that could only be expressed by them choosing to obey Him.
It's About Obedience
In God's economy loyal love is expressed in obedience.
In the book of Jeremiah God warned His people that they had crossed the line in terms of unfaithfulness, idolatry, and evil doing and that Babylon was coming to take them captive because of this. God explains that those who resist the captivity are evil and those who comply in obedience are good. He uses the metaphor of baskets of good and bad figs to communicate the warning.
The scene interestingly takes place before the temple of the Lord. The garden of Eden has been considered by many scholars to be the very first earthly temple.
This conversation actually begins in chapter 21 of which I will include a small portion of that includes this very familiar Genesis language
Now you shall say to this people, ‘Thus says the Lord: “Behold, I set before you the way of life and the way of death...The Lord showed me, and there were two baskets of figs set before the temple of the Lord, after Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had carried away captive Jeconiah the son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, and the princes of Judah with the craftsmen and smiths, from Jerusalem, and had brought them to Babylon. One basket had very good figs, like the figs that are first ripe; and the other basket had very bad figs which could not be eaten, they were so bad. Then the Lord said to me, “What do you see, Jeremiah?”
And I said, “Figs, the good figs, very good; and the bad, very bad, which cannot be eaten, they are so bad.”
Again the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: ‘Like these good figs, so will I acknowledge those who are carried away captive from Judah, whom I have sent out of this place for their own good, into the land of the Chaldeans. For I will set My eyes on them for good, and I will bring them back to this land; I will build them and not pull them down, and I will plant them and not pluck them up. Then I will give them a heart to know Me, that I am the Lord; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God, for they shall return to Me with their whole heart.
‘And as the bad figs which cannot be eaten, they are so bad’—surely thus says the Lord—‘so will I give up Zedekiah the king of Judah, his princes, the residue of Jerusalem who remain in this land, and those who dwell in the land of Egypt. I will deliver them to trouble into all the kingdoms of the earth, for their harm, to be a reproach and a byword, a taunt and a curse, in all places where I shall drive them. And I will send the sword, the famine, and the pestilence among them, till they are consumed from the land that I gave to them and their fathers.’”
— Jeremiah 21:8, 24:
The comparison lends itself again to the issue of obedience.
The world and the desires it causes are disappearing. But if we obey God, we will live forever
— I John 2:17
The figs are significant in reference to the Jeremiah account and the garden event. The next section will explain.
The Fig Tree
It has been speculated that the tree of life was the olive tree, which we looked at earlier, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil was possibly the fig tree.
The fig tree is more of a shrub than a tree. It actually bears both good and bad fruit much like the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The bad fruit is the fruit that grows from the previous year's growth and they are called Breba figs. They develop before the leaves appear and are a far inferior crop in both flavor and quality compared to the main crop. Most harvesters discard them.
Brebas are also larger than the main figs as if to appear more succulent than the good fruit.
So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate
— Genesis 3:6
The fig is botanically known as a false fruit because the edible product contains extra material from the plant itself that is not a part of the flower.True fruit is formed by the ovary of the flower.
This idea of mixing extra things was discussed earlier in the article. The tree was created "good" until it became mixed with evil. With this in mind, it is noteworthy that, when questioned by the serpent about what God said, some extra material was added to the recount of God's instructions.
And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’”
— Genesis 3:2-3
"Nor shall you touch it" was not included in the instructions. This may seem like a mere technicality but it gives quite a bit of insight into the faithless self-serving thought processes that led to the decision to partake.
Every word of God is pure;
He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him.
Do not add to His words,
Lest He rebuke you, and you be found a liar
— Proverbs 30:5-6
This is repeated in Revelation
I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book
— Revelation 22:18-19
The flowers of a fig are actually hidden inside of the pseudo-fruit where a myriad of seeds are produced
There was a time when we were foolish and did not obey. We were fooled in many ways. Strong desires held us in their power. We wanted only to please ourselves
—Titus 3:3 NLV
In contrast, the olive is a stone fruit and is classified as a drupe that consists of a single seed, unlike the many seeds of the fig. This next portion of Scripture is so interesting in connecting the ideas of singularity, unity, and fruit.
be eager to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, even as you were called in one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.
— Hebrews 4:3-6
Observe the connection between fruit, unity, and the Holy Spirit. Was the Holy Spirit in the midst of the tree of life? We already know who was in the midst of the other.
Seeds can be metaphors for the conceptual components of words in the context of thought development, and ideas that will produce a fruit of attitude and or action. In fact, our brain houses trees of nerve cells called dendrites, that process information. Jesus illustrates this in the Parable of the Sower when the seed is cast into different kinds of soil representing the hearts and minds of men.
The sower sows the word...The seed is the word of God...he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.
— Matthew 15, Mark 4, and Luke 8
James uses this same concept in terms of the seeds of human conception in presenting how the fruit of evil is produced
each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.
— James 1:14-15
James reveals that, just like the fig, it is our own material (our own desires) mixed into the equation, that bears bad fruit.
An interesting note that false fruits have a very short shelf life.
By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing (short lived) pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward.
— Hebrews 11:24-26
The following are a few other comparative facts concerning the fig tree and the olive tree and their possible associations with the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
- Olive wood is strong and durable, whereas fig tree wood is weak and decays rapidly,
- Olive trees are evergreen and fig trees are deciduous.
- Olive trees can live for thousands of years whereas fig trees only live a couple of hundred years.
- The olive tree produces no irritating substance, in fact, it has many healing qualities to it. Fig tree sap is actually latex, and in its liquid form, can be very irritating to human skin especially when exposed to sunlight. Gloves are most often worn when harvesting.
The Fig Wasp
I will end this section with a final note on the fig tree as it concerns reproduction. Pollination occurs primarily by the fig wasp. The flowers are hidden inside the false fruit and are known as inverted flowers.
A female fig wasp enters an opening not large enough to accommodate her wings and antennae. She, therefore, dies after forcing her way into the fig and laying her eggs. The males produced from her eggs will be wingless and will only serve the purposes of mating with the female wasps and chew a hole in the fig to enable the females to escape and then they die.
The spiritual take away from this process displays the trappings of evil invitations to partake of seemingly harmless things. The cycle will go on but not without death.
The following video displays the process
The Two Women of Revelation
We viewed the two women of Proverbs earlier in this study. We will now look at the two women at the end of the Bible also typed as cities. Much like Proverbs, there is an immoral woman, this time known as a harlot depicted by the city of Babylon, who is contrasted by a pure woman, the Bride of Christ, portrayed as the New Jerusalem. As we read, note that cities are places of unified habitation and always appear in female form in Old Testament Hebrew.
And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.... And there came unto me one of the seven angels which had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues, and talked with me, saying, Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb's wife
— Revelation 21:2, 9-10
The Lambs wife is described in the following verse as righteous and pure. representing a redeemed people who have made faithful preparation.
Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.” And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.
— Revelation 19:7-8
Paul gives us an animation of this by using the relationship of husband and wife as an illustration in his letter to the Corinthians that is strongly loaded with concepts of fidelity and even using the garden event as an example.
For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity (a single hearted devotion) For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted—you may well put up with it!
— II Corinthians 11:2-4
He reiterates this theme in his letter to the Ephesians with a heavy emphasis on being cleansed and purified by truth.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, in order to make her holy by cleansing her with the washing of water by the word, so as to present the church to himself in splendor, without a spot or wrinkle or anything of the kind—yes, so that she may be holy and without blemish.
— Ephesians 5:22-27
The bride in Revelation is contrasted with a harlot as noted earlier. The filthiness of this immoral woman is once again described in terms of various unbridled transgressions that has led many astray. This scene is the finality of what happened in Eden and those who chose to unify in Babylon.
Come, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters, with whom the kings of the earth committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth were made drunk with the wine of her fornication ...on her forehead a name was written:
MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT,
THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS
AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS
OF THE EARTH....
...The waters which you saw, where the harlot sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues...For true and righteous are His judgments, because He has judged the great harlot who corrupted the earth with her fornication; and He has avenged on her the blood of His servants shed by her
— Revelation 17:1-2,5,15, 19:2
In Eden God provided a way of redemption and ever so patiently gave mankind every opportunity to repent and turn back to him. Revelation gives us the culmination of the final event when all men have made their choice and their fate is sealed
But the rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, that they should not worship demons, and idols of gold, silver, brass, stone, and wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk And they did not repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts...And men were scorched with great heat, and they blasphemed the name of God who has power over these plagues, and they did not repent and give Him glory...They blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores and did not repent of their deeds
— Revelation 9:20-21, 16:9,11
This end account gives us the entire purpose of God's plan that began in Genesis, passed through the natural world of Proverbs and was redeemed in Revelation.
“Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God, Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”
— Revelation 21:3-4
Babylon and Babel
Babylon the harlot city is rooted in the Old Testament story of the Tower of Babel that occurred after the flood of Noah. It follows the same narrative of the unification of people to work and achieve independently from God, again imaging the evil tree.
“Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves..." Genesis 11:4
Babel is the Hebrew root word of Babylon and means mixing and confusion. It comes with the idea of staining or soiling. Again the mixing theme is repeated.
God is asking for our unadulterated worship that will lead to life, order, and light.
Among the gods there is none like You, O Lord;
Nor are there any works like Your works.
All nations whom You have made
Shall come and worship before You, O Lord,
And shall glorify Your name.
For You are great, and do wondrous things;
You alone are God.
Teach me Your way, O Lord;
I will walk in Your truth;
Unite my heart to fear Your name.
I will praise You, O Lord my God, with all my heart,
And I will glorify Your name forevermore.
For great is Your mercy toward me,
And You have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol
— Psalm 86:8-13
As the book of Proverbs comes to a close, there is a bit of a Gospel being preached by an acknowledgment and a series of questions. Within the meanings of the names that begin the message.
The words of Agur (collector) the son of Jakeh (obedient), his utterance. This man declared to Ithiel—to Ithiel (I am not God) and Ucal (How can I prevail/I am exhausted)
The realization that "I am not God" is huge. Ezekiel confronts this issue of man's desire to be his own God having no one tell him what to do.
“Because your heart is lifted up,
And you say, ‘I am a god,
I sit in the seat of gods,
In the midst of the seas,’
Yet you are a man, and not a god,
Though you set your heart as the heart of a god
— Ezekiel 28:2
Ucal's name reveals the result of this conquest that leaves mankind exhausted, helpless, and unsuccessful in preparing his checklist of collected rights and wrongs and trying to obey them correctly which leaves him begging for a redeemer.
Who has ascended into heaven, or descended?
Who has gathered the wind in His fists?
Who has bound the waters in a garment?
Who has established all the ends of the earth?
What is His name, and what is His Son’s name,
If you know?
— Proverbs 30:1-4
Paul expounds to the Ephesians the answer to these questions referencing the "Son of God" who fulfills this Messianic prophecy of old.
But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore He says:
“When He ascended on high,
He led captivity captive,
And gave gifts to men.
(Now this, “He ascended”—what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.) Ephesians 4:7-10
The randomness of the collected sayings prior to these questions now makes sense. The father's appeal to his son to choose wisdom occurs in chapters one through nine of Proverbs. Structure and order can be followed in this section. It is in Chapters 10-29 where the random sayings appear to be presented in no particular order. You could study them topically and categorically but why aren't they structured that way in the book? And then there are these types of seemingly contradictory counsel.
Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him.
Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit.
— Proverbs 26:4-5
Which answer is correct? It seems a little bit mixed up, confusing, and sometimes disorienting, very much like life on this earth trying to figure things out for ourselves.
There is a way that seems right to a man,
But its end is the way of death Proverbs
If we think of the first section of Proverbs, chapters one through nine, presenting the Genesis decision scene we see it begin with an orderly appeal.
The central part of Proverbs, Chapters 10-29 shows us how after mankind chose the natural physical realm path, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, the immoral woman, it resulted in his confusion of discerning good and evil for himself. it left him with a mixed up process of gathering fragments of wisdom that he had no idea how to put in order left to himself. Recall Agur's name meant collector.
All gets brought into order and the picture becomes clear and organized when someone is at the center of it all, as the very final chapter of Proverbs reveals. This chapter represents Revelation with the faithful wife.
The Proverbs 31 Woman
The final scene in the book is a well known and popular portion of Scripture titled by many as the "Proverbs 31 Woman" that has left many women feeling a little intimidated by her great accomplishments and the seamless order of her life. May I propose that she is meant to be portrayed as a "humanly impossible" to achieve woman and that is because there is a someone at the center of her story. Let's look at the very much orderly literary structure of this last portion of Proverbs. As you read remember to compare the common letters so you can see the parallel supporting texts.
a) Pro 31:10, A woman of valor who can find? For her worth is far above rubies;
b) Pro 31:11-12, The heart of her husband trusts her/ she does him good all the days of her life;
c) Pro 31:13-16, She diligently provides coverings + food + tasks + produce for her household;
d) Pro 31:17-22, She girds herself with strength + her merchandise + does not fear the future + opens her hands to the poor;
central axis) Pro 31:23, Her husband is known in the gates, when he sits among the elders of the land;
d) Pro 31:24-26, Her merchandise + Strength her clothing + rejoice in the future + opens her mouth with wisdom;
c) Pro 31:27, She watches over the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness;
b) Pro 31:28-29 Her children + husband praise her: “Many have done well, but you excel them all;”
a) Pro 31:30-31, Beauty passes/ she who fears the Lord shall be praised + her works shall praise her.3
Many modern women might be upset that the central focus of this successful, organized, chaste women is her husband but when viewed from an allegorical spiritual perspective we might be able to see that these characters depict the story of God and His people. God is the husband in this story
For your Maker is your husband,
The Lord of hosts is His name;
And your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel;
He is called the God of the whole earth.
— Isaiah 54:5
When he is at the center and not ourselves he brings order out of chaos just like He did in Genesis one. He brings light to our darkness just like in Genesis one. He gives us the ability to do things we could haven never done ourselves, and best of all we become His faithful wife. That is how Revelation ends, the Lamb's wife, the spotless bride. God dwelling with His faithful people in perfect harmony as He had envisioned in the beginning.
There are several keywords in the book of Proverbs that can help us summarize this study.
Life occurs 40 times and death 28 times. The themes of life and death are certainly central Bible topics all the way through the Bible. It also could be noted that life trumps death from a mention perspective.
Getting wisdom is the key, says the writer of Proverbs. Its a call back to the right tree.
Wisdom is the principal thing; Therefore get wisdom.
And in all your getting, get understanding (discernment)
— Proverbs 4:7
Wisdom is a person and not an item.
Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?...Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God...of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption— that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the Lord
— I Corinthians 1:20,24,30-31
Wisdom was the fruit of the tree of life.
Wisdom is expressed with two Hebrew words in Proverbs, the first being chokmah, and is used 55 times in Proverbs. This particular word is referring to the wisdom that was used to create all things.
He hath made the earth by his power, he hath established the world by his wisdom and hath stretched out the heaven by his understanding.
— Jeremiah 51:15
God is offering to us to partake of the wisdom that stretched out the heavens. That is what was forsaken in the garden and will be returned to the New Jerusalem.
The second word for wisdom is sakal with 14 mentions. It differs a little bit from chokmah and comes with the idea of looking intently at. It is connected with, prosperity, and success. It is the same word used by Eve when she looked intently at the evil tree and considered that it would provide for her such things.
He that handles a matter wisely shall find good: and whoso trusts in the LORD, happy is he
— Proverbs 16:20
Another keyword with 14 uses is "understanding" and is kind of a sister word with wisdom. It could be more accurately translated "discern", as in the ability to measure, weigh, balance and separate out what belongs and what doesn't. It also includes the idea of skill.
Blessed be the LORD God of Israel, that made heaven and earth, who hath given to David the king a wise son, endued with prudence and understanding, that might build an house for the LORD, and an house for his kingdom
— II Chronicles 2:12
The writer of Hebrews gives us the application to the concept of discerning between good and evil.
For everyone who partakes only of milk (elementary principles of God's Word) is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
— Hebrews 5:12
This leads us to another revelation in the topic of sayings that are splashed throughout chapters 10-29 of the book of Proverbs and a keyword.
Although the sayings are disorganized they are, in fact, true. Each saying is a comparative or parallel of wise or unwise thinking and doing.
They are all very practical in terms of living this natural life with an eye to eternal life
The truthful lip shall be established forever...
— Proverbs 12:19
Without Christ, these sayings were like flashcards to right thinking and living that are incomplete without Him. It is like the schoolmaster Paul described in his letter to the Galatians
What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator...before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.
— Galatians 3:19,23-24
Law orTorah is used in Proverbs 13 times.
A related word "instruction" is used 30 times and would more accurately be translated discipline or correction. After the fateful fall, we needed correction. Does the correction save us? No. It sets on a path, however, to receive the free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ.
The law of the wise is a fountain of life,
To turn one away from the snares of death.
— Proverbs 13:14
“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, saying:
“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord;
Make His paths straight.
— Matthew 1:1-3
The Fear of the Lord
There are so many more keywords such as lips, mouth, and tongue which could be a whole other lesson in and of itself, for now, I will end this section with a final key phrase "the fear of the Lord". Out of 28 total Bible mentions 14 of them occur in the book of Proverbs.
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding
— Proverbs 9:10
Many times we have a problem with the idea of fearing God, but what if we thought of fearing God as being synonymous with faith. The Hebrew word for fear is rooted in the word meaning to see. What if we saw how truly awesome, majestic, powerful, capable, full of wisdom, glory, and grace He truly is. There were folks in the Bible who did and were so awestruck with wonder that they fell on their faces before Him.
After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” All the angels stood around the throne and the elders and the four living creatures, and fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying:
“Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom,
Thanksgiving and honor and power and might,
Be to our God forever and ever.
— Revelation 7:9-12
I will conclude the message with a final word of wisdom from the Genesis of Psalms.
Blessed is the man
Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,
Nor stands in the path of sinners,
Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;
But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
He shall be like a tree
Planted by the rivers of water,
That brings forth its fruit in its season,
Whose leaf also shall not wither;
And whatever he does shall prosper.
The ungodly are not so,
But are like the chaff which the wind drives away.
Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment,
Nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.
For the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
But the way of the ungodly shall perish
— Psalm 1
The very first Psalm reads very much like a replica of the garden event, the Proverbs fatherly plea, and the end result in Revelation. There is a counsel of wicked, ungodly, sinful forces that seek to lead us astray that we will be blessed not to follow. We will become like a fruitful tree if we will but choose to plant ourselves by the rivers of water, Christ the tree of life. The consequences of either choice are given once again.
...therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live
To choose life is to choose Christ.
...When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.
— Colossians 3:4
Credits and Sources
3 Structure borrowed from Christine Miller at http://www.alittleperspective.com/
© 2017 Tamarajo