|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
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 8. - The trees, etc. This is the earliest example of a fable in Scripture; indeed the only one except that in 2 Kings 14:9. It is remarked that in the Indian and Greek fables the animals are the dramatis personae, the fox, the lion, the ass, etc.; whereas in the only two specimens of Hebrew fable remaining to us, the members of the vegetable kingdom, the olive, the fig, the vine, the bramble, the cedar, the thistle, are the actors and speakers. The parable, of which Isaiah 5:1-7 is a beautiful example, is quite different in its structure. Like the inimitable parables of our Saviour in the New Testament, it sets forth Divine troth under an image, but the image and all its parts are in strict accordance with nature. In the Scripture allegory real persons and their actions prefigure the actions and the persons which they are intended to represent (see Matthew 12:39, 40; Galatians 4:21-31; Hebrews 11:19). Allegorical personages may, however, be fictitious, as in the 'Pilgrim's Progress.' The general meaning of this fable is clear. The trees worthy to reign for their intrinsic excellence refused the proffered kingdom one after another. The vilest and most unworthy accepted it. The result would be that a fire would burst out from the despicable bramble, and set fire to the lofty cedar tree. Thus Gideon refused the kingdom, and his sons had virtually refused it likewise. The base-born Abimelech had accepted it, and the result would be a deadly strife, which would destroy both the ungrateful subjects and the unworthy ruler.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
The trees went forth on a time to anoint a king over them,.... This is an apologue or fable, and a very fine and beautiful one; it is fitly expressed to answer the design, and the most ancient of the kind, being made seven hundred years before the times of Aesop, so famous for his fables, and exceeds anything written by him. By the trees are meant the people of Israel in general, and the Shechemites in particular, who had been for some time very desirous of a king, but could not persuade any of their great and good men to accept of that office:
and they said unto the olive tree, reign thou over us; a fit emblem of a good man, endowed with excellent virtues and qualifications for good, as David king of Israel, who is compared to such a tree, Psalm 52:8, Jarchi applies this to Othniel the first judge; but it may be better applied to Gideon, an excellent good man, full of fruits of righteousness, and eminently useful, and to whom kingly government was offered, and was refused by him; and the men of Shechem could scarcely fail of thinking of him, and applying it to him, as Jotham was delivering his fable.
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