Question:

Would you please give your understanding of thestory of the trees in Judges 9:7-15? Thank you.


Answer:

"Now when they told Jotham, he went and stood on top of Mount Gerizim, and lifted his voice and cried out. And he said to them: "Listen to me, you men of Shechem, that God may listen to you! The trees once went forth to anoint a king over them. And they said to the olive tree, 'Reign over us!' But the olive tree said to them, 'Should I cease giving my oil, with which they honor God and men, and go to sway over trees?' Then the trees said to the fig tree, 'You come and reign over us!' But the fig tree said to them, 'Should I cease my sweetness and my good fruit, and go to sway over trees?' Then the trees said to the vine, 'You come and reign over us!' But the vine said to them, 'Should I cease my new wine, which cheers both God and men, and go to sway over trees?' Then all the trees said to the bramble, 'You come and reign over us!' And the bramble said to the trees, 'If in truth you anoint me as king over you, Then come and take shelter in my shade; but if not, let fire come out of the bramble and devour the cedars of Lebanon!'" (Judges 9:7-15).

To understand the story, let's cover a bit of history. After Gideon defeated the Midianites, the Israelites wanted to make him king, but he refused (Judges 8:22-23). He judged Israel and then his seventy sons split the duty after him. However, one son, Abimelech, decided he wanted it all (Judges 9:1-4). After securing financing for mercenaries, Abimelech killed his brothers, but the youngest son escaped and it is he who tells this story (Judges 9:5-6).

The trees represent the people of Israel, especially the leaders. The olive is the most valued tree because it produces fruit and oil. The oil is used in the service of both God and man. When the olive tree probably represents Gideon and his refusal. The fig tree produces fruit that is eaten by men, but it too refuses. The fig tree probably represents righteous men and most see this as referring to Gideon's sons. The grapevine whose produce is used by God in sacrifices and by men. The grapevine probably represents the priests, who also refuse.

Finally the bramble, a thorn bush, is asked. The bramble is Abimelech. A bramble bush doesn't have much shade worth mentioning and trees wouldn't be able fit under a bramble bush. Bramble bushes easily burn, yet the arrogant bramble is threatening to burn the towering trees -- those more noble than the bramble.

Each tree and even the vine, which is not a tree, knew its place and knew that it was contributing to society without having to run society. Yet, Abimelech, the useless bramble, seeks to destroy whoever is greater than himself because he isn't able to rule over others. The people wanted a king but what they got was a dictator who would destroy them.