The Bible is filled with imagery of the olive tree. From the olive branch in the mouth of the dove in Noah’s time to the Emissary Shaul; the use of the olive tree as a symbol of Israel and the engrafted non-Jews everywhere you look and you will encounter the olive tree; its branches, leaves, sprigs, oil, fruit, roots and pits; all usefulness and symbolic.
There are two varieties of olive tree, the cultivated variety Olea europaea sativa and the wild variety Olea europaea oleaster. The olive is unusual among trees in its longevity, taking from six years in good conditions to twenty years in dry, difficult areas before it will start producing fruit.
In Romans 11:16-18, the emissary Rabbi Shaul talks about grafting of olive. “if the root is holy, so are the branches. If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, do not boast over those branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you."
Rabbi Shaul probably was referring to a practiced described by Collumella, in an ancient work on Mediterranean oleiculture. A wild olive shoot would be grafted into a cultivated tree which was failing, in order to stimulate fruitfulness. This would only be done to a tree that had become exhausted and unproductive in order to rejuvenate it.
So, what is Grafting? Grafting is a propagation technique of inserting a shoot from a desirable source (scion) into another tree (stock) of which is to support and nourish it. The two unite and become one tree. A successful grafting requires a vascular cambium connection taken place between the stock and scion.
Purpose of Grafting. Grafting is very important in domestication of agricultural crops. Planting of crop from seed takes longer time to mature. Often, plants planted from seed do not produce same desired quality of fruit. Thus, grafting of desired scion on rooted stock result in faster yield of expected crop quality. The rootstock continues to provide nutrient from the soil through vascular xylem.
Here are a few examples of the usefulness and symbolism of the olive tree:
- The olive branch as a symbol of peace (reconciliation)
- Olive oil used for light (illumination) in the temple and home, used for confirming leadership (anointing), used medicinally in compounding ancient cures (healing), used in the manufacturing of exquisite perfumes( aromatic), used to make soap (cleansing)
- Olive leaves used to make a delicious and healthy tea (antibacterial)
- The crushed remains of the olive pits used as mulch (weed control)
- Olive oil used in food preparation and as a condiment itself (nutrition)
The olive tree (Rom 11:16b-24). This is a symbol of the nation of Israel (Jer 11:16-17; Hos 14:4-6). Please keep in mind that Shaul was not discussing the relationship of individual believers to God, but the place of Israel in the plan of God. The roots of the tree support the tree; again, this was a symbol of the patriarch who founded the nation. God made His covenants with them, and He cannot deny them or change them. Thus it is God’s promise to them that sustains Israel even today.
The Hebrew Roots (Or Messianic Jewish) movement is a contemporary global spiritual movement that advocates the return and adherence to the first century Rabbi, Yeshua from Nazareth. Seeking to understand his sayings, parables, background setting, etc., can only be help, by exploring the Jewish culture and perspective, within which most of the Bible was written, opens and enriches our understanding of the Scriptures, adding insight and depth to many of the passages, parables and idioms.
Taking part in these events (like Biblical holidays) and learning the way in which the Jewish people understood the teachings of our Messiah can be a tool, giving us greater effectiveness in living a life of righteousness, holiness before the one and true God of Israel.
The non-Jewish believers in the Messiah have "lost its roots for the last 2000 years" and needs to get grafted "back" into the "olive tree" which is the faith of Avraham, Yitzak and Ya’acov. They must remember that the wild branches do not support the natural root; the natural root supported the wild branches.
Rabbi Shaul warned the wild olive branches that they were obligated to Israel, and therefore they dared not boast of their new spiritual position (Rom 11:18-21). The wild olive branches entered into God’s plan because of faith, and not because of anything good they had done. Paul was discussing the wild olive branches collectively, and not the individual experience of one believer or another.
Because of the roots of the olive tree God will keep His promises to the patriarchs, but God will break off the wild olive branches because of their unbelief (in due time).
No matter how far Israel may stray from the truth of God, the roots are still good. God is still the “God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (Ex 3:6; Matt 22:23). He will keep His promises to these patriarchs. This means that the olive tree will flourish again!
You cannot survive if you are not connected to the roots, to the tree. Just like a real tree branch will never survive if it gets cut off from a tree. We must imagine ourselves as carefully reattaching ourselves to the Jewish roots of our faith severed so many centuries ago. The place to start is recognizing the Jewishness of our Scriptures, our Messiah, and his disciples. How could a faith that was founded by a Jewish man upon the principles of a Jewish book not be a Jewish faith?
Tags: agricultural crops, desirable source, domestication, emissary, fruitfulness, jews, longevity, mediterranean, noah, olive branch, olive root, olive tree, pits, propagation, rabbi, romans, sativa, scion, tree stock, vascular cambium
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