6

In the book of Judges 9:8-15 we have the following fable:

8 The trees went forth on a time to anoint a king over them; and they said unto the olive-tree: Reign thou over us.

9 But the olive-tree said unto them: Should I leave my fatness, seeing that by me they honour God and man, and go to hold sway over the trees?

10 And the trees said to the fig-tree: Come thou, and reign over us.

11 But the fig-tree said unto them: Should I leave my sweetness, and my good fruitage, and go to hold sway over the trees?

12 And the trees said unto the vine: Come thou, and reign over us.

13 And the vine said unto them: Should I leave my wine, which cheereth God and man, and go to hold sway over the trees?

14 Then said all the trees unto the bramble: Come thou, and reign over us.

15 And the bramble said unto the trees: If in truth ye anoint me king over you, then come and take refuge in my shadow; and if not, let fire come out of the bramble, and devour the cedars of Lebanon.

(Mechon-Mamre translation)

The same fable appears almost identically in Aesop's Fables:

The Logs and the Olive

Once the logs were consulting among themselves to elect a king. They asked the olive:

'Reign over us.'

The olive tree replied:

'What? Give up my oily liquor which is so highly prized by god and man to go reign over the logs?'

And so the logs asked the fig:

'Come and reign over us.'

But the fig replied similarly:

'What? Relinquish the sweetness of my delicious fruit to go and reign over the logs?'

So the logs urged the thornbush:

'Come and reign over us.'

And the thorn replied:

'If you were really to anoint me king over you, you would have to take shelter beneath me. Otherwise the flames from my brushwood [a usual tinder] would escape and devour the cedars of Lebanon.

(Olivia & Robert Temple translation)

Have any rabbinic commentators made note of this, and if so what have they said about it?

  • This is intriguing. +1 – ezra Sep 3 '18 at 4:21
  • Rashi notes how the fable relates to certain people and events in Tanach. The same hints would not be possible due to differences in Aesop's alternate version. I am not aware if or why Chazal did/would comment on the two as a connection? However, it wouldn't matter. It could be that A) a common parable pre-dates both. or B) Yotham's came first. But, C) "Aesop" making it up, doesn't seem possible since Yotham predates Aesop. – David Kenner Sep 3 '18 at 4:26
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    Not from a Jewish source, yet provides useful info nonetheless: celsus.blog/2017/11/19/… – ezra Sep 3 '18 at 5:27
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    @ezra nice article. Divrei HaYamim II 25: 18-19 "And Joash the king of Israel sent to Amaziah the king of Judah, saying, "The thistle that was in Lebanon sent to the cedar that was in Lebanon, saying: Give your daughter to my son for a wife; and the wild beast that was in Lebanon passed by and trampled the thistle. You said that behold, you have defeated Edom, and your heart has made you haughty to seek glory. Now, stay in your home. Why should you provoke evil and fall, you and Judah with you?" There is an example of yet another fable in the Tanach. Romer's position weakens. – David Kenner Sep 3 '18 at 5:41
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    @DavidKenner The singular "god" and the name "Lebanon" give the impression that the Hebrew source came first – b a Sep 3 '18 at 10:40
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I have a philosophical answer to "what would the Rabbis say", based on the "Lurianian" tradition.

  1. According to it, many valuable pieces of Jewish souls together with pieces of the Torah fell into/onto the Gentiles in the times of the primordial sin (called ניצוצות), and thru the exiles and constant interaction and conversions and adoptions, those pieces reunite with the Jewish nation.

  2. THis is the reason the Rabbis were so "eager" to adopt words from foreign languages (דברה תורה כלשון בני אדם), scientific facts (חכמה בגויים תאמין), foreign names, and of course, foreign converts etc.

  3. When the Sages saw that the wisdom of the Torah emerged thru foreign cultures, they not only didn't oppose it but saw a Mitzvah of bringing it back to the domain of the Torah.

Therefore we (I and my Rabbis) see no contradiction in seeing foreign texts copied in our scriptures.


Please don't downvote just because you don't agree or not familiar with those concepts in Judaism. Thank you.

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    This is a great discussion, it may have missed to capture the essence of what Alex is asking – Dr. Shmuel Sep 3 '18 at 9:39
  • @Shmuel Please, don't just hint, if you know what's missing, elaborate it. – Al Berko Sep 3 '18 at 10:34
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    I’m not downvoting because I don’t agree or because I’m not familiar with these concepts; I’m downvoting because this doesn’t answer the question of if they did and what did they say; he didn’t ask for speculation of “if they did say anything, what would it be?” – DonielF Sep 3 '18 at 16:40

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