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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [1]

(ἐλαία, ἀγριέλαιος, καλλιέλαιος)

The only passages in which the olive is referred to in the NT are  Romans 11:17;  Romans 11:24,  James 3:12,  Revelation 11:4. (For  Romans 11:17;  Romans 11:24 see articleGrafting.) For the proverb in  James 3:12 -‘Can the fig-tree, my brethren, bear olive berries?’-cf. Seneca, Ep. 87, ‘non nascitur ex malo bonum non magis quam ficus ex olea’; see also Epict. Diss. ii. 20 and Plut. Mor. p. 472. A like simile is found in  Matthew 7:16;  Matthew 12:33. The reference to the two olive-trees in  Revelation 11:4 is after  Zechariah 4:2 f. In the latter passage the λυχνία is Israel, and the two olive-trees which feed it are probably the monarchy and the priesthood as represented by Zerubbabel and Joshua. The writer of  Revelation 11:4 has adapted the imagery of  Zechariah 4:2 f. In  Revelation 1:12;  Revelation 1:20 he has likened the seven churches to seven golden λυχνίαι. These λυχνίαι are kept burning by the oil of the Spirit with which the true members of the Church are imbued (cf.  Matthew 25:4,  Romans 11:17). These stand before the God of the earth ( Revelation 11:4). In  James 5:14 reference is made to the early Christian custom of anointing the sick with oil (ἔλαιον).

Of recent years olive-trees have been largely destroyed, chiefly with a view to avoiding taxation, but also in part for the supply of fire-wood. The extent to which the olive was cultivated in Palestine in ancient times may be gauged by the large number of olive-presses that are to be seen all over the country. Many of these presses were cut in the rock before houses were built upon it. They are often found in immediate association with Troglodyte caves, while a press was actually found inside one cave. In the earliest times the presses were of a simple character and generally consisted of a single circular or rectangular vat with one or two cup-holes in the floor. These appear both on the hill-sides and also on the rock-surface. The olive-presses of a later time show greater elaboration, and in Roman times or after, the receiving-vats were sometimes lined with Mosaic tesserae. The fruit was apparently crushed on the surface of the press with stones, rollers, or pestles, the juice being subsequently expressed by boards placed over the fruit and weighed down with weights. The juice thus extracted was collected in a receiving-vat of greater depth than the press itself. The receiving-vat was sometimes sunk in the press, while sometimes it lay outside, and communicated with it by a channel. The pressing-surface is nearly always square or rectangular, and never more than from 1 to 1½ ft. deep; the receiving-vat is generally square but occasionally circular. There were often several receiving-vats to a single press. In the larger presses, the fruit was not crushed by the aid of movable hand-stones, but by a large, massive stone wheel rotated round a central staple by an ox or horse. One of these wheels that has been recovered has a diameter of 4 ft. 8 in. The rock in the press-surface was usually left bare, but the receiving-vat was often cemented.

But olive-presses of an entirely different character were also in use in all the Semitic periods. They consisted of movable slabs or boulders of stone. They are generally circular in shape and have a diameter of from 4 ft. 9 in. to 6 ft. 6 in. The rim within which the fruit was crushed is raised, the juice being collected in a cup hollowed out within the rim. Apart from the natural use of the olive as a fruit, it supplies the place of butter and is used for cooking. The oil is used for lamps as well as for anointing the body, while the soap of the country is made exclusively from it. The wood is used for cabinet-work. See also articleGrafting.

Literature.-J. B. Mayor, The Epistle of St. James3, 1913, pp. 125, 170 ff.; Sanday-Headlam, International Critical Commentary, ‘Romans,’51902, p. 326 ff.; H. B. Swete, The Apocalypse of St. John2, 1907, p. 135; W. M. Thomson, The Land and the Book, 3 vols., ed. 1881-86, passim; ed. 1910, pp. 31-36; J. C. Geikie, The Holy Land and the Bible, 1903, pp. 50-52, 74; H. B. Tristram, The Natural History of the Bible10, 1911, pp. 373, 377; Hastings’ Single-vol. Dictionary of the Bible, p. 667; Encyclopaedia Biblicaiii. 3495-3496; Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols)iii. 616; and especially R. A. S. Macalister, The Excavation of Gezer, 1912, ii. 48-67.

P. S. P. Handcock.

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [2]

Olive ( zayith , cf. Arab [Note: Arabic.] , zeit ‘oil,’ and zeitûn ‘olive tree’). This tree ( Olea europea ) is the first-named ‘king of the trees’ (  Judges 9:8-9 ), and is, in Palestine at any rate, by far the most important. The scantily covered terraced hillsides, the long rainless summer of blazing sunshine, and the heavy night moisture of late summer, afford climatic conditions which appear in a very special degree favourable to the olive. This has been so in all history: the children of Israel were to inherit ‘olive-yards’ which they planted not (  Joshua 24:13 ,   Deuteronomy 6:11 ), and the wide-spread remains of ruined terraces and olive-presses in every part of the land witness to the extent of olive culture that existed in the past. A large proportion of the fuel consumed to-day consists of the roots of ancient olive trees. In recent years this cultivation has been largely revived, and extensive groves of olives may be found in many parts, notably near Beit Jala on the Bethlehem road, and near Nâblus . The peculiar grey-green foliage with its silver sheen, and the wonderful twisted and often hollow trunks of the tree, are very characteristic of Palestine scenery. The OT writers admired the beauty of the olive (see   Hosea 14:6 ,   Psalms 52:8;   Psalms 128:3 ,   Jeremiah 11:16 ). In some parts, notably at Nâblus , a large proportion of the trees are invaded by parasitic mistletoe. The cultivation of the olive requires patience, and presupposes a certain degree of settlement and peace: perhaps for this reason it was the emblem of peace. Destruction of a harvest of cereals is a temporary loss, but when the vines and, still more, the olives are destroyed, the loss takes many years to make good (  Revelation 6:5-6 ).

The olive tree, grown from a slip taken from below the grafted branches of a selected fruitful olive, has to be grafted when three years old, but it does not bear fruit for some three or four years more, and not plentifully until it is about seventeen or eighteen years old; it may then, when well cared for, continue bearing for many years. The soil, however, must be carefully ploughed and manured every spring, and on the hillsides the water of the early rains must be conducted to the very roots by carefully arranged channels. When, after some years, the stem becomes too hollow from rotting of the wood, and the crop fails, it is sometimes cut sharp off at the root, and new shoots are allowed to spring up, which, after re-grafting, become a fruitful tree. It has been stated by Prof. Ramsay ( Expositor , Jan. and Feb. 1905) that it is a custom in Syria to graft a branch of wild olive into the stem of a cultivated tree (cf.   Romans 11:17-24 ). How this can be of any benefit to the tree it is difficult to see. Nor can the present writer, after careful inquiries all over Palestine, find any knowledge of such a custom. Cf. art. Grafting.

The wild olive is a kind of reversion to the primitive plant such as occurs also with the fig and the almond and it takes place whenever the growth of the olive is neglected. Thus the little shoots which grow around the main trunk (perhaps the origin of   Psalms 128:3 ) are of the wild variety, and also those growing from the self-sown drupe. According to the fellahîn of Galilee, the drupe germinates in the soil only after passing through the alimentary canal of the hooded crow.

In most neglected olive groves numerous little bushes of the ‘wild olive’ may be seen, which, though very unlike the cultivated tree having a shorter, smaller, and greener leaf and a stirrer, more prickly stem are nevertheless derived from it. As a rule the wild olive is but a shrub, but it may grow into a tree and have small but useless ‘berries.’ Where groves of wild olives are found in Palestine, they are probably always the descendants of cultivated trees long ago destroyed.

The young wild olive trees, scattered over the mountains in Galilee, are gathered by the fellahîn and sold for olive plantations. Such plants are grafted three years after transplantation, and always in the late spring or early summer.

The ‘ olive berries ’ (  James 3:12 AV [Note: Authorized Version.] ) ripen in the autumn, and are harvested in November or December. They are beaten from the trees with a long pole (  Deuteronomy 24:20 ) and collected in baskets. Olives are eaten pickled in hrine, either when green and unripe or when soft and black. They are universally eaten by the fellahîn with bread sometimes the oil is eaten instead, much as butter is used in our home lands. The oil is also used extensively for making soup, for frying meat, and for illumination. See Oil.

E. W. G. Masterman.

Fausset's Bible Dictionary [3]

Its foliage is the earliest mentioned ( Genesis 8:11). Tradition from Noah's days has ever made it symbolize peace. It is the emblem of "fatness" in the oldest parable ( Judges 9:8-9). Emblem of the godly ( Psalms 52:5;  Psalms 52:8), in spirit constantly dwelling "in the house of God"; in contrast to slave-like formalists now sojourning outwardly in it for a time, but not abiding ever ( John 8:34-35;  Psalms 15:1;  Psalms 23:6;  Psalms 27:4-5;  Psalms 36:8); the wicked and antichrist shall be "rooted out of (God's) dwelling place," literally, 5 ( 'Ohel ). The Septuagint, Chaldee, Vulgate, and Aben Ezra interpret 'Ohel "the tabernacle" ( 2 Thessalonians 2:4;  Daniel 11:44-45). The saint's children are "like olive plants round about his table" ( Psalms 128:3).

The old olive sends out young suckers which spring up round the parent tree, and which in after ages, when the parent's strength fails, shelter it on every side from the blast. It is the characteristic tree of Judea on Roman coins,  Deuteronomy 8:8. Asher "dipped his foot in oil" ( Deuteronomy 33:24). Emblem of Judah's adoption of God by grace ( Jeremiah 11:16;  Romans 11:17), also of joy and prosperity. The Gentile church is the wild twig "engrafted contrary to nature" on the original Jewish olive stock; it marks supernatural virtue in the stock that it enables those wild by nature to bear good fruit; ordinarily it is only a superior scion that is grafted on an inferior. The two witnesses for God (Antitypes To Elijah And Moses, Zerubbabel And Joshua, The Civil Ruler And The Priest:  Malachi 4:5-6 ;  Matthew 17:11 ;  Acts 3:21 ;  Judges 1:6 ) are "the two olive trees," channels of the oil (The Holy Spirit In Them) feeding the church ( Revelation 11:3-4;  Zechariah 4:11-12).

The wood, fine grained, solid, and yellowish, was used for the Cherubim , doors, and posts ( 1 Kings 6:23;  1 Kings 6:31-33). The tree was shaken to get the remnant left after the general gathering (by "beating,"  Deuteronomy 24:20),  Isaiah 24:13; image of Israel's "remnant according to the election of grace." The least breeze makes the flowers fall; compare  Job 15:33, "he shall cast off his flower as the olive," i.e. the least blast sweeps away in a moment the sinner's prosperity. The tree poetically is made to cast off its own blossom, to mark that the sinner brings on his own ruin ( Isaiah 3:11;  Jeremiah 6:19). It thrives best in a sunny position. A rocky calcareous subsoil suits it; compare "oil out of the flinty rock" ( Deuteronomy 32:13). The trunk is knotty and gnarled, the bark smooth and ash colored. Its growth is slow, but it lives very long. The leaves are grey green, not deciduous, suggestive of tenacious strength.

Smith's Bible Dictionary [4]

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  Deuteronomy 6:11 ;  Deuteronomy 8:8 ;  Deuteronomy 28:40 . Oliveyards are a matter of course in descriptions of the country like vines and cornfields.  Judges 15:5;  1 Samuel 8:14. The kings had very extensive ones.  1 Chronicles 27:28 Even now, the olive is very abundant in the country. Almost every village has its olive grove.

Certain districts may be specified, where, at various times, this tree been very luxuriant. The cultivation of the olive tree had the closest connection, with the domestic life of the Israelites  2 Chronicles 2:10, their trade,  Ezekiel 27:17;  Hosea 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,  1 Kings 6:31-32, and posts.  1 Kings 6:33. 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."  Habakkuk 3:17.

As to the growth of the tree, it thrives best, in warm and sunny situations. It is of moderate height, with a knott, y 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 foilage; 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.  Romans 11:16-25. The Gentiles are the "wild olive," grafted 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 sterns, it resembles the willow. The flowers are white, and appear in June. The fruit is like a plum in shape and size, and at first, it 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 and beautifully veined, and is open used for cabinet work. Olive trees were so abundant in Galilee tha, t 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. - Editor).

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [5]

This is one of the earliest trees mentioned in Scripture, and has furnished, perhaps ever since he deluge the most universal emblem of peace,  Genesis 8:11 . It is always classed among the most valuable trees of Palestine, which is described as a land of oil olive, and honey,  Deuteronomy 6:11   8:8   Habakkuk 3:17 . No tree is more frequently mentioned in the Greek and Roman classics. By the Greeks it was dedicated to Minerva, and employed in crowning Jove, Apollo, and Hercules. The olive is never a very large or beautiful tree, and seldom exceeds thirty feet in height: its leaves are dark green on the upper surface, and of a silvery hue on the under, and generally grow in pairs. Its wood is hard, like that of box, and very close in the grain. It blossoms very profusely, and bears fruit every other year.

The flower is at first yellow, but as it expands, it becomes whiter, leaving a yellow center. The fruit resembles a plum in shape and in color, being first green, then pale, and when ripe, black. It is gathered by shaking the boughs and by beating them with poles,  Deuteronomy 24:20   Isaiah 17:6 , and is sometimes plucked in an unripe state, put into some preserving liquid, and exported. It is principally valuable for the oil it produces, which is an important article of commerce in the east. A full-sized tree in full bearing vigor is said to produce a thousand pounds of oil,  Judges 9:8,9   2 Chronicles 2:10 . The olive delights in a stony soil, and will thrive even on the sides and tops of rocky hills, where there is scarcely any earth; hence the expression "oil out of the flinty rock," etc.,  Deuteronomy 32:13   Job 29:6 . It is an evergreen tree, and very longlived, an emblem of a fresh and enduring piety,  Psalm 52:8 . Around an old trunk young plants shoot up from the same root, to adorn the parent stock when living, and succeed it when dead; hence the allusion in describing the family of the just,  Psalm 128:3 . It is slow of growth, and no less slow to decay. The ancient trees now in Gethsemane are believed by many to have sprung from the roots of those, which witnessed the agony of our Lord. The "wild olive-tree" is smaller than the cultivated, and inferior in all its parts and products. A graft upon it, from a good tree, bore good fruit; while a graft from a "wild" olive upon a good tree, remains "wild" as before.

Yet, "contrary to nature," the sinner engrafted on Christ partakes of His nature and bears good fruit,  Romans 11:13-26 .

Bridgeway Bible Dictionary [6]

Olive trees, both wild and cultivated, were among the most common trees of Palestine ( Deuteronomy 8:8;  Judges 15:5;  1 Chronicles 27:28;  Luke 22:39). They grew also in Mesopotamia and other places in the region ( Genesis 8:11). The trees grew to about six metres in height, and although their timber was of no use in building construction, it could be used to make furniture and ornamental articles ( 1 Kings 6:23;  1 Kings 6:31). The Israelites used branches of olive trees to help make shelters for the Feast of Tabernacles ( Nehemiah 8:15).

Mostly, however, people grew olive trees for their fruit, which could be crushed to produce oil ( Exodus 27:20;  Leviticus 2:4;  2 Kings 18:32;  Micah 6:15; see Oil ). Farmers harvested the olives by shaking or beating the tree so that the fruit fell to the ground. They then collected the fruit in baskets ( Deuteronomy 24:20;  Isaiah 17:6;  Isaiah 24:13;  Amos 8:2). To obtain higher quality fruit and larger harvests, they sometimes grafted branches from good quality trees on to wild trees. To graft branches from wild trees on to good trees was ‘contrary to nature’ ( Romans 11:17-24).

In the symbols and pictures of the Bible, the olive tree had a variety of meanings. It was a symbol of peace ( Genesis 8:10-12), fruitfulness ( Psalms 128:3-4), freshness ( Psalms 52:8), pleasantness ( Jeremiah 11:16), beauty ( Hosea 14:5-7), God’s Spirit ( Zechariah 4:1-6), God’s family ( Romans 11:17-24) and God’s witnesses ( Zechariah 4:11-14;  Revelation 11:3-4).

Webster's Dictionary [7]

(1): ( n.) Any shell of the genus Oliva and allied genera; - so called from the form. See Oliva.

(2): ( n.) A tree (Olea Europaea) with small oblong or elliptical leaves, axillary clusters of flowers, and oval, one-seeded drupes. The tree has been cultivated for its fruit for thousands of years, and its branches are the emblems of peace. The wood is yellowish brown and beautifully variegated.

(3): ( n.) The fruit of the olive. It has been much improved by cultivation, and is used for making pickles. Olive oil is pressed from its flesh.

(4): ( n.) The oyster catcher.

(5): ( n.) The color of the olive, a peculiar dark brownish, yellowish, or tawny green.

(6): ( n.) One of the tertiary colors, composed of violet and green mixed in equal strength and proportion.

(7): ( n.) An olivary body. See under Olivary.

(8): ( n.) A small slice of meat seasoned, rolled up, and cooked; as, olives of beef or veal.

(9): ( a.) Approaching the color of the olive; of a peculiar dark brownish, yellowish, or tawny green.

Easton's Bible Dictionary [8]

 Deuteronomy 24:20 Isaiah 17:6 24:13 Exodus 27:20 Micah 6:15 James 3:12 Judges 15:5Oil

King James Dictionary [9]

OL'IVE, n. L. oliva, from olea, an olive tree Gr. See Oil

A plant or tree of the genus Olea. The common olive tree grows in warm climates and rises to the height of twenty or thirty feet, having an upright stem with numerous branches. This tree is much cultivated in the south of Europe for its fruit, from which is expressed the olive oil, and which is used also for pickles.

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [10]

Bibliography Information McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Olive'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/o/olive.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.