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Judges 9:9: Jotham's Allegory, Part 3

Updated: Jul 5, 2018

Verse 9:[1] But the olive tree said unto them, Should I leave my fatness, (Ps. 104:15) wherewith by me they honour God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees (Heb. go up and down for other trees[2])?

[Am I able to leave my fatness? הֶחֳדַ֙לְתִּי֙ אֶת־דִּשְׁנִ֔י] The anomalous verb is in the Hiphil: there are those that think it to be Qal with a note of interrogation (Drusius). Should I leave, or, should I be compelled to leave? Bertram[3] says that it is a composite of the Hiphil (which the הֶ, the He with the segol, indicates, a marker, not only of interrogation, but also of the Hiphil conjugation), and of the Hophal (which the Qametz-hatuph under the He [הֳ] indicates): so that the sense of this mingling is, Should I, being persuaded by your words, thus cause my fatness to be sent away (according to the active Hiphil[4]), that I might be deprived of that also (according to the passive Hophal[5])? For Hebrew verbs composed of diverse conjugations intend their own signification by composition. Thus above, in Numbers 1:47, And the Levites לֹ֥א הָתְפָּקְד֖וּ, were not numbered, among the others: it is a perfect composed from the Hophal and Hithpael;[6] in the former it is הֳפְקְדוּ, in the latter הִתְפָּקְדוּ: therefore, the mixture renders this sense, they were not made to be numbered, neither did they number themselves. But others more simply say that the Qametz-hatuph (ֳ) is placed anomalously under the ה in the place of the Hirek (ִ) (Glassius’ “Sacred Grammar” 332. [Moreover, they translate these words in this manner:] Should I leave (make to cease [Montanus]) my fatness? (Munster, similarly the Septuagint, Jonathan, Syriac, Pagnine). Verbatim: Surely I have not made to cease? But here the perfect/preterite is taken in the place of the future/imperfect (Munster). Am I able, or ought I, to leave my oil? Or, Should I be left without? that is, Should I bring it to pass that I am deprived? that is to say, Ought I to abandon my lot, which is the best? (Vatablus). In which place note that Princes are wont and obliged to forsake their own private advantages and conveniences, so that they might consult the good of their subordinates (Bonfrerius). The useful trees say that they are content with their goods, and so they do not wish to receive royal power, or a change of their state (Martyr).

[Of which both gods and men make use, אֲשֶׁר־בִּ֛י יְכַבְּד֥וּ אֱלֹהִ֖ים וַאֲנָשִׁ֑ים] By which (that is, the fatness) by me they honor God and men (Pagnine, similarly the Syriac, Montanus, Junius and Tremellius, Piscator, Bonfrerius); which is prized by gods and men (Arabic). The Septuagint rightly, ἣν ἐν ἐμοὶ ἐδόξασεν ὁ θεὸς καὶ ἄνθρωποι, which in me God glorifies, and men (Dieu). I translate more closely, which in me they honor (magnify [Tigurinus], praise, proclaim [Dieu]), that is, God, or Gods, and men honor (Dieu, thus Munster Tigurinus). Which the sons of men, of this honoring before God, also in this are delighted (Jonathan). Question: How is God honored by oil? Responses: 1. In the kindled lamps (Vatablus, Drusius), Exodus 35:14 (Malvenda, Menochius), on which oil was daily set ablaze to God (Lapide). 2. In offerings (Vatablus), Exodus 29; Leviticus 2:6, 7 (Menochius). No sacrifice, either for a burnt-offering or peace-offering, was able to be offered without the addition of a certain measure of oil for libations (Bonfrerius). 3. Also with oil were anointed the Priests, High Priests, and vessels of the Tabernacle (Lapide, Menochius). Moreover, men were honored with it; 1. inasmuch as it was used for the anointing of Kings, Priests, and Prophets (Junius, Drusius): 2. inasmuch as gifts of it were prepared for Kings (Vatablus). In addition, oil is to men food, medicine, and light (Lapide): they make use of it for strength, for sheen, and for luxuries and pleasures (Bonfrerius).

By me they honour God and man: In the worship and service of God oil was used for divers things; as, about the lamps, Exodus 35:14, and offerings, Leviticus 2:6, 7, and for the anointing of sacred persons and things. Oil was also used in the constitution of kings, and priests, and prophets, and for a present to great persons, and to anoint the head and face, etc.

[And to go so that I might be promoted among the tree?וְהָ֣לַכְתִּ֔י לָנ֖וּעַ עַל־הָעֵצִֽים׃] And shall I advance, or go, to be promoted (so that I might be promoted [Septuagint, Pagnine], so that I might be moved [Munster]) above the trees? (Montanus, Munster); so that I might administer the republic of trees? (the Chaldean in Vatablus); and shall I go to agitate myself because of the trees? (Syriac); that I might be hindered by the business of the trees? (Arabic); that I might go to wander because of the trees? (Junius and Tremellius), that is, to run about to fulfill the royal office? Thus he shows that the most laborious care is the companion of all authority and government (Junius). Moreover, לָנוּעַ is to move, that is, to promove/advance, a simple in the place of a complex. Then, the infinite Qal is taken passively, as often elsewhere. Thus, then it began לִקְרֹא, to be called/ invoked, Genesis 4:26[7] (Drusius).

To be promoted, Hebrew, to move hither and thither, to wander to and fro, to exchange my sweet tranquillity for incessant cares and travels for the good of others, as a king ought to do.

[1] Hebrew: וַיֹּ֤אמֶר לָהֶם֙ הַזַּ֔יִת הֶחֳדַ֙לְתִּי֙ אֶת־דִּשְׁנִ֔י אֲשֶׁר־בִּ֛י יְכַבְּד֥וּ אֱלֹהִ֖ים וַאֲנָשִׁ֑ים וְהָ֣לַכְתִּ֔י לָנ֖וּעַ עַל־הָעֵצִֽים׃

[2] Hebrew: וְהָ֣לַכְתִּ֔י לָנ֖וּעַ עַל־הָעֵצִֽים׃.

[3] Bonaventure Cornelius Bertram (1531-1594) was minister of the Gospel and Professor of Hebrew at Geneva, at Frankenthal, and at Lausanne. His revision of the French Bible is used by French Calvinists to the present day.

[4] The Hiphil conjugation frequently conveys a causative sense.

[5] The Hophal conjugation frequently conveys a passive causative sense.

[6] The Hithpael conjugation frequently conveys a reflexive sense.

[7] Genesis 4:26: “And to Seth, to him also there was born a son; and he called his name Enos: then began men to call upon the name of the Lord (אָ֣ז הוּחַ֔ל לִקְרֹ֖א בְּשֵׁ֥ם יְהוָֽה׃, then it was begun to be called by the name of Jehovah).”

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Dr. Dilday
Dr. Dilday
04 jul 2018

Matthew Henry: 'The reason which all these fruit-trees gave for their refusal was much the same. The olive pleads (Judges 9:9), Should I leave my wine, wherewith both God and man are served and honoured? for oil and wine were used both at God's altars and at men's tables. And shall I leave my sweetness, saith the fig-tree, and my good fruit (Judges 9:11), and go to be promoted over the trees? or, as the margin reads it, go up and down for the trees? It is intimated, [1.] That government involves a man in a great deal both of toil and care; he that is promoted over the trees must go up and down for them, and make himsel…

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