Only God Can Make A Tree

by Keith Macnaughtan

"I think that I shall never see A poem lovely as a tree."

So sang the poet. And one might suppose that this was in the minds of Jewish people who, since the Return, have planted the Land with literally millions of trees.

Indeed, trees have always figured largely in Israel's history. For example, when Abraham was visited by the Lord and two of His angels, he prepared a meal for them and "stood by them under the tree and they did eat." (Genesis 18:8) Later, when he purchased the cave-tomb at Machpelah from Ephron the Hittite, special mention is made of the trees in the field in which the cave was situated. (Genesis 23:17,18)

Incidentally, archaeologists have found that, according to ancient Hittite deeds of sale, special mention was made of all the trees in a field; here is a further indication, therefore, of the accuracy and reliability of the sacred Scriptures.

Trees and The Law

With the children of Israel now in Egypt, and Moses standing forth as their deliverer, the seventh judgement on Pharaoh and his land was hail which "broke every tree of the field" . (Exodus 9:25) A tree made sweet the bitter waters of Marah (Exodus 15:23-26); Israel later encamped by Elim with its "three score and ten palm trees" ; shittim, or acacia, trees were used in the construction of the "tabernacle in the wilderness" .

One of the laws which Israel must obey is recorded in Deuteronomy 20:19,20. "When you shall besiege a city ... you shall not destroy the trees thereof ... for you may eat of them, and you shall not cut them down (for the tree of the field is a man's life) ... only the trees that you know that they be not trees for meat, you shall destroy and cut them down ..."

Gentiles, from the Romans to the Turks, knew not or cared not for this law. So, under their dominance, the Land became a treeless desolation. E.M. Blaiklock, in EIGHT DAYS IN ISRAEL, wrote of what he called "the idiotic Turkish tax on trees", as a result of which the soil, denuded of its trees, became barren, infertile sand.

Enormous Re-Afforestation Program

Coming to our modern times, we find that trees, again, figure largely in Israel's life. Forty years before Israel's rebirth as a nation, tree planting was begun by the first Jewish settlers. Centuries of neglect of the Land and its vegetation as well as a blatant misuse of them by Gentile usurpers had created a wilderness of that Land which God once described as "flowing with milk and honey" .

But in 1908 twelve thousand trees were planted by Zionists in honour of Theodore Herzl and in 1919 the Jewish National Fund began the enormous task of the re-afforestation of Israel, so that, by the time the nation came to a new existence in 1948, five million trees had been planted. Soon, eight million trees were to be planted in a single day! By 1976 over 110 million were planted in no fewer than 600 forests!

Outstanding is the "Martyrs' Forest" with six million trees, a tree for each person who died during the Holocaust. Nor are certain Gentiles forgotten; there is an "Avenue of the Righteous Gentiles" planted in memory of non-Jews who risked their own lives to save Jewish people at the time of the Holocaust.

Pleasant Plants and Strange Slips

We are reminded of Isaiah's prophecy: " ... therefore shall you plant pleasant plants, and shall set it with strange slips ..." (17:10) as all over the land of Israel are planted thousands and thousands of various species of eucalypts from Australia, for example, "strange slips" that make this prophecy interesting indeed.

It surely is obvious that in a land as barren as Israel once was, trees are of enormous value in checking erosion, holding back flood waters, building top soil, controlling sand, etc. The reclamation of much of Israel is due, at least in part, to her forests.

"The Fig Tree and All the Trees"

Trees also have mention in a prophetic sense. Did not Messiah foretell the revival of Israel? He said, "Behold the fig tree and all the trees; when they now shoot forth, you see and know of your own selves that summer is now near at hand. So likewise, when you see these things come to pass, know that the kingdom of God is near at hand ...". (Luke 21:29,30)

If the fig tree is a figure of Israel, then surely the fulfilment of this prophecy is drawing near. If Israel is the fig-tree nation, then "all the trees" , that is, all the nations, are striving for, or coming to, a place of independence -- shooting forth their leaves. If there are signs associated with the coming of the kingdom of God, surely this is a most obvious one.

But a kingdom implies a king and here alas, we read of a tree, a tree the Scripture says was associated with the death of Messiah, "Whom you slew and hanged on a tree" . The rejected King gave His life, "He bore our sins in His own body on the tree" , also according to the Scriptures, so that we who put our trust in Him should reign with Him in His coming kingdom.

A Jewish writer once said, "The prophetic hope for the end of this age is one which is a strong Redeemer; by His power and by His spirit He will bring complete redemption, political and spiritual, to the people of Israel and along with this, earthly blessing and moral perfection to the entire human race." (Joseph Klausner, THE MESSIANIC AGE).