The men of Ephraim spoke to Gideon. They asked, "Why have you treated us like this? Why didn't you ask us to help you when you went out to fight against Midian?" They spoke very sharply against Gideon.
But he answered them, "What I've done isn't anything compared to what you have done. After Ephraim's grapes have been gathered, isn't what is left over better than all of the grapes that have been gathered from Abiezer's vines?
God handed Oreb and Zeeb over to you. They were Midianite leaders. So what was I able to do compared to what you did?" After Gideon had said that, they didn't feel angry with him anymore.
Gideon and his 300 men were very tired. But they kept on chasing their enemies. They came to the Jordan River and went across it.
Gideon spoke to the men of Succoth. He said, "Give my troops some bread. They are worn out. And I'm still chasing Zebah and Zalmunna. They are the kings of Midian."
But the officials of Succoth objected. They said, "Have you already killed Zebah and Zalmunna? Have you cut their hands off and brought them back to prove it? If you haven't, why should we give bread to your troops?"
Gideon replied, "The LORD will hand Zebah and Zalmunna over to me. When he does, I'll tear your skin with thorns from desert bushes."
From there Gideon went up to Peniel. He asked its men for the same thing. But they answered as the men of Succoth had.
So he said to the men of Peniel, "I'll be back after I've won the battle. Then I'll tear down this tower."
Zebah and Zalmunna were in Karkor. They had an army of about 15,000 men. That's all that was left of the armies of the tribes from the east. About 120,000 men who carried swords had died in battle.
Gideon went up the trail the people of the desert had made. It ran east of Nobah and Jogbehah. He attacked the army by surprise.
Zebah and Zalmunna ran away. They were the two kings of Midian. Gideon chased them and captured them. He destroyed their whole army.
Then Gideon, the son of Joash, returned from the battle. He came back through the Pass of Heres.
He caught a young man from Succoth. He asked him about the elders of the town. The young man wrote down for him the names of Succoth's 77 officials.
Then Gideon came and spoke to the men of Succoth. He said, "Here are Zebah and Zalmunna. You made fun of me because of them. You said, 'Have you already killed Zebah and Zalmunna? Have you cut their hands off and brought them back to prove it? If you haven't, why should we give bread to your tired men?' "
Gideon went and got the elders of the town. Then he taught the men of Succoth a lesson. He tore their skin with thorns from desert bushes.
He also pulled down the tower at Peniel. He killed the men in the town.
Then he spoke to Zebah and Zalmunna. He asked, "What were the men like that you killed at Tabor?" "Men like you," they answered. "Each one walked as if he were a prince."
Gideon replied, "Those were my brothers. They were the sons of my own mother. You can be sure that the LORD lives. And you can be just as sure that if you had spared their lives, I wouldn't kill you."
Then Gideon turned to his oldest son Jether. He said, "Kill them!" But Jether didn't pull out his sword. He was only a boy. So he was afraid.
Zebah and Zalmunna said, "Come on. Do it yourself. 'The older the man, the stronger he is.' " So Gideon stepped forward and killed them. Then he took the moon-shaped necklaces off the necks of their camels.
The people of Israel spoke to Gideon. They said, "Rule over us. We want you, your son and your grandson to be our rulers. You have saved us from the power of Midian."
But Gideon told them, "I will not rule over you. My son won't rule over you either. The LORD will rule over you."
He continued, "I do ask one thing. I want each of you to give me an earring. I'm talking about the earrings you took from your enemies." It was the practice of the people in the family line of Ishmael to wear gold earrings.
The people of Israel said, "We'll be glad to give them to you." So they spread out a piece of clothing. Each man threw a ring on it from what he had taken.
The weight of the gold rings Gideon asked for was 43 pounds. That didn't include the moon-shaped necklaces the kings of Midian had worn. It didn't include their other necklaces or their purple clothes. And it didn't include the gold chains that had been on the necks of their camels.
Gideon made an object out of all of the gold. It looked like the linen apron the high priest of Israel wore. He placed it in Ophrah. That was his hometown. All of the people of Israel worshiped it there. They weren't faithful to the Lord. So the gold object became a trap to Gideon and his family.
Israel brought Midian under their control. Midian wasn't able to attack Israel anymore. So the land was at peace for 40 years. The peace lasted as long as Gideon was living.
Jerub-Baal, the son of Joash, went back home to live. Jerub-Baal was another name for Gideon.
He had 70 sons of his own. That's because he had a lot of wives.
And he had a concubine who lived in Shechem. She also had a son by him. Gideon named that son Abimelech.
Gideon, the son of Joash, died when he was very old. His body was buried in the tomb of his father Joash in Ophrah. Ophrah was in the territory that belonged to the family line of Abiezer.
As soon as Gideon had died, the people of Israel joined themselves to the gods that were named after Baal. Israel wasn't faithful to the Lord. They worshiped Baal-Berith as their god.
They forgot what the LORD their God had done for them. He had saved them from the power of their enemies who were all around them.
Jerub-Baal had done many good things for the people of Israel. But they weren't kind to his family. Jerub-Baal was another name for Gideon.
Abimelech was the son of Jerub-Baal. He went to his mother's brothers in Shechem. He spoke to them and to all of the members of his mother's family group. He said,
"Speak to all of the citizens of Shechem. Tell them, 'You can have all 70 of Jerub-Baal's sons rule over you. Or you can have just one man rule over you. Which would you rather have?' Remember, I'm your own flesh and blood."
The brothers told all of that to the citizens of Shechem. Then the people decided to follow Abimelech. They said, "He's related to us."
They gave him 28 ounces of silver. They had taken it from the temple of the god Baal-Berith. Abimelech used it to hire some men. They were wild. They weren't good for anything. They became his followers.
Abimelech went to his father's home in Ophrah. There on a big rock he murdered his 70 brothers. All of them were the sons of Jerub-Baal. But Jotham escaped by hiding. He was Jerub-Baal's youngest son.
All of the citizens of Shechem and Beth Millo came together. They gathered at the stone pillar that was beside the large tree in Shechem. They wanted to crown Abimelech as their king.
Jotham was told about it. So he climbed up on top of Mount Gerizim. He shouted down to them, "Citizens of Shechem! Listen to me! Then God will listen to you.
One day the trees went out to anoint a king for themselves. They said to an olive tree, 'Be our king.'
"But the olive tree answered, 'Should I give up my olive oil? It's used to honor gods and people alike. Should I give that up just to rule over the trees?'
"Next, the trees spoke to a fig tree. They said, 'Come and be our king.'
"But the fig tree replied, 'Should I give up my fruit? It's so good and sweet. Should I give that up just to rule over the trees?'
"Then the trees spoke to a vine. They said, 'Come and be our king.'
"But the vine answered, 'Should I give up my wine? It cheers up gods and people alike. Should I give that up just to rule over the trees?'
"Finally, all of the trees spoke to a bush that had thorns. They said, 'Come and be our king.'
"The bush spoke to the trees. It said, 'Do you really want to anoint me as king over you? If you do, come and rest in my shade. But if you don't, I will destroy you! Fire will come out of me and burn up the cedar trees of Lebanon!'
"Did you act in an honest way when you made Abimelech your king? Did you really do the right thing? Have you been fair to Jerub-Baal and his family? Have you given him the honor he's worthy of?
"Remember that my father fought for you. He put his life in danger for you. He saved you from the power of Midian.
But today you have turned against my father's family. You have murdered his 70 sons on a big rock. Abimelech is only the son of my father's female slave. But you have made him king over the citizens of Shechem. You have done that because he's related to you.
"Have you citizens of Shechem and Beth Millo acted in an honest way toward Jerub-Baal? Have you done the right thing to his family today? If you have, may you be happy with Abimelech! And may he be happy with you!
But if you haven't, let fire come out from Abimelech and burn you up! And let fire come out from you and burn Abimelech up!"
Then Jotham ran away. He escaped to Beer. He lived there because he was afraid of his brother Abimelech.
Abimelech ruled over Israel for three years.
Then God sent an evil spirit to cause trouble between Abimelech and the citizens of Shechem. They turned against Abimelech. They decided not to follow him anymore.
God made that happen because of what Abimelech had done to Jerub-Baal's 70 sons. He had spilled their blood. God wanted to pay back their brother Abimelech for doing that. He also wanted to pay back the citizens of Shechem. They had helped Abimelech murder his brothers.
The citizens of Shechem opposed Abimelech. So they hid some men on top of the hills. They wanted them to attack and rob everyone who passed by. Abimelech was told about it.
Gaal and his relatives moved into Shechem. He was the son of Ebed. The citizens of Shechem put their trust in Gaal.
The people of Shechem went out into the fields. They gathered the grapes. They pressed the juice out of them by stomping on them. Then they held a feast in the temple of their god. While they were eating and drinking, they called down curses on Abimelech.
Then Gaal, the son of Ebed, spoke up. "Who is Abimelech?" he said. "And who is Shechem? Why should we be under Abimelech's rule? Isn't he Jerub-Baal's son? Isn't Zebul his helper? It would be better to serve the men of Hamor. He was the father of Shechem. So why should we serve Abimelech?
I wish these people were under my command. Then I would get rid of him. I would say to him, 'Call out your whole army!' "
Zebul was the governor of Shechem. He heard about what Gaal, the son of Ebed, had said. So he burned with anger.
Zebul sent messengers to Abimelech secretly. They said, "Gaal, the son of Ebed, has come to Shechem. His relatives have come with him. They are stirring up the city against you.
So come with your men during the night. Hide in the fields and wait.
In the morning at sunrise, attack the city. Gaal and his men will come out against you. Then do what you can."
So Abimelech and all of his troops started out at night. They went into their hiding places near Shechem. Abimelech had separated them into four companies.
Gaal, the son of Ebed, had already gone out. He was standing at the entrance of the city gate. He had arrived there just as Abimelech and his troops came out of their hiding places.
Gaal saw them. He said to Zebul, "Look! People are coming down from the tops of the mountains!" Zebul replied, "You are wrong. Those aren't people. They are just the shadows of the mountains."
But Gaal spoke up again. He said, "Look! People are coming down from the center of the land. Another company is coming from the direction of the fortune tellers' tree."
Then Zebul said to Gaal, "Where is your big talk now? You said, 'Who is Abimelech? Why should we be under his rule?' Aren't these the people you looked down on? Go out and fight against them!"
So Gaal led the citizens out of Shechem. They fought against Abimelech.
He chased Gaal from the field of battle. Many men were wounded as they ran away. Abimelech chased them all the way to the entrance of the city gate.
He stayed in Arumah. Zebul drove Gaal and his relatives out of Shechem.
The next day the people of Shechem went out to work in the fields. Abimelech was told about it.
So he gathered his men together. He separated them into three companies. Then he hid them in the fields and told them to wait. When he saw the people coming out of the city, he got up to attack them.
Abimelech and the men who were with him ran forward. They placed themselves at the entrance of the city gate. Then the other two companies rushed over to the people who were in the fields. There they struck them down.
Abimelech kept up his attack against the city all day long. He didn't stop until he had captured it. Then he killed its people. He destroyed the city. He scattered salt on it to make sure that nothing would be able to grow there.
The citizens who were in the tower of Shechem heard about what was happening. So they went to the safest place in the temple of the god El-Berith.
Abimelech heard that they had gathered together there.
He and all of his men went up Mount Zalmon. He got an ax and cut off some branches. He carried them on his shoulders. He ordered the men who were with him to do the same thing. "Quick!" he said. "Do what you have seen me do!"
So all of the men cut branches and followed Abimelech. They piled them against the place where the people had gone for safety. Then they set the place on fire with the people inside. There were about 1,000 men and women in the tower of Shechem. All of them died.
Next, Abimelech went to Thebez. He surrounded it. Then he attacked it and captured it.
But inside the city there was a strong tower. All of the people in the city ran to it for safety. All of the men and women went into it. They locked themselves in. They climbed up on the roof of the tower.
Abimelech went to the tower and attacked it. He approached the entrance to the tower to set it on fire.
But a woman dropped a large millstone on him. It broke his head open.
He quickly called out to the man who was carrying his armor. He said, "Pull out your sword and kill me. Then people can't say, 'A woman killed him.' " So his servant stuck his sword through him. And Abimelech died.
When the people of Israel saw he was dead, they went home.
That's how God paid Abimelech back for the evil thing he had done to his father. He had murdered his 70 brothers.
God also made the men of Shechem pay for all of the evil things they had done. The curse of Jotham came down on them. He was the son of Jerub-Baal.