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Issue #89 - 11/11
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Eli Dahan

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The fig in the Old Testament

As a Biblical Hebrew teacher I meet every week at least 120 different pupils from all around the world. In the last Webinar, which is a free weekly seminar that revolve around the Hebrew Bible, one of my students asked me about the fig tree. I promised him that I would check it out for him and this newsletter is dedicated to him and for the rest of our community, who asks us the teachers the important questions about Learning Biblical Hebrew.

The first time that the fig appears is the Garden of Eden story, when Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit-that according to some Jewish sages was the fig-and they opened their eyes literally and metaphorically and discovered that they were naked, as written:

Adam and Eve

 

"וַתִּפָּקַחְנָה, עֵינֵי שְׁנֵיהֶם, וַיֵּדְעוּ, כִּי עֵירֻמִּם הֵם; וַיִּתְפְּרוּ עֲלֵה תְאֵנָה, וַיַּעֲשׂוּ לָהֶם חֲגֹרֹת."

"And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig-leaves together, and made themselves girdles. (Genesis 3:7)

The fig leaves helped them to dress themselves, before they were exiled from the Garden.
The next time that we meet the fig is in the desert, while the people of Israel wanted to eat and in the wilderness they didn’t find any fruits, one of them was the fig, as we can read:

"וְלָמָה הֶעֱלִיתֻנוּ, מִמִּצְרַיִם, לְהָבִיא אֹתָנוּ, אֶל-הַמָּקוֹם הָרָע הַזֶּה:  לֹא מְקוֹם זֶרַע, וּתְאֵנָה וְגֶפֶן וְרִמּוֹן, וּמַיִם אַיִן, לִשְׁתּוֹת"

"And wherefore have ye made us to come up out of Egypt, to bring us in unto this evil place? It is no place of seed, or of figs, or of vines, or of pomegranates; neither is there any water to drink.'"(Numbers 20:5)

This fruit with another six can be found in Israel, the Promised Land, as you can see in the next passage from Deuteronomy:
 

    "אֶרֶץ חִטָּה וּשְׂעֹרָה, וְגֶפֶן וּתְאֵנָה וְרִמּוֹן; אֶרֶץ-זֵית שֶׁמֶן, וּדְבָשׁ"
 

"Land of wheat and barley, and vines and fig-trees and pomegranates; a land of olive-trees and honey ;"( Deuteronomy 8:8).

One of the famous prophecies of Jeremiah is dealing with two baskets of fig tree. The first basket with the good figs is a sign for those who will return from the exile to the Promised Land, while the second is a symbol for those who are not found in Babylon. They are the bad figs as written in Jeremiah 24-

Jeremiah

 

" הִרְאַנִי, יְהוָה, וְהִנֵּה שְׁנֵי דּוּדָאֵי תְאֵנִים, מוּעָדִים לִפְנֵי הֵיכַל יְהוָהאַחֲרֵי הַגְלוֹת נְבוּכַדְרֶאצַּר מֶלֶךְ-בָּבֶל אֶת-יְכָנְיָהוּ בֶן-יְהוֹיָקִים מֶלֶךְ-יְהוּדָה וְאֶת-שָׂרֵי יְהוּדָה וְאֶת-הֶחָרָשׁ וְאֶת-הַמַּסְגֵּר, מִירוּשָׁלִַם, וַיְבִאֵם, בָּבֶלהַדּוּד אֶחָד, תְּאֵנִים טֹבוֹת מְאֹד, כִּתְאֵנֵי, הַבַּכֻּרוֹת; וְהַדּוּד אֶחָד, תְּאֵנִים רָעוֹת מְאֹד, אֲשֶׁר לֹא-תֵאָכַלְנָה, מֵרֹעַ.  {פ}וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֵלַי, מָה-אַתָּה רֹאֶה יִרְמְיָהוּ, וָאֹמַר, תְּאֵנִים; הַתְּאֵנִים הַטֹּבוֹת, טֹבוֹת מְאֹד, וְהָרָעוֹת רָעוֹת מְאֹד, אֲשֶׁר לֹא-תֵאָכַלְנָה מֵרֹעַ.  {פ}וַיְהִי דְבַר-יְהוָה, אֵלַי לֵאמֹרכֹּה-אָמַר יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, כַּתְּאֵנִים הַטֹּבוֹת הָאֵלֶּהכֵּן-אַכִּיר אֶת-גָּלוּת יְהוּדָה, אֲשֶׁר שִׁלַּחְתִּי מִן-הַמָּקוֹם הַזֶּה אֶרֶץ כַּשְׂדִּים--לְטוֹבָהוְשַׂמְתִּי עֵינִי עֲלֵיהֶם לְטוֹבָה, וַהֲשִׁבֹתִים עַל-הָאָרֶץ הַזֹּאת; וּבְנִיתִים וְלֹא אֶהֱרֹס, וּנְטַעְתִּים וְלֹא אֶתּוֹשׁוְנָתַתִּי לָהֶם לֵב לָדַעַת אֹתִי, כִּי אֲנִי יְהוָה, וְהָיוּ-לִי לְעָם, וְאָנֹכִי אֶהְיֶה לָהֶם לֵאלֹהִים:  כִּי-יָשֻׁבוּ אֵלַי, בְּכָל-לִבָּם.  {ס}וְכַתְּאֵנִים, הָרָעוֹת, אֲשֶׁר לֹא-תֵאָכַלְנָה, מֵרֹעַ:  כִּי-כֹה אָמַר יְהוָה, כֵּן אֶתֵּן אֶת-צִדְקִיָּהוּ מֶלֶךְ-יְהוּדָה וְאֶת-שָׂרָיו וְאֵת שְׁאֵרִית יְרוּשָׁלִַם הַנִּשְׁאָרִים בָּאָרֶץ הַזֹּאת, וְהַיֹּשְׁבִים, בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִםוּנְתַתִּים לזועה (לְזַעֲוָה) לְרָעָה, לְכֹל מַמְלְכוֹת הָאָרֶץ, לְחֶרְפָּה וּלְמָשָׁל לִשְׁנִינָה וְלִקְלָלָה, בְּכָל-הַמְּקֹמוֹת אֲשֶׁר-אַדִּיחֵם שָׁםוְשִׁלַּחְתִּי בָם, אֶת-הַחֶרֶב אֶת-הָרָעָב וְאֶת-הַדָּבֶר, עַד-תֻּמָּם מֵעַל הָאֲדָמָה, אֲשֶׁר-נָתַתִּי לָהֶם וְלַאֲבוֹתֵיהֶם"

" After Jehoiachin son of Jehoiakim king of Judah and the officials, the skilled workers and the artisans of Judah were carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, the LORD showed me two baskets of figs placed in front of the temple of the LORD. One basket had very good figs, like those that ripen early; the other basket had very bad figs, so bad they could not be eaten.  Then the LORD asked me, “What do you see, Jeremiah?”  “Figs,” I answered. “The good ones are very good, but the bad ones are so bad they cannot be eaten.”  Then the word of the LORD came to me: “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘Like these good figs, I regard as good the exiles from Judah, whom I sent away from this place to the land of the Babylonians.  My eyes will watch over them for their good, and I will bring them back to this land. I will build them up and not tear them down; I will plant them and not uproot them. I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the LORD. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart.  “‘But like the bad figs, which are so bad they cannot be eaten,’ says the LORD, ‘so will I deal with Zedekiah king of Judah, his officials and the survivors from Jerusalem, whether they remain in this land or live in Egypt. I will make them abhorrent and an offense to all the kingdoms of the earth, a reproach and a byword, a curse and an object of ridicule, wherever I banish them. I will send the sword, famine and plague against them until they are destroyed from the land I gave to them and their ancestors.’”  (Jeremiah 24:1-10).

With those verses above we can learn the fig tree could be a sign for a sin or a sign of hope. For me I hope that all of us would eat from the good figs. They are a medicine from the enemy as we can see in 2 Kings 20:7. They are also a sign of the ideal peace of the Israelites and I do wish also for the rest of the world as written in 1 Kings 5:5-

 

Peace with the help of figs

 
"וַיֵּשֶׁב יְהוּדָה וְיִשְׂרָאֵל לָבֶטַח, אִישׁ תַּחַת גַּפְנוֹ וְתַחַת תְּאֵנָתוֹ, מִדָּן, וְעַד-בְּאֵר שָׁבַע--כֹּל, יְמֵי שְׁלֹמֹה"

 

"And Judah and Israel dwelt safely, every man under his vine and under his fig-tree, from Dan even to Beer-Sheba, all the days of Solomon. "(1Kings 5:5)

Have a blessed week and may peace will be in your heart and in your actions as well, Eli
 

 
Main phrases of the post + transcription + translation

Hebrew-Transcription-Translation

-tə'ēnîm -Fig- תְּאֵנִים
        tə'ēnāh-Fig-  תְאֵנָה
           bāvel    Babylon -    בָּבֶל
       hā'ădāmāh- The ground-  הָאֲדָמָה
           chittāh     -     Wheat -      חִטָּה 

 

 

 
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