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The Green Tree and the Dry Tree- Understanding Yeshua's Words from the Aramaic

The Green Tree and the Dry Tree:
Understanding Yeshua's Words from the Aramaic
James Scott Trimm

There are many cases of ambiguous Hebrew and Aramaic words which the Greek translator seems to have mistranslated. This type of mistranslation is very common and a clear evidence that a document has been translated. The reason this occurs is that a translator often works much like a typist, translating word for word without actually comprehending the context of the words. This often, but not always results in the translator choosing the most common meaning of an ambiguous word despite the fact that another meaning was intended. This problem is compounded when translating from Hebrew and Aramaic which anciently had no vowels, thus increasing the number of ambiguous words.

One of the more difficult sayings of our Messiah is found in Luke 23:21.  The KJV translates the Greek as follows:

For if they do these things in a green tree,
what shall be done in the dry?
(Lk. 23:31 KJV)

Contrary to a common misconception, this verse does NOT mean that Yeshua was crucified in/on a tree, green or dry.

Now in Hebrew and Aramaic the "b-" preposition (which appears in the Aramaic text of this verse) can mean "in" but it can also mean "with” in the sense of "to.”  In this verse the passage is best rendered:

For if they do these things with a green tree,
what will be done with the dry?
(Lk. 23:31 HRV)

In the original Aramaic the passage is a clear allusion to the parable of the greet tree and the dry tree as found in the Tanak in Ezekiel 20:45-21:7:

1 (20:45) And the word of YHWH came unto me, saying:
2 (20:46) Son of man, set your face toward the South, and proclaim toward the South, and prophesy against the forest of the field in the South,
3 (20:47) And say to the forest of the South, Hear the word of YHWH, Thus says the Adonai YHWH: Behold, I will kindle a fire in you, and it shall devour every green tree in you, and every dry tree; it shall not be quenched--even a flaming flame, and all faces from the south to the north, shall be seared thereby.
4 (20:48) And all flesh shall see, that I YHWH have kindled it; it shall not be quenched.
5 (20:49) Then said I, Ah Adonai YHWH! They say of me, Is he not a maker of parables?
6 (21:1) Then the word of YHWH came unto me, saying:
7 (21:2) Son of man, set your face toward Yerushalayim, and proclaim toward the sanctuaries, and prophesy against the land of Yisra’el,
8 (21:3) And say to the land of Yisra’el, Thus says YHWH: Behold, I am against you, and will draw forth My sword out of its sheath, and will cut off from you, the righteous and the wicked.
9 (21:4) Seeing then that I will cut off from you the righteous and the wicked, therefore shall My sword go forth out of its sheath against all flesh: from the south to the north.
10 (21:5) And all flesh shall know, that I YHWH have drawn forth My sword out of its sheath; it shall not return any more.
11 (21:6) Sigh therefore, you son of man. With the breaking of your loins and with bitterness, shall you sigh before their eyes.
12 (21:7) And it shall be, when they say unto you: Wherefore sigh you? That you shall say, Because of the tidings, for it comes…. And every heart shall melt, and all hands shall be slack, and every spirit shall be faint, and all knees shall drip with water. Behold, it comes, and it shall be done, says the Adonai YHWH.
(Ezekiel 21:1-12 (20:45-21:7) HRV)

In these verses the "green tree" represents the "righteous" and the "dry tree" represents the "wicked."  The parable of the green tree and the dry tree shows that both righteous and wicked face the judgment.

Yeshua uses a kol v'khomer statement here.  Kol V’chomer is the First Rule of Hillel, it is a method of exegesis that involves presenting an argument from one of even greater weight.  For example if X is true or Y then it must also be true of Z because Z is of even greater weight than Y.  Yeshua is saying:

If they do this with a righteous one,
What will happen to the wicked man?


If they do this with me,
What will happen to them?

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Views: 464

Comment by Lew White on January 3, 2014 at 10:38am

As Danial 12 tells us, knowledge (including comprehension) will increase in the last days. This interpretation of "green" and "dry" is absolutely correct (righteous/wicked). Contrasting is done in many ways, and they all point in the same direction: do Torah! Malaki 4:4-6 contrasts it as a warning for the Day of Yahuah. Abiding in the teachings of Yahusha (the Root) is vital for the Natsarim (the branches), and the life of the sap is akin to Living Waters (Torah, the Will of Yahuah). Green and dry trees are an ideal metaphor to contrast the righteous and the wicked.

Comment by John Cordaro on January 3, 2014 at 8:48pm

Your interpretation may be correct James, but I would like to offer another. The context is dealing with the soon coming destruction of Jerusalem in verses 28-30. I believe the "dry tree" can refer to that time when Jerusalem is undergoing a siege and its inhabitants are starving to death. The "green tree" would be Jerusalem's condition while Yeshua was yet alive. Other than being under Roman rule, things were going well in Jerusalem. They were celebrating the feasts, having weddings and parties, etc

"For if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?"

For if the inhabitants of Jerusalem can put an innocent man to death when times are good, what will they do when times are bad? They will go so far as to eat their own children.


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