Jotham or Yotam was the youngest of Gideon’s seventy sons. He escaped when the rest were put to death by the order of his half-brother Abimelech (Judges 9:5).
Jotham’s response was both creative and courageous. From Mount Gerizim, which faced Shechem from the southeast, his voice called Abimelech and the Shechemites to account before God for their treachery:
Once the trees 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, “Shall I leave my fatness with which God and men are honored, and go to reign over the trees?”
Then the trees said to the fig tree, “You come, reign over us!”
But the fig tree said to them, “Shall I leave my sweetness and my good fruit, and go to reign over the trees?”
Then the trees said to the vine, “You come, reign over us!”
But the vine said to them, “Shall I leave my new wine, which cheers God and men, and go to reign over the trees?”
Finally, all the trees said to the bramble, “You come, reign over us!”
The bramble said to the trees, “If in truth you are anointing me as king over you, come and take refuge in my shade; but if not, may fire come out from the bramble and consume the cedars of Lebanon.” (Judges 9:8-15)
The first tree approached is the olive tree, the second is the fig, the third is a non-tree, the grapevine, and finally the berry vine. All are significantly smaller than the cedar of Lebanon and thus incapable of fulfilling the request to “reign over” the cedar by virtue of their relative size.
The olive and fig both refuse the request for advancement on the basis of a clear recognition of their positive points in comparison to their relative weaknesses and they are satisfied with the product and service they can provide. The vine, (not even a tree), reveals the same wisdom that both of the previous candidates had. All three knew their abilities and were not successfully tempted to covet a role that was not theirs in order to gain power and glory.