Christianity 201

February 14, 2018

Tree Imagery in the Bible

Psalm 1:3 He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season And its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers.
Numbers 17:8  Now on the next day Moses went into the tent of the testimony; and behold, the rod of Aaron for the house of Levi had sprouted and put forth buds and produced blossoms, and it bore ripe almonds.
Habakkuk 3:17&18  Though the fig tree should not blossom And there be no fruit on the vines, Though the yield of the olive should fail And the fields produce no food, Though the flock should be cut off from the fold And there be no cattle in the stalls, Yet I will rejoice in LORD. I will joy in the God of my salvation.

Read 50 more verses related to trees at Knowing Jesus.

We added this one which I’d like to spend more time focusing on in future, I think there’s a lot going on in the (formerly) blind man’s comment:

Mark 8:24 NLT The man looked around. “Yes,” he said, “I see people, but I can’t see them very clearly. They look like trees walking around.”

Overview: Many articles online focus on the contrast of the “bookended” trees in scripture: The tree in the Garden of Eden and the Tree of Life in the book of Revelation. But there are other trees as well, which we decided to think about today. (If quoting from this, please cite the original link, not ours.)

First, a general comment from Rev Douglas Taylor-Weiss:

One of our problems in biblical interpretation lies in our inability to see the world as charged with the power and glory of God. We decide that, for example, the “tree of life” means such-and-such. Then we pretty much discard the actual tree and proceed to its “meaning.” In our world, things have lost their enchantment and their glory, and are just things. To us, a star is just nuclear fusion; a snake is just a reptile; a baby is just an arrangement of cells. We cannot see the inside — the interiority — of things…

…Trees then continue to play their role in the biblical story. We have fig trees and sycamores, the cedars of Lebanon (today mostly destroyed) and the shoot that grows out of a stump. Of special interest is the grapevine — not exactly a tree, yet functioning as one when Jesus tells his followers, “I am the vine, you are the branches, and my Father is the gardener.”

Steve Allison writes,

…Trees are in the background and in the foreground of the Bible.  From the beginning to end.  They are a critical part of the action.  The Tree of Life is mentioned early in the Genesis and also in the last chapter of Revelation, for example.  There are over thirty kinds of them mentioned in the Bible.  Some like the olive tree are mentioned quite often and are well know to us, both as to physical, literal manifestation and some of its symbolic meaning, ie. you know what the olive branch signifies.  In some cases it is not certain what kind of tree it is that is being described.

Perhaps you didn’t realize it but trees figure in the story of Abraham, in several places.  For instance, after the call to leave Ur we are told in Genesis 12: 6  Abram traveled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. At that time the Canaanites were in the land.  “Moreh” means teacher.  It was a significant tree for Abraham and the Canaanites.  Was some kind of school there? Was it an Oak?  Some think it was…

The balance of today’s article is from Athena:

Significant Trees In The Bible And Their Symbolisms

Many varieties of trees are cited in the Bible.

The cedar became a temple, the fig, a covering, and the gopher an ark. A tree was connected with man’s sin. In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 3:1-7). Another tree played a key role in the price of man’s sin. At Calvary, the Lord Jesus Christ died by crucifixion upon a tree.

The Fig Tree

The first species mentioned by name in the Bible is the fig (Gen 3:7). This tree has sometimes been labeled a hypocrite tree because the fruit is green and not easily detected among the leaves until it is nearly ripe. It is only by close examination in the early stages that the fruit can be detected. Jesus came to a fig tree, desiring fruit, but found only leaves. He cursed the tree, and it fried up from the roots (Mark 11:12-14, 20).

After they have sinned, Adam and Eve used fig leaves to try to hide their sinfulness from the eyes of a searching God (Gen 3:6-13).

One time a fig tree was used to enable someone to see Jesus (Luke 19:1-10). Zacchaeus climbed into a sycamore tree (a type of fig tree) to see Jesus as he passed that way. It is not unusual for a sycamore tree to reach a height of fifty feet.

The Olive Tree

Another tree of importance, especially in the land of Israel, was the olive. The tree became the Biblical symbol for the nation of Israel (Rom. 11:15-25). Its berries continue to be leading articles of Israeli commerce. This tree has been called an emblem of peace, prosperity, and wealth (Ps. 128). When the olive crop fails, it is considered to be a sign of divine wrath (Jer. 11:16-23).

Needing no irrigation, the olive tree thrives well in the Palestinian hills. Since animal fat cannot be kept for a long time, olive oil became the only source of fat for consumption and frying. Additionally, the oil served as a base for all cosmetics and cleaning products. Used in clay lamps, it was the main source for lighting.

Its economic value was much enhanced by the fact that the great river valleys of Egypt and Mesopotamia have unsuitable soil and climate for the cultivation of olives; therefore, olive oil became a major item of export.

Olive oil was also used in the tabernacle for light and ceremonial anointing by the priests of God (Exod. 30: 24- 25; Lev. 24:2-4). It even plays a role in the book of Genesis. When the dove returned with an olive leaf in its mouth, Noah knew the waters had receded from the earth.

The Cedar Tree

The cedar tree was chosen for the temple of God in Jerusalem (I Kings 6:9-20). There are several possible reasons for this tree’s having been chosen. “The wood is not attacked by insect pests; it is free from knots. It has remarkable lasting qualities.”

The cedar forests in Lebanon were famous, and the people traveled great distances just to see them. These trees grew to heights of 120 feet and girths of 40 feet. Their life span was often over two thousand years. The cedars of Lebanon are now very rare; their glory has passed.

The cedar tree was used to build not only the temple of the Lord but also Solomon’s house and other public edifices in Jerusalem. It was used for roofing the temple of Diana at Ephesus and that of Apollo at Utica, and other famous buildings.

The Oak Tree

Another tree known for its longevity is the oak. The sturdy oak stood as a witness to certain events. In the time of the patriarchs, Jacob took the false idols from the members of the household and buried them under an oak at Shechem (Gen. 35:4). It was by an oak tree that, years later, Joshua took idols from the nation of Israel, who promised to serve only the true God (Josh. 24:14-26). Was it the same tree? The scriptures do not tell us, but some scholars infer that this may be true.

When the land of Israel was oppressed by Midian, the Angel of the Lord appeared unto Gideon under an oak tree. There the angel made a covenant with Gideon to deliver Israel from their oppression (Judg. 6:11-19).

Some oak trees also witnessed evil. The heathen worshipped idols in oak groves (Ezek. 6:13); Absalom, David’s son, died in an oak tree (II Sam. 18:6-17); and King Saul was buried under an oak tree. (I Chron. 10:12).

One of the most interesting uses of trees in the Scriptures is as a simile for a person’s life – a productive tree and a barren tree. The principle of the comparison still applies to our lives today.


We’ve used the picture of the Constitution Oak Tree twice before. We discovered it reading Mark Hall’s book Thrive. Caption: Constitution Oak, a live oak at the junction between the Pea River and the Choctawhatchee River in Geneva, Alabama. It is believed to be among the largest and oldest live oaks in the state. [Photo: Wikipedia Commons]  (Mark is the lead singer of Casting Crowns.)

We also used the picture before at an article here titled Be a Tree (2015).


Here’s one more verse:

Isaiah 61:3The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
Because the Lord has anointed me
To bring good news to the afflicted;
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to captives
And freedom to prisoners;
To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord
And the day of vengeance of our God;
To comfort all who mourn,
To grant those who mourn in Zion,
Giving them a garland instead of ashes,
The oil of gladness instead of mourning,
The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting.
So they will be called oaks of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.

…which should remind you of this song. Note: This is the original Scripture in Song recording from 1977.