The Hidden Prophecy in the Lord of the Rings: The White Tree and the Kingdom of David

Do you remember the White Tree of Gondor?



It was the symbol of Gondor. Faramir and the knights of Gondor wore the tree on their armor, their breastplates and shields:

  
The White Tree grew in the uppermost courtyard of the citadel of Minas Tirith:


The White Tree had withered in the years of the Stewards of Gondor, when the throne of Gondor was empty and there was no king. The White Tree mysteriously bloomed again at the Return of the King:



But why? What is the significance of the blooming of this tree? 

The White Tree of Gondor & the Stump of Jesse 

As Jesus was leaving Jericho, a voice rose from the crowd. It was Bartimaeus, the blind beggar. He was sitting in the dust, along the roadside. The blind man cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” (Mark 10:47) The blind man was screaming, groping around in his private darkness and among the cruel feet of the road. Why had this blind man called Jesus the Son of David? What did the blind man see?  

The great prophet, Jeremiah, announced the coming of the Son of David, cf. Jeremiah 23:5-6:

Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall 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.’

Jesus would be the son of David, i.e. a descendant of David, according to the flesh, according to Romans 1:3. This is why we are given the genealogy of Jesus at the beginning of Mathew’s Gospel. But what of this “righteous Branch”? 

The great prophet, Isaiah, also had something to say about this “branch”, cf. Isaiah 11:

There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,
    and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him,
    the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
    the spirit of counsel and might,
    the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord. 

The “stump of Jesse”? What is that and who is Jesse? Jesse is David’s father. The tree that grew from Jesse was David and the lines of kings which succeeded him. When the line of kings was broken, the tree was cut down, leaving only a stump. Sound familiar? 

Remember Bilbo’s prophecy sung at the Council of Elrond:

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken:
The crownless again shall be king

Isildur’s Heir & the Son of David

Note the association of the heir to a broken line of kings, an ancient tree presumed dead, and the tree suddenly putting forth new growth, “a shoot” or “a branch”. Jesus is the Son of David, his descendant. He is heir to David’s kingdom as the new King of Israel. Aragorn is Isildur’s heir as the new King of Gondor. After so long without a king, the coming of Jesus and the coming of Aragorn marks the “Return of the King.”  

The original White Tree of Gondor was made in the image of Telperion, the elder of the Two Trees of Valinor. The First White Tree of Gondor was the seed of Nimloth the Fair of Númenor, which was the seed of Celeborn of Tol Eressëa, which was the seed of Galathilion, which was the seed of Telperion. The First White Tree of Minas Ithil was planted by Isildur in the Second Age. The Second White Tree was planted in Minas Anor by Isildur in the second year of the Third Age and lived 1,634 years. The Third White Tree was planted by King Tarondor in Minas Tirith and lived for 1,212 years before dying under the rule of the Stewards. Since no seedling could be found, it was left standing as dead wood. 

After being crowned king, Aragorn II discovers with Gandalf's help a sapling of the White Tree growing upon the slopes of Mindolluin, high above Minas Tirith. This, the king reverently plants in the place where the Third White Tree so long stood. After standing dead for over 150 years, the Third White Tree is placed in the Tombs of the Kings, honored as though it were a monarch.

The genealogy of the White Tree reads much like the genealogy of Jesus, which is recited at the beginning of the Gospel of Matthew and again in Luke 3. This makes sense because the tree was so closely linked to the line of kings as to be a king, itself – the Third White Tree was even buried as a king! The genealogy of Christ is evenly recited in Matthew in fourteen-generation sequences: “So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations” (Matthew 1:17). This genealogy demonstrates that Jesus is, literally, the Son of David. Similarly, the dynasty of the White Tree connects Isildur to Aragorn. 

Remember, there are two genealogies of Jesus. While Mathew’s genealogy focuses on Jesus being the Son of David, Luke’s genealogy traces Jesus all the way back to God, through Adam, so as to describe Jesus as the New Adam. Similarly, the genealogy of the White Tree goes all the way back to Telperion, one of the Two Trees of Tolkien’s Garden of Eden, which were divinely created similar to Adam. 

What a second! If Isildur's Heir and the Son of David are connected, what is Tolkien doing with Isildur and King David? For more, check out the next post!




[1] The Fellowship of the Ring, Book Two, Chapter II, "The Council of Elrond"

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