Then said all the trees unto the bramble, Come thou, and reign over us. 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 fire come out of the bramble, and devour the cedars of Lebanon. — Judges 9:14-15
Recently we needed some screening between our property and the neighbors, so we installed several trellises and planted some vines. We hoped those vines would grow up quickly. After we had them planted, someone told us, “We have some vines in our yard that grow almost overnight!” The “vine” they referred to is called “morning glory.” It will grow wildly almost anywhere, covering anything in its path, and it is a big challenge to get rid of it once it has started. It reminds me of the brambles in today’s text.
In this chapter, Jotham, Abimelech’s half brother, was telling the people of Shechem a parable. He said that while all the good and valuable trees refused to reign over the other trees, the bramble was more than willing. Yet, it offered a false security. In fact, it would quickly take over, and would eventually kill the other trees. Jotham used this analogy to show the people that they would be foolish to trust Abimelech; he would take over quickly, but hurt them in the end.
Sometimes it may seem to us that the evil in the world today is like the morning glory or the bramble — it grows overnight and covers and kills anything in its path. Oh, that good and righteousness would spread just as quickly!
However, the truths of the Gospel and the godly attributes that we desire in our hearts may be more like the slower-growing trees and vines. They become rooted in our souls as we weather the storms of life and apply God’s Word to life’s challenges. Often, God shows us an area where we can improve or learn a little lesson. Then He gives us opportunity to practice that lesson and really have it rooted in our lives.
Most of us do not want morning glory or brambles in our yards. In the same way, we do not want the fast-growing evils of the world in our hearts. They will offer no protection in eternity. God’s truths, on the other hand, offer the best protection and will take us to Heaven some day.
Abimelech was the son of Gideon (also known as Jerubbaal) and a concubine (Judges 6:32). Abimelech had seventy half brothers, and he killed them all except one — Jotham. It was customary in the ancient East for concubines to live with their own families where they were visited by their husbands occasionally. Therefore, Abimelech may have been closer to the people of Shechem than to his half brothers.
Shechem was a significant place in the history of the Children of Israel for several reasons:
The area of Shechem contained the trees and vegetation that Jotham referenced in his parable, which some Bible commentators call “The Parable of the Trees.” There were many olive trees, which produced valuable oil. Fig trees and vineyards also bore fruit plentifully there. Brambles were thorn bushes that were worthless and a hazard because fires started in them when they became dry in the summer. Jotham’s point was that Abimelech offered no security and actually was a threat to the well-being of the people of Shechem. Abimelech and those who followed him eventually destroyed each other.
Verse 22 notes, “Abimelech had reigned three years over Israel.” He did not reign over the whole country, but only over a small area.
At times, while defending a city, the women were asked to come to the wall and drop heavy objects over it onto the invading soldiers at the base of the wall. Abimelech was hit with a piece of a millstone in just such a case. Grain was ground between two millstones. Lower millstones weighed up to several hundred pounds and measured about two feet in diameter. Women could handle upper millstones, which were smaller and thus more movable.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
II. Conditions during the period of the judges
C. Parenthesis: the tyranny of Abimelech
2. Shechem’s submission to Abimelech (9:1-57)
a. Abimelech’s treachery to become king (9:1-6)
b. Jothan’s speech (9:7-21)
(1) The parable (9:7-15)
(2) The application (9:16-21)
c. Shechem’s treachery toward Abimelech (9:22-25)
d. Gaal’s aborted rebellion (9:26-41)
e. Abimelech’s capture of Shechem (9:42-49)
f. Abimelech’s death at Thebez (9:50-57)
What is growing in your heart today? Challenge yourself to be certain that you nurture the truths God has given you so that they will thrive and grow.