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The Branch in the OT and Revelation


By Chad Sanders 


Have you ever seen a new sprout grow from the stump of a tree that was cut down? Certain deciduous trees, shrubs, and vines will re-sprout once they are cut. Rose bushes, oak trees, maples, and may other species will grow new shoots from roots or from the stump after a disturbance.

In the prophetic books of the Old Testament, the authors will refer to a “branch” (some versions will say “shoot”, or “root”). What is this? This “branch” seems to be not an actual piece of wood, but a mysterious person, a hero, a figure who will someday come and save his people. Who is this “Branch”?

The first occurrence of the term branch is in Isaiah 11. But we need to start with chapter 5 in Isaiah to understand what is going on in chapter 11. In chapter 5, God says he planted a vineyard – that’s the nation of Israel. Chapter 5 uses the imagery of growing a vineyard to describe how much God loved Israel. God planted Israel on fertile ground, he cleared the land of stones, he built a watchtower over the vineyard, and he built a wine vat in the middle of it (5:1-2). In other words, God took care of his vineyard – Israel. He did everything for Israel (5:4).

But the vineyard (Israel), didn’t yield good grapes, instead it yielded wild grapes. All that work tending the vineyard seemed to be wasted. In other words, Israel ignored all the work God did and they sinned anyway (5:4). So what does God do? He destroys the vineyard (5:5-7)!

Imagine an entire field of grapes that has been destroyed and all that is left are stumps! Remember, certain plants will re-sprout. That’s what happens to Israel. They re-sprouted from the stump. They recover from this judgment, not by themselves but because of the “branch” that re-sprouts from their stumps. So we read in chapter 11, “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him,” TheBranch” is a person. Later in chapter 11 we read that the “Branch” will be a signal to all peoples and of him all the nations shall inquire (11:10).

We know Israel’s history. Despite all that God does for them, they continue to sin, until God judges them by sending them into captivity in Babylon. God’s judgement was like a farmer cutting down his entire vineyard. But after the sin of Israel and the judgement of God, the prophets speak of a “branch” that will eventually save Israel and the all in the world who believe in this “branch”. For example:

Jeremiah 23:5 - “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness’. 

Jeremiah 33:15 – “In those days and at that time, I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.”

Zechariah 3:8-9 – “…Behold, I will bring my servant the Branch. …and I will remove the iniquity of this land in a single day.”

Zechariah 6:12- “Behold, the man whose name is the Branch: for he shall branch out from his place, and he shall build the temple of the Lord.”

What does all this have to do with Revelation?

In chapter 5 of Revelation in the throne-room vision of God, John sees a lamb, standing as if it had been slain, with seven horns and seven eyes. And an angel tells John that the lamb is none other than the Lion of Judah and the “Root of David”. Branch, shoot, root are synonymous. This is the Branch spoken of in the OT prophets. Branch/Root/Shoot verses are also royal declarations. The Branch or Root comes from David (or David’s father Jesse) meaning the Branch/Root will be the King.

At the end of Revelation, Jesus himself tells John that he is the root or branch of David. Revelation 22:16 “…I am the Root, the descendent of David...”

The Branch figure in the Old Testament is the same as the Root figure of Revelation. It is an unbelievable story of hope after judgment. A sprout grown from the judged nation of Israel who will also save Israel and all people who believe in him by becoming their King.