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Jotham's fable and the crux interpretum in Judges ix

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The article surveys the linguistic and historical data available in order to assess the identity of the plant called upon in Jotham's fable as the last of the candidates to king-ship, the 'ātād. Mesopotamian linguistics and literary tradition indicate that the interpretation of the term ed-de-tu allows one to interpret it as a thorn-tree. Although not always coherent, the historical renderings regarding this plant admit the possibility of multiple varieties of plants sharing several qualities of which the most important are extreme habitat, valuable shade, healthy fruits and green foliage, and combustible wood. Modern botanists do not exclude totally 'ātād 's interpretation as Ziziphus spina-Christi, but it is contemporary Israeli botanists who holds it as the only legitimate interpretation. Its presence in the Levant and particularly in Israel throughout the centuries is just one more reason to support such a possibility. Only such a literal rendering prompts the prophetic value of Jotham's imprecation on the irony of dilemma in which the citizens of Shechem found themselves.


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