Jesus Curses the Fig Tree

Drew Berding

Do figs represent human souls?

In Matthew 21:18-19, there is the strange story of Jesus cursing the fig tree: “Now in the morning, when He was returning to the city, He became hungry. Seeing a lone fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it except leaves only; and He said to it, ‘No longer shall there ever be any fruit from you.’ And at once the fig tree withered.”

This story must be important because it is repeated in Mark 11:12-14.1 Furthermore, He told a very similar parable in Luke 13:6-9.2

In both Matthew and Mark, He said that it was not the season for figs. But if we understand that He was telling us something spiritually profound but using everyday familiar events to teach His point, the parable becomes clear. 

First of all, the figs represent human souls. We can see this also from Old Testament references in Hosea 9:10,3 Jeremiah 24:1-24 and Micah 7:1-2.5

Second, even though fig trees produce fruit twice per year, it was not the season for fruit. Jesus even admitted that. His story makes perfect sense if we consider what He said in John 4:35, “Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest.” In other words, whether it looks like harvest time or not, you should bear fruit.

Paul’s reinforces this in his admonition to preach the word in season and out of season.”6

To summarize:

 Jesus has taught:

  • that we are chosen to bear good fruit7 and that we should do it at all times.
  • If we don’t, we will wither spiritually.

Photo Attribution: Amber Engle –


  1. Mark 11:12-14, On the next day, when they had left Bethany, He became hungry. 13 Seeing at a distance a fig tree in leaf, He went to see if perhaps He would find anything on it; and when He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. 14 He said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again!” And His disciples were listening.
  2. Luke 13:6-9, And He began telling this parable: “A man had a fig tree which had been planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and did not find any. 7 “And he said to the vineyard-keeper, ‘Behold, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree without finding any. Cut it down! Why does it even use up the ground?’ 8 “And he answered and said to him, ‘Let it alone, sir, for this year too, until I dig around it and put in fertilizer; 9 and if it bears fruit next year, fine; but if not, cut it down.'”
  3. Hosea 9:10, I found Israel like grapes in the wilderness; I saw your forefathers as the earliest fruit on the fig tree in its first season.
  4. Jeremiah 24:1-2, The Lord showed me: behold, two baskets of figs set before the temple of the Lord! 2 One basket had very good figs, like first-ripe figs, and the other basket had very bad figs which could not be eaten due to rottenness. [The Lord goes on to inform Jeremiah that these are two kinds of people: those who follow Him and those who don’t.]
  5. Micah 7:1-2, Woe is me! For I am like the fruit pickers, like the grape gatherers. There is not a cluster of grapes to eat, or a first-ripe fig which I crave. The godly person has perished from the land, and there is no upright person among men. All of them lie in wait for bloodshed; each of them hunts the other with a net.
  6. 2 Tim 4:1-2, I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.
  7. John 15:16, …I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain…

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NOTE: Bible references unless otherwise stated are from the NASU (New American Standard Updated) copyright the Lockman Foundation.

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