An Alphabetical Analysis
Volume 8 - Prophetic Truth - Page 43 of 304
The Sycomore Fruit and its Ripening
The 'burden' of the prophets is a figure that occurs often, and in Amos
we have 'the burden bearer' in person, for the Hebrew Amos means 'a burden
bearer', burden being the Hebrew massa.  Amos was never trained in 'the
school of the prophets'; he told the false priest of Beth -el who counselled
him to flee:
'I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet's son; but I was an herdman,
and a gatherer of sycomore fruit: and the Lord took me as I followed
the flock, and the Lord said unto me, Go, prophesy unto My people
Israel' (Amos 7:14,15).
The Revised Version reads 'a dresser of sycomore trees'.  The LXX uses
the word knizo 'to scrape, to make to itch, to nettle'.  It may not seem, at
first sight, a subject worthy of such importance as to hold up our
exposition, but there is more here than appears on the surface.
Theophrastus, the successor of Aristotle, in his 'History of Plants', tells
us that the sycomore fruit 'does not ripen till it is rubbed (knizo) with
iron combs, after which rubbing it ripens in four days'.  Hasselquist, a
Swedish naturalist, says, 'It buds the latter end of March, and the fruit
ripens in the beginning of June; it is wounded and cut by the inhabitants at
the time it buds, for without this precaution, they say, it will never bear
The Fig, the Vine and the Olive are employed to set forth the peculiar
privileges of Israel (Judges 9:8 -13), the Fig probably standing for Israel's
national privileges.  The sycomore has a leaf like the mulberry (Gk. moron)
and fruit like the fig (Gk. sukon), hence the name in the Greek New Testament
is sukomoraia.  The point that Amos seems to make here and which has a
typical teaching, is that Israel, like the sycomore, will not bear ripe fruit
apart from great tribulation.
Already, we learn from Amos 1:3 that Damascus had 'threshed Gilead with
threshing instruments of iron', and when we remember that 'tribulation' is
derived from the Latin tribulum 'a threshing -sledge for separating grain
from the husk.  It was in the form of a wooden platform studded with sharp
bits of flint or with iron teeth' (Lloyd's Encyclopaedic Dictionary), the
figure begins to take a deeper significance.  Further, the Lord says 'For,
lo, I will command, and I will sift the house of Israel among all nations,
like as corn is sifted in a sieve, yet shall not the least grain fall upon
the earth' (Amos 9:9).  Because the word translated 'grain' is once
translated 'one small stone' in 2 Samuel 17:13, some have thought that Amos
9:9 should be translated 'not the smallest stone', but this is unnecessary
and untrue.  It is the very object of sifting to get rid of 'small stones'
and leave the grain behind, and Amos' simile loses all point if the language
be changed.
In 2 Samuel 17:13, any word meaning 'a small particle' would have done
quite as well as 'one small stone'.  Further the word translated 'grain' is
the Hebrew tseror, from tsarar 'to vex', 'to be in a strait', 'narrow', and
is found in Amos 5:12 where it is translated 'afflict'.  The 'one small
grain' is one that is oppressed and has passed through affliction, yet, being
one of the elect, cannot fall upon the earth and be lost.  We must return to
this great conclusion of the prophet presently.