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!’
“Now therefore, if you have acted in truth and sincerity in making Abimelech king, and if you have dealt well with Jerubbaal and his house, and have done to him as he deserves— for my father fought for you, risked his life, and delivered you out of the hand of Midian; but you have risen up against my father’s house this day, and killed his seventy sons on one stone, and made Abimelech, the son of his female servant, king over the men of Shechem, because he is your brother— if then you have acted in truth and sincerity with Jerubbaal and with his house this day, then rejoice in Abimelech, and let him also rejoice in you. But if not, let fire come from Abimelech and devour the men of Shechem and Beth Millo; and let fire come from the men of Shechem and from Beth Millo and devour Abimelech!” And Jotham ran away and fled; and he went to Beer and dwelt there, for fear of Abimelech his brother. — Judges 9:7-21, NKJV
Men, Abimelech, the half brother of Gideon, has convinced his tribe to crown him king over them. After being made king, Abimelech slaughters his 70 brothers, leaving only young Jotham who had hid. After Jotham was told of his brothers, he climbs Mount Gerizim and projects his voice over all of Shechem in the Bible’s first parable. In three acts, a fruit bearing plant is offered kingship, but the plant denies the offer in favor of producing their fruit. The olive, the fig, and the vine all were content to be fruit bearers. Finally, the bramble is offered the rule, and accepts the offer, on one condition: those subject to the rule of the bramble must take shelter in its shade or let the fire of the bramble devour them.
Bramble are simply briers and thorny undergrowth. They produce no shade except for those that are belly down in the dirt. If the bramble should catch fire, it consumes everything taking shelter in it. Abimelech is the bramble suggested here. Jotham calls out to all of Shechem to evaluate their actions through the lens of his parable. In short, Shechem has gotten the ruler they deserve, and they will share the same fate.
This principle is alive and well today. Good men rise as well as bad men rise to rule. The ruler is gauge of the people. In our own time, the willingness of the people to so easily be divided is on display by the polarity of our recent governing representation. The pendulum of party rule swings wildly by the ease at which our own hearts are enflamed by the offense of others. We don’t have a government of the people anymore because “we the people” aren’t willing to govern ourselves. We’re ruled by personal desire, fear, and pride just as our rulers are. We’re as easily deceived as Shechem, and worse, by our arrogance we failed to see it throughout history.
Move forward, men, letting the Lord God rule our hearts while we concern ourselves with what fruit we shall produce. May our character rise, and the caliber of our leadership rise with us.
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