One of the beautiful things that I like to teach my students as a Biblical Hebrew teacher are the fables we find in the Old Testament. When there is a use of fables in the Hebrew Bible the author wants to reveal the words of G-d in two ways: the revealed and the hidden. Today we are going to speak about two fables that relate to kings or people that thought they are kings.
The first fable that we are about to see is about a bramble, who became king of trees after three trees refused to be the king of trees, as written in Judges 9:8-15-
" הָלוֹךְ הָלְכוּ הָעֵצִים, לִמְשֹׁחַ עֲלֵיהֶם מֶלֶךְ; וַיֹּאמְרוּ לַזַּיִת, מָלְכָה עָלֵינוּ. וַיֹּאמֶר לָהֶם, הַזַּיִת, הֶחֳדַלְתִּי אֶת-דִּשְׁנִי, אֲשֶׁר-בִּי יְכַבְּדוּ אֱלֹהִים וַאֲנָשִׁים; וְהָלַכְתִּי, לָנוּעַ עַל-הָעֵצִים. וַיֹּאמְרוּ הָעֵצִים, לַתְּאֵנָה: לְכִי-אַתְּ, מָלְכִי עָלֵינוּ. וַתֹּאמֶר לָהֶם, הַתְּאֵנָה, הֶחֳדַלְתִּי אֶת-מָתְקִי, וְאֶת-תְּנוּבָתִי הַטּוֹבָה; וְהָלַכְתִּי, לָנוּעַ עַל-הָעֵצִים. וַיֹּאמְרוּ הָעֵצִים, לַגָּפֶן: לְכִי-אַתְּ מָלְכִי עָלֵינוּ. וַתֹּאמֶר לָהֶם, הַגֶּפֶן, הֶחֳדַלְתִּי אֶת-תִּירוֹשִׁי, הַמְשַׂמֵּחַ אֱלֹהִים וַאֲנָשִׁים; וְהָלַכְתִּי, לָנוּעַ עַל-הָעֵצִים. וַיֹּאמְרוּ כָל-הָעֵצִים, אֶל-הָאָטָד: לֵךְ אַתָּה, מְלָךְ-עָלֵינוּ. וַיֹּאמֶר הָאָטָד, אֶל-הָעֵצִים, אִם בֶּאֱמֶת אַתֶּם מֹשְׁחִים אֹתִי לְמֶלֶךְ עֲלֵיכֶם, בֹּאוּ חֲסוּ בְצִלִּי; וְאִם-אַיִן--תֵּצֵא אֵשׁ מִן-הָאָטָד, וְתֹאכַל אֶת-אַרְזֵי הַלְּבָנוֹן"
"Once the trees 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, ‘Shall I leave my fatness with which God and men are honored, and go to wave over the trees?’ Then the trees said to the fig tree, ‘You come, reign over us!’ But the fig tree said to them, ‘Shall I leave my sweetness and my good fruit, and go to wave over the trees?’ Then the trees said to the vine, ‘You come, reign over us!’ But the vine said to them, ‘Shall I leave my new wine, which cheers God and men, and go to wave over the trees?’ Finally all the trees said to the bramble, ‘You come, reign over us!’ The bramble said to the trees, ‘If in truth you are anointing me as king over you, come and take refuge in my shade; but if not, may fire come out from the bramble and consume the cedars of Lebanon.’"
Jotham was the only son of Gideon, who survived the massacre of Avimelech. When he saw that the people of Shechem didn’t pay attention to the fact that the worst tree decided to be the king of trees, he tried to warn them that this tree, the bramble, would be their king if the trees would find refuge in his shade. In other words, if they wanted to live with thorns- they should choose the bramble to be their king. Another thing which is so beautiful once you learn the Hebrew Language are the names of the heroes.
The name Avimelech means in Hebrew: my father is a king. That means that only Gideon could be the king of Israel. The surprising thing is that Avimeclech appointed himself to be a king without the permission of all the people, while his father was asked to be the king by the people. Even the name Jotham can show us that The Lord is complete, maybe to show us that Avimelech is not, and G-d is the only true king.
The next fable is found in 2 Kings 14. If from the first fable we have learned that there is only one king , and it is G-d, in this chapter the reality is different. We are in the days of two kings for the Israelites. One sits in Jerusalem and the other in Samaria. Let us see the lesson from the next fable as written:
" בִּשְׁנַת שְׁתַּיִם, לְיוֹאָשׁ בֶּן-יוֹאָחָז מֶלֶךְ יִשְׂרָאֵל, מָלַךְ אֲמַצְיָהוּ בֶן-יוֹאָשׁ, מֶלֶךְ יְהוּדָה... הוּא-הִכָּה אֶת-אֱדוֹם בְּגֵי מֶלַח עֲשֶׂרֶת אֲלָפִים, וְתָפַשׂ אֶת-הַסֶּלַע, בַּמִּלְחָמָה; וַיִּקְרָא אֶת-שְׁמָהּ יָקְתְאֵל, עַד הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה. אָז שָׁלַח אֲמַצְיָה מַלְאָכִים, אֶל-יְהוֹאָשׁ בֶּן-יְהוֹאָחָז בֶּן-יֵהוּא מֶלֶךְ יִשְׂרָאֵל לֵאמֹר: לְכָה, נִתְרָאֶה פָנִים. וַיִּשְׁלַח יְהוֹאָשׁ מֶלֶךְ-יִשְׂרָאֵל, אֶל-אֲמַצְיָהוּ מֶלֶךְ-יְהוּדָה לֵאמֹר, הַחוֹחַ אֲשֶׁר בַּלְּבָנוֹן שָׁלַח אֶל-הָאֶרֶז אֲשֶׁר בַּלְּבָנוֹן לֵאמֹר, תְּנָה-אֶת-בִּתְּךָ לִבְנִי לְאִשָּׁה; וַתַּעֲבֹר חַיַּת הַשָּׂדֶה, אֲשֶׁר בַּלְּבָנוֹן, וַתִּרְמֹס, אֶת-הַחוֹחַ. הַכֵּה הִכִּיתָ אֶת-אֱדוֹם, וּנְשָׂאֲךָ לִבֶּךָ; הִכָּבֵד, וְשֵׁב בְּבֵיתֶךָ, וְלָמָּה תִתְגָּרֶה בְּרָעָה, וְנָפַלְתָּה אַתָּה וִיהוּדָה עִמָּךְ. וְלֹא-שָׁמַע אֲמַצְיָהוּ--וַיַּעַל יְהוֹאָשׁ מֶלֶךְ-יִשְׂרָאֵל וַיִּתְרָאוּ פָנִים, הוּא וַאֲמַצְיָהוּ מֶלֶךְ-יְהוּדָה: בְּבֵית שֶׁמֶשׁ, אֲשֶׁר לִיהוּדָה. וַיִּנָּגֶף יְהוּדָה, לִפְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל; וַיָּנֻסוּ, אִישׁ לְאֹהָלָו."
"In the second year of Joash son of Joahaz king of Israel, Amaziah the son of Joash king of Judah became king…he killed of Edom in the Valley of Salt 10,000 and took Sela by war, and named it yoktheel to this day.Then Amaziah sent messengers to Jehoash, the son of Jehoahaz son of Jehu, king of Israel, saying, “ Come, let us face each other.” Jehoash king of Israel sent to Amaziah king of Judah, saying, “ The thorn bush which was in Lebanon sent to the cedar which was in Lebanon, saying, ‘Give your daughter to my son in marriage.’ But there passed by a wild beast that was in Lebanon, and trampled the thorn bush. You have indeed defeated Edom, and your heart has become proud. Enjoy your glory and stay at home; for why should you provoke trouble so that you, even you, would fall, and Judah with you?”But Amaziah would not listen. So Jehoash king of Israel went up; and he and Amaziah king of Judah faced each other at Beth-Shemesh, which belongs to Judah. Judah was defeated by Israel, and they fled each to his tent."(2 Kings 14:1,7-12)
This fable speaks about the thorn bush which succeeded to get hurt in one leg, these are the Edomites. Now after he won one war he was sure that he can compete with a mighty cedar tree- this is the King of Israel, by taking his daughter to be his wife. The lesson of this fable is that you need to know your place in this world. If you are just a thorn bush , don’t try to fight against cedar trees. You should go to war, literally or metaphorically, only if there's a chance to win, even if it's the slightest one. The outcome of this request of the thorn bush to marry the daughter of the cedar was that his people lost the war against the Northern Kingdom.
Thank you for joining me today. Have a blessed week, I will see you at the the next Webinar. Don’t forget: every Thursday 8:00 P.M. Eastern time!
Yours truly, Eli