Reaching for the Heavens: Tree Imagery and Kingship in the Bible and the Ancient Near East

One of the stock images used by the Old Testament writers to depict kingship is the tree metaphor. From Genesis to the Prophets, figurative tree language is used to describe royal dynasties, arrogant leaders, and foreign kings. In an effort to better understand the worldview of the biblical authors and what they meant by these figurative images, this presentation will address how the ancients in Egypt and Mesopotamia associated tree imagery with kingship. These non-biblical uses can help illuminate how the biblical writers were interacting with and using the royal categories of their day in critiquing current rulers. Themes of blessing, judgment, pride, and restoration emerge from the ancient Near Eastern and biblical use of tree imagery, and in a final turn toward application, the presentation will examine both Ezekiel 31 and Daniel 4 in an effort to explain their meaning and significance in light of ANE tree imagery.