Native to the Middle East and Asia, this large shrub or small tree is a member of the mulberry family, Moraceae, that also includes banyan, breadfruit, and Osage-orange.  It grows 20-40′ tall and has attractive smooth silver-gray bark and wide spreading branches that may become very picturesque with maturity. The hairy, palmate leaves are dark green on the upper side and light green below. The leaves have three to five lobes, are up to twelve inches long, and have toothed or wavy margins. The greenish flowers are produced in spring inside a modified stem tip and are not visible. The “fruit” actually consist of many fruits within the modified stem tip and ripens in late summer to fall.

The common fig is one of the earliest fruit crops and was extensively cultivated in Egypt, Palestine, and Syria.  Even today fig trees are common throughout Palestine both in orchards and as a shade tree in gardens.  The fruits were eaten and used  medicinally, and the trees were valued for shade.   The importance of the fig (and vine) to the Israelites is revealed by the fact that the prophets frequently threatened  the destruction of the vine and fig crops when the people acted badly and then  promised the restoration of  these crops when the people mended their evil ways.

Genesis 3:7 (NIV) Adam and Eve eat the forbidden fruit and…

“Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.”

Numbers 13.23 (NIV) The 12 Israelite spies bring back some specimens from the reconnaissance trip into the Promised Land.

When they reached the Valley of Eshkol, they cut off a branch bearing a single cluster of grapes. Two of them carried it on a pole between them, along with some pomegranates and figs.”

Deuteromety 8.8 (NKJV) God tells the Israelites about the land that God is giving them.

“a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey;”

Judges 9: (NIV) Jotham’s parable

10. “Next, the trees said to the fig tree, ‘Come and be our king.”‘

11. “But the fig tree replied, ‘Should I give up my fruit, so good and sweet, to hold sway over the trees?’”

1 Samuel 25:18 (NIV) After Abigail hears that her husband insulted David, she prepares a present for David.

“Abigail acted quickly. She took two hundred loaves of bread, two skins of wine, five dressed sheep, five seahs of roasted grain, a hundred cakes of raisins and two hundred cakes of pressed figs, and loaded them on donkeys.”

1 Samuel 30:12 (NIV) David offers food to the abandon slave of Amalekite.

“part of a cake of pressed figs and two cakes of raisins. He ate and was revived, for he had not eaten any food or drunk any water for three days and three nights.”

1 Kings 4:25 (NIV) The peace and prosperity of Solomon’s kingdom is extolled.

“During Solomon’s lifetime Judah and Israel, from Dan to Beersheba, lived in safety, everyone under their own vine and under their own fig tree.”

2 Kings 18:31 (NIV) The messenger of the Assyrian king tries to persuade the subjects of  king Hezekiah to surrender.

““Do not listen to Hezekiah. This is what the king of Assyria says: Make peace with me and come out to me. Then each of you will eat fruit from your own vine and fig tree and drink water from your own cistern,”

2 Kings 20:7 (NIV) God gives 15 more years of life to Hezekiah.

“Then Isaiah said, “Prepare a poultice of figs.” They did so and applied it to the boil, and he recovered.”

1 Chronicles 12:40 (NIV) The armies of the tribes of Israel support David at Hebron.

“Also, their neighbors from as far away as Issachar, Zebulun and Naphtali came bringing food on donkeys, camels, mules and oxen. There were plentiful supplies of flour, fig cakes, raisin cakes, wine, olive oil, cattle and sheep, for there was joy in Israel.”

Psalms 105:33 (NIV) David recounts the plagues God sent to Egypt.

“He struck down their vines and fig trees and shattered the trees of their country.”

Proverbs 27:18 (NIV) One of the heavily edited sayings of Solomon:

“The one who guards a fig tree will eat its fruit, and whoever protects their master will be honored.”

Song of Songs 2:13 (NIV) The brides thinks about her recent encounter with her beloved.

The fig tree forms its early fruit; the blossoming vines spread their fragrance. Arise, come, my darling; my beautiful one, come with me.”

Isaiah 28:4 (NIV) Isaiah rebukes the drunkards of Ephraim.

“That fading flower, his glorious beauty, set on the head of a fertile valley, will be like figs ripe before harvest— as soon as people see them and take them in hand, they swallow them.”

Isaiah 36:16  (NIV) The Rabshakeh, field commander of the Assyrian army, speaks to the people of Jerusalem.

““Do not listen to Hezekiah. This is what the king of Assyria says: Make peace with me and come out to me. Then each of you will eat fruit from your own vine and fig tree and drink water from your own cistern,”

Isaiah 38:21 (NIV) God guides Isaiah to save King Hezekiah.

“Isaiah had said to Hezekiah’s servants, “Make an ointment from figs and spread it over the boil, and Hezekiah will recover.”

Jeremiah 5:17 (NIV) God tells the people that he will bring a mighty, ancient nation against Israel.

“They will devour your harvests and food, devour your sons and daughters; they will devour your flocks and herds, devour your vines and fig trees. With the sword they will destroy the fortified cities in which you trust.”

Jeremiah 8:13 (NIV) The people of Judah will suffer the consequences of rejecting the word of the Lord.

“’I will take away their harvest, declares the LORD. There will be no grapes on the vine. There will be no figs on the tree, and their leaves will wither. What I have given them will be taken from them.’”

Jeremiah 24:1,2,3,5, 8 (NIV) Jeremiah teaches the people a lesson from two baskets of figs.

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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.”

5. “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.

8. “’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.

Hosea 2:12 (NIV) The prophet describes how God will punish Israel for turning away from Him.

“I will ruin her vines and her fig trees, which she said were her pay from her lovers; I will make them a thicket, and wild animals will devour them”

Hosea 9:10 (NIV) God remember when Israel was faithful.

““When I found Israel, it was like finding grapes in the desert; when I saw your ancestors, it was like seeing the early fruit on the fig tree. But when they came to Baal Peor, they consecrated themselves to that shameful idol and became as vile as the thing they loved.”

Joel 1 (NIV) Joel describes the devastation the locusts have caused.

7. “It has laid waste my vines and ruined my fig trees. It has stripped off their bark and thrown it away, leaving their branches white.”

12. The vine is dried up and the fig tree is withered; the pomegranate, the palm and the apple tree— all the trees of the field—are dried up. Surely the people’s joy is withered away.

Joel 2:22 (NIV) Joel looks forward to the restoration of prosperity as God promised.

“Do not be afraid, you wild animals, for the pastures in the wilderness are becoming green. The trees are bearing their fruit; the fig tree and the vine yield their riches.”

Amos 4:9 (NIV) God describes his chastisement of Israel for turning away from Him.

““Many times I struck your gardens and vineyards, destroying them with blight and mildew. Locusts devoured your fig and olive trees, yet you have not returned to me,” declares the LORD.”

Micah 4:4 (NIV) The restoration of Zion by God is described.

“Everyone will sit under their own vine and under their own fig tree, and no one will make them afraid, for the LORD Almighty has spoken.

Nahum 3:12 (NIV) Nahum believes that Nineveh ill fall because of her wickedness.

“All your fortresses are like fig trees with their first ripe fruit; when they are shaken, the figs fall into the mouth of the eater.”

Habakkuk 3:17 (NIV) Habakkuk trusts God even in a crisis.

“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls,”

Haggai 2:19 (NIV) God promises to bless the people if they repent.

“Is there yet any seed left in the barn? Until now, the vine and the fig tree, the pomegranate and the olive tree have not borne fruit. “’From this day on I will bless you.’””

Zachariah 3:10 (NIV)  Joshua is told of the coming of the Messiah.

“’In that day each of you will invite your neighbor to sit under your vine and fig tree,’ declares the LORD Almighty.”

Matthew 7:16 (NIV) As part of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warns against false prophets.

“By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?”

Matthew 21:19 (NIV) After leaving Bethany, Jesus curses a fig tree that is not bearing fruit.

19. “Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!” Immediately the tree withered.”

20. “When the disciples saw this, they were amazed. “How did the fig tree wither so quickly?” they asked.”

21. Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done.

Matthew 24:23 (NIV) Jesus uses the fig tree to explain how people will know when he will return to earth.

““Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near.”

Mark 11 (NIV) After leaving Bethany, Jesus curses a fig tree that is not bearing fruit.

13. “Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs.”

20. “In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots.”

Luke 6:44 (NIV) Jesus warns against false prophets

“Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers.”

Luke 13(NIV) Jesus tells the parable of the barren fig tree.

6. Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any.

7. “So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’ ”

Luke 21: 29 (NIV) Jesus tells the parable of the barren fig tree.

“He told them this parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees.”

John 1 (NIV) Philip brings Nathanael to meet Jesus

48.“How do you know me?” Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.”

50. “Jesus said, ‘You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.'”

James 3:12 (NIV) James discusses the difficulties of controlling what we say.

“My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.”

Revelation 6:13 (NIV) The consequences of opening the 6th seal are described.

“and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind.”

Common fig likes full sun and average, medium moist, well-drained soil in USDA Hardiness Zones 8-10, but tolerates some shade and a wide variety of soils. Fruit set is best in hot dry areas where plants may produce two crops.   Plants are susceptible to damage by red spider and scale.  Propagation is by seed, grafting, air-layering, ground layering, hardwood cuttings, and softwood cuttings with mist.  Young trees should be pruned to allow three to four main branches.

The genus name, Ficus, is the classical Latin name for the common fig. The specific epithet, carica, comes from the Greek word karike, the name of a kind of fig.

By Karen