From Bible Encyclopedia
jō´tham (יותם, yōthām, “YHWH is perfect”; Ἰωαθάμ, Iōathám):
(1) The youngest son of Gideon-Jerubbaal, the sole survivor of the massacre of his seventy brothers by Abimelech (Judges 9:5), and (by Judges 8:22) the legitimate ruler of Shechem after their death. He escaped when the rest were put to death by the order of Abimelech (Judges 9:5). When “the citizens of Shechem and the whole house of Millo” were gathered together “by the plain of the pillar” (i.e., the stone set up by Joshua, Joshua 24:26; compare Genesis 35:4) “that was in Shechem, to make Abimelech king,” from one of the heights of Mount Gerizim he protested against their doing so in the earliest parable, that of the bramble-king. His words then spoken were prophetic. There came a recoil in the feelings of the people toward Abimelech, and then a terrible revenge, in which many were slain and the city of Shechem was destroyed by Abimelech (Judges 9:45). Having delivered his warning, Jotham fled to Beer from the vengeance of Abimelech (Judges 9:7-21).
Recognizing, however, that he is powerless to assert his claim, Jotham delivers from the summit of Gerizim his famous fable (Judges 9:7-15), applies it to the situation in hand, and then flees for his life to Beer (Judges 9:21). Nothing more is told of him, but the downfall of Abimelech is referred in part to his “curse” (Judges 9:57). The fable tells of the kingship of the trees which, after having been declined by all useful plants, was finally offered to the bramble. The latter, inflated by its unexpected dignity, pompously offers its “shade' to its faithful subjects, while threatening all traitors with punishment (brambles carry forest fires), quite in the manner of an oriental monarch on assuming the throne. Having thus parodied the relationship of the worthless Abimelech to the Shechemites, Jotham ironically wishes both parties joy of their bargain, which will end in destruction for all concerned. Otherwise the connection between the fable and its application is loose, for, while the fable depicts the kingship as refused by all properly qualified persons, in the application the Shechemites are upbraided for their treachery and their murder of the rightful heirs. In fact, the fable taken by itself would seem rather to be a protest against kings as a class (compare 1 Samuel 8:10-18; 1 Samuel 12:19, etc.); so it is possible that either the fable or its application has become expanded in transmission. Or an older fable may have been used for the sake of a single salient point, for nothing is more common than such an imperfect reapplication of fables, allegories and parables.
(2) Twelfth king of Judah, son of Uzziah and Jerusha, daughter of Zadok (2 Kings 15:32-38; 2 Chronicles 27:1-9). He was the successor of Uzziah on the throne of Judah. As during his last years Uzziah was excluded from public life on account of his leprosy, his son, then twenty-five years of age, administered for seven years the affairs of the kingdom in his father's stead (2 Chronicles 26:21, 2 Chronicles 26:23; 2 Chronicles 27:1). After his father's death he became sole monarch, and reigned for sixteen years (759-743 BC). He ruled in the fear of God, and his reign was prosperous. He was contemporary with the prophets Isaiah, Hosea, and Micah, by whose ministrations he profited. He was buried in the sepulchre of the kings, greatly lamented by the people (2 Kings 15:38; 2 Chronicles 27:7-9).
1. Accession and Regency:
Jotham was 25 years of age at the time of his father's attack of leprosy, and was at once called upon to take the administration of the kingdom (2 Kings 15:5; 2 Chronicles 26:21). In doing this he not only judged the people of the land by presiding at the administration of justice, but also was over the household of the king, showing how complete was the isolation of his father. He was thus king in all but name, and is invariably spoken of as reigning in Jerusalem. His reign lasted for 16 years (2 Kings 15:33; 2 Chronicles 27:1), 759-744 (others put later). While the father loved husbandry and had much cattle (2 Chronicles 26:10) - external affairs with which he could occupy himself in his retirement - to the son fell the sterner duties and heavier responsibilities of the state.
2. The War with Ammon:
The relation between father and son is well brought out in the Chronicler's account of the Ammonite war. In 2 Chronicles 26:8 we are told that “the Ammonites gave tribute (the King James Version “gifts”) to Uzziah,” such gifts being compulsory, and of the nature of tribute. In 2 Chronicles 27:5 we are told that the actual conquest of Ammon was made by Jotham, and that for 3 successive years he compelled them to pay an annual subsidy of 100 talents of silver and 10,000 “cors” each of wheat and barley (the cor (Hebrew kōr) was about 10 bushels). The campaign on the East of the Jordan was the only one in which Jotham took part, but as the state suffered no loss of territory during his regency, the external provinces must have been strongly held and well governed.
3. Jotham's Building Operations:
It is probable that before attempting to win any extension of territory, Jotham had spent some years in completing the unfinished building schemes in which his father was engaged at the time of his affliction. Like him, he became an enthusiastic builder (2 Chronicles 27:3, 2 Chronicles 27:4). He is recorded to have built towers, castles and cities, and specifically to have completed the Ophel wall in Jerusalem, which is still standing to the South of the Haram area. But the crowning architectural glory of his reign was the completion of the temple court by erecting, or setting up, “the upper gate of the house of Yahweh” (2 Chronicles 27:3; 2 Kings 15:35). This particular gate was the entrance to, and exit from, the upper or new court of the temple, which had been begun so long ago as the time of Asa (compare the writer's Solomon's Temple, Part II, chapter viii). Its situation is perfectly known, as it bore the same name and place in the Herodian temple as in each of its predecessors. It stood facing the South, and was on higher ground than any other of the temple gates. Hence, its name. It gave entrance to that upper court of the temple, mentioned in Jeremiah 36:10, where it is spoken of as “the new gate of Yahweh's house.” As Jeremiah began his ministry about a century after Jotham's death, Jeremiah's use of the name commemorates the fact that the gate was not built till long after the other parts of the structure.
4. The Syrian League:
During Jotham's regency, a formidable combination of the Northern Kingdom and the Syrian state, with Damascus as capital, began to show signs of hostility to Judah. For 4 years before Jotham's death, Pekah occupied the throne of Samaria. The Assyrian king, Tiglath-pileser III, was then pushing his arms westward, and a Syrian league was formed to oppose them. Jotham may have refused to join this league. The political situation at his death is thus described: “In those days Yahweh began to send against Judah Rezin the king of Syria, and Pekah the son of Remaliah” (2 Kings 15:37).
5. Condition of Judah:
Jotham's character is represented in a moderately favorable light, it being put to his credit that he did not enter the temple (2 Chronicles 27:2). The wisdom and vigor of his administration, and of his policy for the defense of the country, are recognized. It was owing to his completion of his father's plans for the protection of Jerusalem, and of the building of country fortresses, that Hezekiah, a few years afterward, was able to show so stout a resistance to Sennacherib. But within the state itself corruption and oppression were rife. The great prophets, Isaiah, Hosea and Micah, exercised their ministries in Jotham's days, and in their pages we have graphic picture of the moral condition of the time. Isa does not name Jotham, except in the title (Isaiah 1:1; compare Isaiah 7:1), but Isaiah 1 through 5 of his book were probably written in this reign. Hosea's writings go back to the last years of Jeroboam II, who died the year Jotham came to the throne. Micah's evidence is valuable, telling us that Omri had formulated and published rules for the cult of the Zidonian Baal, and that these “statutes” were kept by some of the citizens of Samaria, and, possibly, of Jerusalem (Micah 6:16).