The fig-tree (Ficus Carica) and its fruit are designated in Hebrew by the same word, "te'enah" (Deut. viii. 8; Judges ix. 10; Num. xiii. 23; II Kings xx. 7); the plural, "te'enim," indicating the fruit as distinct from the tree. According to Lagarde ("Mittheilungen," i. 58 et seq.), the fact that the name is not found originally in any other Semitic language indicates that the fig is indigenous to the territory occupied by the Hebrew-Aramaic Semites (see also Guidi, "Della Sede Primitiva dei Popoli Semitici," p. 35). "Te'enah" is the common term for "fig"; in a special sense, however, it denotes the figs which ripen in August and form the largest crop. The early figs, appearing in March or April and ripening in June, are called "bikkurah." In the Revised Version this word, in accordance with its etymology, is uniformly rendered by "first ripe fig" (Isa. xxviii. 4; Micah vii. 1; Hosea ix. 10). The early fig was considered a great delicacy by the Hebrews. The late or green figs, which sometimes ripen after the fall of the leaf, and occasionally remain on the tree during the winter months, are called "pag," whence the Greek βηϑφαγή ("the house of green figs"). They are alluded to in Cant. ii. 13, where the Vulgate rightly translates "paggeha" by "grossos suos," i.e., "its green figs." The term "ḳayiẓ," primarily meaning "the harvest of fruits" and "summer fruits" (Jer. xlviii. 32; Isa. xvi. 9), is sometimes used for the fig itself, probably for the late fig (II Sam. xvi. 1; Amos viii. 12).

The fig was one of the principal fruits of Palestine, even before the entrance of the Hebrews into the Promised Land (Num. xiii. 23). Figs were sometimes dried and pressed into cakes, called "debelah" on account of their round shape. These were used as food (I Sam. xxx. 12) and as a remedy for boils (II Kings xx. 7; Isa. xxxviii. 21). "Fig leaves" are mentioned as the material of the "aprons" of Adam and Eve (Gen. iii. 7), these leaves being larger than those of any other Palestinian tree.

The fig-tree was associated with the vine as an emblem of peace and prosperity (Micah iv. 4; Isa. xxxvi. 16). On the other hand, the failure of the fig-crop and the destruction of the fig-tree were regarded as a misfortune and as a punishment from God (Ps. cv. 33). In Jotham's parable (Judges ix.) the fig is distinguished for its sweetness and good fruit.

  • P. Bourdais, Flore de la Bible, Paris, 1879;
  • H. Tristram, The Natural History of the Bible, London, 1889.