Judges 9

Listen to Judges 9

Abimelech's Conspiracy

1 Now Abimelech the son of Jerubbaal went to Shechem to 1his mother's relatives and said to them and to the whole clan of his mother's family,
2 "Say in the ears of all the leaders of Shechem, 'Which is better for you, that all 2seventy of the sons of Jerubbaal rule over you, or that one rule over you?' Remember also that 3I am 4your bone and your flesh."
3 And his mother's relatives spoke all these words on his behalf in the ears of all the leaders of Shechem, and their hearts inclined to follow Abimelech, for they said, 5"He is our brother."
4 And they gave him seventy pieces of silver out of the house of 6Baal-berith with which Abimelech hired 7worthless and reckless fellows, who followed him.
5 And he went to his father's house at 8Ophrah 9and killed his brothers the sons of Jerubbaal, seventy men, on one stone. But Jotham the youngest son of Jerubbaal was left, for he hid himself.
6 And all the leaders of Shechem came together, and all 10Beth-millo, and they went and made Abimelech king, by the oak of the pillar at Shechem.
7 When it was told to Jotham, he went and stood on top of 11Mount Gerizim and cried aloud and said to them, "Listen to me, you leaders of Shechem, that God may listen to you.
8 12The trees once went out to anoint a king over them, and they said to the olive tree, 13'Reign over us.'
9 But the olive tree said to them, 'Shall I leave my abundance, by which gods and men are honored, and go hold sway over the trees?'
10 And the trees said to the fig tree, 'You come and reign over us.'
11 But the fig tree said to them, 'Shall I leave my sweetness and my good fruit and go hold sway over the trees?'
12 And the trees said to the vine, 'You come and reign over us.'
13 But the vine said to them, 'Shall I leave my wine that 14cheers God and men and go hold sway over the trees?'
14 Then all the trees said to the bramble, 'You come and reign over us.'
15 And the bramble said to the trees, 'If in good faith you are anointing me king over you, then come and 15take refuge in my shade, but if not, 16let fire come out of the bramble and devour 17the cedars of Lebanon.'
16 "Now therefore, if you acted in good faith and integrity when you made Abimelech king, and if you have dealt well with 18Jerubbaal and his house and have done to him 19as his deeds deserved--
17 for my father fought for you and risked his life and delivered you from the hand of Midian,
18 and you have risen up against my father's house this day 20and have killed his sons, seventy men on one stone, and have made 21Abimelech, the son of his female servant, king over the leaders of Shechem, 22because he is your relative--
19 if you then have acted in good faith and integrity with Jerubbaal and with his house this day, then 23rejoice in Abimelech, and let him also rejoice in you.
20 But if not, 24let fire come out from Abimelech and devour the leaders of Shechem and Beth-millo; and let fire come out from the leaders of Shechem and from Beth-millo and devour Abimelech."
21 And Jotham ran away and fled and went to 25Beer and lived there, because of Abimelech his brother.

The Downfall of Abimelech

22 Abimelech ruled over Israel three years.
23 26And God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the leaders of Shechem, and the leaders of Shechem 27dealt treacherously with Abimelech,
24 28that the violence done to the seventy sons of Jerubbaal might come, and their blood be laid on Abimelech their brother, who killed them, and on the men of Shechem, who strengthened his hands to kill his brothers.
25 And the leaders of Shechem put men in ambush against him on the mountaintops, and they robbed all who passed by them along that way. And it was told to Abimelech.
26 And Gaal the son of Ebed moved into Shechem with his relatives, and the leaders of Shechem put confidence in him.
27 And they went out into the field and gathered the grapes from their vineyards and trod them and held a festival; and they went into 29the house of their god and ate and drank and reviled Abimelech.
28 And Gaal the son of Ebed said, 30"Who is Abimelech, and who are we of Shechem, that we should serve him? Is he not the son of Jerubbaal, and is not Zebul his officer? Serve the men of 31Hamor the father of Shechem; but why should we serve him?
29 Would that this people were under my hand! Then I would remove Abimelech. I would say[a] to Abimelech, 'Increase your army, and come out.'"
30 When Zebul the ruler of the city heard the words of Gaal the son of Ebed, his anger was kindled.
31 And he sent messengers to Abimelech secretly,[b] saying, "Behold, Gaal the son of Ebed and his relatives have come to Shechem, and they are stirring up[c] the city against you.
32 Now therefore, go by night, you and the people who are with you, and set an ambush in the field.
33 Then in the morning, as soon as the sun is up, rise early and rush upon the city. And when he and the people who are with him come out against you, you may do to them 32as your hand finds to do."
34 So Abimelech and all the men who were with him rose up by night and set an ambush against Shechem in four companies.
35 And Gaal the son of Ebed went out and stood in the entrance of the gate of the city, and Abimelech and the people who were with him rose from the ambush.
36 And when Gaal saw the people, he said to Zebul, "Look, people are coming down from 33the mountaintops!" And Zebul said to him, "You mistake[d] the shadow of the mountains for men."
37 Gaal spoke again and said, "Look, people are coming down from the center of the land, and one company is coming from the direction of the Diviners' Oak."
38 Then Zebul said to him, "Where is your mouth now, you who said, 34'Who is Abimelech, that we should serve him?' Are not these the people whom you despised? Go out now and fight with them."
39 And Gaal went out at the head of the leaders of Shechem and fought with Abimelech.
40 And Abimelech chased him, and he fled before him. And many fell wounded, up to the entrance of the gate.
41 And Abimelech lived at Arumah, and Zebul drove out Gaal and his relatives, so that they could not dwell at Shechem.
42 On the following day, the people went out into the field, and Abimelech was told.
43 He took his people and divided them into three companies and set an ambush in the fields. And he looked and saw the people coming out of the city. So he rose against them and killed them.
44 Abimelech and the company that was with him 35rushed forward and stood at the entrance of the gate of the city, while the two companies rushed upon all who were in the field and killed them.
45 And Abimelech fought against the city all that day. He captured the city and killed the people who were in it, and 36he razed the city and 37sowed it with salt.
46 When all the leaders of the Tower of Shechem heard of it, they entered 38the stronghold of the house of 39El-berith.
47 Abimelech was told that all the leaders of the Tower of Shechem were gathered together.
48 And Abimelech went up to Mount 40Zalmon, he and all the people who were with him. And Abimelech took an axe in his hand and cut down a bundle of brushwood and took it up and laid it on his shoulder. And he said to the men who were with him, "What you have seen me do, hurry and do as I have done."
49 So every one of the people cut down his bundle and following Abimelech put it against 41the stronghold, and they set the stronghold on fire over them, so that all the people of the Tower of Shechem also died, about 1,000 men and women.
50 Then Abimelech went to Thebez and encamped against Thebez and captured it.
51 But there was a strong tower within the city, and all the men and women and all the leaders of the city fled to it and shut themselves in, and they went up to the roof of the tower.
52 And Abimelech came to the tower and fought against it and drew near to the door of the tower to burn it with fire.
53 42And a certain woman threw an upper millstone on Abimelech's head and crushed his skull.
54 43Then he called quickly to the young man his armor-bearer and said to him, "Draw your sword and kill me, lest they say of me, 'A woman killed him.'" And his young man thrust him through, and he died.
55 And when the men of Israel saw that Abimelech was dead, everyone departed to his home.
56 44Thus God returned the evil of Abimelech, which he committed against his father in killing his seventy brothers.
57 And God also made all the evil of the men of Shechem return on their heads, and upon them came 45the curse of Jotham the son of Jerubbaal.

Judges 9 Commentary

Chapter 9

Abimelech murders his brethren, and is made king. (1-6) Jotham rebukes the Shechemites. (7-21) The Shechemites conspire against Abimelech. (22-29) Abimelech destroys Shechem. (30-49) Abimelech slain. (50-57)

Verses 1-6 The men of Shechem chose Abimelech king. God was not consulted whether they should have any king, much less who it should be. If parents could see what their children would do, and what they are to suffer, their joy in them often would be turned into sorrow: we may be thankful that we cannot know what shall happen. Above all, we should fear and watch against sin; for our evil conduct may produce fatal effects upon our families, after we are in our graves.

Verses 7-21 There was no occasion for the trees to choose a king, they are all the trees of the Lord which he has planted. Nor was there any occasion for Israel to set a king over them, for the Lord was their King. Those who bear fruit for the public good, are justly respected and honoured by all that are wise, more than those who merely make a figure. All these fruit-trees gave much the same reason for their refusal to be promoted over the trees; or, as the margin reads it, to go up and down for the trees. To rule, involves a man in a great deal both of toil and care. Those who are preferred to public trust and power, must forego all private interests and advantages, for the good of others. And those advanced to honour and dignity, are in great danger of losing their fruitfulness. For which reason, they that desire to do good, are afraid of being too great. Jotham compares Abimelech to the bramble or thistle, a worthless plant, whose end is to be burned. Such a one was Abimelech.

Verses 22-29 Abimelech is seated in the throne his father refused. But how long does this glory last? Stay but three years, and see the bramble withered and burned. The prosperity of the wicked is short and fickle. The Shechemites are plagued by no other hand than Abimelech's. They raised him unjustly to the throne; they first feel the weight of his sceptre.

Verses 30-49 Abimelech intended to punish the Schechemites for slighting him now, but God punished them for their serving him formerly in the murder of Gideon's sons. When God uses men as instruments in his hand to do his work, he means one thing, and they another. That, which they hoped would have been for their welfare, proved a snare and a trap, as those will certainly find, who run to idols for shelter; such will prove a refuge of lies.

Verses 50-57 The Shechemites were ruined by Abimelech; now he is reckoned with, who was their leader in villany. Evil pursues sinners, and sometimes overtakes them, when not only at ease, but triumphant. Though wickedness may prosper a while, it will not prosper always. The history of mankind, if truly told, would greatly resemble that of this chapter. The records of what are called splendid events present to us such contests for power. Such scenes, though praised of men, fully explain the Scripture doctrine of the deceitfulness and desperate wickedness of the human heart, the force of men's lust, and the effect of Satan's influence. Lord, thou has given us thy word of truth and righteousness, O pour upon us thy spirit of purity, peace, and love, and write thy holy law in our hearts.

Cross References 45

  • 1. Judges 8:31
  • 2. Judges 8:30
  • 3. [See ver. 1 above]
  • 4. Genesis 29:14
  • 5. ver. 18
  • 6. Judges 8:33; [ver. 46]
  • 7. Judges 11:3; 2 Chronicles 13:7; [Proverbs 12:11; Acts 17:5]
  • 8. Judges 6:24
  • 9. [2 Kings 11:1, 2]
  • 10. ver. 20; [2 Samuel 5:9]
  • 11. Deuteronomy 11:29; Deuteronomy 27:12; Joshua 8:33; [John 4:20]
  • 12. [2 Kings 14:9]
  • 13. Judges 8:22, 23
  • 14. Psalms 104:15
  • 15. Daniel 4:12; Hosea 14:7; [Isaiah 30:2]
  • 16. ver. 20; [Numbers 21:28; Ezekiel 19:14]
  • 17. 1 Kings 4:33; 2 Kings 14:9; 2 Kings 19:23; Psalms 104:16; Isaiah 2:13; Isaiah 37:24
  • 18. See Judges 6:32
  • 19. Proverbs 12:14; Isaiah 3:11; [Judges 8:35]
  • 20. ver. 5, 6
  • 21. Judges 8:31
  • 22. ver. 3
  • 23. [Isaiah 8:6]
  • 24. ver. 15; [ver. 56, 57]
  • 25. Numbers 21:16
  • 26. [1 Samuel 16:14; 1 Samuel 18:10; 1 Samuel 19:9]
  • 27. Isaiah 33:1
  • 28. ver. 56; [1 Kings 2:32; Esther 9:25; Psalms 7:16; Matthew 23:35, 36]
  • 29. ver. 4, 46
  • 30. [1 Samuel 25:10]
  • 31. Genesis 34:2, 6
  • 32. Ecclesiastes 9:10
  • 33. ver. 7, 25
  • 34. ver. 28, 29
  • 35. Judges 20:37
  • 36. 2 Kings 3:25
  • 37. Deuteronomy 29:23
  • 38. ver. 49
  • 39. ver. 4; Judges 8:33
  • 40. Psalms 68:14
  • 41. ver. 46
  • 42. 2 Samuel 11:21
  • 43. [1 Samuel 31:4]
  • 44. [Job 31:8; Psalms 94:23; Proverbs 5:22]; See ver. 24
  • 45. ver. 20

Footnotes 4

Chapter Summary


This chapter contains an account of the craft and cruelty of Abimelech, by which he got himself made king of the Shechemites, Jud 9:1-6 of the parable of Jotham, the youngest son of Gideon, concerning the trees, in which he exposes their folly in making Abimelech king, and foretells the ruin of them both, Jud 9:7-21 of the contentions which arose between Abimelech, and the men of Shechem, increased by Gaal the son of Ebed, Jud 9:22-29 who was drawn into a battle with Abimelech, and beaten and forced to fly, Jud 9:30-41 but the quarrel between Abimelech and the men of Shechem ceased not, but still continued, which issued in the entire ruin of the city and the inhabitants of it, Jud 9:42-49 and in the death of Abimelech himself, according to Jotham's curse, Jud 9:50-57.

Judges 9 Commentaries

The English Standard Version is published with the permission of Good News Publishers.