A very enjoyable and rewarding Saturday afternoon’s activity for the family can centre around the gathering of olives and making of olive oil. Here in Adelaide we live geographically in an area with a Mediterranean climate, thus mirroring the land of Israel. On our hills and along many of the creeks wild olive trees grow in abundance (there is a lesson for us here—see Romans 11:17–21). Thus we can mentally transport ourselves and our families back into the times of the Old Testament and the agriculturally based life in the Land. An annual event for families in Israel was the gathering of olives, pressing and collecting the oil for the coming year.

As a happy and busy afternoon’s work takes us through the procedures that culminate in the collecting of pure oil the many scriptural lessons will be indelibly etched into the minds of both young and old.

Gathering Olives

 The Bible, in very descriptive language, gives the process of gathering olives. The trees were sometimes shaken (Isaiah 24:13) and other times beaten (Deuteronomy 24:20). The olives were then gathered by the family members and placed in the olive press where they were trodden (Micah 6:15) or pressed.

Should you wish to make this a family project you will need to gather at least four litres of olives. Then press them, using a method you feel will cause the oil and juice from the olives to be extracted—a food blender or mincer may suit the purpose. The pulp and juice should be then separated, using a piece of gauze or a fine sieve. The liquid must then be allowed to settle and the oil, being less dense, will rise to the surface. This oil should then be carefully decanted off. Again let this fluid settle and decant off the pure olive oil.

The Biblical Use of Oil

 The olive tree and its fruit played an important part in the life of an Israelite and was thus an important aspect of Israel’s economy. Before commencing the practical side of this project all references to olives in the Scriptures should be listed and considered. Reference to a good Bible Dictionary on the topic will help. By doing this the great importance of oil in the daily life of an Israelite will be observed.

Olive oil was used in cooking (1 Kings 17:12–14), to give light in their lamps (Matthew 25:3–9), to put on the skin to give moisture when fasting (Matthew 6:17), for sickness (Mark 6:13; James 5:14) and to put on wounds for healing (Luke 10:34). It was also used in certain ceremonies as the anointing of the King (1 Samuel 10:1) and the High Priest and his sons (Exodus 29:7,21). The oil was used daily in worship with the meal offering (Numbers 28:5), and for the burning of the lamps in the holy place (Exodus 27:20). These are some of the references that show the importance of olive oil in the daily life of the Israelite. You may find others.

The Olive Tree

 Apart from the lessons of the oil there are many lessons that can be learned from the tree itself. You will notice when you gather the olives that there are many little olive trees springing up around the parent tree. This was observed by the psalmist when, speaking of the man who fears Yahweh, he says that his children are “like olive plants round about thy table” (Psalm 128:3). The olive tree is an evergreen tree with green and silver leaves, and it can grow to a very great age and yet still bear abundant fruit. In this aspect it speaks of immortality. For this reason it was used for the wood to make the cherubim in the Temple that Solomon built (1 Kings 6:23).

On Completing Your Project

 Once the oil has been gathered and the work finished, all the family can enjoy eating little cakes made with olive oil. These can be eaten by the light provided by burning some oil in little lamps. However remember that the oil in the lamps must be pure or the flame will splutter and give off black smoke, not burning brightly. Finally some of the oil may be rubbed into the hands and face to refresh and enhance your skin, restoring its softness after such a hard afternoon’s work of gathering and pressing your own olives. Don’t forget to keep a little bottle of your pure olive oil to remind you of the toil and effort that Yahweh requires of us if we are to have the pure oil of His Word burning brightly in us for all to see (Matthew 5:14–16). In so many ways this project can provide a happy and spiritually uplifting time for both young and old.