Studies in Sonship, part 4: Olive Trees Are the Sons of Israel in Two Houses
Definition #9. Thus far, we have examined the literal meanings of the word son and we have examined some of the figurative meanings of the word son. These have all applied to people. Becoming even more figurative now, we will find that the word son can apply to inanimate objects as well. For example, we find this in…
Job 5:7 Yet man is born unto trouble, as the sparks [ben] fly upward.
Now we have to wonder, how could God inspire the writer of the book of Job to use the word ben to mean sparks? … “as the sons fly upward?!” Is that not absurd? Well, no, but it does require more than a cursory reading; it requires a bit of thought to perceive the brilliance of this figure of speech.
Ben also means “offspring,” or that which is generated. The sparks are generated by the embers of the coal or from the burning wood; hence, the sparks are the “sons” of the fiery wood. Now that is really getting figurative, isn’t it? Actually, it is a magnificent figure of speech, displaying a level of thinking and creativity far beyond basic everyday language.
In the book of Lamentations, chapter 3, we discover another fascinating figure of speech. In our era, archery is merely a sport. But in ancient times, bows, arrows and quivers were as ubiquitous as cell phones are today.
Figuratively speaking, would it not be proper to speak of the arrow as the son of the bow? After all, the arrow springs right off of that bowstring. It is an offspring, isn’t it? And could it not also be just as proper to speak of the arrow as the son of the quiver? God thinks so. He wrote in…
Lamentations 3:12 He hath bent his bow, and set me as a mark for the arrow.
13 He hath caused the arrows [ben: sons] of his quiver to enter into my reins.
Clever writing, isn’t it? Sounds almost inspired. Who wrote this stuff?! Perhaps a passage along the same vein which is familiar to more Christians is this:
Psalm 127:4 As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children [ben] of the youth
5 Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.
Hence, in biblical symbolism, we learn that arrows can represent sons, children, offspring. Now consider this:
Isaiah 21:9 And, behold, here cometh a chariot of men, with a couple of horsemen. And he answered and said, Babylon is fallen, is fallen; and all the graven images of her gods he hath broken unto the ground.
10 O my threshing, and the corn [ben: sons] of my floor: that which I have heard of the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, have I declared unto you.
Yet another example is set forth in Zechariah. This is very critical because it establishes the true meaning of another very important symbol in Bible prophecy.
Zechariah 4:12 And I answered again, and said unto him, What be these two olive branches which through the two golden pipes empty the golden oil out of themselves?
13 And he answered me and said, Knowest thou not what these be? And I said, No, my lord.
14 Then said he, These are the two anointed ones [ben: sons ; hence, the two anointed sons], that stand by the Lord of the whole earth.
Whom do you suppose these two anointed sons are? They are not individuals, except in the sense of Jesus himself, in His first coming as Judah and in His second coming as Joseph. In other words the two anointed ones are the House of Judah and the House of Israel; Joseph being the head of the House of Israel, of course. The olive tree is another symbol of Israel, and so if we look back at verse 11 we read this:
11 Then answered I, and said unto him, What are these two olive trees upon the right side of the candlestick and upon the left side thereof?
The two olive trees represent the two houses of Israel, the anointed sons! Understanding this symbolism helps careful Bible students draw the correct conclusions elsewhere in the Bible. In this particular case, consider the many contradictory interpretations which expositors and preachers set forth to identify the two witnesses in the 11th chapter of the book of Revelation.
Revelation 11:3 And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth.
These are often identified as two individual persons (e.g., Moses and Elijah). However, John goes right on to explain who they are in the next verse:
Revelation 11:4 These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth.
In other words, they are the two branches of Israel: the House of Israel and the House of Judah. Of course, all through the centuries, most of the church could not “see” the correct interpretation (and still cannot see). Why? Because God caused Israel to be “blinded in part” (Romans 11:25) until the appointed time. The churches tell their flocks that this blindness refers to the Jews being blind all these centuries to Jesus as the Messiah.
No, Paul says Israel (not the Jews) was blinded in part (i.e., some in every generation have seen the truth). Israel was not blinded to Jesus as the Messiah. True Israelites of all twelve tribes began believing in Jesus immediately after the day of Pentecost (Acts 2).
Instead, the blindness of Israel refers to the fact that all these centuries they have been blinded to their own identity as the “lost sheep of the House of Israel.” The ten so-called “lost” tribes had over the centuries since the Assyrian Captivity of 721 B.C. migrated into Europe. After Pentecost, the apostles began carrying the good news to them.
It took centuries, but eventually all Europe became known as “Christendom.” Asia did not become Christendom; Africa did not become Christendom; but Europe did. Why? Because that is where the lost sheep of Israel had primarily settled. Jesus had declared that his “sheep” (Israel) would hear His voice and would follow Him (i.e., become Christians).
This they have done, even in their blindness as to who they are. And in so doing, they (along with the House of Judah) became the “two witnesses” prophesied by John. The true sons of Jacob-Israel among the House of Judah (consisting of the tribes of Judah, Benjamin and some of Levi) had also begun converting to Christ in the decades after Jesus.
Before the Roman invasion of Judea by Titus in 70 A.D., they had fled the area—most of them joining their fellow Israelites in Europe. To this day, the blindness of true Israel still exists (they are still told they are “Gentiles”), but the veil will soon be lifted and all the world will rejoice at our Father’s Master Plan!
For more on this critical topic, see elsewhere on our website the article (link is no longer valid), “The Bible Distinction between ‘The House of Israel’ and ‘The House of Judah’,” and the article (link is no longer valid) “A Study into the Meaning of the Word ‘Gentile’ as Used in the Bible.”
We have now nearly concluded our foundational exposition of the definitions of son(s) as found in the Bible. We have examined the multiplicity of uses for the word “son,” both in a literal and in a figurative context.
Perhaps the only two cases which we have not yet examined are those specific cases—and they are many—which have reference to the “son of man,” who is the (singular) “son of God,” and secondly, to the (plural) “sons of God.” To further prepare the groundwork for understanding those terms, we must next examine the imagery of sons in the Bible. (To be continued.)