Israel is largely a desert country, and thorny plants grow throughout the region.
Brambles occur in abundance. The thorns protect the plant from damage through animal grazing, and prevent it from drying up because the prickly leaves or branches restrict the surface area of the leaves and limit the amount of evaporation possible.
A great many stories (parables) are in the Bible to clarify a situation or to give advice. One of the well-known parables (Judges 9: 8-15) refers to a situation when a new king was to be appointed – but it was difficult to decide who it should be. The parable about the bramble has clear lessons concerning the selection of leaders.
The tale of the bramble is that the trees of a forest went looking for a tree to appoint as their new king. They first approached the olive tree, the most respected of the trees. But the olive tree refused.
Then the trees went to the fig tree. It was less valued than the olive tree but was still looked up to in the forest. It too refused.
The search continued, with trees of lower and lower standards being asked. The vine was approached and after refusing, the bramble lastly was approached. The olive tree, the fig, and the vine were all trees of great importance to the people because they produced fruit. The bramble was a thorny bush, a tangled bush common in the hills of Canaan and a nuisance to farmers. It produced nothing of value, was completely worthless and unsuitable to the task.
The worthy trees (the olive, the fig, and the vine) did not want to be king. But the unworthy bramble agreed to be king. The lowly bramble jumped at the opportunity to be the ruler of all the trees, but added a warning - that it would expect all the other trees to bow down to it. The bramble warned the trees that he would be a domineering king and would destroy anyone who disagreed with him.
This parable has applied to leaders across the centuries. One test of the character of a man is to see how he treats those who disagree with him. If his only desire is to destroy those who disagree, then he is much like the bramble - plenty of good points, but no real substance for good. Whether we are selecting public leaders, political leaders or any other sort of leaders, the lesson is the same. When those qualified refuse to lead, sometimes those less qualified take the lead. This can lead to a dangerous states of affairs.
The message is that leadership does not just happen. It takes a special person to be a leader. If you are given that opportunity, seize it - but be sure that you are an olive, a fig or a vine tree. Do not be a bramble.