Because of the lack of understanding in the right context, Yeshua’s words and deeds have been the object of wrong or very simplistic interpretations. The estrangement of the Gospels from their very Hebraic roots are responsible of many misinterpretations and misplaced criticism against Yeshua our Messiah.
I’ve often heard that “cursing the fig tree just because He was hungry” was just a whim from Yeshua, some kind of human weakness. Well, this is ignoring the whole symbolism that revolves around the fig tree, starting with Bereshit (Genesis Chapter 3).
The fig tree is a MAJOR symbol. While most people link it with Israel, one must also be aware, that, first and foremost the fig tree is the tree of knowledge (עץ הדעת). When we read Bereshit, Chapter 3, we undertstand that the fruit that led the first human beings into temptation is the fig ( not the apple-this is a catholic adjunction). When Adam and Eva’s eyes were opened, they became aware of their nakedness and they sewed fig leaves together to make themselves girdles.
Both, fig tree and fig fruit are called “teena” (תְאֵנָה) in Hebrew. You will understand after the scriptural context, which one is meant. In Genesis 3; 7 it is quite clear that “teena” refers to the fig tree leaves.
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.
The fig tree without the fruit i.e the use of the fig leaves is a symbol of human decadence.
Here is Matthew’s report about the accursed fig tree:
“In the morning, He returned to the city and He was hungry. He saw a fig tree beside the road, and He drew near to it, but found nothing on it except the leaves.
He said to it, “From now on, there shall not be fruit from you ever again!”
Suddenly the fig tree withered.
The disciples saw it and were amazed.
They said: “How did the fig tree wither so suddenly?”
Yeshua answered to them,
“Amen I say to you, if you have faith and your heart is not divided, you will do things like the deed of the fig tree.
You will even say to this mountain: ” Be lifted up and be moved in the middle of the sea”, and it will be so. All that you ask in prayer if you believe will come to you.”
Matthew 21:18-22 Delitzsch Hebrew Gospels
Of course, on a literal level of intepretation, Yeshua was hungry. However, within a single verse, there are always several levels of interpretation, and it is impossible to separate Yeshua’s sayings from Torah studies. One must always remember that Yeshua is a rabbi and that His teachings matter in regards of the Torah.
Mark’s report is intertwined with Yeshua turning over the tables of the Temple merchants.
“The next day, a they went out from Beit-Hini, He was hungry. He aw a fig tree from far away. It has leaves, so He came to see if He could find fruit on it. He drew near to it, but He did not find anything but leaves, because it was not the season of the figs. He answered and said to it: ” From now on, no one will eat from you ever again”. And His disciples heard.” (Mark Chapter 11, verses 12-14) Delitzsch Hebrew Gospels
Probably because Mark added the precision that “it was not the season of the figs”, a lot of people thought that Yeshua just had a temper tantrum.
However, not only must we do our best to read every story in context, we must also understand when the narrator connects another story with a specific episode, which is the case here. The fig tree episode is followed by the story of Yeshua driving out the merchants from the Temple, then Mark goes back to the fig tree:
“They were passing through in the morning, and they saw that the fig tree had withered from its roots. Petros remembered and said to Him, “Rabbi, look!” The fig tree that you cursed is withered!
Yeshua answered and said to them: “Let the faith of God be in you., For, amen, I say to you, anyone who says to this mountain, ” Be lifted up and moved into the middle of the sea, and does not doubt in his heart, but rather believes that what he says will be done, so will it be for him as he has said. Therefore, I say to you, all that you ask in your prayer, believe that you have receive it, and it will be so for you. And when you pray, pardon eeryone for what is in your heart against them, so that your Father who is in Heaven will also forgive your transgressions. But as for you, if you do not pardon, neither will your Father who is in Heaven forgive your transgressions” Mark 11: 20-26
Yeshua’s teaching of the fig tree is tangled with two major elements: discipleship and faith.
Remember that Yeshua always taught that one recognizes a true disciple by his fruit ( Matthew 7:16)
Not only will a true disciple act in faith ( with a heart that is not divided, as Yeshua stated it), but he will also be zealous for Hashem, denouncing any kind of idolatry or injustice, in the same way Yeshua chased the Temple merchants who were corrupted by money.
Discipleship to Yeshua is very demanding. Remember the words of Revelation 3:16:
“So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot or cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.”
Now, what does this have to do with the fig tree?
The fig tree is found bearing NO FRUIT.
It represents the workers of iniquity, the ones Yeshua will not recognize when He returns.
Hearing Yeshua’s words and knowing them ( even if it is by heart) is not enough. One must bear good fruit, the fruit of love, compassion and forgiveness.
A tree of knowledge (עץ הדעת) without fruit is BOUND TO DESTRUCTION. Studying is not enough. Only purity of heart and the actions of kindness that proceed from it will grant you access to Hashem.
Also, what are the implications about the Temple? The following, very detailed study, from a Messianic perspective, will allow you to understand the complex association between fig leaves and the downfall of the Second Temple ( foreseen by Yeshua).
Study your Scriptures, but remember to keep love dwelling inside of your heart. Dead faith will wither like the accursed fig tree.
Copyright© by Isabelle Esling