The fig and the sycamore fig

A friend (he really is) on Facebook left this comment about yesterday’s post.

is the fig of the Bible the same as what we call figs? They used a fig dresser; we don’t.

He seems to be thinking of the fig mentioned in Amos 7:14.

Then Amos answered and said to Amaziah, “I was no prophet, nor a prophet’s son, but I was a herdsman and a dresser of sycamore figs. (Amos 7:14 ESV)

Other English versions use the terms grower, tender, or took care of. Amos tended the sycamore fig — the ficus sycomorus.

The question results from some confusion in translating the various biblical words into English. According to Fauna and Flora of the Bible, the fig we showed yesterday is the ficus carica. The fig mentioned in Amos 7:14 is the ficus sycomorus.

The sycamore fig growing in the lowlands at Neot Kedumim. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The sycamore fig growing in the lowlands at Neot Kedumim. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The description of the ficus sycomorus in Fauna and Flora of the Bible says,

The sycamore tree belongs to the Nettle family, like the mulberry and fig trees. It grows in many places in Palestine, especially in the plain, from Gaza to Jaffa and Haifa, and in the Jericho valley.…

The leaves are evergreen and heart-shaped, and the fruit looks like figs, but its taste is unpleasant. However, it was eaten by poor people, and Amos (7:14) was a gatherer of sycamore fruit. The Hb. [Hebrew] verb may indicate the way the sycamore fruits were eaten, so that the proper translation may not be ‘gatherer of sycamore fruit’, or ‘cultivator’, but ‘one who nips (with a nail or with iron) the fruits to make them edible’.

See more about the Sycamore fig and Zaccheus here.

One response to “The fig and the sycamore fig

  1. good information- never knew this till I decided to research the sycamore for a picture I wanted to draw.

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