Olive oil served a variety of purposes in the past. It was eaten as a food although there is no specific references that state olives themselves were eaten as a food. Olive oil was a source of illumination. The oil was used as an ointment. When making soap, the oil was added as an ingredient. If oil is mentioned within the Scriptures, but not necessarily referred to as ‘olive,’ it most likely came from the olive tree.
As a Facial Product
The arid conditions of the land during Biblical times called for the use of facial ointments , some of which were made with olive oil, as told in Psalm 104:15: “And wine which makes man’s heart glad, So that he may make his face glisten with oil, And food which sustains man’s heart.” [New American Standard Bible]
As a Source of Light
In the home, olive oil was important , used to provide light. In regards to lighting the lamps in the tabernacle, olive oil was mentioned in Leviticus 24:2; “Command the sons of Israel that they bring to you clear oil from beaten olives for the light, to make a lamp burn continually.” [New American Standard Bible]
Ingredient for Anointing Oil
In Exodus 30:24, we see that olives were used to make the anointing oil of the high priest: “And of cassia five hundred shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary, and of oil olive an hin.” This passage states the instructions for making the holy anointing oil.
An Attractive Tree
The tree produces small, cream-colored flowers that are full of fragrance. It’s hard to get a glimpse at the flowers since the evergreen leaves are so prominent. The attractive appearance of the tree is noted in Hosea 14:6 , “Its branches will spread out like beautiful olive trees, as fragrant as the cedars of Lebanon” [New Living Translation]
Olive Groves in Biblical Times
Olive trees were so abundant during Biblical times that nearly every village had its own grove. The olive trees were prized possessions that provided a great deal to families and the village. The destruction mentioned in the New Living Translation of Judges 15:5 would have certainly been detrimental to the inhabitants, “Then he lit the torches and let the foxes run through the grain fields of the Philistines. He burned all their grain to the ground, including the sheaves and the uncut grain. He also destroyed their vineyards and olive groves.” Another similar passage of 1 Samuel 8:14 from the New International Version states: “He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants.”