Judges 9:15
And the bramble said to the trees, If in truth you 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.
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If in truth - i. e. consistently with truth, honor, and uprightness, as explained in the interpretation in Judges 9:16, Judges 9:19.

Let fire come out ... - The propriety of the image is strictly preserved, for even the thorns of the worthless bramble might kindle a flame which would burn the stately cedars to the ground. See Psalm 58:9.

Come and put your trust in any shadow - The vain boast of the would-be sovereign; and of the man who is seeking to be put into power by the suffrages of the people. All promise, no performance.

Let fire come out of the bramble - A strong catachresis. The bramble was too low to give shelter to any tree; and so far from being able to consume others, that the smallest fire will reduce it to ashes, and that in the shortest time. Hence the very transitory mirth of fools is said to be like the cracking of thorns under a pot. Abimelech was the bramble; and the cedars of Lebanon, all the nobles and people of Israel. Could they therefore suppose that such a low-born, uneducated, cruel, and murderous man, could be a proper protector, or a humane governor? He who could imbrue his hands in the blood of his brethren in order to get into power, was not likely to stop at any means to retain that power when possessed. If, therefore, they took him for their king, they might rest assured that desolation and blood would mark the whole of his reign. The condensed moral of the whole fable is this: Weak, worthless, and wicked men, will ever be foremost to thrust themselves into power; and, in the end, to bring ruin upon themselves, and on the unhappy people over whom they preside.

And the bramble said unto the trees,.... Accepting of their offer at once:

if ye in trust anoint me king over you; suspecting they were not hearty and cordial in their choice and call to the kingly authority over them:

then come and put your trust in my shadow; promising protection to them as his subjects, requiring their confidence in him, and boasting of the good they should receive from him, as is common with wicked princes at their first entering on their office; but, alas! what shadow or protection can there be in a bramble? if a man attempts: to put himself under it for shelter, he will find it will be of no use to him, but harmful, since, the nearer and closer he comes to it, the more he will be scratched and torn by it:

and if not, let fire come out of the bramble, and devour the cedars of Lebanon; signifying, that if they did not heartily submit to his government, and put confidence in him, and prove faithful to him, they should smart for it, and feel his wrath and vengeance, even the greatest men among them, comparable to the cedars of Lebanon; for thorns and brambles catching fire, as they easily do, or fire being put to them, as weak as they are, and placed under the tallest and strongest cedars, will soon fetch them down to the ground; and the words of the bramble, or Abimelech, proved true to the Shechemites, he is made to speak in this parable.

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 {f} fire come out of the bramble, and devour the cedars of Lebanon.

(f) Abimelech will destroy the nobles of Shechem.

13. wine, which cheereth God and man—not certainly in the same manner. God might be said to be "cheered" by it, when the sacrifices were accepted, as He is said also to be honored by oil (Jud 9:9).When Jotham, who had escaped after the murder, was told of the election which had taken place, he went to the top of Mount Gerizim, which rises as a steep wall of rock to the height of about 800 feet above the valley of Shechem on the south side of the city (Rob. iii. p. 96), and cried with a loud voice, "Hearken to me, ye lords of Shechem, and God will also hearken to you." After this appeal, which calls to mind the language of the prophets, he uttered aloud a fable of the trees which wanted to anoint a king over them-a fable of true prophetic significance, and the earliest with which we are acquainted (Judges 9:8-15). To the appeal which is made to them in succession to become king over the trees, the olive tree, the fig tree, and the vine all reply: Shall we give up our calling, to bear valuable fruits for the good and enjoyment of God and men, and soar above the other trees? The briar, however, to which the trees turn last of all, is delighted at the unexpected honour that is offered it, and says, "Will ye in truth anoint me king over you? Then come and trust in my shadow; but if not, let fire go out of the briar and consume the cedars of Lebanon." The rare form מלוכה (Chethib, Judges 9:8, Judges 9:12) also occurs in 1 Samuel 28:8; Isaiah 32:11; Psalm 26:2 : see Ewald, 228, b.). מלכי (Judges 9:10) is also rare (see Ewald, 226, b). The form החדלתּי (Judges 9:9, Judges 9:11, Judges 9:13), which is quite unique, is not "Hophal or Hiphil, compounded of ההחד or ההחד" (Ewald, 51, c), for neither the Hophal nor the Hiphil of חדל occurs anywhere else; but it is a simple Kal, and the obscure o sound is chosen instead of the a sound for the sake of euphony, i.e., to assist the pronunciation of the guttural syllables which follow one after another. The meaning of the fable is very easy to understand. The olive tree, fig tree, and vine do not represent different historical persons, such as the judges Othniel, Deborah, and Gideon, as the Rabbins affirm, but in a perfectly general way the nobler families or persons who bring forth fruit and blessing in the calling appointed them by God, and promote the prosperity of the people and kingdom in a manner that is well-pleasing to God and men. Oil, figs, and wine were the most valuable productions of the land of Canaan, whereas the briar was good for nothing but to burn. The noble fruit-trees would not tear themselves from the soil in which they had been planted and had borne fruit, to soar (נוּע, float about) above the trees, i.e., not merely to rule over the trees, but obire et circumagi in rebus eorum curandis. נוּע includes the idea of restlessness and insecurity of existence. The explanation given in the Berleb. Bible, "We have here what it is to be a king, to reign or be lord over many others, namely, very frequently to do nothing else than float about in such restlessness and distraction of thoughts, feelings, and desires, that very little good or sweet fruit ever falls to the ground," if not a truth without exception so far as royalty is concerned, is at all events perfectly true in relation to what Abimelech aimed at and attained, to be a king by the will of the people and not by the grace of God. Wherever the Lord does not found the monarchy, or the king himself does not lay the foundations of his government in God and the grace of God, he is never anything but a tree, moving about above other trees without a firm root in a fruitful soil, utterly unable to bear fruit to the glory of God and the good of men. The expression "all the trees" is to be carefully noticed in Judges 9:14. "All the trees" say to the briar, Be king over us, whereas in the previous verse only "the trees" are mentioned. This implies that of all the trees not one was willing to be king himself, but that they were unanimous in transferring the honour to the briar. The briar, which has nothing but thorns upon it, and does not even cast sufficient shadow for any one to lie down in its shadow and protect himself from the burning heat of the sun, is an admirable simile for a worthless man, who can do nothing but harm. The words of the briar, "Trust in my shadow," seek refuge there, contain a deep irony, the truth of which the Shechemites were very soon to discover. "And if not," i.e., if ye do not find the protection you expect, fire will go out of the briar and consume the cedars of Lebanon, the largest and noblest trees. Thorns easily catch fire (see Exodus 22:5). The most insignificant and most worthless man can be the cause of harm to the mightiest and most distinguished. 9:7-21 There was no occasion for the trees to choose a king, they are all the trees of the Lord which he has planted. Nor was there any occasion for Israel to set a king over them, for the Lord was their King. Those who bear fruit for the public good, are justly respected and honoured by all that are wise, more than those who merely make a figure. All these fruit-trees gave much the same reason for their refusal to be promoted over the trees; or, as the margin reads it, to go up and down for the trees. To rule, involves a man in a great deal both of toil and care. Those who are preferred to public trust and power, must forego all private interests and advantages, for the good of others. And those advanced to honour and dignity, are in great danger of losing their fruitfulness. For which reason, they that desire to do good, are afraid of being too great. Jotham compares Abimelech to the bramble or thistle, a worthless plant, whose end is to be burned. Such a one was Abimelech.Verse 15. - If in truth, i.e. truly, as the same phrase is rendered in vers. 16, 19, with integrity of purpose and sincerity of heart. The English would be less ambiguous if it ran, "If ye anoint me king over you in truth." The speech of the bramble indicates the grounds for suspicion already existing between Abimelech and the men of Shechem. Let fire come out, etc. - keeping up the propriety of the image, as the natural function of the bramble was to kindle a fire, and as it had no other use; showing, too, how a base bramble could destroy a noble cedar, and the base-born Abimelech could bring ruin upon the lords of Shechem. Margin trust

See Scofield Note: "Ps 2:12"

shadow

Isaiah 30:2 That walk to go down into Egypt, and have not asked at my mouth; …

Daniel 4:12 The leaves thereof were fair, and the fruit thereof much, and in …

Hosea 14:7 They that dwell under his shadow shall return; they shall revive …

Matthew 13:32 Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it …

let fire

Judges 9:20,49 But if not, let fire come out from Abimelech, and devour the men …

Numbers 21:28 For there is a fire gone out of Heshbon, a flame from the city of …

Isaiah 1:31 And the strong shall be as wick, and the maker of it as a spark, …

Ezekiel 19:14 And fire is gone out of a rod of her branches, which has devoured …

the cedars

2 Kings 14:9 And Jehoash the king of Israel sent to Amaziah king of Judah, saying…

Psalm 104:16 The trees of the LORD are full of sap; the cedars of Lebanon, which …

Isaiah 2:13 And on all the cedars of Lebanon, that are high and lifted up, and …

Isaiah 37:24 By your servants have you reproached the Lord, and have said, By …

Ezekiel 31:3 Behold, the Assyrian was a cedar in Lebanon with fair branches, and …

9:15 If in truth - If you deal truly and justly in making me king. Then trust - Then you may expect protection under my government. Devour the cedars - In stead of protection, you shall receive destruction by me; especially you cedars, that is, nobles, such as the house of Millo, who have been most forward in this work.
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