on Matthew 21 :8
Cut down branches from the trees - Carrying palm and other branches was emblematical of victory and success. See 1 Maccabees 13:51; 2 Maccabees 10:7; and Revelation 7:9.
The rabbins acknowledge that the prophecy in Zechariah refers to the Messiah; so Rab. Tancum, and Yalcut Rubeni has a strange story about the ass. "This ass is the colt of that ass which was created in the twilight of the sixth day. This is the ass which Abraham found when he went to sacrifice his son. This is the ass on which Moses rode when he went to Egypt; and this is the ass on which the Messiah shall ride." Some of the Jews seem to think that the zebra is intended; for according to Bab. Sanhedr. fol. 98, when Shapoor, king of Persia, said to Rabbi Samuel: "You say your Messiah will come upon an ass; I will send him a noble horse." To which the rabbi replied, "You have not a horse with a hundred spots (query, streaks) like his ass." See Lightfoot and Schoettgen.
on Matthew 21 :8
And a very great multitude ... - Others showed the same respect by throwing their garments before him; others by cutting down branches of trees and casting them in the way. This was the way in which conquerors and princes were often honored. To cast flowers, or garlands, or evergreens before a warrior returning from victory, or a king entering into his kingdom, was a common way of testifying joyful and triumphant feeling. Thus Josephus says that Alexander and Agrippa were received at Jerusalem. So in our own land some of the most acceptable tokens of rejoicing ever bestowed upon Washington were garlands of roses scattered in his path by children. So the path of Lafayette was often strewed with flowers, as a mark of respect and of a nation's gratitude. John says John 12:13 that these branches were branches of the "palm-tree." The palm was an emblem of "joy and victory." It was used by the Roman soldiers, as well as the Jews, as a symbol of peace. See 1 Macc. 13:51; 2 Macc. 10:6, 7; Revelation 7:9.
The "palm-tree" is common in warm climates, and was abundant in Palestine. The finest grew about Jericho and Engedi. Hence, Jericho was called the city of "palm-trees." The palm has a long and straight body, a spreading top, and an appearance of very great beauty. It produces an agreeable fruit, a pleasant shade, a kind of "honey" little inferior to the honey of bees, and from it was drawn a pleasant "wine" much used in the East. On ancient coins the palm-tree is often a symbol of Judea. On coins made after Jerusalem was taken, Judea is represented by a female sitting and weeping under a palm-tree. A reference to the palm-tree occurs often in the Bible, and its general form and uses are familiar to most readers.
Strictly speaking, the palm has no branches, but at the summit from forty to eighty twigs or leaf-stalks spring forth. These are referred to in Nehemiah 8:15. The leaves are set around the trunk in circles of about six. The lower row is of great length, and the vast leaves bend themselves in a curve toward the earth: as the circles ascend, the leaves are shorter. In the month of February, there sprout from between the junctures of the lower stalks and the trunk little scales, which develop a kind of bud, the germ of the coming fruit. These germs are contained in a thick and tough skin, not unlike leather. According to the account of a modern traveler, a single tree in Barbary and Egypt bears from fifteen to twenty large clusters of dates, weighing from 15 to 20 lbs. each. The palm-tree lives more than 200 years, and is most productive from the 30th until the 80th year. The Arabs speak of 260 uses to which the different parts of the palm-tree are applied.
The inhabitants of Egypt, Arabia, and Persia depend much on the fruit of the palm-tree for their subsistence. Camels feed on the seed, and the leaves, branches, fibres, and sap are all very valuable.
The "branches" referred to by John Joh 12:13 are the long "leaves" which shoot out from the top of the tree, and which were often carried about as the symbol of victory. Compare the notes at Isaiah 3:26.
on Matthew 21 :8
21:8 A great multitude spread their garments in the way - A custom which was usual at the creation of a king, 2Kings 9:13.