Abimelech: Gideon’s Sad Legacy
Abimelech’s Treachery, His Appointment as King in Shechem (9:1-6)
1 And Abimelech son of Jerubbaal went to Shechem to his mother’s brethren, and spoke to them, and to all the family of the house of his mother’s father, saying, 2 Speak, I pray you, in the ears of all the citizens of Shechem, Which is better for you, that seventy persons, all sons of Jerubbaal, rule over you, or that one man rule over you? And remember that I am your bone and your flesh. 3 And his mother’s brethren spoke of him in the ears of all the citizens of Shechem all these words. And their heart inclined after Abimelech; for they said, He is our brother. 4 And they gave him seventy pieces of silver out of the house of Baal-Berith, and Abimelech hired with them vain and wanton men, and they followed him. 5 And he came to his father’s house, to Ophrah, and slew his brethren the sons of Jerubbaal, seventy persons upon one stone; but there remained Jotham the youngest son of Jerubbaal; for he had hid himself. 6 And all the citizens of Shechem gathered together, and all the house of Millo, and went and made Abimelech king, by the memorial-oak that is in Shechem.
Jotham’s Parable of the Trees (9:7-21)
7 And they told it to Jotham, and he went and stood on the top of mount Gerizim, and lifted up his voice, and cried, and said to them, Hearken to me, ye citizens of Shechem, that God may hearken to you. 8 The trees once went forth to anoint a king over them; and they said to the olive-tree, Reign over us. 9 And the olive-tree said to them, Should I leave my fatness, wherewith by me they honour God and man, and go to wave over the trees? 10 And the trees said to the fig-tree, Come thou, reign over us. 11 But the fig-tree said to them, Should I leave my sweetness, and my good fruit, and go to wave over the trees? 12 Then said the trees to the vine, Come thou, reign over us. 13 And the vine said to them, Should I leave my new wine, which cheers God and man, and go to wave over the trees? 14 Then said all the trees to the thorn-bush, Come thou, reign over us. 15 And the thorn-bush said to the trees, If in truth ye anoint me king over you, come, put confidence in my shadow; but if not, fire shall come out of the thorn-bush and devour the cedars of Lebanon. 16 Now therefore, if ye have dealt truly and sincerely in that ye have made Abimelech king, and if ye have dealt well with Jerubbaal and his house, and if ye have done to him according to the deserving of his hands; 17 — for my father fought for you, and endangered his life, and delivered you out of the hand of Midian; 18 but ye are risen up against my father’s house this day, and have slain his sons, seventy men, upon one stone, and have made Abimelech, the son of his handmaid, king over the citizens of Shechem, because he is your brother; 19 — if ye then have dealt truly and sincerely with Jerubbaal and with his house this day, rejoice ye in Abimelech, and let him also rejoice in you; 20 but if not, let fire come out from Abimelech, and devour the citizens of Shechem and the house of Millo; and let fire come out from the citizens of Shechem and from the house of Millo, and devour Abimelech. 21 And Jotham ran away, and fled, and went to Beer, and dwelt there, because of Abimelech his brother.
The Citizens of Shechem Fight Against Abimelech – and are Defeated (9:22-49)
22 And Abimelech ruled over Israel three years. 23 And God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the citizens of Shechem; and the citizens of Shechem dealt treacherously with Abimelech, 24 that the violence done to the seventy sons of Jerubbaal might come, and their blood be laid upon Abimelech their brother, who slew them, and upon the citizens of Shechem, who had strengthened his hands to slay his brethren. 25 And the citizens of Shechem set liers in wait for him on the tops of the mountains, and they robbed all that came along that way by them. And it was told Abimelech. 26 And Gaal the son of Ebed came with his brethren, and went over to Shechem; and the citizens of Shechem put confidence in him. 27 And they went out into the fields, and gathered their vineyards, and trode the grapes, and made rejoicings, and went into the house of their god, and ate and drank, and cursed Abimelech. 28 And Gaal the son of Ebed said, Who is Abimelech, and who is Shechem, that we should serve him? is he not the son of Jerubbaal? and Zebul his overseer? Serve the men of Hamor the father of Shechem! and why should “we” serve him? 29 Oh! would that this people were under my hand! then would I remove Abimelech. And he said to Abimelech, Increase thine army, and come out. 30 And Zebul the ruler of the city heard the words of Gaal the son of Ebed, and his anger was kindled; 31 and he sent messengers to Abimelech craftily, saying, Behold, Gaal the son of Ebed and his brethren are come to Shechem, and behold, they shut up the city against thee; 32 and now, rise up by night, thou and the people that are with thee, and lie in ambush in the fields. 33 And it shall be in the morning when the sun is up, thou shalt rise early, and fall upon the city; and behold, he and the people that is with him shall come out against thee, and thou shalt do with him as thou shalt find occasion. 34 And Abimelech rose up, and all the people that were with him, by night, and they lay in 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. Then Abimelech rose up, and the people that were with him, out of the ambush. 36 And Gaal saw the people, and said to Zebul, Behold, people are coming down from the tops of the mountains. And Zebul said to him, Thou seest the shadow of the mountains as men. 37 And Gaal spoke again, and said, Behold, people are coming down from the high part of the land, and one company is coming along by the way of the Magician’s oak. 38 Then said Zebul to him, Where is now thy mouth, thou that saidst, Who is Abimelech, that we should serve him? is not this the people that thou hast despised? go out now, I pray, and fight against them. 39 And Gaal went out before the citizens of Shechem, and fought against Abimelech. 40 And Abimelech pursued him, and he fled before him, and there fell many wounded, as far as the entrance of the gate. 41 And Abimelech dwelt at Arumah. And Zebul drove out Gaal and his brethren, that they might not dwell in Shechem. 42 And it came to pass on the morrow, that the people went out into the field; and they told Abimelech. 43 And he took the people, and divided them into three companies, and lay in ambush in the field. And he looked, and behold, the people came forth out of the city; and he rose up against them and smote them. 44 And Abimelech, and the companies that were with him, rushed forward, and stood in the entrance of the gate of the city; and two of the companies ran upon all that were in the fields, and slew them. 45 And Abimelech fought against the city all that day; and he took the city, and slew the people that were in it, and broke down the city, and sowed it with salt. 46 And all the men of the tower of Shechem heard that, and they entered into the stronghold of the house of the GOD Berith. 47 And it was told Abimelech that all the men of the tower of Shechem had gathered together. 48 Then Abimelech went up to mount Zalmon, he and all the people that were with him; and Abimelech took an axe in his hand, and cut down a bough from the trees, and took it up and laid it on his shoulder, and said to the people that was with him, What ye have seen me do, make haste, do as I have done. 49 And all the people likewise cut down every man his bough, and they followed Abimelech, and put them to the hold, and burned the hold with fire upon them. And all the men of the tower of Shechem died also, about a thousand men and women.
Abimelech takes Thebez – Struck by a Millstone (9:50-57)
50 And Abimelech went to Thebez, and encamped against Thebez, and took it. 51 But there was a strong tower in the midst of the city, and thither fled all the men and women, all the citizens of the city; and they shut it behind them, and went up to the roof of the tower. 52 And Abimelech came to the tower, and fought against it, and he drew near to the entrance of the tower to burn it with fire; 53 and a woman cast the upper stone of a handmill on Abimelech’s head, and crushed his skull. 54 Then he called hastily to the young man that carried his armour, and said to him, Draw thy sword, and slay me, that they say not 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, they went every man to his place. 56 And God rendered back the wickedness of Abimelech, which he did to his father in slaying his seventy brethren. 57 And all the evil of the men of Shechem did God render back upon their heads; and upon them came the curse of Jotham the son of Jerubbaal.