The fig tree putteth forth her green figs
Another sign of spring being come, nay, of its being pretty much advanced, since Christ makes this a token of summer being at hand, ( Matthew 24:32 ) . Theopompus F5 speaks of figs in the middle of the spring. This tree puts forth its fruit at once, and does not flower or blossom F6, wherefore ( Habakkuk 3:17 ) is wrongly translated; (See Gill on Habakkuk 3:17): though Arianus F7 speaks of its flowering: Aben Ezra thinks the word signifies the sweetening of the figs, and so points at the time when they are sweet and eatable. By the "fig tree" may be meant the saints putting forth their grace in exercise on Christ, who may be compared to fig trees for their leaves and fruit, and for the putting forth the latter before the former F8; for the fig tree is a tree full of large leaves, which may be an emblem of a profession of religion, and of a conversation agreeably to it, which yet are no covering, only the righteousness of Christ is that, yet ought to be and are ornamental; and for the fruit of it, which is wholesome, pleasant, and delightful, as are the fruits of the Spirit, the fruits of grace and righteousness, fruits meet for repentance, which ought to appear before a profession of religion is made. If the Egyptian fig tree is meant, that is a very fruitful tree; it is said to bear fruit seven times a year, but ripens no other way than by scratching it with iron hooks F9; and its wood cut down and cast into water, being dry, sinks, but when thoroughly wet will swim. Saints should bear fruit always, and ever continue to do so, even to old age; nor do any ever become fruitful until their hearts have been pricked and cut by the word of God; and they never grow better, or are more fruitful, than when attended with afflictions and tribulations; when they first enter into the waters of affliction, like Peter, they sink, but, when more used to them, they lift up their heads above them, and bear up with great courage and resolution. By the "green figs" may be meant the beginnings of grace in the soul, some stirrings of affection to Christ, desires of knowledge of him, pantings and breathings after his ordinances, love to his people; all which appear soon, are very imperfect, and, like unripe figs, liable to be shaken off; and it is a miracle of grace that the first impressions of it are not destroyed by the force of corruption and temptation; and it may be observed, that grace in its first appearance, though but small, is not despised, but taken notice of by Christ: yea, he makes use of it as exercised by young converts to stir up old professors, as here the church, to be more active and vigorous in it; and the vines [with] the tender grape give a [good] smell;
or "being in flower give a good smell" F11, as the word is used in the Targum in ( Isaiah 18:5 ) ; and that vines do flower appears from the same place, and from ( Genesis 40:10 ) ; as well as is observed by naturalists and others F12; and these flowers, and not the tender grapes, emit a sweet smell; and, as some say F13, not in the vineyards only, but in the country round about; and these are fitly mentioned next to figs, since the black fig is by some called the sister of the vine F14. By the vines may be intended distinct congregated churches of Christ, or particular believers; vines are very weak; and cannot bear up of themselves, must be fixed to some place, and be supported by something else; and being supported, will run up a great height, and bring forth much fruit. So saints are weak in themselves, and cannot support themselves; their strength is in Christ, and they are upheld by him, and have their dependence on him; and being supported by him they grow up to the stature of the fulness of Christ; and through their grafting into him, and abiding in him the true vine, bring forth much fruit to the glory of God, and such as is not to be found in others. The wood of the vine is of very little worth or use, ( Ezekiel 15:2 Ezekiel 15:3 ) ; and yet is very lasting. Pliny F15 ascribes a sort of an eternity to it. Believers in Christ, however weak and worthless they are in themselves, as are their best works and services, yet being in Christ they shall abide in him for ever, and never perish, but have everlasting life. And by the "tender grapes", or "flowers", may be designed either the graces of the spirit, as before; or rather young converts, the fruit of Christ's vines, the churches, who, though weak and tender, yet are dear to Christ; and when there is a large appearance of them, it is a great encouragement to churches, and promises a glorious vintage. And the "smell" of these vines, with their grapes and flowers, may intend the fragrancy, of believers through the righteousness of Christ on them, and the odour of their graces, as exercised on him; and the sweet savour of their godly conversation, observed by all about them. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away;
repeated from ( Song of Solomon 2:10 ) ; which shows sluggishness on the part of the church, that she needed one exhortation after another; and great love on the part of Christ, that notwithstanding this he persists in calling her; and even importunity in him, that he will have no denial F16: and it may be observed, that what is entertaining to most of the senses is mentioned to engage the church to arise and go along with her beloved; the flowery fields would be pleasing to her eye, the chirping birds to her ear, the sweet and ripening figs to her taste, and the refreshing odour of the vines to her smell.
F5 Apud Atheanei Deipnosoph. l. 3. c. 4. p. 77.
F6 Plutarch. Sympos. l. 6. problem. 9. Macrob. Saturnal. l. 3. c. 20.
F7 In Epictet. l. 16. c. 15.
F8 Plin. Nat. Hist. l. 16. c. 26.
F9 lbid. l. 13. c. 7. Athenaei Deipnosoph. l. 2. c. 11. p. 11. Solin. Polyhistor. p. 45.
F11 (rdmo) "in flore constitutae", Mercerus, Michaelis; "vitis pars florens", Munster; "vineae florentes", Tigurine version; "nihil gratius florentis odore vitis", Ambros. Hexaemeron, l. 3. c. 12.
F12 Plin. Nat. Hist. l. 16. c. 25. & l. 17. c. 22. "Si bene floruerit vinea" Ovid. Fasti, l. 5. so Horat. Epod. Ode 16. v. 44.
F13 Danaeus in Hos. xiv. 7. Levini Lemn. Herb. Biblic. c. 2.
F14 Hipponax apud Athenaei Deipnosoph. l. 3. c. 4. p. 78.
F15 Nat. Hist. l. 14. c. 1.
F16 "Odit verus amor, nec patitur moras", Senecae Hercul. Fur. v. 587.