Psalm 1:1-3 | Isaiah 44:3-4,14-15 | Jeremiah 1:11 | Ezekiel 31:14 | Revelation 22:14
Trees are the second-most-mentioned living things in the Bible!
Did you know that, behind people, trees are the living things mentioned most in the Bible? As Malachi and Kaitlin noted, they appear in the first chapter of Genesis, and the last chapter of Revelation.
Let’s take a look at some instances of trees in the Good Book.
Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers. But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night. They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.Psalm 1:1-3 NLT
This passage is right in the first psalm. What a pleasant picture it paints: there is this riverbank with rows of fruit trees planted along it, and every spring they bloom and grow fruit. They provide a nice shelter from the sun, sweet fragrances, and cool fruit to eat. And all this pleasantness serves to illustrate what a blessing people are who love God’s teaching.
And I will pour out my Spirit on your descendants,
and my blessing on your children.
They will thrive like watered grass,
like willows on a riverbank.Isaiah 44:3-4 NLT
Here in Isaiah’s prophecy, the Lord uses similar imagery in his promise to bless the nation of Israel. But the tree imagery takes a darker turn just a few verses later, as through Isaiah, God shows how foolish people are who make themselves idols to worship.
He cuts down cedars; he selects the cypress and the oak; he plants the pine in the forest to be nourished by the rain. Then he uses part of the wood to make a fire. With it he warms himself and bakes his bread. Then—yes, it’s true—he takes the rest of it and makes himself a god to worship! He makes an idol and bows down in front of it!Isaiah 44:14-15 NLT
Certainly you would not be foolish enough to carve yourself a ‘god’ and worship it. But there are other ways to make an idol.
On a lighter note, sometimes the significance is not in the tree, but in the tree’s species.
Then the Lord said to me, “Look, Jeremiah! What do you see?”
And I replied, “I see a branch from an almond tree.”
And the Lord said, “That’s right, and it means that I am watching, and I will certainly carry out all my plans.”Jeremiah 1:11 NLT
In this passage, Jeremiah has been called by the Lord to speak as his prophet, but he tells the Lord he cannot do it because he is too young! Here the Lord offers Jeremiah assurance by showing him he can clearly see visions. Jeremiah sees a branch from an almond tree, which is sort of play on words. A Hebrew name for the almond tree was ‘watcher’ (because it was one of the very first trees to bloom after winter, as if it had spent the cold months partially awake) and God explains the pun.
Let the tree of no other nation proudly exult in its own prosperity, though it be higher than the clouds and it be watered from the depths. For all are doomed to die, to go down to the depths of the earth. They will land in the pit along with everyone else on earth.Ezekiel 31:14 NLT
Here again the tree is used for symbolism in a prophetic vision. God had the prophet Ezekiel pronounce judgement over Egypt by first comparing it to a tall cedar whose magnitude and beauty were unrivaled, and then divulging the terrible felling of the tree by a mighty foreign army.
We will leave you with a final tree scripture from the final chapter of the Bible. It is a word from Jesus through his disciple John, about the restoration of God’s Kingdom on earth. John sees a vision of God’s glorious city, and people made clean by Jesus’ sacrifice.
Blessed are those who wash their robes. They will be permitted to enter through the gates of the city and eat the fruit from the tree of life.Revelation 22:14 NLT
Questions for Group Discussion
- Why do you think trees are mentioned so many times in the Bible?
- Why do you think the image of a tree lends itself to symbolism so well?
Challenge: A Thing as Lovely
This challenge has two branches. Sadly, it has no trunk…and that’s where the analogy ends.
Do a study of tree symbolism in the Bible. Find scriptural instances in which trees are used symbolically, look for commonalities, then formulate a conclusion.
Get some poster board or (like people do these days) a great graphic arts app, and make a tree collage based on the many roles of trees in the Bible.
Choose one or both options. Then put down some creative roots, branch out, and reach for the sky!