As someone who loves olives and loves cooking food in olive oil because of the good flavor and health benefits, I’m biased in my view that the olive tree is one of God’s great creations in the plant world. The olive tree also symbolically plays a significant role in the kingdom of God and it is often compared to the servants of God in their service to God.
First symbolic mention of the olive tree
Judges 9:8-9 gives us the first symbolic view of the olive tree and how it relates to us as saints of God. Jotham, the son of Gideon who was the only son to survive the assassination plot of his older brother, spoke this parable against his brother’s treacherous aspirations of self-exalted kingship:
The trees went forth on a time to anoint a king over them; and they said unto the olive tree, Reign thou over us. But the olive tree said unto them, Should I leave my fatness, wherewith by me they honour God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees?
As an olive tree, a saint should be preoccupied with bearing spiritual fruit for God’s glory and man’s spiritual benefit. The “fatness” speaks of the oil rendered by olives and correlates to the Holy Ghost’s anointing all saints have in the name of the Lord Jesus. A humble saint will not seek self-exaltation via cutthroat tactics or the exaltation of men via blood oaths and wicked schemes to lord it over them and refuses such flatteries as the olive tree did in this parable. They wait for God to make opoortunities by his opening doors (or windows) to exalt them.
Olive trees used in Solomon’s temple
In 1 Kings 6:23, 31-33, we find the significance of the olive tree in the temple. It was used to make the two cherubims in the holy of holies, also called the oracle, to stand over the ark of the covenant. This speaks of the anointing God’s holy angels have to minister for him and on our behalf (Hebrews 1:14).
The posts of the temple doors and the doors to the holy of holies were all comprised of olive tree. It symbolized Christ’s anointing that makes it possible for us to enter his house after making peace with God and also refers to the calling he has on us to enter into his presence to experience his anointing. Olive trees are an evergreen known for thriving in rocky soil, their durability to last centuries, and their ability to thrive in drought conditions, resist disease and fires (see “Cultivation” under “Olives” Wikipedia entry), which all relate to the everlasting nature and strength of God’s church even in the toughest earthly conditions.
The righteous are like olive trees
This sentiment is expressed by David in Psalm 52:8-9–“But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God: I trust in the mercy of God for ever and ever. I will praise thee for ever, because thou hast done it: and I will wait on thy name; for it is good before thy saints.” Again, it symbolizes an everlasting relationship with God.
Paul also refers to us Gentiles as this in Romans 11:17, 24 when we were a wild olive tree tamed by God to be grafted into his good olive tree because of the Jews’ rejection of Christ. We were bearing bad, wild fruit until God civilized us with salvation from Christ so we could bear good, God-anointed fruit.
May we be the best olive trees we can be with God’s help through the Holy Spirit’s anointing.