Vol. 7, No. 8
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The olive tree is an evergreen tree that usually is about 16 feet high. The young tree has a smooth, silver-gray bark. As it gets older, the trunk gets stout and knobby. It has numerous branches that form a dense, shady tree. The tree has a very large root system that can get enough water even in dry conditions. The trees are usually planted about 36 feet apart in areas where it is not irrigated. Olive leaves are narrow and sharply pointed. There are ten to forty flowers carried on each short branch.
In Bible times, it was very common to graft olive trees. A branch from a good olive tree was taken and grafted onto a wild olive tree. The wild olive tree, called agrielaios, did not produce very good fruit. But the good cultivated olive tree, called kallielaios, did produce very good fruit. Wild olive trees would grow up and take up space with their root systems. To keep from having to cut down a tree and plant a new seedling, a branch from the good tree would be grafted onto the wild tree. This good branch would then produce fruit while getting nourishment from the wild tree root system. Several branches would be grafted onto a wild tree.
In Romans 11:17 we read, "And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert grafted in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree."
God was using the grafting process to make a very important point. Instead of grafting a good branch onto a bad tree, God took a bad branch and grafted it onto a good tree. This was opposite of the way the first century people grafted olive trees. God had a good tree with a good root system. The Israelite nation was the tree with the root system of the Patriarchal Law, Mosaic Law and the New Law. The Gentiles were represented by the wild olive tree. God took the wild olive tree, the Gentiles, and grafted them into the good tree and it's root system.
The reference to the branches being broken off means that Jews who did not accept Christ were unacceptable to God. They were cut from the tree. This shows that just because someone has a sincere heart and believes in God does not mean that person will be acceptable to God. A person must believe in and obey Jesus Christ to be acceptable to God.
In Genesis Chapter Twenty-five, we read about Jacob and Esau. They were twins born to Isaac. God had foretold that the elder twin would serve the younger twin. This was not the usual outcome. In biblical times, the oldest son was the heir to the main fortune of the father. This was known as the firstborn's birthright.
Esau came home very hungry one day. He sold his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of soup. Jacob would indeed be given the main fortune by Isaac. There is more to that story, but we will not go into it for this study.
What one must understand is that there was more to being given the birthright of Isaac than just physical things. God had made a spiritual covenant with Abraham. He had continued this covenant with Isaac, Abraham's firstborn. If custom was to dictate, Esau should have been the inheritor of the covenant.
But God knew that Esau would sell his birthright. That is why he told Esau's mother that he would serve his brother. God did not make Esau sell his birthright. That was Esau's choice. Can you imagine willingly giving up the right to have God's covenant passed through you and your children?
Esau knew about the covenant. God was the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac. If Esau had lived his life right and made the right choice, we would read that God was the God of Esau as far as the covenant was concerned. Instead, we read that God was the God of Jacob.
Esau went to his father and tried to get his father to give him the blessing that should have been his, but it was too late. Once his father had given the birthright, there was nothing that could be changed (Hebrews 12:16-17).
Today we have a New Covenant. God gave us the New Testament. When we obey God and become Christians, we accept his covenant. Our birthright will be given to us at the Day of Judgment. If we do not make the right choices and continually serve God, then we are in effect selling our birthright. We must stay in the right relationship with God or lose the inheritance (Hebrews 12: 14-17). Keep reading your Bible. Study it so that you know what to do to stay in the right relationship with God.