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Trees of the Bible: Olive III

The connection between the children of Israel and olive oil was significant. It was used on a daily basis and played a prominent role in their lives. The oil also served as a symbol for honor and prosperity. In this article, you will encounter passages from the Bible that highlight the important of the olive tree and olive oil.

The importance of the oil is seen in many verses of the Bible. In Deuteronomy 28:40, we learn that if one is disobedient to God, then you risk the loss of the olive crop: “You shall have olive trees throughout all your territory, but you shall not anoint yourself with the oil, for your olives shall drop off.” [English Standard Version]

Other references to the olive tree and its oil include:

Symbol of Honor

Olive oil was used to honor God and man, as seen in Judges 9:9: “But the olive tree refused, saying, ‘Should I quit producing the olive oil that blesses both God and people, just to wave back and forth over the trees?'” [New Living Translation]

Symbol of Prosperity

If you had large supplies of olive oil, it was seen as a sign of prosperity and wealth. Any excess oil did not go to waste. It could be stored for up to six years, and these deposits were important. Sometimes, certain people were designated the responsibility to stay in charge of the oil supply. This is seen in I Chronicles 27:28, where Joash is placed in this position during the days of King David: “Baal-Hanan the Gederite was in charge of the olive and sycamore-fig trees in the western foothills. Joash was in charge of the supplies of olive oil.” [New International Version]

Unique Characteristics

The olive tree possesses the admirable characteristic of the sprouts that produce at the base. In Biblical times, the olives often grew directly from the sprouts, and a farmer would choose and carefully remove the sprouts from his best trees. He’d then plant the sprouts in other locations. In Psalm 128:3, this feature of the tree is used in the reference in the New Living Translations, which states: “Your wife will be like a fruitful grapevine, flourishing within your home. Your children will be like vigorous young olive trees as they sit around your table.”

The olive tree starts to produce fruit in the autumn season. During Biblical times, olive trees were beaten with sticks and the olives that fell to the ground were picked up. This method is used even today. Although a ripened olive is jet black and appealing to the eye, it’s also quite bitter and hard to digest. In order to enjoy an edible flavor, olives are crushed to release their oil. Some villages would crush the olives between huge stones driven by draft animals. The process of today involves hydraulic presses.