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The Branch

Why is the Messiah referred to as a “branch”?

On at least five different occasions, three different Old Testament prophets refer to the coming Redeemer as a Branch (Isaiah 4:2, 11:1; Jeremiah 33:15, Zechariah 3:8, 6:12). While this imagery holds much meaning for Jews and Middle Easterners, for modern Western readers its full impact and significance is sometimes “lost in translation.”

That’s largely because Westerners, as cultural descendants of the Greeks, are used to the conceptual and analytical learning method/style developed by the philosophers whereas Easterners prefer to use real-world imagery to communicate truth. Also, while we in the West typically put more importance on individual identity, Eastern culture places more significance upon the family identity. In fact, in the Eastern mindset, “What was enduring was not so much the individual but the family, and people thoroughly invested themselves in the larger identity of their family.”[1]

This family-centric view can be eloquently illustrated through the real-world imagery of a tree and its branches. The tree is like the family (or nation) and the branches on that tree are like the individuals within that family. Each branch, like a family member, “will leaf out and bear fruit, but at some point it will whither and die. The tree, however, lives on. The family is what is important and long-lasting…. If God blesses you, many shoots will come from you that will grow into enormous limbs that will bear fruit and mature and grow.”[2]

This is precisely the image the prophets have in mind when they portray this coming Messianic figure as a Branch. For example, Isaiah 11:1 declares and decrees that “There shall come forth a Shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a Branch from his roots shall bear fruit.” The imagery here is that the family is a tree and the Messiah would be a “branch” on that tree, a descendant of David’s line. Additionally, “David’s father was Jesse, so the Messiah could also be called a ‘shoot’ from Jesse’s line. Part of the imagery of the ‘shoot’ is that when trees are cut back, they send out long, straight shoots from the base. These are used to make kings’ scepters and tribal leaders’ staffs.”[3]

Although this Royal Messianic Branch was cut off and died, death could not hold Him because He wasn’t merely human. Indeed, this Messiah, the One and only Jesus Christ, was and is the Creator God Himself (John 1). And as such, He isn’t just the Branch but as the source of life He is also the Root (Revelation 5:5, 22:16) and the Vine (John 15:1,5). In fact, His death and resurrection allowed us to become the branches (John 15:5). If we choose to live in Him, we become a part of His family tree—we become the very sons and daughters of God. And that tree along with all of its fruit, twigs, and branches will never wither and die.

Ryan Hembree is a daily co-host, speaker, and writer of Bible Discovery. He also hosts a YouTube channel that shows the unity of the Bible and how science and Scripture fit together. Ryan also has an honorary Masters of Ministry in Creation Science from Phoenix University of Theology.

[1] Lois Tverberg, Reading the Bible with Rabbi Jesus, Baker Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, Location 1461.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.

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