Root of Jesse

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The Root of Jesse or the Tree of Jesse is an iconographic depiction of the Ancestors of Christ. It shows in a tree which rises from Jesse of Bethlehem, the father of King David; the original use of the family tree as a schematic representation of a genealogy. It originates in a passage in the Biblical Book of Isaiah which describes metaphorically the descent of the Messiah, and is accepted by Orthodoxy as referring to Jesus Christ.

The passage in Isaiah, 11:1 is

"There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots."

The Rod of the Root of Jesse

This is a term used to describe the Theotokos.[1]

St. Cosmas composes hymns by weaving in Old Testament prophecies, showing the Virgin as the rod and the overshadowed mountain:

"Rod of the root of Jesse [Is. 11:1], and flower that blossomed from his stem, O Christ, You have sprung from the Virgin. From the mountain overshadowed by the forest You have come [Hab. 3:3], made flesh from her that knew not wedlock, O God, Who are not formed from matter."

Saint Andrew also speaks of the Virgin as the rod and Christ as the Flower:

"Let Jesse rejoice and let David dance, for behold, the Virgin, the rod planted by God, has blossomed forth the Flower, even the everlasting Christ."

St. Ambrose (339-397), Bishop of Milan, concurs with this image, writing:

"The root is the household of the Jews, the rod is Mary, the Flower of Mary is Christ. She is rightly called a rod, for she is of the royal lineage, of the house and family of David. Her Flower is Christ, Who destroyed the stench of worldly pollution and poured out the fragrance of eternal life. As He Himself said, 'I am a flower of the plain, a lily of the valleys'" [Songs 2:1].

St. Irenaeus (+ c.193) also speaks of Isaiah's prophecy concerning the rod of the Flower from the root of Jesse:

"Thereby the prophet says that it is of her, who is descended from David and from Abraham, that He is born. For Jesse was a descendant of Abraham, the father of David; the descendant who conceived Christ, the Virgin, is thus become the 'rod'. Moses too worked his miracles before Pharaoh with a rod; and among others too of mankind, the rod is a sign of empire. And the 'Flower' refers to His body, for it was made to bud forth by the Spirit."

From the Akathist Hymn to the Theotokos, we chant:

"Rejoice, O mystical rod which blossomed the unfading Flower."


"Rejoice, O Bride of God; you are the mystical rod from whom the unfading Rose blossomed and budded forth."