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Bible Dictionaries
Fig, Fig-Tree

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

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(συκῆ, σῦκου, ὄλυνθος)

Apart from the three references in the Gospels (Matthew 7:16, Mark 11:13, Luke 6:44), figs are mentioned only twice in the NT (James 3:12, Revelation 6:13). In James the ordinary words συκῆ, ‘fig-tree,’ and σῦκον, ‘fig,’ are used, but in Rev. ὄλυνθος is the word employed to denote the fruit. The latter term designates a fig which grows during the winter under the leaves, but seldom ripens.

The meaning of James 3:12 is clear: a tree is known by its fruits; a fig-tree cannot bring forth olives, neither can an olive-tree bring forth figs; a man’s ‘works’ are, in short, an infallible index to his ‘faith’ (James 2:18). In Revelation 6:13 figs form part of the imagery in the vision of the Opening of the First Six Seals. The Seer beholds the stars of heaven falling to the earth ‘as a fig-tree casteth her unripe figs, when she is shaken of a great gale,’ In the ordinary way these winter figs (ὄλυνθοι) did not ripen, so here the judgment predicted is not about to cut off prematurely those who if spared would develop into matured and useful fruit, but those who are ‘without hope and without God in the world’-in short, the ‘cumberers of the ground.’

The fig-tree is native to Palestine and is found either cultivated or wild all over the country. Those which are wild are usually barren or at all events boar no edible fruit, and they are known as ‘male’ fig-trees. There are many varieties of fig-trees cultivated, some of which yield a sharp, bitter fruit, and others a sweet, mellow one. It is noticeable that in the description of the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 8:8) fig-trees are mentioned as one of its leading natural characteristics. They are of moderate sine, though sometimes attaining a, height of 25 ft, while the stem is sometimes over 3 ft. in diameter. The bark is smooth, and the size and thickness of the leaves readily explain the point of the Jewish proverb-‘to sit under one’s own vine and one’s own fig-tree’ (1 Kings 4:25, Micah 4:4, Zechariah 3:10). As a matter of fact, its foliage affords better shade and protection than any other tree in Palestine. It is one of the earliest trees to shoot, and its first fruit-buds appear before its leases (cf. Matthew 24:32, Mark 13:28, Luke 21:29-30). The fruit is an enlarged succulent hollow receptacle, containing the imperfect flowers in its interior; consequently the flowers are invisible till the receptacle has been opened. The figs are eaten both fresh and dried, and they are often compressed into a cake (cf. 1 Samuel 25:18; 1 Samuel 30:12, 1 Chronicles 12:40). The time the tree comes into leaf and fruiting varies according to the situation, and is later in the hill-country than in the plains. On the hills, the branches which have remained bare and naked all through the winter put forth their early leaf-buds about the end of March, and at the same time diminutive figs begin to appear where the young leaves join the branches. These tiny figs Continue to grow with the leaves until they reach about the size of a cherry, then the majority of them fall to the ground or are blown down by the wind. These are the ὄλυνθοι of Revelation 6:13 (see above).

Literature.-H. B. Tristram, Natural History of Bible10, 1911, p. 350f; H. B. Swete, Apocalypse of St. John2, 1907. p. 93; W. M. Thomson The Land and the Book 1910 ed., p. 333; J. C. Geikie, The Holy Land and the Bible, 1903 ed., pp. 66, 74. Cf. also Hastings’ Single-vol. Dictionary of the Bible , p. 262f; Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols) ii. 5, 6; Encyclopaedia Biblica ii. 1519-1522.

P. S. P. Handcock.

Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Fig, Fig-Tree'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​hdn/​f/fig-fig-tree.html. 1906-1918.
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