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Olive. The olive was among the most abundant and characteristic vegetation of Judea. The olive tree grows freely almost everywhere on the shores of the Mediterranean, but it was peculiarly abundant in Palestine. See Deut. 6:11; 8:8; 28:40. Oliveyards are a matter of course in descriptions of the country, like vineyards and cornfields. Judges 15:5; 1 Sam. 8:14. The kings had very extensive ones. 1 Chron. 27:28. Even now the tree is very abundant in the country. Almost every village has its olive grove. Certain districts may be specified where at various times this tree has been very luxuriant. The cultivation of the olive tree had the closest connection with the domestic life of the Israelites, 2 Chron. 2:10, their trade, Ezek. 27:17; Hos. 12:1, and even their public ceremonies and religious worship. In Solomon’s temple the cherubim were “of olive tree,” 1 Kings 6:23, as also the doors, vs. 31, 32, and the posts. ver. 33. For the various uses of olive oil see Oil. The wind was dreaded by the cultivator of the olive, for the least ruffling of a breeze is apt to cause the flowers to fall. Job 15:33. It is needless to add that the locust was a formidable enemy of the olive. It happened not unfrequently that hopes were disappointed, and that “the labor of the olive failed.” Hab. 3:17. As to the growth of the tree, it thrives best in warm and sunny situations. It is of moderate height, with knotty gnarled trunk and a smooth ash-colored bark. It grows slowly, but lives to an immense age. Its look is singularly indicative of tenacious vigor; and this is the force of what is said in Scripture of its “greenness,” as emblematic of strength and prosperity. The leaves, too, are not deciduous. Those who see olives for the first time are occasionally disappointed by the dusty color of their foliage; but those who are familiar with them find an inexpressible charm in the rippling changes of their slender gray-green leaves. (See Ruskin’s “Stones of Venice,” iii. 175–177.) The olive furnishes the basis of one of Paul’s allegories. Rom. 11:16-25. The Gentiles are the “wild olive” grated in upon the “good olive,” to which once the Jews belonged, and with which they may again be incorporated. (The olive grows from 20 to 40 feet high. In general appearance it resembles the apple tree; in leaves and stems, the willow. The flowers are white and appear in June. The fruit is like a plum in shape and size, and at first is green, but gradually becomes purple, and even black, with a hard stony kernel, and is remarkable from the outer fleshy part being that in which much oil is lodged, and not, as is usual, in the almond of the seed. The fruit ripens from August to September. It is sometimes eaten green, but its chief value is in its oil. The wood is hard, fine, beautifully veined, and is often used for cabinet work. Olive trees were so abundant in Galilee that at the siege of Jotapata by Vespasian the Roman army were driven from the ascent of the walls by hot olive oil poured upon them and scalding them underneath their armor.—Josephus, Wars, 3:7:28.—Ed.)


Olive Branches and Olives.