Listen to me, you men of Shechem,
That God may listen to you!

8 “The trees once went forth to anoint a king over them.
And they said to the olive tree,
‘Reign over us!’
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?’

10 “Then the trees said to the fig tree,
‘You come and reign over us!’
11 But the fig tree said to them,
‘Should I cease my sweetness and my good fruit,
And go to sway over trees?’

1“Then the trees said to the vine,
‘You come and reign over us!’
13 But the vine said to them,
‘Should I cease my new wine,
Which cheers both God and men,
And go to sway over trees?’

14 “Then all the trees said to the bramble,
‘You come and reign over us!’
15 And the bramble said to the trees,
‘If in truth you anoint me as king over you,
Then come and take shelter in my shade;
But if not, let fire come out of the bramble
And devour the cedars of Lebanon!’


There are two hundred references to trees in the Bible. The biblical narrative unfolds with the pathos of the tree of life in the midst of the garden of Eden, along with the tree of knowledge of good and evil. After the fall (of Adam and Eve), “lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever”, Cherubim are placed at the east end of the Garden to guard the way to the tree of life. Declaring the end from the beginning― of what is still to come, the tree of life reappears in the midst of the street of the new Jerusalem in (Revelation 22:2): “which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.” And we also read earlier in (Revelation 2:7), the Spirit’s prophetic message to the seven churches, of admonishments and consolations to God’s people in every age:

He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.

Throughout scripture, a reoccurring motif is that of blessed and cursed trees. Jesus cursing the fig tree comes to mind, which from a distance appeared to be fruitful, but on closer inspection, it became clear there was no fruit on it at all. In contrast to this cursed fig tree (representing the demise of the nation of Israel), we have the parable of the mustard seed representing the small beginnings of the gospel, and its exponential growth among the nations at the latter end:

The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field:

Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof (Matthew 13:31-32).

But perhaps equally striking, are the ‘Isaiah trees’, we read about in Isaiah 61:3: “that they [the redeemed] might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified.” We also read about the contrast between these blessed and cursed trees in (Psalm 1) and (Jeremiah 17:5-8):

Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is.

For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.

In (Matthew 7:18-20) Jesus uses another parable of a good and a bad tree as a similitude for false prophets:

A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits, ye shall know them.

My favourite Isaiah trees are those that break out into rapturous applause for the redeemed:

For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands” (Isaiah 55:12)

At different junctures in the biblical narrative we encounter Elijah, who in fear for his life, escaped from Jezebel, finding refuge under a Juniper tree (1 Kings 19:5); Absalom, who led an insurrection against his father, the anointed king David, while riding his mule under the thick branches of a large oak, caught his hair in the tree, we are told: “He was left hanging in midair, while the mule he was riding kept on going” (2 Samuel 18:9); then we have the initial incredulity of Nathaniel, sat under a fig tree, who said of Jesus, “can anything good come out of Nazareth” (John 1:47-51); then there is, Judas, who committed suicide by hanging himself on a redbud tree (Matthew 27:1-5); the prophetess Deborah, who judged Israel as God’s mouth, we learn, ” dwelt under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in mount Ephraim: and the children of Israel came up to her for judgment” (Judges 4:5). Our opening text―the parable of the trees, also in the book of (Judges 9), Abimelech, son of Gideon [Jerubbaal], commits fratricide against the household of his brethren in order to elevate himself king over the people of Shechem, only his brother Jotham escapes, exhorting from mount Gerizim, the apologue of the wise trees, Prophesying Abimelech’s demise. In Jotham’s narrative, we have prescient echoes of the overarching story of the Bible in (Isaiah 14:7-8), culminating in the casting out of that “abominable branch”– Lucifer, the usurper, at which,

The whole earth is at rest, and is quiet: they break forth into singing.

Yea, the fir trees rejoice at thee, and the cedars of Lebanon, saying, Since thou art laid down, no feller is come up against us.”

And finally, before being nailed to a tree, Jesus tells a company of women following him on the road to Calvary:

Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children. For, behold, the days are coming, in the which they shall say, Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bare, and the paps which never gave suck. Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, Fall on us; and to the hills, cover us. For if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?” (Luke 23:28-31).

Therefore, let all those who call upon the name of the Lord, become like ‘Isaiah trees’: trees of righteousness, for the planting of the Lord, bringing glory to the Lord. Let us display His righteousness, allowing it to spring forth from our lives daily: “His branches shall spread, and his beauty shall be as the olive tree, and his smell as Lebanon” (Hosea 14:6). Indeed, “In that day shall the branch of the LORD be beautiful and glorious,” (Isaiah 4:2).

For they shall be ashamed of the oaks which ye have desired, and ye shall be confounded for the gardens that ye have chosen.

For ye shall be as an oak whose leaf fadeth, and as a garden that hath no water.

And the strong shall be as tow, and the maker of it as a spark and they shall both burn together, and none shall quench them” (Isaiah 1:29-31).

But yet in it shall be a tenth, and it shall return, and shall be laid waste: as a terebinth tree, and as an oak, whose stump remains, when they are cut down: so the holy seed shall be its stump” (Isaiah 6:13).

For there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that the tender branch thereof will not cease” (Job 14:7).

Photo Credits: Sebastião Salgado, Children in a school that is entirely supported by the Christian Children’s Fund, USA. [children in a tree], Thailand, 1987

Reflections by Beauty 4 Ashes Development Foundation, Copyright © 2017