The Sacred Tree
"The dove came back to him in the evening, and lo, in her mouth a freshly plucked olive leaf; so Noah knew that the waters had subsided from the earth..." This is possibly the most frequently cited line from the Bible featuring the olive tree. In the Old Testament, Noah sent a winged messenger of peace on a mission to find dry land after the Flood. The dove returned to the ark with an olive leaf in her beak, announcing the retreat of the waters from the earth in the olive groves located in the area of what is now called Mount Ararat, in western Turkey.
Promises, admonitions, precepts and prophecies of the Old Testament frequently refer to olive trees, which is not surprising given that they were considered indispensable and vital for people's health and sustenance. The Promised Land, the land of the Hebrews, is described as the country of wheat, barley, grapes, pomegranates, olives and honey. King Solomon and King David placed great importance in the cultivation of olive trees. King David even had guards watching over the olive groves and warehouses to ensure the safety of the trees and their special oil, which was used for commerce and trade.
The Mythical Olive Tree
Prophets often warned the population to behave or else God would punish them either by destroying olive trees, or by making them produce bad olive oil. The prophet Joel foresaw that God's punishment would consist of devastating the fields, ruining the corn, drying the wine supply and ending oil production forever. When the population repented, God restored their crops, wine and oil (Joel 2:19-24).
The Jews, and then the Christians, began using olive oil to anoint kings, priests and believers. In fact, the word "Christ" means "anointed, consecrated." The prophet Malachea mentions that rivers of oil flowed during libations, and Samuel refers to the consecration of Saul with a jar of oil. Nowadays, the olive tree is still considered sacred, mysterious and mythical-a majestic tree that can survive thousands of years and watch history fly by.