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Bible Dictionaries

Fausset's Bible Dictionary


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tenah , from ta'an "to stretch out" its branches. The Ficus Carica (Carla being famed for figs) of Linnaeus. Under its appropriate covert Nathanael found that solitude and shade which suited his earnest communion with God (John 1:48). Adam and Eve used its leaves to cover their shame and nakedness; Nathanael to lay bore his soul "without guile" before God. Mount Olivet is still famed for its figtrees as of old. "To sit under one's own vine and figtree" was the proverb for peace and prosperity; so under Solomon (1 Kings 4:25); type of the true Solomon, Prince of peace, and of His coming millennial reign (Micah 4:4; Zechariah 3:10); men will be safe in the open field as in the house. The early ripe fig is "the hasty fruit" (Isaiah 28:4), Hebrew bikurah , Spanish bokkore . Figs usually ripened in August; earlier ones in June.

Esteemed a delicacy (Jeremiah 24:2; Hosea 9:10; Micah 7:1): "when he that looketh upon it seeth, while it is yet in his hand, he eateth it up"; it looks so tempting he instantly swallows it; so the Assyrian conqueror Shalmaneser shall not merely conquer, but with impatient avidity destroy Samaria. The unripe fig (pag ) hangs through the winter and ripens in the spring about Easter (Song of Solomon 2:13). Beth-phage, "house of green figs," is derived from it. Figs were compressed into the form of round cakes for keeping (1 Samuel 25:18), debeelim . They were used as a plaster for boils (Isaiah 38:21); God can make the most ordinary means effectual. The difficulty in Mark 11:12 is solved thus: the leaves on the "one" figtree, when all others were bore, caught Jesus' eye "afar off"; as the fruit precedes the leaves, naturally He might have expected, for satisfying His hunger, figs from a tree with such a precocious show of leaf, even though the season of figs was not yet come.

It was the unseasonable display of leaves which led Him to come and see "if haply (if as might naturally be expected) He might find anything thereon." Similarly the Jews (for it was an acted parable) had the show of religion before the. general time of religious privileges; but that was all, the fruit of real love which ought to precede the profession was wanting. The "for" expresses the unseasonableness of the leaves. "He found nothing but leaves (i.e. He found no figs); FOR the time of figs was not yet." Mark states why no fruit was found, "for," etc. The reason why it ought to have had fruit is left for us to infer, namely, its abnormal precocious leaves, which Christ had a right to expect would be accompanied with abnormal fruit, for the fig fruit precedes the leaf. Christ cursed it, not because it was fruitless, (for the season of figs was not yet, and if it had been leafless He would not have sought fruit on it,) but because it was false to its high pretensions.

Thomson (The Land and the Book) says that in a sheltered spot figs of an early kind may occasionally be found ripe as soon as the beginning of April, the time of Christ's cursing the fig tree. In Matthew 21:19 it is "one fig tree," standing out an exception to all the rest. The Jews' sin was, they were singled out by God from all nations (Amos 3:2), and had the Tower to bring forth the leaves of precocious profession but not the will to bring forth the fruit of faith and love. The sheltering hillside of Olivet had protected it, the sunlight had cherished it, and the dews of heaven watered it; but precocious leaves were the only result.

Compare Isaiah 5 as to God's care of Israel; the only result was not merely unfruitfulness but deceptiveness, "the rustling leaves of a religious profession, barren traditions of the Pharisees, and vain exuberance of words without the good fruit of works" (Wordsworth); ostentatious promise of antedating the Gentile church in fruit, without performance; pretentious show and hypocrisy. Fig trees overhanging the road from Jerusalem to Bethany still grow out of the rocks of the mountain which, the Lord said, faith could remove to the distant sea (Matthew 21:21). On Olivet too was spoken the parable of the budding fig tree, the sign of coming summer (Luke 21:29-30). The August figs are the sweetest and best.

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Bibliography Information
Fausset, Andrew R. Entry for 'Fig'. Fausset's Bible Dictionary. 1949.

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