A Branch to Their Nose

An Orientalism:
A Custom or Mannerism in the Bible Times

Read Time: 4 Minutes

Here is a phrase that makes no sense to our western minds, "A branch to their nose." Bishop K.C. Pillai explains the meaning of it.

Ezekiel 8
:17 Then he said unto me,
        Hast thou seen this, O son of man?
        Is it a light thing to the house of Judah that they commit the abominations which they commit here?
        for they have filled the land with violence, and have returned to provoke me to anger:
        and, lo, they put the branch to their nose.

The Children of Israel had let idol worship into their lives. In the previous verses we read that God had shown Ezekiel in a vision that the people had secretly made images of creeping things and abominable beasts and put them on the walls of the temple and were worshipping them. They were declaring that the Lord God no longer paid attention to them and had forsaken the land. In truth, they had turned their backs on God.

A branch of a vine is symbolic of the presence of God in the Oriental thinking. They believe that as long as they have a branch of this kind in their nose God will not punish them for their evil doings; and if they have any disease God will heal them on the merit of the branch in the nose. They make a small plate of the size of an American nickel and engrave on it a branch of the vine and attach it to a hole that has been pierced in their nose. This is called the branch to the nose.

Many people in the East put a "branch to their nose" to protect themselves from plagues and punishment from God for their evil doings.

 We can understand the deeper meaning of Jesus Christ's explanation of a branch and the vine.

Mark 15
:1 I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. [vine dresser]
:2 Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away:
    and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.
:3 Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.

Jesus Christ realized that the people thought of the vine as a symbol of God's presence. The greater truth is that Jesus Christ is the true vine. It is by way of Jesus Christ that we can come to the Father. Putting a branch to the nose does not give the wearer mercy and forgiveness; it does not get them  forgiveness or any closer to God. God looks on the heart, not on outward symbolic gestures. We can obtain mercy and forgiveness by becoming a branch of the vine. Abiding in the Lord Jesus Christ gives us grace and power.

A Western custom similar to a branch to the nose would be the wearing of a cross and the thinking that they would gain favor with God by doing so. There is no power in the cross, the power is in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

The people of the house of Judah were wrong in thinking that putting a branch to their nose would cover for the sins, the idol worship, that they were doing. God even told Ezekiel that if they cried unto Him He wouldn't hear them because of their sin. But those that repent, give up their sinful ways and ask forgiveness, will be heard of God again and be His people (Ezek 11:18-20).

There are still people in India that wear a branch in their nose. They feel that God is with them because of it and that He will protect them from all dangers. This is deceptive and blasphemy. Jesus Christ is the vine and those who confess him as lord and believe that God raised him from the dead will be saved (Romans10:9 & 10) and will be a branch of the vine. Then it is God in Christ in them  the hope of glory. Then they can come to God boldly and stand before him in righteousness for it is by way of Jesus Christ that they are made righteous.