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The Parables of the Old Testament (2 of 15)
The Parable of the Thistle and the Cedar
2 Kings 14:8-14
Amaziah, king of Judah, had gained a victory over Edom
in the Valley of Salt, where he slew ten thousand men
and took the town of Selah. This victory over the
desert tribes unduly elated him and moved him to
challenge the king of Israel to combat. Because he had
slain a few thousand in the Valley of Salt, he thought
he could cross swords with the kingdom of Israel, then
at the height of its godless splendor and military
power. He sent messengers to the king of Israel,
Joash, saying: "Come, let us look one another in the
face." In other words, "Let us meet in battle and see
who is stronger."
Joash scorned the impudent challenge. Half amused,
half angry at the insult, he answered with the parable
of The Thistle and the Cedar. "The thistle that was in
Lebanon sent to the cedar that was in Lebanon, saying,
'Give thy daughter to my son to wife' and there passed
by a wild beast that was in Lebanon and trod down the
thistle." The cedar did not deign to notice the
arrogant proposal of the thistle. But a wild beast, a
prowling denizen of the forest, seeking after his
prey, passed that way and set his great paw upon the
impudent thistle, and the place that once knew it knew
it no more forever. The viewless winds caught up the
seed and fiber of the thistle and carried them hither
and yon. But the tall cedar, not even beholding the
end of the thistle, reigned on in solitary dignity and
This is one of the shortest fables on record, and one
of the most effective. It was a crushing bit of irony.
For Judah in that day to challenge Israel to combat
was like the thistle proposing affinity with the
cedar. But Amaziah did not profit by the lesson. He
insisted upon a trial of strength. This was granted
him in Beth-Shemesh. And Judah was put to the worse
before Israel; and they fled every man to their tents.
"The thistle that was in Lebanon said to the cedar
that was in Lebanon." Both cedar and thistle
flourished in Lebanon. In the plan of God, noble and
ignoble characters thrive side by side, worship in the
same church, live in the same home, toil in the same
shop, travel on the same train, and pass on the same
street. Wherever you see a stately cedar lifting its
head above the forest, you can find the thorn, the
thistle, the bramble. There are men who are like the
cedar; they have strength and the beauty of dignity.
They have vision, overtopping the other trees. They
tower above the dust, smoke, mist, and hold communion
with the lonely stars. They are far removed from the
pettiness and the meanness and sordidness which play
so large a part in the lives of ordinary mortals, and
when they fall they go down with a crash that makes
the earth shake and leaves a lonely place against the
sky. Side by side with them live men of the or ...
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