Within the confines of Judges 9 is one of the most imaginative fables told by man. It reminds one of Aesop’s Fables in its vivid depictions and moral lessons. It is a wonderful example of the diversity of the Scriptures and its ability to connect with man on many different levels and through many different styles. It is the fable of Jotham; but before considering the fable, understand the background of it.
Abimelech, the son of the great judge Gideon, sought to be the king of Shechem. When approached with the possibility, the men of Shechem were more than willing to provide him with the arrogantly desired crown (Jud. 9:3-4). To secure his throne, Abimelech went and killed all 70 of his brothers, with the exception of Jotham who hid during the slaughter (Vs. 5).
When Abimelech formally became king, Jotham went to Mount Gerizim on the outskirts of Shechem and cried out to the men of Shechem:
Hearken unto me, ye men of Shechem, that God may hearken unto you.
The trees went forth on a time to anoint a king over them; and they said unto the olive tree, Reign thou over us. But the olive tree said unto them, Should I leave my fatness, wherewith by me they honour God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees?
And the trees said to the fig tree, Come thou, and reign over us. But the fig tree said unto them, Should I forsake my sweetness, and my good fruit, and go to be promoted over the trees?
Then said the trees unto the vine, Come thou, and reign over us. And the vine said unto them, Should I leave my wine, which cheereth God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees?
Then said all the trees unto the bramble, Come thou, and reign over us. And the bramble said unto the trees, If in truth ye anoint me king over you, then come and put your trust in my shadow: and if not, let fire come out of the bramble, and devour the cedars of Lebanon. (Vs. 7-15)
The moral of the lesson: sometimes the one who desires the position of power the most is the one who is least fit to hold it and will destroy even the mightiest of his opponents.
Jotham would then convict the men of Shechem of their betrayal of his father, Gideon, and all for which he stood (Vs. 16-20); he then fled the region while Abimelech reigned over the people of Shechem.
The fable of Jotham is an excellent illustration that needs to be remembered in our society today and taught to our children. Many still have not learned the lessons of Jotham’s fable; but it must be remembered, because there are many brambles ready and willing to destroy a willing people.