Jovial (4 Feb 2013)
"What Does the Fig Tree Symbolize in Matt 24 = Mark 13 = Luke 21.
NO! It is NOT Israel!!! 

It is often taught that the Fig Tree of Mat 24:32 (also Mark 13, Luke 21) represents Israel, but there is no scriptural basis for this.  This association was often made by people in the 1980's trying to explain why the Messiah would return before 1988.  He didn't, but the connection remains in many people's mind, despite a lack of scriptural basis for it.

What is a Fig Tree Used for Symbolically?

To find out what He was REALLY saying, we must investigate how the scriptures use a fig tree symbolically.  It does so numerous times, with one of the most significant being in Matt 24, where our Savior said...

The difference between the Munster and DuTillet manuscripts appears to be a scribal confusion issue, but it is interesting that this variant is the obvious intended symbolism that echos Amos 8:1-2, where summer-fruit (קיץ) or ripe-fruit is used to represent the end (הקץ) of something. And Here, Yeshua is using the same word-play that appears in Amos 8:1, where it says...

"the Sovereign YHWH showed me: a basket of ripe/summer fruit (קיץ). "What do you see, Amos?" he asked.
"A basket of ripe fruit (קיץ)," I answered.
Then the YHWH said to me, "The end ( הקץ) has come for my people Israel; I will spare them no longer.

So Matt 24:32 is using the same word-play that Amos 8:1 is using. But what is the fig tree?

Is the Fig Tree Israel?

One popular teaching in modern Christian circles is that the fig tree represents Israel, and that when Yeshua said "this generation shall not all pass away...", He was talking about the generation of the fig tree, which is the generation that would see Israel restored as a nation. This explanation seems more concerned with trying to explain the "this generation..." statement than anything, but as I will demonstrate in a moment, I do not think there is anyway the fig tree could represent the restoration of Israel as a nation. If we let scripture interpret scripture, we find this interpretation is not supported by scripture.

Since Matt 24:32 is using the same word-play as Amost 8:1, then let's take a deeper look at Amos 8:1. Amos is talking about the exile of Israel, and how G-d would send them into exile. So if the fig tree represents Israel (and I'm not saying that it does, but I'm simply addressing how to interpret the parable if that is indeed what it represents) then it would seem logical that the fig tree would be used to represent some future exile of Israel.

Will Israel go into exile again? Maybe. After all, Revelation says of the False Messiah...

"And he was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation" (Rev 13:7)

"every tribe...nation" would seem to include Israel. Of course, he could rule over Israel without them necessarily losing their sense of identity in some way. We also see that in Isa/Yesh 66, in talking about the return of the Messiah, it says

"Can a country be born in a day or a nation be brought forth in a moment?" (Isa/Yesh 66:17)

The setting of this verse is the return of Messiah to earth. Some people say it was fullfilled in 1948 when Israel became a nation, but the context does not support that, and indicates that it is set in some future time, as if it is telling us that Israel will be "born in a day" the day that Yeshua comes to earth. How could that happen unless they were to go into exile again?

We now that there will be a war in Israel when He returns. Matt 24 talks of the armies surrounding Jerusalem. In any event, when we see the fig tree used in Amos, it is connected with the exile of Israel. We see a fig tree used in Matt 24 , using the same wordplay as Amos, and talking about armies surrounding Jerusalem. So it would seem that it is not unlikely to interpret that the "branch is tender and the leaves sprout forth" (Matt 24:32) when the armies surround Jerusalem and that if the fig tree represents Israel, it represents at least the attempt to send Israel into exile, and not its restoration as a sovereign nation.

Could the Fig Tree be Something Else?

So maybe the fig tree isn't Israel? Again, if we are searching for letting scripture interpret scripture, then let's turn to the one place in the Tanach where a fig tree is connected with an end-times prophecy. Isaiah/Yeshayahu 34:4 tells us...

"And every host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll: and all their host shall fall down, as the leaf falleth off from the vine, and as a falling fig from the fig tree" (Isa/Yesh 34:4)

Here, the "fig tree" symbolizes the "every host of heaven". Yeshua talks of this in Matt 24, saying...

"And immediately after the afflictions of those days, the sun will darken and the moon will not give her light, and the stars will fall from the heavens and and the powers of the heavens will be shaken And then the sign of the Son of Man shall appear in the heavens and then all tribes of the earth will mourn and they will see the Son of Man come in the clouds of the heavens with great power and glory. And He will send His angels with a shofar (ram's horn) and with a great voice that gathers his elect from the four winds from the heights of the heavens until their ends. Through the fig tree, learn the parable: When its branch is tender and the leaves sprout forth, you know that summer-fruitM is near." (Matt 24:29-32)

So Yeshua is describing the same type of events that Isa/Yesh 34 is describing, and using the same symbolism that Isa/Yesh 34 is using. So perhaps the "fig tree" of Matt 24:32 simply represents the sun growing dark and the sign of the Son of Man appearing in the heavens? Rev 6:13 also uses this same imagery:

"And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind" (Rev 6:13)

After telling the parable of the fig tree, Yeshua goes on to say,

"Through the fig tree, learn the parable...Thus, when you see all these things, know that it is near, at the doors. " (Matt 24:32..33)

So Yeshua is drawing a parallel between the fig tree and "see[ing] all these things". Thus , the fig tree would seem to represent the things He mentioned that would be seen, none of which included the restoration of Israel, but one of which did include armies attacking Jerusalem.

Perhaps the fig tree symbolism is used in Revelation to make a connection between the two events and suggest a correlation in timing - that those things would happen as Israel goes into exile.


General Use of the Fig Tree

We find the term "fig tree" appears in 25 verses of the Tanach. In Gen 3:7, Adam and his wife sewed fig leaves together to making clothing to cover their private parts. It is often connected with something pleasant. For example...

"The fig tree said unto them, "should I forsake my sweetness..."" (Judges 9:11)

And it is often mentioned as an important crop. In 18 of the 25 verses, the "vine" is also mentioned side-by-side with the fig tree. For example...

The 21st rule of Eleazar teaches us to only examine the meaning of the fig tree in light of what is common to the fig tree and the vine in these verses. But one theme that seems to run constant in the verses that isolate the fig tree is Protection. Adam and his wife used fig leaves to protect their private parts and conceal them. In Judges 9, a king is compared to a fig tree, which Israel wanted to lead and protect them. And the removal of the hosts of the heavens in Isa 34 certainly represents a loss of protection for those living on earth.

The fig tree only appears a handful of times in the New Testament. They are...

In 2 of these cases, it is also mentioned in conjunction with a vine.

For more on this topic, check out

Shalom, Joe