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Judges 9:9

ESV But the olive tree said to them, ‘Shall I leave my abundance, by which gods and men are honored, and go hold sway over the trees?’
NIV "But the olive tree answered, ‘Should I give up my oil, by which both gods and humans are honored, to hold sway over the trees?’
NASB But the olive tree said to them, ‘Shall I give up my fatness with which God and mankind are honored, and go to wave over the trees?’
CSB But the olive tree said to them, "Should I stop giving my oil that people use to honor both God and men, and rule over the trees?"
NLT But the olive tree refused, saying, ‘Should I quit producing the olive oil that blesses both God and people, just to wave back and forth over the trees?’
KJV But the olive tree said unto them, Should I leave my fatness, wherewith by me they honor God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees?
NKJV 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?’

What does Judges 9:9 mean?

Jotham, the youngest and only survivor of Gideon's seventy sons (Judges 8:30–31; 9:1–5), is delivering an unscheduled speech. This is being shouted from a perch on Mount Gerizim, overlooking the city of Shechem. The chosen moment is the coronation of Abimelech, the brother who murdered his siblings to secure his throne.

The story began with trees attempting to choose a king. They first asked the olive tree to rule. The olive tree says no: its current role provides something valued by "gods and men." Ruling over other trees would be less worthy; the olive tree values its current purpose and productivity too much to take on a new role, even one as honorable as king. As far as this fable is concerned, the olive tree is capable and successful enough that it feels no urge to seek power over others.

Olive oil played a vital role in the everyday lives of ancient people in this region. The product of the olive tree was used for cooking, medicine, fuel for lighting, sacred anointings, and all kinds of lubrication. It was endlessly essential and desirable, as were the products of the next two trees in Jotham's fable. However, the king eventually chosen in the story, is not (Judges 9:15), implying that Shechem has made an extremely poor choice by submitting to Abimelech.
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