What is the Significance of the Olive Tree in the Bible? 

The olive tree in the Bible is a symbol of God’s covenant, faithfulness, steadfastness, and promise to His people. 

In the Bible, the olive tree symbolizes many meanings, one of which is faith and community. It is reasonable to assume that when oil is referenced in the Bible, it is always olive oil. The olive tree stands for harmony, prosperity, and God’s providence. In this article, we look deeper into the reasons the olive tree is the “tree of life.” We also delve into its significance to our faith and walk in Christ.

Olive Tree in the Bible

Olive Tree in the Bible

What is an olive tree?

The Hebrew term for olive tree is yit (עץ זית), which means “tree of oil.” It originated from a prehistoric word that meant “to shine.” The olive tree is a common evergreen in the Holy Land. It has many branches, a smooth, ash-colored bark, and elliptical, leathery leaves with a silvery green tint. 

An olive tree can mature and reach 20 feet or more. Because of their slow development, olive trees are notoriously time-consuming. The olive tree was crucial to the Mediterranean economy because it thrived in the hot, dry conditions typical of the region.

Olives, the tree’s fruit, develop after the blossoms fall. The fruit starts green, but when the olives are completely mature and picked in the early fall, they take on a dark, blue-black or dark green hue. The highly prized commodity of olive oil is extracted from the exterior, fleshy section of the oval-shaped fruit. Olive oil is still a healthy food choice for many at present.

What are the attributes of an olive tree in the Bible?

Olive trees have deep, wide-reaching root systems that help ensure the plant receives enough water even when the foliage is dry. The extensive root systems allow olive trees to stand high, emphasizing their unique beauty. Olive leaves are exquisitely slender and shimmer nicely in the breeze; they are pale green on one side and much paler on the other. 

The olive tree may look like any other tree from the outside: average in size and shape, perhaps even unsightly, and, during olive harvest season, untidy due to the abundance of fallen fruit. Even if the trunk is severed, the olive tree will continue to live on through new shoots from its roots. Olive wood is exceptionally durable and attractive to the eye. The olive tree, however, is a lot more complex than most people realize.

What are the uses of the olive tree in the Bible?

In the past, oil, like olive oil, was a sign of prestige, happiness, and grace. So, just as oil was not applied to the body during mourning, it was not to be used in conjunction with purifying rites linked with dishonor, humiliation, grief, and disfavor.

After a refreshing shower, the body and hair would be anointed with olive oil. In the Book of Ruth, Naomi told Ruth to clean up, be anointed, and dress up before searching for Boaz. David also bathed, anointed himself, and put on fresh garments before entering the sanctuary of God to worship Him.

The olive tree was also a productive tree with various uses. For this reason, it was anointed “the king of trees.” It was also used for food, medicine, and wood for furniture.

What does the olive tree symbolize in the Bible?

Peace and reconciliation

Since Noah’s flood, the olive tree and its branches have stood as symbols of peace and reconciliation. In Genesis, the dove handed Noah “a plucked olive leaf in its beak.” When the dove returned with the olive branch to Noah’s Ark, it was a sign that the Great Flood had ended and that peace had returned to the world. 

Such symbolized the growth of new life on Earth. It was clear that the olive tree was alive and thriving. The olive branch was a symbol of a new tomorrow. It conveyed the message of reconciliation, peace with God, and rebirth and regeneration for all of humankind. 

The olive tree’s gradual, robust development is an additional indication of stability and peace. Wild olive trees symbolize peace and stability because of their strong growth. The biblical symbol of an olive branch was used to signify the cessation of hostilities and strife. Biblical references to olive branches from wild olive trees convey peace and brotherhood.

Olive Tree in the Bible

Prosperity, beauty, and joy

The olive tree is renowned for its resiliency and fruitfulness under adverse circumstances. It is commonly linked to prosperity and the realization of God’s promises. The picture of an olive tree filled with fruit depicts God’s sustenance and the fruits of righteousness.

The Book of Psalms describes children as “vigorous young olive trees.” Because of its fruitfulness and resilience, the olive tree is used as a metaphor for a good person. It is also connected to the Festival of Joy, which is the Feast of the Tabernacles.

Anointing of the Holy Spirit

The Bible often represents the Holy Spirit and enlightenment as olive oil. Olive oil, used to dilute the spices that comprised the holy anointing oil, is a biblical symbol for the presence of the Holy Spirit. For example, in Zechariah 4, the prophet likens the two olive branches to the “anointed ones” – Joshua and Zerubbabel. The Lord tells them not to put their faith in material possessions or human forces but in the Holy Spirit of God working through them. 

In the Old Testament, God’s Holy Spirit is often compared to olive oil. Oil pressed from olives was used to anoint kings, priests, and prophets, symbolizing God’s election of these individuals and imparting the ability to speak for God upon them. Therefore, the olive tree is a symbol of the Holy Spirit’s illumination and direction.

Sacrifice of Jesus Christ

The beating and crushing of olives used to make olive oil have also spiritual and biblical importance. This is a representation depicted accurately through Jesus Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection. Jesus suffered and died so He may pour His Holy Spirit on His Church. God’s olive tree is Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit is God’s olive oil. 

Before Jesus was arrested in Gethsemane, He said a gut-wrenching prayer. It is worth noting that Gethsemane means “olive press.” It is a place that is abundant with olive trees.

Covenant relationship of God and His people

In the Book of Jeremiah, God employs the picture of an olive tree to remind His people of the covenant connection He has with them. The Israelites are olive trees, and God is the farmer. God said that just like an olive tree, he would cut them down if they disobeyed Him. 

In the New Testament, Paul likens Israel and Christians to cultivated olive trees. The olive tree in a garden is carefully tended to and trimmed to produce an abundance of olives. The useless and inefficient branches are cut off, but the root remains. All of these show how God protected Israel’s sacred origin and cut away the lawless and unholy parts.

Significance of Olive Tree in the Bible

The olive tree is referenced more than any other plant in the Bible. Olive trees symbolized  Jesus’ Jewish heritage and the bond between Jews and Gentiles. The olive tree in the Bible represents more than just an actual tree. It is a powerful symbol of God’s Spirit. 

A more profound significance of the olive tree in Scripture is revealed when we see it as a beautiful symbol of our connection with God. The olive tree symbolizes the need for Christians to mature spiritually, the call for the church to work together, and the duty of Christians to use their talents to glorify God. 

God’s holy “root” is planted into our hearts when we embrace Jesus as our Messiah, and we become adopted children to His family. When His Spirit takes up residence in us, we can shine as His ambassadors in the world.

Verses with an olive tree in the Bible

But as for me, I am like a green olive tree in the house of God; I trust the steadfast love of God forever and ever. Psalm 52:8

Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table. Psalm 128:3

But if some branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you. Romans 11:17-18

These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the Earth. And if anyone would harm them, fire pours from their mouth and consumes their foes. If anyone would harm them, this is how he is doomed to be killed. Revelation 11:4-5

I will be like the dew to Israel; he shall blossom like the lily; he shall take root like the trees in Lebanon; his shoots shall spread out; his beauty shall be like the olive, and his fragrance like Lebanon. Hosea 14:5-6

Olive Tree in the Bible

In Summary

The olive tree in the Bible extends well beyond its mere physical characteristics. It represents Israel’s foundation, stability, prosperity, enlightenment, and perseverance. The olive tree is a symbol of God’s covenant and promise to His people. It is also a symbol of faithfulness and steadfastness. 

Learning more about the olive tree’s symbolic meaning in the Bible helps us better grasp the timeless and venerable ideas it conveys. God’s blessings may be seen in many forms in the olive tree. Like the olive tree, we will go through complex and challenging times. But with the help of the Holy Spirit, we will be able to produce good fruit and bring glory to God through our lives. 

The goal is to remain given to the Spirit, endure the growth seasons, and be utilized as vessels for His praise and glory.

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Alex Shute
Alex Shute, MBA
Alex is a family man and entrepreneur based in Los Angeles. His passion is to serve the global Church and bring people of diverse backgrounds together to learn & grow.

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