Agreement of Book and Land: Have you heard of the Atad tree?

At Neot Kedumim most of the trees are identified by name and often with references to biblical events. I enjoyed seeing the Atad tree. The sign at the base of the tree explains an important biblical event which names the atad tree.

The atad tree in the parable of Jotham. Photo: ferrelljenkins.blog

This sign explains the biblical reference to the atad tree in the parable of Jotham in Judges 9. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

For ease of reading here is the first paragraph of the sign. Some of the spellings have been changed to make the information more easily understood by English readers.

A parable told by Jotham after the death of his father, Judge Gideon, criticizing his brother Abimelech’s rise to power after the latter brutally murdered all 70 of his other brothers “upon one stone” (Judges 9:5). The parable tells of the trees seeking to anoint a king. They ask the olive, fig, and grapevine who each refuse, wishing only to continue to bear their fruit. Eventually the Ziziphus spina-christi (atad), frequently – and misleadingly – mistranslated as a bramble, agrees to assume the role with devastating consequences: “let fire come forth from the atad” (Judges 9:15).

The Hebrew text uses the term atad for the plant. Common English translations include bramble, thronbush, and thorn bush. Some writers think of the atad as a tree, such as the one you see here.

The Atad tree at Neot Kedumim. Photo: ferrell jenkins..blog.

The Atad tree at Neot Kedumim. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

For other references to the Ziziphus spina-christi see our photos and information here and here (note the last photo in that post).

The next photo shows some of the worthless fruit on the atad tree at Neot Kedumim. In contrast the fruit of the olive, the fig and the grape vine was very useful.

The fruit of the Atad tree of Joshua 9:14-15. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins at Neot Kedumim.

The fruit of the Atad tree of Joshua 9:14-15. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins at Neot Kedumim.

3 responses to “Agreement of Book and Land: Have you heard of the Atad tree?

  1. More… OK, I just read the rest of the interpretive sign, from your photo. It notes that the tree’s branches are “highly flammable, endangering it’s surroundings when dry”. That element of danger just adds to the imagery, I suppose.

    About the “crown of thorns” connection from the NT: We can imagine Roman soldiers in the courtyard of Pilate’s praetorium grabbing whatever was close at hand in order to fashion their mock crown: it was thorn-branches piled in a corner and used for starting fires.

  2. Ferrell, hello– Thanks for another interesting post. I suspect that the atad — whether a bramble-bush or a proper tree bearing inedible fruit — was used as tinder and/or firewood. That is, fire literally “came forth” from it (with a little help)! Thus, it would have been an effective word-picture from everyday life that the original readers of that text “got” immediately.

    TOM POWERS / Waynesville, NC

  3. Very interesting! Thanks for sharing.

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