Being under the fig tree is a Hebrew idiom for peace, the Messianic Kingdom
Q. In John 1, Jesus says he saw Nathanael "under the fig tree."
What is the significance of this?
A. Being "under the fig tree" is a Hebrew idiom for peace and more specifically the Messianic Kingdom.
In John 1, Yeshua is looking for his disciples.
They didn’t choose Him, His followers never do, it’s the Lord who finds them.
He says to Nathanael that he is an Israelite "in whom there is no guile" which means he had no false estimation of himself, he was an honest man.
And Nathanael asks Him "how do you know me?" or why do you say that.
Yeshua answers and says in v 46 that "before Phillip called you (v45) when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.
Nathanael knows the meaning of the idiom and immediately declares Yeshua a king by saying "you are the Son of God" which is a title for kings found in 1 Chr 28.5-7 where the Lord calls Solomon a "son to Me" and from that time on kings were called the "Son’s of God."
He then comes right out and tells us what he means by saying that by calling Yeshua the King of Israel.
The term "sitting under the fig tree" is an idiom for peace found in several scri ptures Micah 4.4 says that in the Messianic Kingdom each person will sit under his fig tree, with nobody making them afraid and it will be a time for study, meditation and peace.
If you are sitting under a tree you aren’t building walls to defend yourself so that’s why it carried the idea of peace.
In 1Kings 4.25 it says that Judah and Israel lived in safety, every man under his vine and his fig tree during Solomon’s reign.
You will also see this concept in Isa 36.16 where an Assyrian envoy tries to convince those in the city of Jerusalem to surrender and says that if they make peace then each person can eat of his vine and of his fig tree and drink from his own water cisterns and so on.
Again, eating and sitting under the fig tree symbolized peace.
Lastly, in Zech 3.10 it says that "In that day (another idiom for the Messianic Kingdom or when Messiah comes), declares the Lord of Hosts every one of you will invite his neighbor to sit under his vine and under his fig tree." So, when Yeshua calls Nathanael a righteous man He also says He sees him the Messianic Kingdom by saying He saw him "under a fig tree."
It is also very probable that Nathanael was actually sitting under a fig tree.
When Yeshua told him He saw him, Nathanael knew that there was something different about this man and it is possible that he declared Yeshua King through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
It is also possible that Nathanael may have been meditating on Jacob’s Ladder found in Genesis 28 and that’s why Yeshua immediately goes into the imagery found there and ties Jacob’s Ladder to Himself.