Coming from a tree that’s native to ancient Palestine, olive wood is a product that serves religious purposes. Growing in a place where the distance between one tree and the next is far, olive wood was rare and precious. Even today, it remains so, as many products are carved from olive tree.
The olive oil is one such product. Pressing the fruit of the tree produces a pure oil, which requires no heat and little pressure to process. Pure oil can be used for religious and secular purposes. The by-product is used to make soap.
Planting olive tree or burying someone under it was an exception rather than a rule (Genesis 21:33; 35:8). Not anyone could build a house using rafters and beams of pine or cedar, let alone the olive tree (Song 1:17).
The Bible indirectly mentions the olive tree 250 times, but this isn’t an indication of abundance. It’s an emphasis of the value the Scripture places on something that grows in a place where trees of its kind are scarce.
It shouldn’t surprise you why olive trees are rare to find. They grow slowly, and by the seventh year of growth, fruits form. But olive tree remains productive for most of its life. The tree loses its trunk by 200th year, developing a shoot that grows to become another tree. Its life cycle is interpreted as a sign of immortality, and it’s little wonder why all religions and nations of the world consider it as holy.
Historic Events in the Bible Occurred Under and Around the Olive Tree
Teachings and prayers took place under an olive tree on a slope of a mountain where Jesus was arrested: Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. The slope of the mountain was covered with olive wood vegetation. The Garden of Gethsemane, as it was known, was indeed unique. No where else would you find many olive wood trees in one place.
It’s also under an olive tree that Jesus felt the gravity of his earthly assignment. And so, he prayed, “Let this cup pass from me but not My will but Yours be done.” He felt as if a heavy weight was pressed against him, as he was praying. Jesus felt an agonising pain.
That’s why we commemorate this historic event by pressing olive fruit to get a product whose purity is comparable to the Holy Spirit. The Lord reminds us to always smear ourselves with pure olive oil to allow His Spirit to walk in our presence; hence, protect us from harmful spirits that darken our spirits.
Jesus’s ascendance to heaven took place at the Mount of Olives. The Bible also mentions how pruning and branching increases the productivity of the tree (John 15:2).
The branch of olive tree symbolizes end of God’s wrath upon humans. We see this in Genesis 8:11, after the Great Flood wiped a sinful world, God must have cut out a branch from olive tree, attached it to a dove’s mouth and sent the bird back to Noah. In a way, He’s extended olive branch, making peace with us again.
Source of Life
In stories of creation, the Bible mentions trees eight times. Trees symbolize life, especially in areas, like deserts, where signs of life are hard to come by (Psalms 1:3; Jeremiah 17:8). Ezekiel envisions an end of life that’s associated with trees (Ezekiel 47:12; Revelation 22:2).
Trees remind us that God is the ultimate provider (Psalms 104:16, 17). Olive tree can signify abundance in a place where there’s none (Psalms 1:3; Jeremiah 17:8).
The Bible makes repeated references to trees in stories related to salvation (Genesis 2:9). The trees of life and knowledge of good and bad are mentioned again in the book of Revelation 22:2.
The leaves symbolize the healing power of the symbolic trees, and a lampstand made of gold in a tabernacle symbolizes the tree of life. Trees serve to bless and curse. It’s through a tree that Christ was cursed, leading to an end of death and revival of life and immortality (1 Peter 2:24).
In the book of Ezekiel, we see a tree acting as a symbol of:
- Royalty (Ezekiel 31:2)
- Beauty (31:3)
- Protection (31:6)
- Dependency (31:4)
- Pride (31:10)
- Judgment (34:12, 18).
The olive wood cross is made up of a material whose source is a tree that’s native to the ancient Palestine. The Bible makes references to trees to symbolize life, knowledge of good and bad, immortality, curse and blessing. Trees have a figurative meaning in a Bible, and we can see trees representing attributes such as royalty, pride, judgment, dependency, beauty and protection.