Judges 9:7
And when they told it to Jotham, he went and stood in the top of mount Gerizim, and lifted up his voice, and cried, and said unto them, Hearken unto me, ye men of Shechem, that God may hearken unto you.
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(7) In the top of mount Gerizim.—Unless Shechem is not to be identified with Neapolis (Nablous), and was rather, as De Saulcy decides, on Mount Gerizim itself, at a spot still marked by extensive ruins, it would have been entirely impossible for Jotham to be heard at Shechem from the actual summit of Gerizim. But over the town of Nablous is a precipitous rock, to the summit of which the name Gerizim might be loosely given. Here Jotham might well have stood; and it seems certain that in the still clear air of Palestine the rhythmical chant adopted by Orientals might be heard at a great distance. A traveller mentions that standing on Gerizim he heard the voice of a muleteer who was driving his mules down Mount Ebal; and on the very summit of Mount Gerizim I heard a shepherd holding a musical colloquy with another, who was out of sight on a distant hill. “The people in these mountainous countries are able from long practice to pitch their voices so as to be heard at distances almost incredible” (Thomson, Land and Book, p. 473).

And cried.—It may be asked how Jotham ventured to risk his life by thus upbraiding the Shechemites. No certain answer, but many probable ones, may be offered. At the summit of a precipitous crag far above the city, and on a hillside abounding with caverns and hiding-places, he would have sufficient start to have at least a chance of safety from any pursuit; or he may not have been without some followers and kindly partisans, who, now that the massacre of his brethren was over, would not be too willing to allow him to be hunted down. Indeed, the pathos of his opening appeal may have secured for him a favourable hearing. Josephus says that he seized an opportunity when there was a public feast at Shechem, and the whole multitude were gathered there. “He spoke like the bard of the English ode, and before the startled assembly below could reach the rocky pinnacle where he stood, he was gone” (Stanley, p. 352).

Jdg 9:7. Jotham stood in the top of mount Gerizim — Which overlooked the city of Shechem. This was not on the same day when Abimelech was inaugurated, but some time after. The valley between Gerizim and Ebal was a famous place, employed for the solemn reading of the law, and its blessings and curses; and it is probable it was still used, even by the superstitious and idolatrous Israelites, for such occasions, who delighted to use the same places which their ancestors had used. And lifted up his voice and cried — So that they who stood in the valley might hear, though not suddenly come at him to take him. Ye men of Shechem — Who were here met together upon a solemn occasion, as Josephus notes, Abimelech being absent; that God may hearken unto you — When you cry unto him for mercy; so he conjures and persuades them to give him a patient audience.

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 top of Mount Gerizim - The ancient Shechem was perhaps situated there. The population of Shechem is supposed to have been keeping some public festival outside the city when Jotham addressed them. Jud 9:7-21. Jotham by a Parable Reproaches Them.

7. he … stood in the top of mount Gerizim and lifted up his voice—The spot he chose was, like the housetops, the public place of Shechem; and the parable [Jud 9:8-15] drawn from the rivalry of the various trees was appropriate to the diversified foliage of the valley below. Eastern people are exceedingly fond of parables and use them for conveying reproofs, which they could not give in any other way. The top of Gerizim is not so high in the rear of the town, as it is nearer to the plain. With a little exertion of voice, he could easily have been heard by the people of the city; for the hill so overhangs the valley, that a person from the side or summit would have no difficulty in speaking to listeners at the base. Modern history records a case, in which soldiers on the hill shouted to the people in the city and endeavored to instigate them to an insurrection. There is something about the elastic atmosphere of an Eastern clime which causes it to transmit sound with wonderful celerity and distinctness [Hackett].

Mount Gerzim lay near Shechem, and near Mount Ebal. The valley between these two mountains of Gerizim and Ebal was a famous place, employed for a religious use, even for the solemn reading of the law, and its blessings and curses, Deu 11:29 27:12 Joshua 8:33; and therefore it is probable it was still used, even by the superstitious and idolatrous Israelites, for such-like occasions, who delighted to use the same places which their religious ancestors had consecrated and used.

Lifted up his voice, and cried; so as they that stood in the valley might hear him, though not suddenly come at him to take him.

Ye men of Shechem; who are here met together upon a solemn occasion, as Josephus notes, Abimelech being absent.

That God may harken unto you, when you cry unto him for mercy; so he conjures and persuades to give him patient audience, as they did.

And when they told it to Jotham,.... Or when it was told him that Abimelech was made king in Shechem by some of his friends:

he went and stood in the top of Mount Gerizim; a mount near Shechem; it hung over the city, as Josephus says (c), and so a very proper place to stand on and deliver a speech from it to the inhabitants of it; who, as the same writer says, were now keeping a festival, on what account he says not, perhaps to Baalberith their idol: over against this mountain was another, called Ebal, and between them a valley; and very likely they were assembled in this valley, where the children of Israel stood when the blessings were delivered from Gerizim, and the curses from Ebal; and if so, Jotham might be heard very well by the Shechemites:

and he lifted up his voice, and cried; that he might be heard by them:

and said unto them, hearken unto me, ye men of Shechem, that God may hearken unto you; which was a very solemn manner of address to them, tending to excite attention, as having somewhat of importance to say to them, and suggesting, that if they did not hearken to him, God would not hearken to them when they cried to him, and therefore it behoved them to attend: it is an adjuration of them to hearken to him, or a wish that God would not hearken to them if they were inattentive to him.

(c) Antiqu. l. 5. c. 7. sect. 2.

And when they told it to Jotham, he went and stood in the top of mount Gerizim, and lifted up his voice, and cried, and said unto them, Hearken unto me, ye men of Shechem, that God may hearken unto you.
7. the top of mount Gerizim] is 979 ft. above the town: the language is not to be pressed.

7–21. Jotham’s fable

The author of the fable had several points in his mind: (a) the contrast between Gideon’s refusal of the kingship and the arrogant claim of the son of his concubine; the other sons (or many respectable members of the community) had qualities which entitled them to rule; it was left to the mean ‘bramble’ to claim the rank of king; (b) a warning to the Shechemites of the dangerous character of their upstart chief; his protection was worthless if they trusted him, and if they did not he would be their ruin; (c) a rebuke of the Shechemites for their ingratitude towards the house of Gideon. The fable, however, is not entirely consistent with the moral drawn from it; especially after Jdg 9:15, the connexion is so difficult to trace, that many think that the fable was not composed for the occasion but borrowed from the folk-tales current at the time. This is possible; nevertheless we can hardly look for rigid consistency in the details of a fable; similar inconsistencies may be found in some of the Gospel parables (e.g. St Luke 16:1-9).

Verse 7. - On the top of Mount Gerizim. Mount Gerizim rises on the south-west side of Samaria or Shechem as a sheer rock about 800 feet in height, facing Mount Ebal, which is separated from it by the narrow valley, "some 500 yards wide," in which Samaria, now Nablus, is built. It was from Mount Gerizim that Joshua, in accordance with the directions given by Moses in Deuteronomy 11:29, caused the blessings of the law to be proclaimed, after the capture of At, while the curses were proclaimed from Mount Ebal (Joshua 8:33, 35). Some explain the name to mean "the mount of the Gerizzites," or Gerzites (1 Samuel 27:8); but the absence of the article makes this doubtful. Lifted up his voice. Implying that a considerable effort was necessary to be heard by the people below. The narrowness of the valley, however, and the rocky nature of the cliffs there largely increase the sound. I have myself heard the human voice utter an articulate word at a measured distance of one mile one furlong and seventeen yards; but it was in a peculiar state of the atmosphere The experiment has been made in recent years, and it has been proved that a man's voice can be distinctly heard in Nablus, and also upon Ebal, from Gerizimo It is thought that Jotham, having emerged from one of the vast caverns, overhung with luxuriant creepers, which are in the mountain's side, "stood upon a huge projecting crag of Gerizim" just above the ancient site of Sheehem, and thence addressed the people who were assembled beneath him. The rich vegetation of that well-watered spot, "unparalleled in Palestine," supplied the materials of his fable; for the olive, the fig, the vine all grow in that rich valley; while the bramble, which creeps up the barren side of the mountain, and which is still used to kindle the fire to roast the lamb at the Samaritan Passover, was to be seen there in abundance. Judges 9:7When 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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