Judges 9:14
Then said all the trees unto the bramble, Come thou, and reign over us.
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(14) Unto the bramble.—Despairing of their best, they avail themselves of the unscrupulous ambition of their worst. The bramble—atad—is rather the rhamnus, or buckthorn, which Dioscorides calls the Cartha ginian atadin. There seems to be an echo of this fable in Æsop’s fable of the fox and the thorn, where the fox is dreadfully rent by taking hold of the thorn to save himself from a fall, and the thorn asks him what else he could expect.

Reign over us.—They seem to address the thorn in a less ceremonious imperative—not mālekah, as to the olive, or mūlekî, as to the fig-tree and vine, but a mere blunt melāk!

Jdg 9:14-15. Then said all the trees unto the bramble, &c. — Or thorn, fitly representing Abimelech, the son of a concubine, and a person of small use and great cruelty. If in truth ye anoint me king — If you deal truly and justly in making me king. Then trust — Then you may expect protection under my government. Devour the cedars — Instead 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. By this fable Jotham signified to the Shechemites that the most worthy men in Israel, figured by the olive, the fig-tree, and the vine, which bear the most useful and excellent fruits, had not aimed at kingly dominion over them; and that his father Gideon had even refused it, when offered to him. By the bramble, the most worthless of shrubs, accepting the offer of the trees to be their king, and calling to them to put their trust in its shadow, though by its nature it could afford no shadow or protection to them, he shows what a worthless choice they had made. The speech of the bramble represents how foolish Abimelech was, in imagining he should be able to maintain the authority of a king, as he could by no means, any more than the bramble, afford the shade or protection he had promised: and the threat of the bramble seems to indicate the cruelty of Abimelech’s temper, that he would destroy the Shechemites, if he found them unfaithful.

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.The bramble - Said to be the Rhamnus Paliurus of Linnaeus, otherwise called Spina-Christi, or Christ's Thorn, a shrub with sharp thorns. The application is obvious. The noble Gideon and his worthy sons had declined the proffered kingdom. The vile, base-born Abimelech had accepted it, and his act would turn out to the mutual ruin of himself and his subjects.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). The bramble, or thorn; a mean, and barren, and hurtful tree, fitly representing Abimelech, the son of a concubine, and a person of small use, and great cruelty.

Then said all the trees unto the bramble,.... Perceiving they could not prevail upon any of the useful and fruitful trees to take the government of them, they unite in a request to a bramble, scarce to be called a tree, and however a very barren and fruitless one, yea, hurtful and distressing:

come thou, and reign over us; this respects Abimelech, and describes him as a mean person, the son of a concubine, as having no goodness in him, not any good qualifications to recommend him to government, but all the reverse, cruel, tyrannical, and oppressive; and this exposes the folly of the Shechemites, and their eagerness to have a king at any rate, though ever so mean and despicable, useless and pernicious.

Then said all the trees unto the bramble, Come thou, and reign over us.
14. the bramble] LXX, Vulgate rhamnus, the common, worthless thornbush, the very opposite of the noble trees just mentioned.

Verse 14. - The bramble. A prickly shrub; in Greek ῤαμνος, Rhamnus, "the southern buckthorn" (Gesenins). The same plant as is mentioned in Psalm 58:9 (thorns, A.V.) as used to make fires with (see note to ver. 7). Judges 9:14When 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.
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