The Olive Tree and the Oil

The healing ritual set forth by the apostle James requires an anointing oil. However, no description is given as to the type of oil used by the elders of the early church. Moreover, if the anointing oil was a special blend of oils as was the holy anointing oil used by the priesthood and the prophets of ancient Israel, no details are given in the New Treatment concerning how to formulate this oil. These facts leave us with the question of what oil is acceptable to use when anointing the sick as instructed by the apostle James?

Because all 10 references to oil in the New Testament are translated from the Greek word elaion, which means olive oil, many believe that olive oil is the oil to be used to anoint the sick. Although these 10 references seem to prove that the oil used was olive oil, it may not be proof, because the Greek word elaion was also used in a wider sense during Christ's time to denote any oil or fatty fluid.

In order to determine if olive oil is acceptable to use for anointing as instructed by the apostle James, a few facts about the olive tree and the oil derived from its fruit will be noted and several biblical accounts in which the olive tree and olive oil are mentioned will be reviewed.

The Olive Tree, Fruit, and Oil

Olive trees are evergreen trees and retain their dying leaves until new leaves are produced to replace them. The tree is drought, disease, and fire-resistant, and can live for many centuries. If the tree is destroyed, but the root system is still intact, the tree is capable of regenerating. Therefore, the olive tree is considered to have an eternal quality and its oil is considered sacred by many cultures. Moreover, research seems to support the health-giving benefits of olives, olive oil, and the use of olive leaves as a medicinal tea.

In the Bible, there are over two hundred references to the olive tree, its fruit, or the oil derived from its fruit being associated with God's worship system, service to God, righteous individuals, prophecies about future events, blessings for obedience to God, or curses for disobedience.

Peace and New Life

After the great flood destroyed all but eight people on earth, Noah released a dove (symbolic of peace) to determine if the flood waters had receded. The second time he sent out the dove, it brought back an olive leaf, which is symbolic of peace and new life, as confirmation that the flood waters were receding. See Gen. 8:1-11.

Anointing and Light

The Creator required Moses to use pure olive oil in the formulation of the holy anointing oil (Ex.30:22-25), which was to be used to bestow a holy state of existence, to establish men to a sacred position of authority, function, and responsibility, as well as to impart the necessary abilities for individuals to carry out their assignment.

The Israelites were required to provide a continuous supply of pure olive oil as fuel to be burnt in the lamps used to light the tabernacle. See Ex.27:20-21; Lev.24:1-4. With the correct wick, pure olive oil burns without fumes, odor, smoke, or soot. And about 2 ounces of pure olive oil will burn about 12 hours, which is just one of the several reasons it was an excellent choice for lighting the sanctuary.

Ritual Cleansing, the Number 8, and Olive oil

Leviticus 14:1-32 details a complex and lengthy cleansing ritual which was to be completed at the tabernacle before a person who was cured of leprosy could re-enter the Israelite community.

On the eighth day after a priest had determined that a person was free of leprosy, the individual was to begin and complete the process of ritual cleansing.

As with all things set forth in the biblical record, there is much more meaning to what is recorded than the obvious literal meaning of the words used. Besides their numerical value, numbers are many times used to convey a conceptual or a symbolic meaning, and so it is with the number eight. One of the meanings of the number eight is a new beginning.

The new beginning for the former leper was the completion of the ritual cleansing when he or she was allowed to again actively participate as a member of the Israelite community.

After presenting olive oil and the required sacrifice before the Creator for his acceptance, the olive oil and the sacrifice became holy and therefore could be used to complete the purification ritual for the former leper.

The blood of the sacrifice and the olive oil were applied to the tip of the right ear, right thumb, and right big toe of the person being cleansed. Additionally, the olive oil was offered with the sacrifice, sprinkled seven times before God, and poured on the head of the person being cleansed.

Although no explanation is given as to the cause of the leprosy, the sacrifices offered as a part of this ritual cleansing were considered sin offerings. All sin offerings were performed to set aside known sins and sins committed in ignorance, thereby restoring a harmonious relationship with God.

The following explains what seems to be a correlation between the cleansing ritual of the former leper and being anointed with oil for healing as instructed by the apostle James.

All sin requiring the death penalty must be atoned for through a blood sacrifice. We know that all sacrifices for sin under the Creator's covenant with ancient Israel were symbolic and prophetic of Christ's sacrificial life blood, which was to pay the penalty for the sins of humans. We also know it is through Christ's sacrificial blood that forgiveness of sin is obtained as a result of following the healing ritual set forth by James (Jms.5:15).

The olive oil used in the former leper's cleansing ritual only became holy after it was presented for the Creator's acceptance. An oil used by elders of the Father's earthly priesthood would logically also become holy when used in accordance with James' instructions, because elders and the elect they serve are holy individuals, as well as the Sovereign Father's holy temples on earth. Therefore, any anointing oil used by an elder in a healing ritual must also be holy in order to fulfill its purpose.

The completion of the cleansing ritual on the eighth day was a new beginning for the former leper as he or she reentered the Israelite community. A person healed of their illness and forgiven of their sins through the healing ritual set forth by James also has a new beginning in which to live a healthy, sin-free life.

Blessings and Curses

There are many prophecies which speak of the olive tree, its fruit, and its oil being part of the many blessings provided by God for righteous behavior. Additionally, there are also many prophecies which show that being without the benefits of the olive tree is one of the curses which accompanies God's punishment for unrighteous behavior.


Enoch who is noted in the biblical record as a righteous man foretold a tremendous increase in food production from the soil after Christ returns. This prophecy indicates that olives will continue to produce oil even after being pressed ten times. See Enoch 10:17-20. The Book of Enoch, translation by George H. Schodde, Ph.D.

An abundance of olive trees and olive oil were among the many blessings of natural resources which were in the land the Creator gave to the Israelites:

"And it shall be, when the Lord your God shall have brought you into the land which he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you great and goodly cities, which you did not build, And houses full of all good things, which you did not fill, and wells dug, which you did not dig, vineyards and olive trees, which you did not plant; when you shall have eaten and are full; Then beware lest you forget the Lord, which brought you forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage" (Deut.6:10-12 KJV Para.).

"For the Lord your God brings you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths that spring out of valleys and hills; A land of wheat, and barley, and vines, and fig trees, and pomegranates; a land of oil olive, and honey; A land wherein you shall eat bread without scarceness, you shall not lack any thing in it; a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you may dig copper" (Deut.8:7-9 KJV Para.).

The Psalmist writes the following prophetic promise to parents who respect God and practice his law and to their children and their descendants who will live during Christ's reign on earth:

"Blessed is every one that fears the Lord; that walks in his ways. For you shall eat the labor of your hands: happy shall you be, and it shall be well with you. Your wife shall be as a fruitful vine by the sides of your house: your children like olive plants round about your table. Behold, that this shall the man be blessed that fears the Lord" (Psa.128:1-4 KJV).

The English word plants in the phrase your children like olive plants is translated from the Hebrew word shethiyl, which means a sprig (as if transplanted), i.e., that which rises out of a parent plant. Therefore, if the children are symbolic of olive sprigs, their righteous parents are symbolic of olive trees.


One of the many curses the Creator promised to bring on the Israelites if they refused to keep their agreement with him and obey his instructions was non-productive olives trees, which would result in being without olive oil with which to anoint their bodies:

"You shall plant vineyards, and dress them, but shall neither drink of the wine, nor gather the grapes; for the worms shall eat them. You shall have olive trees throughout all your coasts, but you shall not anoint yourself with the oil; for your olive shall cast his fruit" (Deut.28:39-40 KJV).

It is well known that olive oil provides many nutritional, cosmetic, and medicinal benefits, among which are its usage to maintain skin suppleness, to heal abrasions, and to soothe the burning and drying effects of sun and water.

The prophet Jeremiah recorded the destruction of the house of Israel and the house of Judah, which the Creator originally established as a single nation. In this prophecy, the Creator expressed his original love and respect for his chosen people by calling them a green olive tree, fair, and of goodly fruit:

"The Lord called your name, A green olive tree, fair, and of goodly fruit: with the noise of a great tumult he has kindled fire upon it, and the branches of it are broken. For the Lord of hosts, that planted you, has pronounced evil against you, for the evil of the house of Israel and of the house of Judah, which they have done against themselves to provoke me to anger in offering incense to Baal" (Jer.11:16-17 KJV).

In a lengthy reprimand to the Samaritans (prophetically the national entities of the scattered ten tribes of the house of Israel) and a warning that they are about to experience the wrath of their maker, the Creator says the following about the blessings he has taken away, among which are the olive trees:

"I have smitten you with blasting and mildew: when your gardens and your vineyards and your fig trees and your olive trees increased, the palmer-worm devoured them: yet have you not returned to me, says the Lord" (Amos 4:9 KJV). See Amos 4:1-13.

King David

King David knew he had been anointed to govern Israel according to God's law and that the oil produced from the fruit of the olive tree was essential to maintaining God's worship system and the Creator's presence in the tabernacle. He also understood that the olive tree and its oil symbolized the quality of holiness and service to God, hence his analogy of himself as a green olive tree:

"But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God: I trust in the mercy of God for ever and ever. I will praise you for ever, because you have done it: and I will wait on your name; for it is good before your saints" (Psa.52:8-9 KJV).

The English word green is from the Hebrew word ra-anan, which means to be green; verdant; (by analogy), new; (figuratively), prosperous. The English words olive tree is from the Hebrew word zayith, which means an olive (as yielding illuminating oil), the tree, the branch or the berry.

Solomon's Temple

A large amount of olive wood was used in the construction of Solomon's temple. The doorposts for the temple entrance were made of olive wood and the doors, doorposts, and lintels for entrance into the holy of holies were also made of olive wood. The use of olive wood in the construction of these items and the extensive use of olive wood to panel the walls adjacent to these two doors indicates a high regard for the symbolism of the olive tree in worship and service to God. Additionally, the two cherubim, which were overlaid with gold and stood in the holy of holies were made of olive wood. See 1.Kgs.6:23-35.

Two Prophetic Olive Trees

The prophet Zechariah records many interesting things about the time shortly before Christ returns, one of which reveals the identity of the two men who will become the two witnesses spoken of in Revelation, chapter 11.

Although no totally accurate translation of Zechariah, chapter 4 is available to quote, verses 1-5 and 11-14 of this prophecy describe two men as olive trees standing to the right and left of the Lord of the earth while dispensing a golden fluid (i.e., oil used in cooking and lamps) from themselves.

Because these men are described as olive trees, and the context of verses 1-5 and verses 11-14 describes lamps which give light, it seems logical to assume that the oil these men dispense is symbolic of God's truth which gives spiritual enlightenment.


For a complete explanation of Zech.4:1-14 see chapter 11 of the Book, Biblical Prophecies, Past, Present, and Future. (ISBN 978-0-9844608-1-6).

In the Book of Revelation, these two men are shown to be two dynamic and powerful men who will proclaim God the Father's good news message from Jerusalem a few years before Christ returns to establish his Father's Kingdom and rule on earth:

"And I will give to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth. These are the two olive trees and the two lamp-stands before the Lord of the earth" (Rev.11:3-4 Para.).

Trees are often symbolic of men, people as a group, and nations. Additionally, olive trees are sometimes symbolic of righteousness and that which endures; therefore, it seems logical these two olive trees represent two righteous men from which spiritual enlightenment comes. Although olive oil is not specifically noted in Zech.4:1-14 and Rev.11: 3-4, it is certainly implied as a symbolic source of spiritual enlightenment.

Israel, the Olive Tree

Hosea records a prophecy in which the Creator urges the Israelites to repent and return to him because they will not find safety in the armies of the modern day Assyrians. Verses 4 through 6 of this prophecy speaks to a time after Christ returns, in which the Israelites who have been brought back to their land of inheritance are described as a beautiful olive tree nourished by God:

"I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for my anger is turned away from him. I will be as the dew to Israel: he shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon. His branches shall spread, and his beauty shall be as the olive tree, and his smell as Lebanon" (Hos.14:4-6 KJV). See Hos.4:1-9 for the entire prophecy.

Israelites and Non-Israelites

Under the Creator's agreement with ancient Israel, all Israelites and proselytes who diligently practiced God's law were offered salvation, but other national entities were not offered this same agreement. However, after Christ sacrificed his life to pay the penalty for the sins of all humans, all people, irrespective of nationality, are offered salvation through a new agreement with better terms and conditions. See Jer.31: 31-34.

When the apostle Paul wrote to the non-Israelites at Rome about obedience to God and their salvation, he explained that the Israelites were spiritually blinded because of their sins and had lost their agreement with God, which resulted in their being cut off from God and the source of spiritual enlightenment. See Jer.3:1-8.

After explaining that God had not broken his promises to the Israelites and that, although they were temporally denied the things promised to them, they would nonetheless eventually receive what was promised. Paul then wrote the following using the olive tree, its branches, and its root stock as an analogy to explain how non-Israelites can now have a covenant relationship with God the Father and obtain salvation:

"For if the first-fruit [Christ] be holy, the lump [i.e., swelling in the bark] is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches. And if some of the branches [Israelites] be broken off, and you [non-Israelites], being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them partake of the root and fatness of the olive tree" (Rom.11:16-17 KJV).

Paul refers to the olive tree and its roots as being holy; therefore, the Israelite and the non-Israelite are also holy and of equal status in their heavenly Father's earthly family.

The English word fatness in verse 17 is translated from the Greek word piotes, which implies the idea of plumpness, (by implication) richness or oiliness. The use of the word piotes and the fact that non-Israelite elect are a part of the Father's earthly family along with Israelites tells the non-Israelites that both now partake of the same source of spiritual nourishment (i.e., the olive tree roots) through which spiritual enlightenment and benefits are derived.

"Do not boast over those branches [Israelites]. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, "Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in." Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but be afraid. For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either" (Rom.11: 18-21 NIV).

Paul explains that non-Israelites should not feel superior to Israelites, because it was God's agreement with the Israelites and the loss of that agreement which allowed them to have an opportunity for salvation.

"Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in his goodness: otherwise you also shall be cut off. And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be grafted in: for God is able to graft them in again" (Rom.11:22-23 KJV).

The new agreement which offers better terms and conditions still requires obedience to God in order to maintain a harmonious relationship with him and obtain salvation:

"For if you were cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and were grafted contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these [Israelites], which be the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree? For I would not, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in" (Rom.11:24-25 KJV).

Paul understood the symbolism of the olive tree to God's plan for the salvation of all people; therefore, he used this symbolism to teach the non-Israelites a valuable lesson about obtaining salvation and maintaining righteousness.

Oil of Gladness

The writer to Hebrews wrote the following about Christ being anointed by his heavenly Father with the oil of great joy to a position above all others who participate in his kingdom:

"But to the Son [Christ] he says, Your throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness, and hated law breaking; therefore God [God the Father], even your God, has anointed you with the oil of great joy above your fellows. And, You, Lord, in the beginning have laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of your hands" (Heb.1:8-10 KJV Para.).


With few exceptions, all sacrifices and offerings required by God during the existence of the tabernacle and the temple were accompanied with olive oil. Additionally, the prophet Ezekiel recorded that, after Christ returns and a new temple is established, sacrifices offered at this temple will also be accompanied with olive oil.

The olive tree, its fruit, and the oil derived from its fruit are used throughout the biblical record to convey much symbolism and many spiritual concepts related to worship and service to God, righteous individuals, prophecies about future events, blessings for obedience to God, and curses for disobedience. But, does this prove that olive oil is the oil which must be used by elders today to anoint the sick. The answer is no, because symbolism, concepts, and reality are different things.

All 10 references to oil in the New Testament are translated from the Greek word elaion, which means olive oil. This includes the word oil in James' instructions to anoint the sick with oil in the ritual for healing and the forgiveness of sin.

But, do these ten references prove that olive oil was the oil used by Christ's disciples to anoint the sick as they went about proclaiming the Kingdom of God? Was the oil used by the elders of the early church to anoint the sick olive oil? Although these 10 references seem to prove that the oil used was olive oil, it may not be proof, because, the Greek word elaion was also used in a wider sense during this time period to denote any oil or fatty fluid.

Nothing presented in this section absolutely proves that olive oil was used by the elders of the early church as an anointing oil in the healing ritual as set forth by the apostle James.

What should be crystal clear is that elders within the Father's earthly family today do not need a specially formulated oil with which to anoint. If it were necessary, it would be well documented in the biblical record or would otherwise be available for use.

It is important to remember that the elders and the elect they serve are holy individuals and both are also the Sovereign Father's holy temples on earth. Therefore, the anointing oil used in the sacred healing ritual set forth by the apostle James will be holy by virtue of its being used to fulfill a holy purpose for and by a holy people. But, is it acceptable to use olive oil to anoint the sick as set forth by the apostle James? The following are the strongest indications that the use of olive oil is acceptable:

    • Holy anointing oil contained olive oil.
    • Past sacrifices and offerings were accompanied by olive oil.
    • Future sacrifices will be accompanied by olive oil.
    • Olive oil was an essential part of a former leper's cleansing ritual from physical defilement and for the atonement of both known sins and sins committed in ignorance.

By B.L. Cocherell b8w16-9