The Olive Tree


First the tree paeony, and now the olive tree! A few weeks ago, I noticed the first-ever flower on the little tree paeony that has been sitting for several years on the wall of my bleak and windswept backyard. You can look in the archives if you want to see a picture of it, in the entry for Saturday the seventeenth of June.

And now, wonder of wonders once more, the olive tree is blossoming!

Perhaps “tree” is bit of an exaggeration. If we pull back from the view above, you can see that it’s just a little bush in a Long Tom pot, which was the only one I had free for planting when I bought it in a small plastic pot some years ago.


Nevertheless, it’s now flowering, and I’m very pleased.

At first glance, it doesn’t look very remarkable, as plants go. But as Dr W. E. Shewell-Cooper says in his book “God Planted A Garden”, “One cannot over emphasise the importance of the olive to those who lived in Bible days. It was daily food, with a crust of bread, for the farm labourer. Travellers took with them twenty or thirty olives, and the paper-like loaves which the boy gladly gave to our Lord. Most of the meals would be cooked in oil. The lamp that was lit to provide light in the evening was fed with oil. The soap was made from olive oil...” You get the idea.

Still, not as attractive as the tree paeony, perhaps? Yet Hosea has this to say, in chapter 14, verse 6, speaking of a repentant Israel: “his shoots shall spread out; his beauty shall be like the olive, and his fragrance like Lebanon.” You can explore the spiritual significance of that passage for yourself; as Dr Shewell-Cooper also says, “There is so much that can be said about the olive in Scripture that one hardly knows where to begin or end.”

Just one small point out of many, then. Let’s look more closely at the last photo. If you’re on a small screen, you won’t see much; but on a laptop or larger, you should be able to make out not only the buds, but also the very attractive, tiny white flowers. To see them at close range, still wet with the overnight rain, glowing in the early morning sunshine - it was worth all that waiting.


We should also be warned by them. Botanists tell us that only one flower in a hundred actually produces a fruit. From a large tree, the blossoms fall away in abundance, looking like “snow in summer”, as one writer puts it. In Job 15, verses 31-33, Eliphaz speaks of the wicked man, saying: “Let him not trust in emptiness, deceiving himself, for emptiness will be his payment. It will be paid in full before his time, and his branch will not be green. He will shake off his unripe grape like the vine, and cast off his blossom like the olive tree.”

Dr Shewell-Cooper comments: “he warns men not to trust in vanity, which melts away like the thousands of useless petals that seem to be contemptuously thrown off by the large olive tree, as being nothing to her at all.”

In Matthew 24.32, our Lord says: “From the fig tree learn its lesson”. I think I’ll make a mental note to look more closely at the olive tree, too.