Abimelech son of Jerub-Baal went to Shechem to his uncles and all his mother's relatives and said to them,
"Ask all the leading men of Shechem, 'What do you think is best, that seventy men rule you - all those sons of Jerub-Baal - or that one man rule? You'll remember that I am your own flesh and blood.'"
His mother's relatives reported the proposal to the leaders of Shechem. They were inclined to take Abimelech. "Because," they said, "he is, after all, one of us."
They gave him seventy silver pieces from the shrine of Baal-of-the-Covenant. With the money he hired some reckless riff-raff soldiers and they followed along after him.
He went to his father's house in Ophrah and killed his half brothers, the sons of Jerub-Baal - seventy men! And on one stone! The youngest, Jotham son of Jerub-Baal, managed to hide, the only survivor.
Then all the leaders of Shechem and Beth Millo gathered at the Oak by the Standing Stone at Shechem and crowned Abimelech king.
When this was all told to Jotham, he climbed to the top of Mount Gerizim, raised his voice, and shouted: Listen to me, leaders of Shechem. And let God listen to you!
The trees set out one day to anoint a king for themselves. They said to Olive Tree, "Rule over us."
But Olive Tree told them, "Am I no longer good for making oil That gives glory to gods and men, and to be demoted to waving over trees?"
The trees then said to Fig Tree, "You come and rule over us."
But Fig Tree said to them, "Am I no longer good for making sweets, My mouthwatering sweet fruits, and to be demoted to waving over trees?"
The trees then said to Vine, "You come and rule over us."
But Vine said to them, "Am I no longer good for making wine, Wine that cheers gods and men, and to be demoted to waving over trees?"
All the trees then said to Tumbleweed, "You come and reign over us."
But Tumbleweed said to the trees: "If you're serious about making me your king, Come and find shelter in my shade. But if not, let fire shoot from Tumbleweed and burn down the cedars of Lebanon!"
"Now listen: Do you think you did a right and honorable thing when you made Abimelech king? Do you think you treated Jerub-Baal and his family well, did for him what he deserved?
My father fought for you, risked his own life, and rescued you from Midian's tyranny,
and you have, just now, betrayed him. You massacred his sons - seventy men on a single stone! You made Abimelech, the son by his maidservant, king over Shechem's leaders because he's your relative.
If you think that this is an honest day's work, this way you have treated Jerub-Baal today, then enjoy Abimelech and let him enjoy you.
But if not, let fire break from Abimelech and burn up the leaders of Shechem and Beth Millo. And let fire break from the leaders of Shechem and Beth Millo and burn up Abimelech."
And Jotham fled. He ran for his life. He went to Beer and settled down there, because he was afraid of his brother Abimelech.
Abimelech ruled over Israel for three years.
Then God brought bad blood between Abimelech and Shechem's leaders, who now worked treacherously behind his back.
Violence boomeranged: The murderous violence that killed the seventy brothers, the sons of Jerub-Baal, was now loose among Abimelech and Shechem's leaders, who had supported the violence.
To undermine Abimelech, Shechem's leaders put men in ambush on the mountain passes who robbed travelers on those roads. And Abimelech was told.
At that time Gaal son of Ebed arrived with his relatives and moved into Shechem. The leaders of Shechem trusted him.
One day they went out into the fields, gathered grapes in the vineyards, and trod them in the winepress. Then they held a celebration in their god's temple, a feast, eating and drinking. And then they started putting down Abimelech.
Gaal son of Ebed said, "Who is this Abimelech? And who are we Shechemites to take orders from him? Isn't he the son of Jerub-Baal, and isn't this his henchman Zebul? We belong to the race of Hamor and bear the noble name of Shechem. Why should we be toadies of Abimelech?
If I were in charge of this people, the first thing I'd do is get rid of Abimelech! I'd say, 'Show me your stuff, Abimelech - let's see who's boss here!'"
Zebul, governor of the city, heard what Gaal son of Ebed was saying and got angry.
Secretly he sent messengers to Abimelech with the message, "Gaal son of Ebed and his relatives have come to Shechem and are stirring up trouble against you.
Here's what you do: Tonight bring your troops and wait in ambush in the field.
In the morning, as soon as the sun breaks, get moving and charge the city. Gaal and his troops will come out to you, and you'll know what to do next."
Abimelech and his troops, four companies of them, went up that night and waited in ambush approaching Shechem.
Gaal son of Ebed had gotten up and was standing in the city gate. Abimelech and his troops left their cover.
When Gaal saw them he said to Zebul, "Look at that, people coming down from the tops of the mountains!" Zebul said, "That's nothing but mountain shadows; they just look like men." Gaal kept chattering away.
Then he said again, "Look at the troops coming down off Tabbur-erez (the Navel of the World) - and one company coming straight from the Oracle Oak."
Zebul said, "Where is that big mouth of yours now? You who said, 'And who is Abimelech that we should take orders from him?' Well, there he is with the troops you ridiculed. Here's your chance. Fight away!"
Gaal went out, backed by the leaders of Shechem, and did battle with Abimelech.
Abimelech chased him, and Gaal turned tail and ran. Many fell wounded, right up to the city gate.
Abimelech set up his field headquarters at Arumah while Zebul kept Gaal and his relatives out of Shechem.
The next day the people went out to the fields. This was reported to Abimelech.
He took his troops, divided them into three companies, and placed them in ambush in the fields. When he saw that the people were well out in the open, he sprang up and attacked them.
Abimelech and the company with him charged ahead and took control of the entrance to the city gate; the other two companies chased down those who were in the open fields and killed them.
Abimelech fought at the city all that day. He captured the city and massacred everyone in it. He leveled the city to the ground, then sowed it with salt.
When the leaders connected with Shechem's Tower heard this, they went into the fortified God-of-the-Covenant temple.
This was reported to Abimelech that the Shechem's Tower bunch were gathered together.
He and his troops climbed Mount Zalmon (Dark Mountain). Abimelech took his ax and chopped a bundle of firewood, picked it up, and put it on his shoulder. He said to his troops, "Do what you've seen me do, and quickly."
So each of his men cut his own bundle. They followed Abimelech, piled their bundles against the Tower fortifications, and set the whole structure on fire. Everyone in Shechem's Tower died, about a thousand men and women.
Abimelech went on to Thebez. He camped at Thebez and captured it.
The Tower-of-Strength stood in the middle of the city; all the men and women of the city along with the city's leaders had fled there and locked themselves in. They were up on the tower roof.
Abimelech got as far as the tower and assaulted it. He came up to the tower door to set it on fire.
Just then some woman dropped an upper millstone on his head and crushed his skull.
He called urgently to his young armor-bearer and said, "Draw your sword and kill me so they can't say of me, 'A woman killed him.'" His armor bearer drove in his sword, and Abimelech died.
When the Israelites saw that Abimelech was dead, they went home.
God avenged the evil Abimelech had done to his father, murdering his seventy brothers.
And God brought down on the heads of the men of Shechem all the evil that they had done, the curse of Jotham son of Jerub-Baal.
Published by permission. Originally published by NavPress in English as THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language copyright 2002 by Eugene Peterson. All rights reserved. (The Message Bible Online)