Traditionally, the olive tree was, and still is an important tree in Israel. For starters, olive oil had many uses ranging from cooking a delicious meal, applying it on the skin to protect it from the dry winds of the wilderness, using lamps as a fuel source to light up rooms at night, etc. But apart from the domestic uses, the olive tree also carries some noteworthy symbolisms in the Bible.
What Do Olive Trees Symbolize In the Bible?
The olive branch is famously known as a symbol of peace. This was adapted from the story of Noah’s flood where a dove returned to the ark with an olive branch to symbolise the end of the flood. However, olive trees also represent the blessing of God, the anointing, and God’s family.
The olive branch is widely accepted as a symbol of peace. The origins of the olive branch as a symbol of peace can be traced back to Genesis where it was first mentioned in the Bible. The flood of Noah had just ended and Noah released a raven and a dove from the ark to go and inspect if the water had receded. As the scripture records, the dove returned with an olive branch in his beak.
Then the dove came to him in the evening, and behold, a freshly plucked olive leaf was in her mouth, and Noah knew that the waters had receded from the earth. Genesis 8:11
The evil, corrupt, and violent nature of mankind had attracted God’s judgment which is why God sent the flood. Now that the flood was over, peace and righteousness had been restored on earth – and that is why the olive branch was adapted as a symbol of peace.
In Exodus 29, God commanded Moses to repurpose the olive oil and start using it as anointing oil. From then on, Olive oil has become a spiritual emblem not only in Judaism but in Christianity as well. The oil signifies longevity, prosperity, fruitfulness, and peace.
When issuing instructions on how Aaron and his descendants were to serve God, sanctification was of paramount importance. As such, they were to wash with water and wear clean linens. However, the priests were also to be anointed with oil. God instructed Moses to start by anointing Aaron and then all other priests were to be anointed in like manner.
And you shall take the anointing oil, pour it on his head, and anoint him. Exodus 29:7
This is where the practice of anointing people started. Even though it was initially meant for consecrating ministers, the anointing oil has become a symbol of concentration for other people and things as well. For instance, it is now used to dedicate babies, property, etc in the book of James, the Bible recommends that sick people should be anointed with oil.
Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. James 5:14
The anointing oil – which is made from olive oil is therefore an emblem of God’s power. It is this power that consecrates as well as breaks the yoke of the enemy.
It is common knowledge that God promises to take Israel into a land flowing with milk and honey. But honey and milk were not the only good things in the land – the land would also be full of olive oil. This is what the Bible says in Deuteronomy:
For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, that flow out of valleys and hills; a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey. Deuteronomy 8:7-8
In this context, olive oil – and by extension olive trees – symbolize the blessing of God. Olive oil encapsulates all that the blessing of God brings. For instance, olive trees can last for as long as 2,000 years. As such, olive trees symbolize God’s blessing of longevity and fruitfulness.
There are a couple of other scriptures that use olive trees/olive oil as a symbol of the blessing. A good example is the blessing of children which have been likened to olive trees.
Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine in the very heart of your house, your children like olive plants all around your table. Psalms 128:3
The scripture also draws a parallel between green olives and God’s people to illustrate how fruitful God’s people can be as a result of the blessing.
But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God; I trust in the mercy of God forever and ever. Psalms 52:8
God’s Family (The Church)
The olive tree is also used to describe God’s family which is made up of Israel and the Gentiles. As Paul explains in Romans 1, the Gentiles are like a wild olive branch that was grafted into the main tree. This indicates how God’s people were initially the Isrelites but after the covenant of grace, the Gentiles were also allowed to join the family through faith in Jesus Christ. This symbolism ties in well with the sermon of Jesus in John 15 in which God the Father was likened to a farmer. As an expert farmer, God expertly grafted the wild olive branch (Gentiles) into the main tree and ended up with one fruitful tree.
To sum things up, the olive tree holds significant symbolism in the Bible. It represents peace through the story of Noah’s Ark, signifying the restoration of peace after judgment. Olive oil symbolizes anointing, sanctification, and divine power, extending to various aspects of life. Olive trees also symbolize God’s blessings, emphasizing longevity and fruitfulness. Lastly, they represent God’s united family, where both Israelites and Gentiles are grafted together, reflecting the unity of God’s people. These symbols highlight God’s grace, peace, anointing, blessings, and unity, offering profound spiritual insights into His love and plan for humanity.