The Olive Tree: A symbol of eternal life

A psalmist once said, “but as for me, I am like a green olive tree in the house of God” (Psalm 52:8). He carefully chose the olive tree, although there were other trees in the land. The psalmist was declaring a few things over his life by comparing himself to an olive tree.

The first thing the psalmist was declaring was long life. Being an evergreen, the olive tree is a symbol of life. Moreover, olive trees can live a very long life too. The oldest olive tree known to man is in Crete, Greece, and it is approximately 3,000 years old. The oldest olive tree at Nazareth Village is about 400 years old, which means it is young by olive tree standards. This tree outlived the colonization of North America, Galileo, and Napoleon; a true witness of history.

The 400 year old olive tree at Nazareth Village

A 400 year old olive tree at Nazareth Village that was transplanted over from Cana of Galilee. It used to be a much taller tree, but in the process of trimming it was down-sized.

400 year old olive tree at Nazareth Village

 

The second thing the psalmist was declaring was hope. The olive tree is a strong tree, and it can weather heat, drought, and floods. He knew that he will face hardship in life. But regardless of any strife that might come his way, he has hope that cannot be shaken. Even though sometimes it seems that hardship had won, and the tree looks dead, a shoot, “nezter” in Hebrew, comes out of the stump; proof of life.

Shoots coming out of the stump

Shoots grow from the lower part of the trunk of the tree, sometimes from the top part of the roots. Usually these are cut down because they do not bear fruit and they take up nutritions that the tree needs, thus they are sometimes called "suckers."

Shoots, “Netzer,” of olive tree

 

The word “netzer” has a special connection with Nazareth Village and Nazareth in general. The name for Nazareth in Hebrew is “Natzeret,” which comes from the word “Netzer.” In the gospel of Matthew 2:23 it says that Jesus lived in Nazareth, and it is a fulfillment of prophecy that says He will be called Nazarene. Matthew was making reference to the verse in Isaiah 11:1 which says “A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.” The word “shoot” in Hebrew is “netzer” as mentioned before. This word also carried with it the hope of a salvation through an anointed king. Jesus, the shoot from the stump of Jesse, a descendant of David, is worthy of being the King.

As we harvest our olives, joyfully, we pray that you may be  “like a green olive tree in the house of God.”

 

(Written by Majd Shufani – Guide at Nazareth Village)