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olive trees in the Bible

Olive trees. Photo © J.N. Photographer. License: CC BY-NC 2.0. File ID: Torcida JN Photo.R0017054
Olive trees

Olive trees and their fruit are frequently mentioned in Scripture.

The first mention in Scripture of this tree is when the dove from the ark brought an olive leaf to Noah (Genesis 8:11).

The olive tree is mentioned among the most notable trees of Israel, where it was cultivated long before the time of the Hebrews (Deuteronomy 6:11; 8:8). It is referred to as an emblem of prosperity and beauty and religious privilege (Psalm 52:8; Jeremiah 11:16; Hos. 14:6) and is named among the blessings of the “good land.”

Today, it is the characteristic tree of Israel. The oldest olive trees in the country are those which are enclosed in the Garden of Gethsemane, a name that comes from the Aramaic word for oil press.

Parable mention

The olive tree is mentioned in the first Old Testament parable, that of Jotham (Judges 9:9)

But the olive tree said to them, ‘Shall I leave my fatness with which God and men are honored, and go to wave over the trees?’ —Judges 9:9 NASB

2 Witnesses

The two “witnesses” of the Great Tribulation mentioned in Revelation 11:4 are spoken of as “two olive trees standing before the God of the Earth.” (Compare Zechariah 4:3, 11-14.)

Grafting

In Romans 11:17 Paul refers to the practice of grafting shoots of the wild olive into a “good” olive which has become unfruitful. By such a process the sap of the good olive, by pervading the branch which is “graffed in,” makes it a good branch, bearing good olives. Thus the Gentiles, being a “wild olive,” but now “graffed in,” yield fruit, but only through the sap of the tree into which they have been graffed. This is a process “contrary to nature” (11:24).

The “olive-tree, wild by nature” (Romans 11:24), is the shoot or cutting of the good olive-tree which, left ungrafted, grows up to be a “wild olive.”

Samson

The Israelite judge Samson set Philistine olive orchards ablaze, which made them furious.

So Samson went and caught 300 foxes and took torches. And he turned them tail to tail and put a torch between each pair of tails. And when he had set fire to the torches, he let the foxes go into the standing grain of the Philistines and set fire to the stacked grain and the standing grain, as well as the olive orchards.
—Judges 15:4-5 ESV

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