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Judges 9

Abimelek

1 Abimelek son of Jerub-Baal went to his mother’s brothers in Shechem and said to them and to all his mother’s clan,
2 “Ask all the citizens of Shechem, ‘Which is better for you: to have all seventy of Jerub-Baal’s sons rule over you, or just one man?’ Remember, I am your flesh and blood.”
3 When the brothers repeated all this to the citizens of Shechem, they were inclined to follow Abimelek, for they said, “He is related to us.”
4 They gave him seventy shekels[a] of silver from the temple of Baal-Berith, and Abimelek used it to hire reckless scoundrels, who became his followers.
5 He went to his father’s home in Ophrah and on one stone murdered his seventy brothers, the sons of Jerub-Baal. But Jotham, the youngest son of Jerub-Baal, escaped by hiding.
6 Then all the citizens of Shechem and Beth Millo gathered beside the great tree at the pillar in Shechem to crown Abimelek king.
7 When Jotham was told about this, he climbed up on the top of Mount Gerizim and shouted to them, “Listen to me, citizens of Shechem, so that God may listen to you.
8 One day the trees went out to anoint a king for themselves. They said to the olive tree, ‘Be our king.’
9 “But the olive tree answered, ‘Should I give up my oil, by which both gods and humans are honored, to hold sway over the trees?’
10 “Next, the trees said to the fig tree, ‘Come and be our king.’
11 “But the fig tree replied, ‘Should I give up my fruit, so good and sweet, to hold sway over the trees?’
12 “Then the trees said to the vine, ‘Come and be our king.’
13 “But the vine answered, ‘Should I give up my wine, which cheers both gods and humans, to hold sway over the trees?’
14 “Finally all the trees said to the thornbush, ‘Come and be our king.’
15 “The thornbush said to the trees, ‘If you really want to anoint me king over you, come and take refuge in my shade; but if not, then let fire come out of the thornbush and consume the cedars of Lebanon!’
16 “Have you acted honorably and in good faith by making Abimelek king? Have you been fair to Jerub-Baal and his family? Have you treated him as he deserves?
17 Remember that my father fought for you and risked his life to rescue you from the hand of Midian.
18 But today you have revolted against my father’s family. You have murdered his seventy sons on a single stone and have made Abimelek, the son of his female slave, king over the citizens of Shechem because he is related to you.
19 So have you acted honorably and in good faith toward Jerub-Baal and his family today? If you have, may Abimelek be your joy, and may you be his, too!
20 But if you have not, let fire come out from Abimelek and consume you, the citizens of Shechem and Beth Millo, and let fire come out from you, the citizens of Shechem and Beth Millo, and consume Abimelek!”
21 Then Jotham fled, escaping to Beer, and he lived there because he was afraid of his brother Abimelek.
22 After Abimelek had governed Israel three years,
23 God stirred up animosity between Abimelek and the citizens of Shechem so that they acted treacherously against Abimelek.
24 God did this in order that the crime against Jerub-Baal’s seventy sons, the shedding of their blood, might be avenged on their brother Abimelek and on the citizens of Shechem, who had helped him murder his brothers.
25 In opposition to him these citizens of Shechem set men on the hilltops to ambush and rob everyone who passed by, and this was reported to Abimelek.
26 Now Gaal son of Ebed moved with his clan into Shechem, and its citizens put their confidence in him.
27 After they had gone out into the fields and gathered the grapes and trodden them, they held a festival in the temple of their god. While they were eating and drinking, they cursed Abimelek.
28 Then Gaal son of Ebed said, “Who is Abimelek, and why should we Shechemites be subject to him? Isn’t he Jerub-Baal’s son, and isn’t Zebul his deputy? Serve the family of Hamor, Shechem’s father! Why should we serve Abimelek?
29 If only this people were under my command! Then I would get rid of him. I would say to Abimelek, ‘Call out your whole army!’ ”[b]
30 When Zebul the governor of the city heard what Gaal son of Ebed said, he was very angry.
31 Under cover he sent messengers to Abimelek, saying, “Gaal son of Ebed and his clan have come to Shechem and are stirring up the city against you.
32 Now then, during the night you and your men should come and lie in wait in the fields.
33 In the morning at sunrise, advance against the city. When Gaal and his men come out against you, seize the opportunity to attack them.”
34 So Abimelek and all his troops set out by night and took up concealed positions near Shechem in four companies.
35 Now Gaal son of Ebed had gone out and was standing at the entrance of the city gate just as Abimelek and his troops came out from their hiding place.
36 When Gaal saw them, he said to Zebul, “Look, people are coming down from the tops of the mountains!” Zebul replied, “You mistake the shadows of the mountains for men.”
37 But Gaal spoke up again: “Look, people are coming down from the central hill,[c] and a company is coming from the direction of the diviners’ tree.”
38 Then Zebul said to him, “Where is your big talk now, you who said, ‘Who is Abimelek that we should be subject to him?’ Aren’t these the men you ridiculed? Go out and fight them!”
39 So Gaal led out[d] the citizens of Shechem and fought Abimelek.
40 Abimelek chased him all the way to the entrance of the gate, and many were killed as they fled.
41 Then Abimelek stayed in Arumah, and Zebul drove Gaal and his clan out of Shechem.
42 The next day the people of Shechem went out to the fields, and this was reported to Abimelek.
43 So he took his men, divided them into three companies and set an ambush in the fields. When he saw the people coming out of the city, he rose to attack them.
44 Abimelek and the companies with him rushed forward to a position at the entrance of the city gate. Then two companies attacked those in the fields and struck them down.
45 All that day Abimelek pressed his attack against the city until he had captured it and killed its people. Then he destroyed the city and scattered salt over it.
46 On hearing this, the citizens in the tower of Shechem went into the stronghold of the temple of El-Berith.
47 When Abimelek heard that they had assembled there,
48 he and all his men went up Mount Zalmon. He took an ax and cut off some branches, which he lifted to his shoulders. He ordered the men with him, “Quick! Do what you have seen me do!”
49 So all the men cut branches and followed Abimelek. They piled them against the stronghold and set it on fire with the people still inside. So all the people in the tower of Shechem, about a thousand men and women, also died.
50 Next Abimelek went to Thebez and besieged it and captured it.
51 Inside the city, however, was a strong tower, to which all the men and women—all the people of the city—had fled. They had locked themselves in and climbed up on the tower roof.
52 Abimelek went to the tower and attacked it. But as he approached the entrance to the tower to set it on fire,
53 a woman dropped an upper millstone on his head and cracked his skull.
54 Hurriedly he called to his armor-bearer, “Draw your sword and kill me, so that they can’t say, ‘A woman killed him.’ ” So his servant ran him through, and he died.
55 When the Israelites saw that Abimelek was dead, they went home.
56 Thus God repaid the wickedness that Abimelek had done to his father by murdering his seventy brothers.
57 God also made the people of Shechem pay for all their wickedness. The curse of Jotham son of Jerub-Baal came on them.

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 53

  • 1. S Judges 8:31
  • 2. S Judges 6:32
  • 3. S Genesis 29:14; Judges 8:30
  • 4. S Judges 8:33
  • 5. Judges 11:3; 1 Samuel 25:25; 2 Chronicles 13:7; Job 30:8
  • 6. ver 2; S Judges 8:30
  • 7. ver 7,21,57
  • 8. 2 Kings 11:2; 2 Chronicles 22:9
  • 9. ver 20; 2 Kings 12:20
  • 10. S Genesis 12:6; S Judges 4:11
  • 11. S ver 5
  • 12. S Deuteronomy 11:29; Deuteronomy 27:12; John 4:20
  • 13. S Genesis 14:18; Ecclesiastes 2:3; Song of Songs 4:10
  • 14. Isaiah 30:2
  • 15. ver 20
  • 16. S Deuteronomy 3:25; 1 Kings 5:6; Psalms 29:5; Psalms 92:12; Isaiah 2:13
  • 17. Judges 12:3; 1 Samuel 19:5; 1 Samuel 28:21; Job 13:14; Psalms 119:109
  • 18. ver 5-6; S Judges 8:30
  • 19. ver 16
  • 20. ver 15
  • 21. ver 45
  • 22. S ver 6
  • 23. S ver 5
  • 24. Numbers 21:16
  • 25. 1 Samuel 16:14,23; 1 Samuel 18:10; 1 Samuel 19:9; 1 Kings 22:22; Isaiah 19:14; Isaiah 33:1
  • 26. S Judges 8:30
  • 27. S Genesis 9:6; Numbers 35:33; 1 Kings 2:32
  • 28. ver 56-57
  • 29. Deuteronomy 27:25
  • 30. ver 28,31,41
  • 31. Isaiah 16:10; Amos 5:11; Amos 9:13
  • 32. S Judges 8:33
  • 33. S ver 26
  • 34. 1 Samuel 25:10; 1 Kings 12:16
  • 35. S Genesis 33:19; Genesis 34:2,6
  • 36. 2 Samuel 15:4
  • 37. ver 38
  • 38. Joshua 8:2
  • 39. 1 Samuel 10:7
  • 40. S Joshua 2:5
  • 41. Psalms 32:7; Isaiah 28:15,17; Jeremiah 49:10
  • 42. ver 28-29
  • 43. S Judges 7:16
  • 44. Joshua 8:2
  • 45. ver 20; 2 Kings 3:25
  • 46. Jeremiah 48:9; Deuteronomy 29:23
  • 47. S Judges 8:33
  • 48. Psalms 68:14
  • 49. 2 Samuel 11:21
  • 50. 2 Samuel 11:21
  • 51. 1 Samuel 31:4; 2 Samuel 1:9
  • 52. ver 24; Psalms 94:23; ver 20
  • 53. S ver 5

Footnotes 4

  • [a]. That is, about 1 3/4 pounds or about 800 grams
  • [b]. Septuagint; Hebrew "him.” Then he said to Abimelek, “Call out your whole army!”"
  • [c]. The Hebrew for this phrase means "the navel of the earth" .
  • [d]. Or "Gaal went out in the sight of"

Chapter Summary

INTRODUCTION TO JUDGES 9

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