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Trees of the Bible: Olive I

Typically seen as a symbol of peace, the olive tree appears many times in the Bible. Out of all the vegetation in Judea, the olive played an important role in shaping the landscape of the region. It was quite abundant , growing in masses on the shores of the Mediterranean. In this article, you will learn the archeological evidence surrounding the olive, as well as its place in the Bible.

Origin of the Olive Tree

The olive is a native plant to the Mediterranean region, as well as tropical and central Asia, and various parts of Africa. The cultivation of the olive is seen as one of the first achievements of main, as the history of the olive is nearly as long as the history of the Western civilization. Archeologists have used carbon dating to reveal the age of an olive seed found at a site in Spain. It dated back 8,000 years. Archeological data suggests that olives were being grown in Crete as far back as in 2,500 BC. From here, olives made their way to the ancient Greeks, Romans, and other cultures dwelling in the Mediterranean region.

The olive is an evergreen tree that can reach a height of 50 feet. The tree has an attractive appearance with a grace that makes it a popular addition to a yard , especially with its eye-catching pattern of branches. With regular pruning, the tree can be controlled to grow to around 20 feet. With a long life and ability to easily sprout back even after being chopped to the ground, the olive tree can survive for 500 years.

Olives are called green drupes , turning a generally blackish-purple color when fully matured and ripe. The fruit can vary in shape, size, oil levels, flavor, and color (from brown, green and black).  

Olive Trees in the Bible

Out of all the trees mentioned in religious texts, the olive was the most abundant during Biblical times. Throughout the pages of the Bible, there are numerous references to the olive tree with more than 100 pertaining to its oil. For example, in Deuteronomy 8:8, there are three trees mentioned as part of the land: the fig, pomegranate, and the olive. The branches, berries and other parts also appear in the Bible in various forms.

The first time that a reference to the olive tree is made in the Bible is in Genesis 8:11 with a mention of the leaf. When Noah (of the Ark) saw the leaf, he knew that it was OK to establish a race in what had become the ‘new earth.’  According to the New Living Translation, it is stated: ” “This time the dove returned to him in the evening with a fresh olive leaf in its beak. Then Noah knew that the floodwaters were almost gone.”

To learn more about how olive trees and olive oil figured into the Bible, continue reading the article titled, “Trees of the Bible: Olive II.”