And seeing a fig tree in the distance that had leaves, he came to see if perhaps he might find anything on it. But when he came to it, he found nothing but leaves (it was not the season for figs). Bible see other translations

“seeing a fig tree.” The fig tree was one of the trees in the Bible that symbolized Israel. This particular fig tree was a fitting parable of Israel. It was in full leaf and looked very promising, even ahead of the rest of the trees. It should have been a source of great blessing for those who looked for early sustenance coming out of the winter months. Instead, it was a liar, promising much but delivering little, deceiving weary travelers and giving them false hope. Jesus cursed it, foreshadowing the curse and destruction that would come upon Israel.

“it was not the season for figs.” The question this verse poses to the average reader is, “Why would Jesus curse the fig tree for not having figs if it was not the season for figs?” The answer to that question lies in understanding that, although there were a couple varieties of fig trees in Israel, the common variety produces two crops of figs per year. An early fig grows on the old branch stock that grew the preceding year. This early fig often begins to grow even before there are leaves on the fig tree, although sometimes these early figs and the leaves start to grow at the same time. These early figs usually start developing in March, but may be a little earlier or later depending on the climate, and the circumstances of any given tree (Israel has many different climates, usually somewhat depending on elevation). These early figs mature in June, and the leaves grow and mature along with them. A second crop of figs starts on the new tree growth that sprouts that year, and they generally ripen in August.

Since Mark is recording events around Passover, Jesus would have approached the fig tree in April. Although it was not yet the season for figs, Jesus noticed that this particular tree was in full leaf. If the leaves were fully formed, that meant he could expect the figs of this particular tree to be early too, or at least be far enough along to be somewhat satisfying to eat. This should not surprise us. It often happens in horticulture that a plant is a few weeks earlier than the “regular season.” However, when Jesus got to the tree, the situation was not just that the figs it had were not yet ripe, it did not have any figs at all!

The Greek text starts the last phrase, “it was not the season for figs,” with the Greek word gar (#1063 γάρ), and is usually translated “for” or occasionally “because,” and it usually gives the reason for something. However, that use of gar does not fit this verse. Jesus did not find only leaves on the fig tree “because” it was not the season for figs. This phrase is letting us know that, indeed, it was not the general season for figs. But if that was the case, why would Jesus expect figs in the first place? The answer is that this particular tree had leaves, so Jesus could expect to find them on this tree. This use of the gar is what some scholars refer to as the “confirmatory gar” and confirms and clarifies what has already been stated. See commentary on Romans 9:3.

Jesus then cursed this tree and it died overnight. Jesus would ordinarily never curse a tree of any kind for not having fruit or buds. Often trees go through hardships that keep them from bearing fruit in a given year. Jesus said he did what he heard from his Father, God, and this is an example of that. God gave Jesus the revelation to curse the tree so Jesus cursed it and it died overnight, which was a miracle. Thus this tree became a twofold teaching example: it showed that Israel was going to be cursed (which it was for rejecting its Messiah), and it also taught the apostles that when God gave you revelation, no matter how unlikely it seemed, if you trust God and believe and act on what He says, the revelation will come to pass (this is the manifestation of trust, 1 Cor. 12:9).

Commentary for: Mark 11:13