The Fig Tree‘s Start
“The serpent said to the woman, “It is not true that you will surely die; because God knows that on the day you eat from it, your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it had a pleasing appearance and that the tree was desirable for making one wise, she took some of its fruit and ate. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her; and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized that they were naked. So they sewed fig leaves together to make themselves loincloths” (Genesis 3:4-7).
When the eyes of Adam and Eve were opened to their physical condition, they sewed fig leaves together to cover their spiritual nakedness. This is the first mention of the fig tree and its leaves as an allusion to the spiritual condition of the nation of Isra’el from whom would come the ‘Seed’ of redemption.
The common fig tree is called Ficus carica. This tree has a long juvenile period and does not produce fruit for the first four to five years after being planted. In other words, the fig remains a child-tree for a period of time before maturing into adulthood. Adult fig trees produce two crops every year. The early crops are frequently small, acidic and inferior, only good for preserving. The latter crop of figs has edible fruit. Interestingly, fig trees produce their fruit before leaves.
“I found Isra’el like grapes in the wilderness; I saw your fathers as the first ripe fruit on the fig tree in its first season…” (Hosea 9:10).
Elohim saw the Israelites who came out of Egypt as being the first fruits of a nation. As an immature fig tree, they fell into idolatry which resulted in captivity and their dispersion among the nations. They assimilated into the nations around them until Abraham’s descendants lost the faith of their ‘father.’ As Yeshua sat on the Mount of Olives with his disciples, they wondered what Isra’el would be like at the time of his return, the end of the age. He mentions three signs, one of which is the fig tree.
“The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Yeshua was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it” (Mark 11:12-14).
The day before this event, Yeshua had ridden into Jerusalem on the colt of a donkey. He had been hailed as the coming King by the Jews in Jerusalem. He had been welcomed into Jerusalem with “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD and “Blessed is the coming Kingdom of our father David” (Matthew 21:9-10).
The ‘next day’ he was leaving Bethany with his disciples and discussing sign of the end of the age. Bethany is in the present-day West Bank at the site of the tomb of Lazarus east of Jerusalem on the south-eastern slope of the Mount of Olives. He is hungry and sees a fig tree in the distance. Because there are no figs, he ‘curses’ the tree to never bear fruit again – even though it was not the season for figs.
Hebrew Word Pictures
Fig or te’enah – tav, alef, noon, hey
– sign of the first life revealed
Baskets of Figs
“There, in front of the temple of Adonai, two baskets of figs were placed. One of the baskets had in it very good figs, like those that ripen first; while the other basket had very bad figs, so bad that they were inedible. Then Adonai asked me, “Yirmeyahu, what do you see?” I answered, “Figs — the good figs are very good; but the bad ones are very bad, so bad they are inedible” (Jeremiah 24:3).
Jeremiah sees two baskets of figs. Both baskets sit in front of the Temple in Jerusalem. One basket has good figs like those that ripen early; the other has very bad figs so bad they could not be eaten.
“‘But concerning the bad figs that are so bad as to be inedible, Adonai says: ‘I will make Tzidkiyahu the king of Y’hudah and his leaders resemble them, likewise the rest of Yerushalayim remaining in this land and those living in the land of Egypt. Everywhere I drive them I will make them an object of horror, repulsive to all the kingdoms of the earth, a disgrace, a byword, a laughingstock and a curse; and I will send sword, famine and plague among them until they have disappeared from the land I gave them and their ancestors’” (Jeremiah 24:8-10).
The bag figs are the survivors in Jerusalem, the leading officials and the last king of Isra’el, King Zedekiah. Though his name means ‘my righteousness is Yah,’ he had only become king because of Nebuchadnezzar. King Zedekiah’s nephew surrendered Jerusalem to Babylon in order to save his own life. Elohim compared the leadership of Isra’el to bad figs, detestable to all the kingdoms of the earth. Because of their spiritual apostasy, they would be banished and destroyed by sword, famine and plague until they were gone from the land.
The bad figs in Yeshua’s day were still the spiritual leaders with whom he was constantly in conflict. Everything within the Temple services, the lineage of the high priest and the Levitical priesthood had been perverted. After the event with the fig tree, Yeshua returns to the Temple and judges the moneychangers and their corrupt practices. The chief priests and Torah teachers looked for a way to kill him.
The next day as the disciples passed the fig tree, Peter sees the fig tree and says, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree you ‘cursed’ has withered!” The withering of the tree exemplified what was happening in the Temple and spiritual apostasy of Isra’el through their leadership.
‘Cursing’ the Fig Tree
The fig tree produces fruit then leaves which is why Yeshua expected to find fruit on the fig tree. It was unnatural for a fig tree with leaves not to have fruit. He used this unusual occurrence to prophesy about the nation of Isra’el and its spiritual condition.
According to Vines Expository Dictionary of Greek Terms, there are several Greek words for ‘curse’: ara, katara, anathematizo and epikaratos. None of these words is used in the accounts in Matthew 21:19 or Mark 11:14. None of these words meaning ‘devoted to destruction,’ ‘wishing evil against,’ or ‘speaking evil against’ is used. Yeshua never ‘cursed’ the fig tree. He never wished evil against it or devoted it to destruction. He only spoke to the tree and told it that it would not bear fruit. The Greek word in both Matthew and Mark is lego meaning ‘said, tell, declare.’ The Greek word for ‘curse’ in Peter’s exclamation is kataraomai and means ‘to pray against.’
The cursing of the fig treehas evolved from a skewed perspective of Isra’el and the Jewish people. From this simple anti-semitic twist, many believe the Jews killed Jesus and are cursed. They believe Isra’el has been replaced by the Church and the chosen people of Elohim have been set aside for a new religious group called Christians because they are cursed. This is not the truth; Yeshua never cursedthe fig tree. A cursed fig tree would remain cursed and without hope. This is not what happened to the fig tree; this is not what is prophesied for Isra’el. If the tree had not withered, Yeshua could not have used it as a prophetic sign for the end of the age.
As a symbol of apostate Isra’el, Yeshua doesn’t curse the fig tree and send Isra’el to destruction. Though he knew his people were being led by ‘blind guides,’ and were spiritually hungry, he did not speak a curse upon them. Instead, he prophesied that the budding of new life on the fig tree would be a sign of his close return.
“The word of Adonai came to me: “Here is what Adonai the God of Isra’el says: ‘I will regard the exiles from Y’hudah, whom I sent away from this place to the land of the Kasdim, as good, just as I do these good figs. “‘I will look after them for their good, I will bring them back to this land; I will build them up and not tear them down, plant them and not pull them up. I will give them a heart to know me that I am Adonai. They will be my people, and I will be their God; for they will return to me with all their heart” (Jeremiah 24:4-7).
Jeremiah’s prophecy for the ‘good figs’ and the regathering of the Jewish people back to the land of promise after 70 years of captivity in Babylon was fulfilled, however, they still have not returned wholeheartedly to Elohim. This becomes the prophecy of Yeshua for the fig tree and spiritual Isra’el.
The early crop of fig fruit may be compared to the small group of disciples turned apostles. The ‘acid’ of the Spirit filling their lives burnt holes in the spiritual corruption of Isra’el. They were inferior to the leadership that deceived the ‘lost sheep of the house of Isra’el.’ Yet, the testimony of these first few figs brought forth the fruit of the first century congregation of followers of Messiah. Their actions and words are preserved in the gospels and the letters.
“Now let the fig tree teach you its lesson: when its branches begin to sprout and leaves appear, you know that summer is approaching. In the same way, when you see all these things, you are to know that the time is near, right at the door. Yes! I tell you that this people will certainly not pass away before all these things happen. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away” (Matthew 24:32).
According to Yeshua’s prophecy, at an ‘appointed time’ near the end of the age and the restoration of the Kingdom, Isra’el would be restored as a nation. The fig tree would bud. This happened in 1948 when Isra’el became a nation again. They would begin to have life when the leaves appeared which happened in 1967 when Isra’el regained control of Jerusalem and their ‘spiritual’ center. The Messianic Jewish movement of Jewish people putting their faith in the Jewish Messiah, Yeshua took root. This remnant of faithful returned to the Land and to Elohim wholeheartedly. However, according to Yeshua, there will be no latter spiritual fruit until after the great apostasy and all of Isra’el cry out for him and welcome him back. These edible figs will nourish the nations through the Messianic era.
“Look! God is abandoning your house to you! I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of Adonai!’ (Luke 13:35).
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