For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



 A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2000 James Melough

The Tree At Marah

The children of Israel had been in the wilderness for only three days when they came to the waters of Marah, but found that they couldn't drink, for the waters were bitter, Ex 15:22-23, "And the people murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink? And he cried unto the Lord: and the Lord shewed him a tree, which when he had cast into the waters, the waters were made sweet," vv., 24-25.

This is a picture of Calvary; but in order to see that picture it is necessary to recognize that in Scripture trees are used as symbols of men, e.g., in Judges chapter nine the appointment of the bramble to be king over the trees is used parabolically to declare the folly of the men of Shechem in having chosen Abimelech to be their king. In Ps 1:3 the wise man is likened to a tree planted by rivers of water. In Ps 37:35 the wicked man, increased with power and wealth, is likened to a green bay tree. David described himself as being "like a green olive tree in the house of God," Ps 52:8. Of the righteous man it is said that he "shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon," Ps 92:12. Daniel's interpretation of the great tree seen by Nebuchadnezzar in his dream, was, "The tree which thou sawest.... It is thou, O king," Dan 4:20-22. In Isa 56:3 the obedient man, even though a eunuch, is blessed, and encouraged not to say, "Behold, I am a dry tree." In Ca 2:3 the apple tree is used as a figure of Christ, "As the apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the sons." And then there is perhaps the best known of all, the unmistakable reference to the Lord in Isa 53:2, "For He (Christ) shall grow up before Him (the Father) as a tender plant (sapling), and as a root out of a dry ground...."

Since that tree by Marah's bitter waters represents Christ, and since water is one of the symbols of the Word, a truth being presented is, that apart from Christ, the Word of God must bring death, not life, for that Word declares, "The soul that sinneth, it shall die," Ez 18:20, and, "All have sinned," Ro 3:23. But in that tree cut down and cast into the bitter waters, God would have us see Christ "cut down" at Calvary; entering, as the believer's Representative, into the death pronounced by the "water" of the written Word. Note for example the scriptural references to Christ's death in association with raging, overwhelming waters, "Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of thy waterspouts: all thy waves and thy billows are gone over me," Ps 42:7; "Save me, O God; for the waters are come in unto my soul. I sink in the deep mire, where there is no standing: I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me.... Deliver me out of the mire, and let me not sink: let me be delivered from them that hate me, and out of the deep waters. Let not the waterflood overflow me, neither let the deep swallow me up, and let not the pit shut her mouth upon me," Ps 69:1-2, 14-15; "Thou hast laid me in the lowest pit, in darkness, in the deeps. Thy wrath lieth hard upon me, and thou has afflicted me with all thy waves. Selah.... Thy fierce wrath goeth over me; thy terrors have cut me off. They came round about me daily like water; they compassed me about together," Ps 88:6-7, 16-17. By His willingness to enter into death on our behalf, having by His death, exhausted the wrath of God against sin, the condemnation of the Word has been transmuted for the believer into the water of life. The "bitter waters" that once meant death, have become instead the "water of life," first to give life, and then to sustain it. But in the transformation of the waters of Marah from bitter to sweet through the casting in of the tree, we have a second typological picture. Those bitter waters in the desert portray also the bitter experiences which are the inevitable lot of the believer who would be faithful to the Lord. Those "bitter waters" are sweetened by the knowledge that the Lord Himself has drunk a far more bitter cup than any believer will ever have to drink, and by the knowledge that it is a privilege to be counted worthy to participate in "the fellowship of His sufferings," Php 3:10. For the faithful believer the bitter waters of earthly experience are made sweet by the knowledge that, "All things work together for good to them that love God," Ro 8:28. "For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory," 2 Co 4:17.

In 2 Sa 23:15-17 it is recorded that in response to David's expressed longing for a drink of the water of the well of Bethlehem, three of his mighty men, at the risk of their lives, brought him that water; but he refused to drink it, pouring it out instead as a drink offering to God, saying, "Is not this the blood of the men that went in jeopardy of their lives?" Can it be that we who have had the bitter waters of death transformed into the sweet water of life, through the Lord's death, and given us as God's priceless gift, place so little value upon it that we neither drink it, nor pour it out as an offering to God by preaching the gospel to sinners, and in using Scripture to upbuild and comfort His people?


     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
2000-2005 James Melough