Fig Tree

Fig branchFicus carica (Moraceae)

"Learn a lesson from the fig‑tree. When its tender shoots appear and are breaking into leaf, you know that summer is near." (Matt.24:32 NEB)

The fig features on several famous occasions in the Bible, in which it has the distinction of being the first plant to be mentioned. "The eyes of both of them were opened and they discovered that they were naked; so they stitched fig‑ leaves together and made themselves loincloths." (Gen.3:7 NEB) Or, as the Geneva Bible (1560) has it, "they...made themselves breeches."

The Hebrew word for the fig tree is Teenah, meaning to "spread out." Its habits of growth vary; it can crawl like a climber or be a good‑sized tree in its own right, when it can be enjoyed for its shade. It has always been usual to have a fig tree in one’s garden; it gave shade as well as fruit, and one could sit under it in peace. "Each man shall dwell under his own vine, under his own fig‑tree, undisturbed." (Mic.4:4 NEB)

The fruit of the fig tree is not really a fruit at all; it is a large, fleshly, hollow receptacle which contains the flowers. We know about the fig tree’s unreliable fruit‑bearing habits, from our own experience and from our Lord’s disappointment at finding a fig tree with a great show of leaves but no fruit. It probably reminded him of the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and he "cursed" it roundly. "And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward, for ever. And presently the fig tree withered away." (Matt.21:19)

The fig, the vine and the olive are the most important fruit trees in the Holy Land. It was known as being "a land of wheat and barley, of vines, fig‑trees, and pomegranates." (Deut.8:8 NEB)

The Flowers and Fruits of the Bible
John Chancellor