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Fig Tree

The fig tree is Ficus carica. The fruit (συ̂κον, G5192) is a succulent, enlarged hollow receptacle, containing the flowers inside. The flowers are not seen unless the fruit is cut open. The land of Pal. was described (Deut 8:8) as “a land of...vines and fig trees”—those who searched the land (Num 13:23) “brought...of the figs.”

Again and again the fig tree is used by God to indicate the prosperity of the Jewish nation, (1 Kings 4:25 and Mic 4:4). Figs were made into cakes called debēlîm, and cakes of figs were brought to David (1 Chron 12:40), while Abigail gave 200 cakes of figs to David in Hebron (1 Sam 25:18).

Hezekiah is cured of his illness by a “lump” of figs being laid on the boil, presumably as a poultice (2 Kings 20:7; Isa 38:21). The falling or the destruction of figs is used in the Bible to indicate the Lord’s judgment. (See Isa 34:4; Jer 5:17; 8:13; Hos 2:12; Joel 1:7.)

The fig is mentioned in Genesis 3:7 when Adam and Eve pulled off the leaves in order to make a semblance of a covering—or as Moffatt puts it, a “girdle.” This is far more likely than the “breeches” of the Geneva Bible.

There are today in the Holy Land both cultivated varieties of figs and wild figs. Most modern Israeli gardens contain a trained fig tree, and it is foretold in the OT that in the final days every man will sit under his own fig tree. Looked after, the fig can be a thirty ft. tall, strong tree—growing wild, it will straggle uncontrolled over the rocks and stony places.

Figs are shaped generally like pears though there are rounder varieties. At the farthest end from the stalk there is a small aperture through which a pollinating insect, called the fig wasp, may go. When the ripened fig is eaten, the little somewhat gritty seeds are “felt”—these are indeed the true fruits. The fig is the receptacle that holds them.

In the E, the fig tree produces two definite crops of fruits per season. The normal winter figs ripen in May and June and the summer figs in late August and September. Sometimes, one crop overlaps the other. The baby fruit buds are usually seen in February before the leaves appear in April each year.

It is possible to pick fruits over nine or ten months of the year in Pal. In Europe, and esp. in Great Britain, the baby figlets are killed during the winter, and so the first crop is never produced. Fig trees have lived for over 400 years. In the days of Pliny, there actually were six known varieties.

Our Lord condemned a fig tree at Passover time on Mount Olivet (Mark 11:13; Matt 21:19). This tree should have borne early ripe figs. The Lord would have known whether the tree should have been cropping. Moses had said that fruit borne on trees by the wayside could be picked by passers-by.

Young fig trees growing in the drier regions need to be mulched with dung (Luke 13:8). Even today in Pal. fig trees grow in the corners of vineyards. Fig trees must have grown well in Bethphage, which means “house of figs.”

A fig tree produces masses of large green leaves and gives ample welcome shade in a hot country. This is the reason one finds a fig planted next to a well. The thick dark shade keeps the water cool. See Agriculture.