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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible

Fig

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FIG . ( te’çnâh ). The common fig, fruit of the Ficus carica , is cultivated from one end of Palestine to the other, especially in the mountainous regions, occupying to-day a place as important as it did in Bible times. The failure of the fig and grape harvest would even now bring untold distress ( Jeremiah 5:17 , Habakkuk 3:17 etc.). Although the figs are all of one genus, the fellahîn distinguish many varieties according to the quality and colour of the fruit.

The summer foliage of the fig is thick, and excels other trees for its cool and grateful shade. In the summer the owners of gardens everywhere may be seen sitting in the shadow of their fig trees. It is possible the references in Micah 4:4 , Zechariah 3:10 may be to this, or to the not uncommon custom of having fig trees overhanging rural dwellings. Although fig trees are of medium height, some individual trees ( e.g. near Jenin reach to over 25 feet high. Self-sown fig trees are usually barren, and are known to the natives as wild or ‘male’ fig trees. The fruiting of the fig is very interesting and peculiar. Though earlier in the plains, the annual occurrence in the mountain regions, e.g. round Jerusalem, is as follows: The trees, which during the winter months have lost all their leaves, about the end of March begin putting forth their tender leaf buds ( Matthew 24:32 , Mark 13:28-32 , Luke 21:29-33 ), and at the junction of the old wood with these leaves appear at the same time the tiny figs. These little figs develop along with the leaves up to a certain point, to about the size of a small cherry, and then the great majority of them fall to the ground, carried down with every gust of wind. These immature figs are known as the taksh , and are eaten by the fellahîn as they fall; they may indeed sometimes be seen exposed for sale in the market in Jerusalem. They are the paggim (‘green figs’) of Song of Solomon 2:13 , and the olynthoi (‘untimely figs’) of Revelation 6:13 . In the case of some trees, especially the best varieties, a certain proportion of these little green figs continue to develop, and reach ripeness in June. These are then known as the dafûr or early figs, mentioned in Isaiah 28:4 , Jeremiah 24:2 , Hosea 9:10 , Micah 7:1 , as bikkûrâh , ‘the figs first ripe.’ They are to-day, as of old, specially esteemed for their delicate flavour. As the dafûr are ripening, the little buds of the next crop begin to appear higher up the branches. These steadily develop and form the second and great crop of figs, which comes about August.

In the much-discussed miracle of our Lord (Matthew 21:18-20 , Mark 11:12-13; Mark 11:20-21 ) we may dismiss at once the theory that He came looking for figs from the previous season, as He would certainly not have found any such survivors, and such fruit would not have been eatable. On the other hand, at the Passover season, about April, when the young leaves are on the fig trees, every tree which is going to bear fruit at all will have some taksh on it, and so, though it is a true statement that ‘the time of figs,’ i.e. of ordinary edible figs, ‘was not yet’ ( Mark 11:13 ), yet there would be fruit which could be, and is to-day, eaten, and fruit, too, which would be a guarantee of a harvest to come later on. It was the want of promise of future fruitfulness in the Jewish nation for which they were condemned in the acted parable of the barren fig tree. It may be noted, however, that in May many fig trees may be found round Jerusalem which have dropped all their ‘green figs’ (none ripening to dafûr ) and have not yet put forth the buds of the late summer crop.

Figs are eaten in Palestine not only fresh but dried, the fruit being often threaded on to long strings for convenience of carriage. They are also pressed into a solid cake which can be cut in slices with a knife. These are the fig-cakes of 1 Samuel 25:18; 1Sa 30:12 , 1 Chronicles 12:40 . A lump of such was used as a poultice for Hezekiah’s boil, 2 Kings 20:7 , Isaiah 28:21 .

E. W. G. Masterman.

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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Fig'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hdb/f/fig.html. 1909.

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