Categories
Blog

A Study of the Figure: “Every Man Under His Vine and Under His Fig Tree”

I spent some time working on a figure of speech that comes up in my preaching text this week “every man under his vine and under his fig tree” (1 Kings 4:25). I learned some things, and ended with a worshipful thought toward the Lord of my heart. Here is the study below.

“And Judah and Israel lived in safety, from Dan even to Beersheba, every man under his vine and under his fig tree, all the days of Solomon.” (1 Kings 4:25 ESV)

This phraseology also appears in Micah 4:4, Zechariah 3:10, and is alluded to in John 1:48. 

First, in Micah 4:4 we read as follows:

“but they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid, for the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken.” (Micah 4:4 ESV)

The 1 Kings passage also references “safety” like the Micah passage does. Here it refers to it in terms of feeling saying “no one shall make them afraid” and on the basis of God’s spoken Word or promises “for the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken.” 

So far then we learn that the figure must signify:

1. Actual safety

2. A feeling of safety, I.e. lack of fear

3. All of this a result of God’s promises being fulfilled

Second, and moving forward we read in Zechariah 3:10 the following:

“In that day, declares the Lord of hosts, every one of you will invite his neighbor to come under his vine and under his fig tree.”” (Zechariah 3:10 ESV)

The element added here involves such a contentment that causes one to share. Additionally, the context of Zechariah 3 parallels the beginning of 1 Kings 4 where the priesthood become more important than an army in providing peace. So, we may add here then that the figure signifies:

4. Contentment that causes one to share

5. A result of the high priest being restored

6. Something for which Israel has longed for

Lastly we come to the allusion of the figure in John 1:48 where the apostle John records the following, but let’s look at a larger portion of the passage which reads:

“Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”” (John 1:47–51 ESV)

Nathanael under his fig tree seems to be a detail that is afforded not by mere chance, for nothing is by mere chance. Nathanael is described as one who is with “no deceit.” That is, he was genuine. Nothing in him was false. He was not (in context) like Jacob who (in the words of one commentator) sought to use deceit to take his brother’s blessing (Gen 27:35, cf. Tyndale NT Commentary on John 1).  The Greek word Δόλος comes from the word δελεάζω which meant to “ensure with bait” (EGGNT). Jesus is the reader of people’s hearts (Ibid).  A fig tree was traditionally found in the courtyard of a Jewish home to provide shade and privacy (Ibid). In Nathanael’s most private moments, Jesus knew his heart. What can we then add from this passage to our understanding of the figure “every man under his vine and under his fig tree? Perhaps we may add this, it signifies:

7. A genuine rest and peace in the heart of the believer.

Summing the matter up, the figurative phrase “every man under his vine and under his fig tree” in 1 Kings 4:25 signifies:

1. Actual safety

2. Lack of fear 

3. Resulting from God’s fulfilled promises or reliable spoken Word 

4. Contentment that causes one to share

5. A result of the high priest being restored

6. Something for which Israel longed for

7. A genuine rest and peace in the heart of the believer

It is a figure that signifies an actual experience of safety, contentment, feelings of peace which the Israel of God longed for genuinely in their hearts being fulfilled by God’s reliable Word and fulfilled promises ultimately brought about by the High Priest Jesus Christ Himself performing his offices of prophet, priest and king. 

As a prophet he speaks his Word calming the fears of his people, bringing about contentment and communion with him. As priest, he takes away the fear and speaks peace to the heart of believers so that they have genuine rest and peace in their hearts. As king, he brings about actual safety having judged all of their enemies. 

This is a rest which every believer can experience even while waiting upon Jesus, just as Nathanael in John 1:48 appears to experience in the Lord.