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Jotham’s brief appearance in the book of Judges proves that words can be more powerful than swords. In a tale that can only be described as a relentless cycle of betrayal and slaughter, Jotham played the part of an angry messenger to great effect.

Jotham was the youngest son of Jerub-Baal, more commonly known as Gideon. Although he was one of the most celebrated judges in Israel’s history, Gideon had a problem: His many wives had given him seventy legitimate sons, including Jotham. Gideon also had an illegitimate son named Abimelech. The term “sibling rivalry” does not begin to describe what took place after Gideon died.

Jotham alone survived the massacre that Abimelech orchestrated. Abimelech’s intent was to slaughter all seventy of his half brothers in order to take up Gideon’s mantle and govern uncontested. Jotham went into hiding but quickly emerged, incensed to learn that the people of Shechem, an important city in central Israel, intended to crown Abimelech as their king.

Jotham climbed a mountain overlooking the coronation and delivered a brazen speech in which he compared Abimelech to a thornbush. The insult was not lost on Abimelech— thornbushes have no value and serve only to choke the life out of more useful plants.
Before he turned to run for his life, Jotham prophesied that Abimelech and the people of Shechem would be one another’s downfall. Just as they had conspired to betray Jotham’s brothers, soon they would turn on each other, at which point an even greater slaughter would commence.Three years later, Jotham’s curse came to pass. The people rebelled against Abimelech, who responded with ruthless aggression.

Abimelech met his end when a woman in a besieged tower dropped a millstone on his head—and Jotham’s family was vindicated at last. Jotham’s name means “the Lord is perfect.” While his story is anything but a happy one, it serves to remind us that divine justice is indeed faultless. Even though it often seems a long time coming, God’s justice does not let wickedness—like the murder of Jotham’s brothers—go unpunished.