Jotham

JOTHAM (jō'thăm, Heb. yôthām, Jehovah is perfect)

The youngest of the seventy sons of Gideon, and the speaker of the first Bible parable (Judg.9.5-Judg.9.57). After the death of Gideon, Abimelech, an illegitimate son, got the men of Shechem behind him and desired to make himself a king over Israel. To that end he murdered his half-brothers, all but Jotham the youngest, who hid himself and so escaped. When the Shechemites had made Abimelech king, Jotham spoke his notable parable of the trees and the bramble and pronounced a curse on them and on Abimelech.A man of the tribe of Judah (1Chr.2.47).King of Judah. He was born a son of Uzziah, king of Judah. Uzziah had been for the most part a good and powerful king, but his successes turned his head and he intruded into the priest’s office (2Chr.26.16). As a result, he was struck with leprosy, and Jotham acted as regent. Jotham began to reign just about the time Isaiah began his great ministry (Isa.6.1) and was probably influenced by that godly man, and perhaps by Hosea and Micah also. He had victory over the Ammonites, who were forced to pay him heavy tribute; he was a great builder, fortifying several places in Judah and building the upper gate of the temple. For the record of his life, see 2Kgs.15.32-2Kgs.15.38 and 2Chr.27.1-2Chr.27.9.


JOTHAM jō’ thəm (יוֹתָ֛ם; LXX ̓Ιωαθαμ, prob. the Lord is perfect or may the Lord finish). A son of Gideon, who escaped the massacre of his family by the Shechemites and whose curse on them was fulfilled in the sack of the city by Abimelech (Judg 9); the name of a descendant of Caleb’s brother Jerahmeel (1 Chron 2:47); and the name of a son of Uzziah, regent during his father’s illness and later king (2 Kings 15:32-38; 2 Chron 26:21-27:9).

Chronology.


Regency.

Jotham’s position during his father’s illness is described as “over the house”; as Montgomery (ICC, p. 117) and Katzenstein have shown, this office developed in importance during the monarchy, being low on the list in 1 Kings 4:6, whereas in 2 Kings 19:2 the holder is principal deputy for the king. There is no hint elsewhere of this “chamberlain” having judicial functions, which properly belonged to the king; because Uzziah was not actually deposed, Jotham may have held the office purely for status, whereas he was in effect carrying out the royal functions.

It is interesting to compare this recorded co-regency with those inferred by Thiele to solve chronological problems of the divided monarchy. Jehoshaphat, prob. co-regent because of Asa’s incapacitation, provides the clearest precedent. The lack of an explicit statement about this may reflect the difference in circumstances; though Asa’s disease is noted in a context of spiritual failing, there was no dramatic event of direct interest to the Biblical historians that would have led them to mention a co-regency, nor was Asa necessarily deprived of all his royal functions.

A seal bearing Jotham’s name was found at Elath and published by N. Glueck in BASOR, LXXIX. Albright there argued from the absence of any patronymic or official designation that the owner was a very important person indeed; but that, being mounted in copper, the seal was prob. used by a local officer for royal business. Subsequent discussion (BASOR, CLXIII) suggests that Jotham himself might have had charge of the fort before his regency. There is little evidence either way; Elath was in Judean hands for most of Jotham’s lifetime.

Achievement.

Jotham followed the steps of his father both in religious faith and in other state policy; both Kings and Chronicles credit him with a steadfast loyalty to the Lord, but observe that local sacrifices were still permitted in Judah.

It is recorded in Kings that Jotham built the “upper gate” of the Temple; the Chronicler adds that he built extensively on the Ophel wall and set up other defense works in the country. Simons sees the building in Jerusalem as part of a long-range plan to extend the city walls around the outlying quarters, because later, Hezekiah built a new N wall and Manasseh completed the circuit. It might be inaccurate, however, to think of a “plan” in any more formal sense than the evolution of a response to a continuously growing need. In the country, Jotham seemed to have strengthened and guarded the places of habitation rather than the frontiers; the “wooded hills” (2 Chron 27:4) indicate the western and particularly the NW areas.

The Ammonites, who had brought tribute to Uzziah, were defeated in battle by Jotham, and appear to have paid heavy tribute for three years running (2 Chron 27:5; the text is not clear and may be defective, but there is no doubt of the general sense). The limitation at the third year may be due to the turn of the tide as Rezin of Syria began to press southward (2 Kings 15:37).

Bibliography

D. Diringer, Iscrizzioni Ant. Ebr. (1934), 126; W. F. Albright, BASOR, C (1945), 18-21; J. Montgomery, Kings, ICC (1951); J. Simons, Jerusalem in the OT (1952), 330; G. E. Wright, Biblical Archaeology (1957), 160; Navigated Rivers in the Desert (1959), 166ff.; BASOR, CLXIII (1961), 18-22; H. Katzenstein, IEJ, X (1960), 149ff.; C. Schedl, Vet Test, XII (1962), 90-98; J. Gray, Kings (1964), 57, 69, 559f., 569ff.; S. Horn, Andrews University Seminary Studies II (1964), 40-52; V. Pavlovsky, E. Vogt, Biblica, XLV (1964), 321-330; J. Myers, Chronicles (1965); E. Thiele, Mysterious Numbers2 (1965), 118-140, Vet Test XVI (1966), 83-102.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

(yotham, "Yahweh is perfect"; Ioatham):

(1) The youngest son of Gideon-Jerubbaal, the sole survivor of the massacre of his seventy brothers by Abimelech (Jud 9:5), and (by Jud 8:22) the legitimate ruler of Shechem after their death. Recognizing, however, that he is powerless to assert his claim, Jotham delivers from the summit of Gerizim his famous fable (Jud 9:7-15), applies it to the situation in hand, and then flees for his life to Beer (Jud 9:21). Nothing more is told of him, but the downfall of Abimelech is referred in part to his "curse" (Jud 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 1Sa 8:10-18; 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.

Burton Scott Easton

(2) Twelfth king of Judah, son of Uzziah and Jerusha, daughter of Zadok (2Ki 15:32-38; 2Ch 27:1-9).

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 (2Ki 15:5; 2Ch 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 (2Ki 15:33; 2Ch 27:1), 759-744 (others put later). While the father loved husbandry and had much cattle (2Ch 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 2Ch 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 2Ch 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 kor) 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 (2Ch 27:3,4). 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" (2Ch 27:3; 2Ki 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 Jer 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" (2Ki 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 (2Ch 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 (Isa 1:1; compare 7:1), but Isaiah 1-5 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 (Mic 6:16).

Jotham’s name appears in the royal genealogical list of 1Ch 3:12, and in the genealogy of Jesus (Mt 1:9).

(3) A Calebite (1Ch 2:47 the King James Version).

W. Shaw Caldecott