One beautiful aspect of the Bible is its historicity. You can tour the ruined cities, hold ancient manuscripts, and find records of key characters, but something else ties ancient times together with today: trees. Although you won’t find Christmas trees in the Bible, many trees and plants make an appearance, even ones you wouldn’t expect!

The below description of trees and plants in the Bible is an excerpt from the Baker Book of Charts, Maps, and Timelines.

Acacia Tree

Bible Acacia Tree in the Desert

Biology

Various species of this thorny tree grow in the dry desert areas

Human Connection

It is the only hardwood that grows in the dry wilderness areas and so becomes the wood used by Moses when building the tabernacle and its worship furniture. Its long-burning wood was used for building fires. And because camel saliva can soften its thorns, it provides nourishment for them in settings with little forage.

Bible Examples

Exodus 25:10, 13, 23, 28; 27:1; Isaiah 41:19

Almond Tree

Bible Almond trees near a mountain

Biology

The almond tree thrives throughout all but the driest areas of the promised land. In January it produces a beautiful pink and white flower ahead of the leaves, an indication that spring has arrived. By March, the flowers fade as the leaves and nuts appear.

Human Connection

Both the green and dried almonds are very rich in nutritional value. Sweet almonds were used as a cough suppressant and a headache remedy. The tree is associated with alert and hopeful expectation.

Bible Examples

Exodus 37:19-20; Numbers 17:8; Ecclesiastes 12:5; Jeremiah 1:11-12

Cedar of Lebanon

Bible Cedars of Lebanon

Biology

This is a conifer with silvery-blue needles that grow from long branches that reach out like arms from the mature tree’s trunk. They are the most common in the Lebanon mountains north of the promised land, where they grow more than a hundred feet tall in their one-hundred-plus-year lifespan.

Human Connection

The reddish tones, pleasant aroma, and straight grain made this cedar the standout choice for construction if one could afford the price. It is associated with prestige, power, and beauty.

Bible Examples

2 Samuel 5:11; 1 Kings 5:6-18; 7:1-7; Psalms 29:5; 92:12; Song of Songs 5:15; Ezekiel 31:10-17

Fig Tree

Bible Fig tree leaves and fruit

Biology

The fig tree grows throughout the promised land. When its ashen gray trunk is coaxed to life by the winter rains, it produces fruiting small leaves marking the start of spring. The earliest set of fruit is called page, but the tree repeatedly bears new sets of fruit into the fall. It is easily distinguished by its massive, lobed leaves.

Human Connection

The leaves provide some of the most effective shade in the region. And the natural sugars in its fruit were used as a sweetener. Dried figs offered an energy boost for travelers. It is a tree associated with the good life (Micah 4:4).

Why did Jesus curse the fig tree?

Bible Examples

Genesis 3:7; 1 Kings 4:25; Song of Songs 2:13; Hosea 9:10; Matthew 21:19-21; Mark 13:28

Grapevine

Bible Grape vines near a river

Biology

The grapevine is a deciduous climber that grows throughout the land but thrives particularly in the hill country of Judah, maturing with the aid of dewfall during the dry summer months.

Human Connection

This vine, which grew wild in the promised land, was among the first plants to be domesticated. Its fruit was eaten when fresh and dried into raisins. Its juice was drunk fresh and fermented into wine to supplement the meager supply of fresh water. It was associated with joy and the good life (Micah 4:4). Because it is so intimately linked to the promised land and God’s chosen people, it is often a symbol for them.

Bible Examples

Numbers 13:24; Psalm 80:8-13; Song of Songs 7:7-8; Isaiah 5:1-7; John 15:1-5

Oak Tree

Twisting Oak Tree Bible

Biology

Five different species of oak inhabit Israel, all of which produce acorns and all of which grow in widely spaced stands with meadowland between them. They thrive from the mountains of Samaria all the way to Mount Hermon. It is the most widely represented of the wild-growing trees in Israel and also has produced the oldest surviving tree in Israel at a little over five hundred years of age.

Human Connection

The sturdy wood from this tree was used to make tool handles, plows, and yokes. Its chemical properties were used in tanning of leather and as a traditional folk medicine used to lower blood pressure and cure eye infections. It became a symbol of strength and fertility.

Bible Examples

Joshua 24:26; 2 Samuel 18:9-14; Psalm 29:9; Isaiah 1:29-30; 57:5; Amos 2:9

Olive Tree

Olive Tree Bible

Biology

The olive tree thrives in the mountains of Israel, producing the highest quality olives in Samaria. Wild olive trees were domesticated to enhance the olive harvest, which occurs in September.

Human Connection

Perhaps one of the most famous trees in the Bible. Both the green and more mature black olives were eaten after processing. Special effort was made to extract the oil from the olives. It was used for cooking, as a medicine, for cosmetics, in the production of soap, to anoint leaders, and as the fuel burned in lamps. The olive tree is associated with beauty, health, stability, nobility, and divine favor.

Bible Examples

Genesis 8:11; Exodus 30:22-25; Job 29:6; Psalm 23:5; Jeremiah 31:12; Matthew 25:3-10; Luke 10:34

Pomegranate Tree

Pomegranate Tree Bible

Biology

If you spend most of your time in the New Testament, you may be surprised to find this tree in the Bible. The pomegranate is one of the signature trees of the promised land (Deut. 8:8). It produces beautiful red flowers in the spring. Its fruit ripens over the dry summer months and is harvested in the fall.

Human Connection

The moist, delicious fruit of this tree was enjoyed and celebrated because it ripened just as the cistern water was at its lowest quality. Pomegranate juice was drunk fresh and fermented into wine. According to the rabbis, the pomegranate has 613 seeds. That links it to the Torah, in which the rabbis found 613 laws. This is why Torah scroll handles are adorned with the pomegranate and perhaps why this fruit appears so frequently in the art that adorns the Old Testament sanctuary.

Bible Examples

Exodus 28:33-34; Numbers 13:23; 1 Kings 7:18, 20, 42; 2 Kings 25:17; Song of Songs 6:7; Haggai 2:19

Sycamore Tree

Biology

The biblical sycamore tree is not related to the sycamore trees of the Western world but is rather a type of fig tree. It is a very large tree with a rounded crown that produces copious amounts of shade. While rare today, it was present along the coastal plain and filled the foothills during Bible times.

Human Connection

The small fig produced by this tree along all its external surfaces, including the trunk, is eaten though it is of lower quality than the true fig. Its ripening can be enhanced by puncturing its skin, something shepherds like Amos were often hired to do as they watched their flocks (Amos 7:14). The branches of this tree combine the qualities of lightness and strength; consequently, they were employed as roof rafters.

Bible Examples

1 Kings 10:27; 1 Chronicles 27:28; Psalm 78:47; Isaiah 9:10; Luke 19:4

Tamarisk Tree

Biology

The tamarisk (also called a salt cedar) makes its home in the hottest and driest parts of the promised land where the soil is too salty for many other plants to survive. It extrudes a bit of that salt onto its linear leaves in order to attract moisture from the atmosphere, which it then absorbs through its leaf structures.

Human Connection

As one of the only trees that grows in the arid areas of this land, it was used for cooling. Although its leaves offer precious little shade, a freshening microclimate is created when the excess water that gathers on the salt-laden leaves evaporates in the late morning hours.

Bible Examples

Genesis 21:33; 1 Samuel 22:6; 31:13

Trees were a normal part of life within the world of the Bible, giving shade, nourishment, and supplies. They were a form of provision in the Garden of Eden and have been blessing humanity ever since.

The Baker Book of Charts, Maps, and Timelines

Baker Book of Bible Charts Maps Timelines

If you enjoyed this examination of trees and plants in the Bible, pick up your own copy of the Baker Book of Bible Charts, Maps, and Timelines, full of helpful maps, diagrams, and interesting lists like the one above. Add this one to your library today. You can also get the full 7-volume collection!

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