In the Jewish scriptures there are clearly at least two approaches to kingship. The king is God’s chosen one, his anointed; the king is an abomination – if not a disaster.*
Today’s first reading, Judges 9: 6-15, belongs to the second strand. The people want a king but Jotham, as he looks upon them making his half-brother Abimelech their king, provides a critical parable.
The trees want to anoint a king but the olive trees, the fig trees, and even the lowly grape wine refuse. Why should we give up the gifts that we offer the people – oil, figs, and wine. We are serving the people by offering what we have.
But then the trees approach the thorn bus, the bramble for protection and shelter. But the bramble gives little protection from the sun and, as the Jerome Biblical Commentary suggests, is “a ground cover of the sort that propagates forest fires.”
Abimelech had already proven how fiery he was – killing seventy half-brothers. Now he is the one chosen as king, accepting a kingship which his father, the judge Gideon, had refused.
Should I draw any conclusions or should I leave all to your imaginations?
* Note the difference between 1 Samuel 9-10 and 1 Samuel 8.