Branch (represented by various Heb. and Greek words). As trees in Scripture denote great men and princes, so branches, boughs, sprouts, or plants denote their offspring. In conformity with this way of speaking, Christ, in respect of his human nature, is styled a rod from the stem of Jesse, and a branch out of his roots (Isa 11:1), that is, a prince arising from the family of David. This symbol was also in use among the ancient poets (Sophocles, Electra, 4:18; Homer, Iliad, ii, 47, 170, 211, 252, 349; Pindar, Olymp. ii, 6, etc.). And so, even in our English tongue, the word imp, which is originally Saxon and denotes a plant, is used to the same purpose, especially by Fox the martyrologist, who calls King Edward the Sixth an imp of great hope; and by Thomas Cromwell, earl of Essex, in his dying speech, who has the same expression concerning the same prince (Wemyss, Clavis Symbolica). "The prophet," as Lowth observes, "having described the destruction of the Assyrian army under the image of a mighty forest, represents, by way of contrast, the great person who makes the subject of this chapter as a slender twig, shooting out from the trunk of an old tree, cut down, lopped to the very root, and decayed, which tender plant, so weak in appearance, should nevertheless prosper. The aged trunk denoted the royal house of David, at that time in a forlorn and contemptible condition, like a tree of which nothing was left but a stump underground" (Jer 32:5; Jer 33:15; Zec 3:8; Zec 6:12). Christ's disciples are called branches with reference to their union with him (Joh 15:5-6). Thus a branch is the symbol of kings descended from royal ancestors, as branches from the root (Eze 17:3,10; Da 11:7). As only a vigorous tree can send forth vigorous branches, a branch is used as a general symbol of prosperity (Job 8:16). From these explanations it is easy to see how a branch becomes the symbol of the Messiah (Isa 11:1; Isa 4:2; Jer 23:15; Zec 3:8; Zec 6:12; and elsewhere). SEE MESSIAH; SEE PALM.
Branch is also used as the symbol of idolatrous worship (Eze 8:17), probably in allusion to the general custom of carrying branches as a sign of honor. Hence God complains by the prophet that the Jews carried branches as if they did him honor, but they held them to their noses like mockers; that is, they mocked him secretly when they worshipped him publicly; they came with fair pretences and wicked hearts. Dathe remarks that a writer on the religion of the Persians enumerates among the sacred furniture a bundle of twigs, called barsom in the old Persic language, which they hold in their hands while praying. Michaelis says that they held it before the face, opposite to the holy fire. Spencer also observes that the heathen, in the worship of their deities, held forth the branches of those trees which were dedicated to them. An abominable branch (Isa 14:19) means a tree on which a malefactor has been hanged. In Eze 17:3, Jehoiachim is called the highest branch of the cedar, as being a king. Branches are mentioned in many other places in Scripture; in some cases as symbols of prosperity, in others of adversity (Ge 49:22; Job 15:32; Ps 8:9,9; Isa 25:5; Eze 17:6). SEE BOUGH.