Mark 11:13 AV
And seeing¹ a fig tree afar off having leaves,
he came, if haply² he might find any thing³ thereon:
and when he came to it,
he found nothing but leaves;
for the time⁴ of figs⁵ was not yet.
¹) To perceive with the eyes.
³) Certain, some.
⁴) The right time.
⁵) The ripe fruit of a fig tree.
And seeing in the distance a fig tree [covered] with leaves, He went to see if He could find any [fruit] on it [for in the fig tree the fruit appears at the same time as the leaves]. But when He came up to it, He found nothing but leaves, for the fig season had not yet come. [AMP] And seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see if he could find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. [ESV] Off in the distance he saw a fig tree in full leaf. He came up to it expecting to find something for breakfast, but found nothing but fig leaves. (It wasn't yet the season for figs.) [MSB] And seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, he came, if haply he might find any thing thereon: and when he came to it, he found nothing but leaves; for the time of figs was not yet. [KJV] Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. [NIV] He noticed a fig tree a little way off that was in full leaf, so he went over to see if he could find any figs on it. But there were only leaves because it was too early in the season for fruit. [NLT] And seeing from afar a fig tree having leaves, He went to see if perhaps He would find something on it. When He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. [NKJV]
He saw a fig tree
In the Greek text it is “one fig tree”, one remarkable fig tree.
Where He was (Bethany means “house of dates” and Bethphage means “house of unripe figs”) He must have seen a great many of fig-trees as he went along, but this one stood out, because it was already having leaves.
Also a large tract of the Mount Of Olives was full of fig trees, and therefore a small place there was called “Bethphage”.
But He saw none that had such large and spreading leaves as this one.
As it was the time when the fig tree was just budding, and putting forth its leaves, He took notice of it; and though it was “afar off”, as Mark says, yet being hungry, he made up to it, expecting, from its promising appearance, to find fruit on it.
By the wayside, at some distance from him.
Very large and spreading, which made a great show, as if there might be fruit on it.
Fig trees which have retained their leaves through the winter usually have figs also. It was still too early for new leaves or fruit.
He came to it
Either he went out of his way to it,
or having seen it before him a good way off, at length came up to it.
If haply he might find any thing thereon
If He therefore (because the tree had leaves, and the figs and leaves grow at the same time) might find any fruit on it.
He saw from a distance that the tree had leaves on it, and because of its promising appearance, he expected fruit on it.
He found nothing but leaves
Mark says, “He came, if haply He might find anything thereon”; which must be understood of Him as man; for as He hungered as man, so He judged and expected as man, from the appearance of this fig tree, that He might find fruit upon it.
This is not in contradiction to His deity, and His having the Spirit of God, as the Jews objects. Especially since such an expectation is attributed to God himself, in (Isaiah 5:1-7) and with regard to that people, of which this fig tree was an emblem, and designed by Christ to be considered as such in what he did to it.
There was no fruit at all on the tree.
This was contrary to the promising appearance the tree made.
And contrary to His expectation.
For the time of figs was not [yet]
Or, “for it was not the time of figs”; for the word “yet”, is not in the text.
Because the time of figs, that is, of the gathering of the figs, was not come: in which sense the phrase is used in (Matthew 21:34)
When we take these words literally, they seem to give us a reason why the Christ should not have expected fruit on it, but the situation and sense of these words are different.
▪︎ We can understand either that the time of gathering figs was not come; and that they therefore were not yet gathered, so He might hope to find some on it;
▪︎ Or because it was not a kind season for figs, a good fig year; and this tree, because it was appearing in such a flourishing condition, raised His expectation of finding fruit, yet he found nothing but leaves only.
(Some critics render these words, “it was the season of figs”).
The fig is first mentioned in Genesis 3:7
The fig-tree is mentioned in Deuteronomy 8:8 as one of the valuable products of Palestine. It was a sign of peace and prosperity (1 Kings 4:25; Micah 4:4; Zechariah 3:10).
Figs were used medicinally (2 Kings 20:7) and pressed together and formed into “cakes” as articles of diet (1 Samuel 30:12; Jeremiah 24:2)
Our Lord’s cursing the fig-tree near Bethany (Mark 11:13) has occasioned much perplexity from the circumstance, as mentioned by the evangelist, that “the time of figs was not yet.”
The explanation of the words, however, lies in the simple fact that the fruit of the fig-tree appears before, or at the same time as, the leaves, and hence that if the tree produced leaves it ought also to have had fruit. It ought to have had fruit if it had been true to its “pretensions,” in showing its leaves at this particular season.
“This tree, so to speak, vaunted itself to be in advance of all the other trees, challenged the passer–by that he should come and refresh himself with its fruit.
Yet when the Lord accepted its challenge and drew near, it proved to be but as the others, without fruit as they; for indeed, as the evangelist observes, the time of figs had not yet arrived.
Its fault, if one may use the word, lay in its pretensions, in its making a show to run before the rest when it did not so indeed”.
The fig–tree of Palestine (Ficus carica) produces two and sometimes three crops of figs in a year,
1. The bikkurah, or “early–ripe fig” (Micah 7:1; Isaiah 28:4; Hosea 9:10) which is ripe about the end of June, dropping off as soon as it is ripe (Nahum 3:12)
2. the kermus, or “summer fig,” then begins to be formed, and is ripe about August
3. the pag (plural “green figs,” (Song 2:13) Gr. olynthos, (Revelation 6:13) “the untimely fig”), or “winter fig,” which ripens in sheltered spots in spring.
In Jeremiah 24:2 is spoken of “Naughty Figs” (or bad, spoiled, or rotten figs)
“These bad figs may have been such, either from having decayed, and thus been reduced to a rotten condition, or as being the fruit of the sycamore, which contains a bitter juice” (Tristram, Nat. Hist.).
The inferiority of the fruit is here referred to as an emblem of the rejected Zedekiah and his people.
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Jesus walks to a fig tree at a distance to see if He can find something to satisfy His hunger (cf. Mark 2:23). The fact that the tree was already full of leaves (in early spring) was promising.
When the fig-tree bore early fruit, a rich yield could be expected later on when the ripe figs were harvested (in summer).
The early fruits are not ripe until the end of May and the late fruits in August.
However, with the appearance of the leaves on the tree, small fruit buds on the twigs of the tree also began to bud and the tree began to produce the first unripe (false) fruits. They too could satisfy the worst hunger.
Despite the foliage of the tree, there is nothing whatsoever to satisfy Jesus’ hunger, or to indicate that the tree may later begin to bear fruit.
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