There are a couple of ways to study the Allegory of the Olive Tree. Let’s talk about the traditional way first, and then I’ll throw out a couple more ways to read the allegory.
Traditional: The Scattering and Gathering of the House of Israel
Come Follow Me already gives some awesome insight into this chapter by breaking down a couple of the time periods for you.
“Verses 3-14. The Scattering of Israel before the time of Christ.
Verses 15-28. The ministry of Christ and the Apostles
Verses 29-49. The Great Apostasy
Verses 50-76 The gathering of Israel in the latter days
Verses 76-77 The Millennium and end of the world”
Here are a couple of other pieces of information that will help you make sense of the allegory.
Sometimes it helps to look at one symbol and follow it throughout the entire chapter. Though there are wild trees, let’s just focus on the natural tree (or House of Israel). The natural tree starts to decay at the top. Wild branches are grafted into the natural tree, and it bears good fruit. Young branches are taken and planted in other places. Those branches are eventually returned to the main tree. The bitter fruit of the tree is burned. The good fruit get’s gathered. Try looking at the tree from this small summary; it can help make sense of it as a whole.
Let’s break it down by verses.
v3 The House of Israel was in Egypt because of the famine in Canaan. There was some apostasy.
v5 The Israelites went back to Canaan after a forty-year captivity. They didn’t have the Melchizedek priesthood, but they did have the Aaronic priesthood.
v6, 10-11 Assyrian and Babylonian conquests. The Gentiles are brought in.
v13 The following groups were led away in the following order: ten tribes, Jews, Lehi and posterity
v18 Some of the Gentiles were good and honorable.
v19-22 The other tribes were taken farther north into Assyria.
v23 Speaking of the Jews
v25 Nephites and Lamanties
v28 All Nephites and Lamanites converted to the Lord after He visits them
v29 The Great Apostasy
v30-36 Lot’s of churches now exist and none of them are good.
v39 The first (ten tribes), the second (Jews), and the last (Lehi’s posterity) all became part of the Great Apostasy
v40 The Lamanites destroyed the Nephites.
v44 The Jaredites were swept away to make room for Lehi’s posterity.
v52 Gospel being taken to the world
v57 The tares and wheat are growing together.
v61 Mission age change, every member a missionary.
v63 The gospel first gets taken to Lehi’s posterity, then Jews, then the ten tribes.
v74 All united under Christ in the Millennium
v77 Millennium ends and final judgement
Other Ways to Study the Allegory of the Olive Tree
Find new symbols. For example, the vineyard could be you.
Study the botany of olive trees and vineyards. Here are a couple of fun facts that add meaning to the allegory.
- Wild olive tree branches aren’t very desirable, but their roots are stronger and more disease resistant.
- Branches and roots HAVE to be equal. The branches use photosynthesis to nourish the roots, and the roots give water to the branches.
- If you tend the wild fruit, it can often taste better than neglected tame fruit.
- Disclaimer for botany: While studying these symbolic trees can add new meaning to allegories, know that the Lord can work outside of what we understand about botanical principles. For example, if tame and wild fruit are both nurtured equally, the tame fruit will always taste better. However, in the context of Heavenly Father’s children, this is not always true.
Make a list of the feelings Christ experienced while tending to His vineyard. What does it teach you about Him?
When have there been times that you were planted in “poor spots of ground” and found that you gave “good fruit”?
There are many great ways to study this allegory. Don’t get stuck in just one way!