For if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry? There have been numerous commentaries suggesting what the "Green" and "Dry" Tree is; also, the fact that He addresses the "Daughters of Jerusalem", which is a direct reference to the Song of Songs. What does Jesus mean by "Green" and "Dry" tree?
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0) AN APOLOGY FOR THE LENGTHINESS OF THIS POST
Ι realize that by apologizing for the length of this post, I'm actually making the post longer. But so be it. I tried making the post shorter without compromising the content, but was not able to. You can skip most of the verses I quote without missing much, if you want.
1) THE PHRASE "DAUGHTER OF JERUSALEM"
This phrase is used several times in the Old Testament outside of the Song of Solomon:
For the parallel phrase "daughter of Zion", see 2 Kings 19:21; Psa 9:14; 48:11; 97:8; Song 3:11; Is 1:8; 3:16–17; 4:4; 10:32; 16:1; 37:22; 52:2; 62:11; Jer 4:31; 6:2, 23; 8:19; Lam 1:6; 2:1, 4, 8, 10, 13, 18; 4:22; Mic 1:13; 4:8, 10, 13; Zeph 3:14; Zech 2:7, 10; 9:9; Matt 21:5; John 12:15
As these verses clarify, "daughter of Zion" and "daughter of Jerusalem" simply refer to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and by extension all Israelites (see Is 52:2, where the phrase is used of Jews in Babylon. Sometimes these phrases refer to all Israelites, and sometimes only to females.
2) THE GREEN WOOD / DRY WOOD ANALOGY
I'm not saying that Luke 23:31 alludes to Ez 20:47 - only that a similar metaphor is used. The difference between dry wood and green wood, especially when it comes to fire (note that the previous verses are about judgment, which is often referred to as fire), is that dry wood burns more easily. More on this later.
3) THE CONTEXT OF LK 23:31
Jesus is on his way to be crucified.
The context is clearly about the judgment coming upon Israel. This judgment is elsewhere in Luke expressed in terms of fire:
Thus when Jesus is speaking of the judgment of Jerusalem in 23:27-31 with phrases like "weep for yourselves and for your children", "the days are coming", "they will begin to say to the hills, 'fall on us' and to the mountains, 'cover us' " - the reference to impending judgment is clear. An implied reference to fire and what kind of wood is easier to kindle, is therefore not foreign to the context.
4) Who are "they"?
Note first the function of the word "they": "they" do the things (present), but things will be done (future). What is being done in the present can hardly be anything other than Jesus' crucifixion, over which the "daughters of Jerusalem" were weeping. One can argue on a historical level over whether this was done by the Jews or the Romans, but Acts (also written by Luke) says that the Jews were the ones who crucified him (Acts 2:26, "Jesus, whom you crucified"; Acts 2:23, "you have taken [him] by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death;" Acts 4:10, "let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified,").
Thus "they" are the Jews, and what they are doing in the "green wood" is crucifying Jesus".
5) POSSIBLE INTERPRETATIONS
Let's begin by eliminating possibilities: d) fails to take into account the difference between the active "do" and the passive "will be done". c) makes it difficult to determine why the wood now would be "green", but later "dry". b) seems to indicate that the Romans are to blame for Jesus' crucifixion (vs. Acts), and also fails to see the difference between "do" and "will be done" - active vs. passive - the same group who does now, will not do in the future. a) seems unreasonable because it says, "they do these things in the green wood", not "they do these things to the green wood".
Yet a) is not so unreasonable when one remembers that the Greek "en" (εν) can also be translated "to", as in 1 Cor 9:15, these things are done "to me". Or in the words of BDAG, "marker denoting the object to which someth. happens or in which someth. shows itself, or by which someth. is recognized, to". Thus the verse could equally well be translated,
In this case, it becomes clearer who the text is referring to: the green wood is Jesus - one who is not by nature ready for the fires of judgment. Yet the Jews crucified him. The dry wood, then, is the Jews who have done these things, who are themselves sinners who are ready for and deserving of the fires of judgment.
In Lk 23:29, two verses before v31, Jesus indicates that those who are not nursing and do not have kids will consider themselves blessed in that day (of judgment). This fits well with another judgment prophecy two chapters earlier:
If the Jews crucified Jesus who is the "green wood" in the sense that he was undeserving of the fires of judgment, how much more would the fire judge the "dry wood", the Jews who were sinners before God - and by extension, the sinners of every other nationality as well. The judgment Jesus is predicting is a specific one, but his point in 23:31 is who is worthy of judgment, not whom this specific eschatological event will come upon.
The saying, which begins in Luke 23.28 and concludes with the green tree-dry tree analogy of verse 23.31, fits into the eschatology of the Synoptic Gospels, which is largely focused on the 70 AD destruction of Jerusalem (cf. Luke 21).
A 'green' tree is a living tree. A 'dry' tree is a dead tree. It goes without saying which of the two is easier to burn.
People in Jerusalem (represented by the women) were mourning Jesus' death, which they saw as an injustice. Jesus agrees, warning them to weep not for him, but for their future generation ('your children'). He tells them that the injustice was occurring against a living tree: himself. But he ominously warns what will happen to a dead tree, people who are genuinely deserving of the kind of punishment he was about to face. Within the eschatology of the Synoptics, Jesus is here implying a divine judgment will come within that generation, which he likens to a dry tree, which will go up in flames. This concept is further corroborated by the quotation of Hosea 10.8, a passage about the destruction of Israel, in Luke 23.30.
1 Charles Homer Giblin, The Destruction of Jerusalem According to Luke's Gospel, p.103-104.
The Context of Christ's Crucifixion
The Context of Luke 23:21 is Jesus, who is now carrying His cross through the streets of Jerusalem on His way to Golgotha. He has been beaten beyond recognition:
and the Women of Jerusalem are weeping for Him(as opposed to those who said,"Away with Him, crucify Him",(Luke 23:21). But He stops them and says,"...weep not for Me, weep for yourselves and your children"(vs 28)
Here it becomes important as to who He is addressing, and we see the parallel in the Song of Solomon:
The "Daughters of Jerusalem" had been awakened, and yet their "beloved" is being sent to His death; yet it is recorderd in Isaiah 53:10:
Jesus Himself told His disciples:
Therefore Jesus is not talking about what is being done to Him; the life He is laying down is to expiate the sins of the world(John 1:29/Matt. 20:28), this is what will cause the world(and the disciples) to be joyful.
The Upcoming Judgment of Jerusalem-Time of the Green Tree
What He is addressing is the upcoming judgement upon Jerusalem:
And yet, this is done in the Green Tree, before the time of the Gentiles.
The picture is of the "fig tree" that Jesus cursed(Mark 11:13). it was green, it had leaves and branches but no fruit "for the time of the figs was not yet". And yet Jesus was 'hungry' and so He cursed it, which seemed caprious but it becomes an object lesson for Israel, who "missed the time of His coming:
Time of the Dry Tree
This is the Time of the Green Tree, what about the Dry?
So it is clear, from this passage, that there will be a time of tribulation greater than any experienced from the beginning of time, and immediately following this time the Lord will come.
The "Dry Tree" therefore, is this time, and more significantly, Israel at this time.
Israel, in this passage, is the "Fig Tree". She wasn't ready the 1st time, when her branches were "green", therefore destruction came upon her. Will she be ready at the "Dry tree", when the Lord returns?
One of the most contentious verses is verse 34, "This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled". This passage must be understood along with Matt. 10:23:
It's clear Jesus did not "come" in the 1st Century, as described Matt. 24:30; therefore, the disciples(and their followers) have not gone over all the cities of Israel yet. However, it isn't until our day and time that this passage can be fulfilled. Therefore, this 'generation' must continue until the present day, when the "Daughters of Jerusalem" will weep once again.
protected by Caleb♦ Dec 5 '15 at 8:27
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