What do figs have to do with the Bible? More than you may realize.
That’s because the land of Israel was blessed but even more so through the seven traditional species (wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates) as listed in Deuteronomy:
For Hashem your God is bringing you into a good land, a land with streams and springs and fountains issuing from plain and hill; a land of wheat and barley, of vines, figs, and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey; Deuteronomy 8:7-8
It was with these fruits that the ritual of the first fruits was performed in the Temple. The Torah commands the bringing of the first fruits from the period between the pilgrimage festivals of Shavuot (Feast of Weeks) and Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles).
Thou shalt take of the first of all the fruit of the ground, which thou shalt bring in from thy land that Hashem thy God giveth thee; and thou shalt put it in a basket and shalt go unto the place which Hashem thy God shall choose to cause His name to dwell there. Deuteronomy 26:2
There is evidence that the common fig was among the first – if not the very first – plant species that were deliberately bred for agriculture in the Middle East, starting more than 11,000 years ago. This may have been why a fig leaf was mentioned as the first clothing mentioned in the Bible, covering up the nakedness of Adam and Eve.
Then the eyes of both of them were opened and they perceived that they were naked; and they sewed together fig leaves and made themselves loincloths. Genesis 3:7
In prophecy, the fig tree is described as a place of pre- and post-redemption contentment:
All the days of Shlomo, Yehuda and Yisrael from Dan to Be’er Sheva dwelt in safety, everyone under his own vine and under his own fig tree. I Kings 5:5
But every man shall sit Under his grapevine or fig tree With no one to disturb him. For it was God the lord of Hosts who spoke. Micah 4:4
Conversely, the lack of figs symbolizes bad times experienced by Israel bereft of God’s blessings:
I will make an end of them —declares Hashem: No grapes left on the vine, No figs on the fig tree, The leaves all withered; Whatever I have given them is gone. Jeremiah 8:13
Though the fig tree does not bud And no yield is on the vine, Though the olive crop has failed And the fields produce no grain, Though sheep have vanished from the fold And no cattle are in the pen. Habakkuk 3:17
The fig tree is also symbolic of Israel itself – It often symbolized the health of the nation both spiritually and physically as prophesied by Hosea:
I found Yisrael [as pleasing] As grapes in the wilderness; Your fathers seemed to Me Like the first fig to ripen on a fig tree. Hosea 9:10
It also symbolizes royalty denied as alluded to in the Book of Judges:
So the trees said to the fig tree, ‘You come and reign over us.’ But the fig tree replied, ‘Have I stopped yielding my sweetness, my delicious fruit, that I should go and wave above the trees?’ Judges 9:10-11
The fig is also mentioned as a curative. A fig compress was used by Isaiah to cure King Hezekiah:
When Yeshayahu said, “Let them take a cake of figs and apply it to the rash, and he will recover.” Isaiah 38:21
The nutritional benefits of figs is affirmed by modern science, They are purported to be rich in minerals, especially potassium, iron, and calcium, and they contain omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Figs also contain phytosterols, which inhibit the absorption of dietary cholesterol, thus decreasing the total levels of cholesterol.