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Olives, olive presses and olive oil

Bible overview
Life in Bible times. How olives are harvested and used.
Contributed by David Padfield
Story also available on our translated websites: Spanish, Polish, Hindi
Moses told the Israelites that Canaan was a land of olives (Deuteronomy 6:11). Olive products have been important in the history of the land. – Slide 1
A young olive tree only bears fruit after 7 years and it is 14 years before it gives a mature crop. A tree can yield around 20 gallons of olive oil. – Slide 2
Writers of scripture often speak about the beauty of the olive (Jeremiah11:16, Hosea 14:6, Psalm 52:8). – Slide 3
Olive trees have a lot of blossoms, many of which fall off without bearing fruit. Job talks about ‘casting off flowers as the olive’ (Job 52:33). Olives first appear as green but when ripe turn to black. – Slide 4
Olives can be harvested by beating the tree with sticks but this damages the tender shoots and restricts their growth the following year. Moses said, ‘When you beat your olive tree don’t go over the boughs again but leave what is left for the orphans and widows (Deuteronomy 24:20). – Slide 5
Olives are also hand picked. – Slide 6
Families and communities would work together to bring in the harvest. – Slide 7
Olives were crushed to get the olive oil. This could be done on a small scale using a stone. – Slide 8
The olives could be crushed in a cloth mesh with the oil strained through it into a jar. – Slide 9
However to get olive oil on a larger scale an olive press was used. – Slide 10
There were two main types of olive press in Bible times. A circular press with a grinding stone and a beam and weights press. In later Roman times, screw presses were used. The garden of Gethsemane was an olive orchard and the word gethsemane means ‘oil-press’). This painting on the wall of the Katzrin Museum is by Balage Balogh/www.Archaeologyillustrated.com. – Slide 11
Here is circular press and grinding stone made of black basalt from Bible times that was found in Capernaum. – Slide 12
The heavy grinding stone would crush the olives as it was rolled around. – Slide 13
A wooden axle rod was inserted through the grinding stone. People could push this rod to rotate the grinding stone. – Slide 14
More often animals were tethered to this axle rod. – Slide 15
Here a donkey is being used to pull a grinding stone around in Nazareth. – Slide 16
Freshly picked olives were put in front of the grinding wheel. – Slide 17
… and were crushed to pulp to extract the olive oil. – Slide 18
Another form of olive press was made with a long beam of wood pivoted into a wall. – Slide 19
A crushing stone would be fixed to the beam and weights hung at the far end. – Slide 20
Baskets of olives were put under the crushing stone. – Slide 21
Weights were then used to pull the crushing stone down on the baskets crushing the olives to pulp. – Slide 22
The weights were large stones. – Slide 23
This is a reconstruction of an olive press in Israel. – Slide 24
You can see where the olive baskets were placed. – Slide 25
These are examples of the weights used to pull the level down. – Slide 26
Olive oil took the place of butter in eating and was used for cooking in place of animal fat. Ezekiel mentions three important parts of diet - olive oil, flour and honey (Ezekiel 16:13). – Slide 27
Olive oil was also used in lamps for lighting. – Slide 28
Oil was also used to wash the body and as part of anointing ceremonies for priests and kings (Leviticus 8:12, 1 Samuel 16:13). In the New Testament the sick were anointed with oil for their healing (James 5:14) – Slide 29
The olive tree has been used as a symbol of peace since the dove Noah sent out returned with an olive leaf (Genesis 8:11). Oil is also symbolically used as a picture of the Holy Spirit. (1 John 2:27). – Slide 30
Slide 31