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Sermon Bible Commentary
Judges 9



Verses 8-15

Judges 9:8-15

I. From the answer of the olive tree we learn that usefulness is better than honour. Usefulness, if it be of the higher kind, is attained through long growing and long striving. But when it is attained, when there is a normal regulated usefulness flowing steadily out of a man's life, when he serves God and man where he is and by what he is, the offer of promotion ought to carry with it some very strong and clear enforcements to induce him to think of acceptance.

II. Notice, next, the answer of the fig tree. Sweetness is the one quality which the fig tree felt that it possessed. There is in some human souls a sweetness which imparts a fig tree flavour to the whole life. When you meet one who possesses this gift moving about among rough ways and persons, consider that you see something far more than merely pleasant, something of exceeding value to the world.

III. The vine can do only one thing—it can bear clusters of grapes. But that one thing is of force and value enough to keep the vine steady under temptation. "Should I leave my wine, which cheereth God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees?" As there are some human lives with sweetness in them as their main element, so there are some with this brighter, racier quality, which "cheers" and animates the spirits of others. Be a vine if you can be nothing more; distil and distribute the wine of life.

IV. Society, in all its sections, is full of bramble men, who are striving for every sort of personal elevation and advantage. By the picture in this parable I want you to scorn the principles they act upon, and to know that, by God's grace, you stand on a moral elevation far above them.

A. Raleigh, From Dawn to the Perfect Day, p. 132.

The youngest son of Gideon, Jotham, seems to have inherited the hereditary wit of the family, so conspicuous in Gideon and in his father. He must also have inherited his father's cool courage and daring; a courage which enabled him to collect his thoughts in the midst of imminent danger, and to utter them in circumstances which would have caused the voice of most men to tremble.

I. The fable requires little explanation. It was meant to be, and it is, self-interpreting. We see, too, that it is a felicitous condensation of the principle which regulates the acceptance of many of the high honours and rewards of life. It will not do for every one to say with the fig tree, should I forsake my sweetness and my good fruit, and go to be promoted over the trees? It is important to recognise on the one hand, that we cannot decline all honour, and ought not to shrink from advancement in life; and on the other hand, we must recognise that it may be humility, but it may also be selfish love of ease, which prompts us to say, Should I leave my fatness and my sweetness and go to be promoted over the trees?

II. A still wider application of the fable will occur to any one who carefully reads it. For what strikes the reader most is perhaps the sagacious contentment of the olive, the fig, and the vine—a contentment and dread of change, which reproach us for our restlessness and craving to be always bettering ourselves. (1) The "fatness" which the olive was not disposed to forsake in exchange for high position, may very naturally be supposed to symbolise the unselfishness which belongs to many obscure positions in life. (2) Again, many lives are soured and rendered wretched to all connected with them, because it is not recognised that sweetness is that to which they are specially called. Few seem to understand the power of sweetness in persuading men, or, if they understand it, cannot control or humble themselves to use it.

III. A third lesson which we gather from this fable is how contemptible a thing is display and worldly honour, and what is called style. There is something better in life than mere show or the mere attainment of the rewards accorded by the world to its successful men. The real value of human life does not lie on the surface, lies indeed so deep that many people never see it at all. If a man will only humbly accept what comes to him, and strive to do good as he has opportunity, he will not lack the blessing of God, but will be like the vine that cheereth God and man.

M. Dods, Israel's Iron Age, p. 61.

References: Judges 9:8-15.—S. Cox, Expositor's Notebook, p. 64; S. Goebel, The Parables of Jesus, p. 9; Parker, vol. vi., p. 51. Judges 9:48.—Ibid., p. 166; S. Baring-Gould, Village Preaching for a Year, p. 270.


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Bibliography Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Judges 9:4". "Sermon Bible Commentary".

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