SYMBOL -OLIVE BRANCH

The Symbolism of the Olive Tree in the Jewish Faith - Sponsor an Olive Tree  in Israel

WHY IS THE OLIVE BRANCH USED AS A SYMBOL OF PEACE?

The origins of using olive branch as a symbol of peace lie in ancient Greek culture. In ancient Rome too, the defeated during a war used to hold an olive branch to indicate that they were pleading for peace.

The olive branch is first mentioned in Scripture when the dove returned to Noah’s ark carrying an olive branch in its beak (Gen. 8:11). Since that time, the olive branch has been a symbol of “peace” to the world, and we often hear the expression, “extending an olive branch” to another person as a desire for peace.

THE OLIVE BRANCH IN THE BIBLE

Long before the ancient Greeks used the olive branch as a symbol of peace and victory, the Bible recorded that the dove brought an olive branch to the ark as a message that the Great Flood had ended. Here’s what happened:

Following the Great Flood, Noah dispatched birds from the ark to see if the water had receded. First, he sent a raven, but it found no place to rest and came back to the ark. Then he sent a dove, but the bird returned as well. Then, on the 301st day of the Great Flood, Noah sent the dove yet again. The dove stayed away all day, and then “the dove came in to him in the evening, and, lo, in her mouth was an olive leaf plucked off; and Noah knew that the waters were abated from off the earth.”

WHY AN OLIVE?

OLIVES ARE HARDY

Some explain that olive trees are very hardy and therefore able to withstand extreme conditions. Although the foliage was unable to survive the flood, the olive tree itself did. Thus, the dove bringing back the olive branch indicated that the flood waters had receded enough for leaves to start growing again.

OLIVE BRANCH OFFERED IN SCRIPTURE

ABIGAIL IN THE BOOK OF SAMUEL OFFERS TO BECOME AN OLIVE BRANCH TO DAVID BY HER ACTIONS.

It is a long story but so worth reading.

READ SCRIPTURE 1 SAMUEL 25

Now Samuel died, and all Israel assembled and mourned for him; and they buried him at his home in Ramah. Then David moved down into the Desert of Paran.[a]

A certain man in Maon, who had property there at Carmel, was very wealthy. He had a thousand goats and three thousand sheep, which he was shearing in Carmel. His name was Nabal and his wife’s name was Abigail. She was an intelligent and beautiful woman, but her husband was surly and mean in his dealings—he was a Calebite.

While David was in the wilderness, he heard that Nabal was shearing sheep. So he sent ten young men and said to them, “Go up to Nabal at Carmel and greet him in my name. Say to him: ‘Long life to you! Good health to you and your household! And good health to all that is yours!

“‘Now I hear that it is sheep-shearing time. When your shepherds were with us, we did not mistreat them, and the whole time they were at Carmel nothing of theirs was missing. Ask your own servants and they will tell you. Therefore, be favourable toward my men, since we come at a festive time. Please give your servants and your son David whatever you can find for them.’”

When David’s men arrived, they gave Nabal this message in David’s name. Then they waited.

10 Nabal answered David’s servants, “Who is this David? Who is this son of Jesse? Many servants are breaking away from their masters these days. 11 Why should I take my bread and water, and the meat I have slaughtered for my shearers, and give it to men coming from who knows where?”

12 David’s men turned around and went back. When they arrived, they reported every word. 13 David said to his men, “Each of you strap on your sword!” So they did, and David strapped his on as well. About four hundred men went up with David, while two hundred stayed with the supplies.

14 One of the servants told Abigail, Nabal’s wife, “David sent messengers from the wilderness to give our master his greetings, but he hurled insults at them. 15 Yet these men were very good to us. They did not mistreat us, and the whole time we were out in the fields near them nothing was missing. 16 Night and day they were a wall around us the whole time we were herding our sheep near them. 17 Now think it over and see what you can do, because disaster is hanging over our master and his whole household. He is such a wicked man that no one can talk to him.”

18 Abigail acted quickly. She took two hundred loaves of bread, two skins of wine, five dressed sheep, five seahs[b] of roasted grain, a hundred cakes of raisins and two hundred cakes of pressed figs, and loaded them on donkeys. 19 Then she told her servants, “Go on ahead; I’ll follow you.” But she did not tell her husband Nabal.

20 As she came riding her donkey into a mountain ravine, there were David and his men descending toward her, and she met them. 21 David had just said, “It’s been useless—all my watching over this fellow’s property in the wilderness so that nothing of his was missing. He has paid me back evil for good. 22 May God deal with David,[c] be it ever so severely, if by morning I leave alive one male of all who belong to him!”

23 When Abigail saw David, she quickly got off her donkey and bowed down before David with her face to the ground. 24 She fell at his feet and said: “Pardon your servant, my lord, and let me speak to you; hear what your servant has to say. 25 Please pay no attention, my lord, to that wicked man Nabal. He is just like his name—his name means Fool, and folly goes with him. And as for me, your servant, I did not see the men my lord sent. 26 And now, my lord, as surely as the Lord your God lives and as you live, since the Lord has kept you from bloodshed and from avenging yourself with your own hands, may your enemies and all who are intent on harming my lord be like Nabal. 27 And let this gift, which your servant has brought to my lord, be given to the men who follow you.

28 “Please forgive your servant’s presumption. The Lord your God will certainly make a lasting dynasty for my lord, because you fight the Lord’s battles, and no wrongdoing will be found in you as long as you live. 29 Even though someone is pursuing you to take your life, the life of my lord will be bound securely in the bundle of the living by the Lord your God, but the lives of your enemies he will hurl away as from the pocket of a sling. 30 When the Lord has fulfilled for my lord every good thing he promised concerning him and has appointed him ruler over Israel, 31 my lord will not have on his conscience the staggering burden of needless bloodshed or of having avenged himself. And when the Lord your God has brought my lord success, remember your servant.”

32 David said to Abigail, “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, who has sent you today to meet me. 33 May you be blessed for your good judgment and for keeping me from bloodshed this day and from avenging myself with my own hands. 34 Otherwise, as surely as the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, who has kept me from harming you, if you had not come quickly to meet me, not one male belonging to Nabal would have been left alive by daybreak.”

35 Then David accepted from her hand what she had brought him and said, “Go home in peace. I have heard your words and granted your request.”

REFLECTION

In what ways is Abigail a sort of olive branch to David?

Has anyone ever been like an olive branch to you?

Are there ways we are called to be, so to speak, an olive branch to others?

What are the qualities we can emulate from Abigail?

REFLECT USING THE PAINTING BELOW

The Meeting of David and Abigail | Detroit Institute of Arts Museum

PRAYER

Heavenly Father, thank you that you are the God of peace and love.

We praise you for the peace

that you shed abroad in our hearts through the Holy Spirit,

and for the peace that Christ offers us

through his sacrifice on the cross.

As we receive your peace help us to live peaceably

with one another.

Where there is discord

help us to offer the olive branch of peace.

Enable us also to receive when offered

olive branch extended to us.

We ask this in Christ’s name . Amen

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St John the Evangelist, Dumfries, is a parish of the Scottish Episcopal Church also serving Methodist parishioners locally.

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