The fruit of the righteous [is] a tree of life
Either the fruit which grows upon Christ, the tree of life, and which they receive from him; even all the blessings of grace, peace, pardon, righteousness, and life, ( Revelation 2:7 ) ; or the fruits which the righteous bring forth under the influence of divine grace; they are trees of righteousness, and are filled with the fruits of righteousness by Christ, and have their fruit unto holiness, and their end everlasting life. Aben Ezra interprets it,
``the fruit of the righteous is as the fruit of the tree of life;''that is, lovely, beautiful, desirable, salutary, and issues in life; and he that winneth souls [is] wise;
antichrist trades in the souls of men, that is one part of his wares, ( Revelation 18:13 ) ; but his negotiations about them are to the loss, and not to the saving of them: whereas wise and faithful ministers of the word, such as are here described, use all prudent methods to gain and save the souls of men, ( 1 Corinthians 9:19-22 ) ; even their precious immortal souls, which are of more worth than a world, are the immediate production of God, made after his image, which by sin they come short of; and having sinned, are liable to eternal death; the redemption of which is precious; the charge of which Christ has taken, and therefore is called the Shepherd and Bishop of souls; and which he commits to the care of his under shepherds, who watch for them, as they that must give an account. To "win" them is to teach them, for the word
F7 has the signification of teaching or doctrine; see ( Proverbs 4:2 ) ; the ministers of Christ are teachers, qualified and sent by him as such; and their business is to teach men their state by nature, how sinful, miserable, and helpless they are; and also Christ, and the way of life by him; that salvation is in him, and in no other; that justification is only by his righteousness, peace and pardon by his blood, and atonement by his sacrifice: they also teach various other things; as the fear of God, faith in Christ, love to him, and obedience to all his commands. To win souls is to proselyte them and convert them to the true religion; to bring them into a love and liking of it, and to embrace it: the souls that Abraham got or made in Haran are supposed to be such; and the same with those trained or instructed in his house, whom he armed for the rescue of Lot, ( Genesis 12:5 ) ( 14:14 ) ; the former of which texts Jarchi compares with this, as explanative of it. The phrases of "turning many to righteousness", done by the "wise": and of "converting a sinner from the error of his way", whereby a "soul is saved from death", ( Daniel 12:3 ) ( James 5:20 ) , are a proper comment on these words: which, moreover, may be rendered, "he that taketh souls" F8; as a fort or castle is taken, and which is sometimes expressed by "winning"; see ( 2 Chronicles 32:1 ) ( Proverbs 18:9 ) . The soul of man is a hold, and a strong hold, of foul spirits; it is Satan's palace or castle, which he keeps and holds against Christ, but is won and taken by him; which is usually done by means of the word, and the ministry of it, which are made effectual to the pulling down of strong holds, ( 2 Corinthians 10:4 2 Corinthians 10:5 ) . Or the allusion is to the taking or catching of birds in a snare, or fishes in a net. The souls of men are got into the snare of the devil, and they are taken out from hence by breaking this snare; by which means they escape the hands of the fowler, Satan, and come into better hands: the old serpent laid a bait for our first parents, by which he gained his point, and that was the fruit of the forbidden tree; but the bait which wise men lay to catch souls is the fruit of the tree of life, mentioned in the former clause, the blessings of grace in Christ. Again, Christ's ministers are called "fishers" of men, and are said to "catch" men, ( Matthew 4:19 ) ( Luke 5:10 ) ; which they do by casting and spreading the net of the Gospel; the Gospel is the net; the world is the sea into which it is cast; where natural men are in their element, as fishes in the sea: the casting of the net is the preaching of the Gospel; and by means of this souls are caught and gathered in to Christ and his churches, ( Matthew 13:47 Matthew 13:48 ) . Once more, the words are by some rendered, "he that allures souls" F9; which is done, not by the terrors of the law, but by the charming voice of the Gospel; by which souls are drawn to God and Christ, and brought among his people: and one that is an instrument of all this had need be "wise", and so he appears to be; he that teacheth men the knowledge of divine and spiritual things had need to be as he is, as a scribe well instructed in the kingdom of God; he who is to be the instrument of converting sinners must have a mouth and wisdom to address them in a proper manner; as he that wills a castle, or takes a fort, ought to have military skill as well as courage; and to cast a net well requires art as well as strength.
F7 (xql) "qui docet", Pagninus, Baynus, Mercerus, Gejerus.
F8 "Capit", Vatablus, Tigurine version, Junius & Tremellius, Piscator; "capit salutari doctrina", Michaelis.
F9 "Allicit", Drusius, Gejerus.