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Bible Dictionaries

1910 New Catholic Dictionary

Fig Tree

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The Bible supposes the presence of the fig-tree throughout all Palestine, and regards it as one of the characteristic products of the land (Deuteronomy 8), together with the vine, so that a land which has neither fig-tree nor vine is considered wretched (Numbers 20). Figs, with other fruit, were brought back from Palestine by the envoys of Moses to give an idea of the fertility of the land (Numbers 13). The tree loses its leaves during the winter, but these begin to grow again towards the end of March, or the beginning of April. As early as the end of February, little figs grow at the junction of the old wood and the leaves, but they develop only to the size of a cherry, are inedible, and soon fall for the most part. The few that continue to develop ripen in June, and are "the figs of the first season," described as "very good" (Jeremiah 24). In the meantime other buds grow which form the real crop, ripe in August. Figs were eaten fresh or dried, and in the latter case were pressed into solid cakes (1 Kings 25). Figs were also used for medicinal purposes as in the poultice which healed the boil of Ezechias (4Kings 20). Both the sweet fruit and the abundant foliage, which protects from the sun, are often referred to in Scripture, in descriptions of peace and prosperity (Judges 9; 3Kings 4). The fig-tree figures in the New Testament in the symbolic action of Our Lord (Matthew 21; Mark 11), which is a reminder of the symbolic actions of the prophets of the Old Testament. Other references in the New Testament to the fig-tree and figs are in Matthew 7,24; John 1; James 3; Apocalypse 6.

The parable of the Barren Fig-tree is given in Luke 13, in connection with the call to repentance, inspired by recent misfortunes which should cause the nation of Israel to think, else destruction awaits them. The parable speaks of a fig-tree, planted in a vineyard. After a lapse of time which would allow the tree to grow to the bearing stage, the owner comes three years in succession, but finds no fruit. Disappointed by continual failure which leaves no hope for the future, the owner orders the tree cut down, but at the request of the vine dresser he consents to try again and to spare the tree for another year. The vine dresser hopes that additional care may help the tree to bear fruit. The application of the parable to the case of Israel is sufficiently clear to need no further explanation. Like the fig-tree Israel receives special care from God; the mission of Christ is the last of those proofs of the Divine love for the nation, and if the people fail to respond and to heed the call, they are doomed to destruction.


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Bibliography Information
Entry for 'Fig Tree'. 1910 New Catholic Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/ncd/f/fig-tree.html. 1910.

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