What does Judges 9:11 mean?
ESV: But the fig tree said to them, ‘Shall I leave my sweetness and my good fruit and go hold sway over the trees?’
NIV: But the fig tree replied, 'Should I give up my fruit, so good and sweet, to hold sway over the trees?'
NASB: But the fig tree said to them, ‘Shall I give up my sweetness and my good fruit, and go to wave over the trees?’
CSB: But the fig tree said to them, "Should I stop giving my sweetness and my good fruit, and rule over trees? "
NLT: But the fig tree also refused, saying, ‘Should I quit producing my sweet fruit just to wave back and forth over the trees?’
KJV: But the fig tree said unto them, Should I forsake my sweetness, and my good fruit, and go to be promoted over the trees?
Verse Commentary:
Gideon's youngest son, Jotham, continues to proclaim his fable from the mountain top (Judges 9:1–7). He speaks to the crowd gathered below for Abimelech's coronation. This is the same Abimelech who conspired to murder all the sons of Gideon (Judges 8:30), with only Jotham managing to escape.

His story depicts trees looking for a king to reign over them. The olive tree has turned them down. Now the fig tree does so, as well. Fig trees were highly valued in that culture for their fruit, which could be eaten fresh, as well as for the cakes, wine, and sweetener made from it. Olive and fig trees were two essential pillars of the agricultural economy of the day.

The fig tree explains that he doesn't want to leave behind the important and meaningful work he is already doing: producing sweetness and good fruit. By comparison, he'd rather not rule over other trees. The implication is that because the fig tree is capable of excellent work, it has no desire to take power over others. In fact, becoming a ruler would be a step down.
Verse Context:
Judges 9:6–21 contains a parable and prophecy spoken by the sole surviving son of Gideon. Jotham was the only one missed in a massacre orchestrated by his half-brother, Abimelech (Judges 9:1–6). During the coronation ceremony making Abimelech a local ruler, Jotham shouts out a curse against Abimelech and Shechem's leaders. This takes the form of a fable about trees making a bramble bush their king. The prediction intended by Jotham's declaration is that Shechem's leaders did not act in integrity, so they and Abimelech will destroy each other. Jotham then flees the area.
Chapter Summary:
Shechem's leaders conspire with a concubine's son to kill Gideon's other seventy sons. They make this man, Abimelech, their ruler. Gideon's youngest son survives, however, and delivers a curse. Using a fable, he says Abimelech and Shechem's leaders will destroy each other. God causes a division between Shechem's leaders and Abimelech. The noblemen attempt to kill Abimelech and unite behind a new leader. Abimelech discovers the plot and kills everyone in Shechem, destroying the city. When attacking a tower in a nearby town, however, Abimelech's skull is crushed by a thrown millstone. The curse is fulfilled.
Chapter Context:
Gideon successfully defeated Midianite raiders but declined to become Israel's official king. His sons, however, were held in high esteem during his remaining years (Judges 8). After Gideon's death, ambitious men conspire to kill almost all those heirs. This results in a series of bloody events. Eventually, judgment comes on those responsible. Israel fails to learn from the tragedies. Chapter 10 explains further idolatry and sin, before introducing the next major judge, Jephthah, in chapter 11.
Book Summary:
The Book of Judges describes Israel's history from the death of Joshua to shortly before Israel's first king, Saul. Israel fails to complete God's command to purge the wicked Canaanites from the land (Deuteronomy 7:1–5; 9:4). This results in a centuries-long cycle where Israel falls into sin and is oppressed by local enemies. After each oppression, God sends a civil-military leader, labeled using a Hebrew word loosely translated into English as "judge." These appointed rescuers would free Israel from enemy control and govern for a certain time. After each judge's death, the cycle of sin and oppression begins again. This continues until the people of Israel choose a king, during the ministry of the prophet-and-judge Samuel (1 Samuel 1—7).
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