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Avimelekh the son of Yeruba‘al went to Sh’khem, to his mother’s brothers, and spoke with them and with the whole clan of his maternal grandfather. He said, “Please ask all the men of Sh’khem, ‘Which is better for you — that all seventy sons of Yeruba‘al rule over you, or that one person rule over you? And remember that I am your blood relative.’” His mother’s brothers spoke to all the men of Sh’khem and said all this about him, so that they followed their feelings and supported Avimelekh, arguing, “After all, he’s our brother.” They also gave him seventy pieces of silver from the temple of Ba‘al-B’rit; and he used these to pay good-for-nothing thugs to follow him. He went back to his father’s house in ‘Ofrah and killed his brothers the sons of Yeruba‘al, all seventy of them, on a single rock, except for Yotam Yeruba‘al’s youngest son, who stayed alive because he hid himself.

All the men of Sh’khem and all Beit-Millo got together and went and made Avimelekh king at the oak by the cult-pillar in Sh’khem. When they told this to Yotam, he went and stood on top of Mount G’rizim and shouted, “Listen to me, you leaders of Sh’khem; then God will listen to you! Once the trees went out to choose a king to rule them. They said to the olive tree, ‘Rule over us!’ But the olive tree replied, ‘Am I supposed to leave my oil, which is used to honor both God and humanity, just to go and hold sway over the trees?’ 10 So the trees said to the fig tree, ‘You, come and rule over us!’ 11 But the fig tree replied, ‘Am I supposed to leave my sweetness and my good fruit just to go and hold sway over the trees?’ 12 So the trees said to the grapevine, ‘You, come and rule over us!’ 13 But the grapevine replied, ‘Am I supposed to leave my wine, which gives cheer to God and humanity, just to go and hold sway over the trees?’ 14 Finally, all the trees said to the thorn bush, ‘You, come and rule over us!’ 15 The thorn bush replied, ‘If you really make me king over you, then come and take shelter in my shade. But if not, let fire come out of the thorn bush and burn down the cedars of the L’vanon!’

16 “Here’s the point. Have you been honest and straightforward in making Avimelekh king? Have you been fair with Yeruba‘al and his household and treated him as he deserves? 17 My father fought on your behalf, risking his life, and rescued you from the power of Midyan; 18 and now you are rebelling against my father’s household. You’ve killed his seventy sons on a single stone and made Avimelekh, the son of his slave-girl, king over the men of Sh’khem, because he’s your brother. 19 I say this: if you are dealing honestly and righteously with Yeruba‘al and his household today, then may you enjoy Avimelekh and may he enjoy you! 20 But if not, let fire come out from Avimelekh and burn up the men of Sh’khem and Beit-Millo; and let fire come out from the men of Sh’khem and Beit-Millo and burn up Avimelekh!” 21 Then Yotam fled, making his way to Be’er, and he lived there for fear of Avimelekh his brother.

22 Avimelekh was chief over Isra’el for three years. 23 But God sent a spirit of discord between Avimelekh and the men of Sh’khem, so that the men of Sh’khem dealt treacherously with Avimelekh. 24 This came about so that the crime against the seventy sons of Yeruba‘al might be avenged and the responsibility for their bloody death be placed on Avimelekh their brother, who murdered them, and on the men of Sh’khem, who helped him kill his brothers. 25 So the men of Sh’khem sent out men to ambush him on the mountaintops. They robbed everyone who went past them, and Avimelekh was told about it.

26 Ga‘al the son of a slave came with his brothers and went on to Sh’khem, and the men of Sh’khem put their trust in him. 27 They went out into the field, gathered their grapes and pressed the juice out of them. Then they held a feast and went into the house of their god to eat and drink, and there they insulted Avimelekh. 28 Ga‘al the son of a slave said, “Who is Avimelekh? Think of the contrast with Sh’khem! Why should we serve Avimelekh? Isn’t he the son of Yeruba‘al? Isn’t Z’vul his officer? Serve the men of Hamor the father of Sh’khem! Why should we serve Avimelekh? 29 If I were in control of this people, I’d get rid of Avimelekh!” Then, addressing his words to Avimelekh, he said, “Come out and fight! I don’t care if you make your army even larger!”

30 When Z’vul the ruler of the city heard the words of Ga‘al the son of a slave, he was enraged. 31 He sent messengers to Avimelekh in Tormah with this message: “Ga‘al the son of a slave and his brothers have come to Sh’khem, and they’re inciting the city against you. 32 You and the men with you should come up now at night and lie in wait in the field. 33 In the morning, get up early, as soon as the sun rises; and attack the city. Then, when Ga‘al and the men with him come out to fight you, do whatever you can to them.”

34 Avimelekh and all the men with him came up by night and lay in wait against Sh’khem in four groups. 35 Ga‘al the son of a slave went out and stationed himself at the entrance to the city gate. Then Avimelekh and his men rose from their ambush. 36 When Ga‘al saw the men, he said to Z’vul, “Look, there are men coming down from the mountaintops.” Z’vul answered, “You’re seeing the shadows of the mountains as if they were men.” 37 Ga‘al said again, “Look, there are men coming down from the main hill in the land, and one group is coming on the road from the Fortuneteller’s Oak. 38 Z’vul said to him, “Where’s your mouth now? You said, ‘Who is Avimelekh? Why should we serve him?’ Aren’t these the people you despise? Go on out and fight them!” 39 So Ga‘al went out, leading the men of Sh’khem, and fought Avimelekh. 40 But Avimelekh gave chase, and Ga‘al took to flight; many fell wounded, strewn all along the way to the city gate.

41 Then Avimelekh took up residence in Arumah, and Z’vul drove out Ga‘al and his brothers, so that they could not live in Sh’khem. 42 But the very next day, the people went out into the field, and Avimelekh was told about it. 43 He took his men, divided them into three groups, and lay in wait in the field. When he saw the people going out of the city, he came out of hiding and slaughtered them. 44 Avimelekh and his group rushed forward and occupied the entrance to the city gate, while the other two groups attacked all those in the field and killed them. 45 Avimelekh fought against the city all that day; captured it, killed its people, destroyed its buildings and sowed its land with salt.

46 When all the men in the fortress at Sh’khem heard about this, they took refuge in the stronghold of the temple of El-B’rit. 47 Avimelekh was told that all the men from the Sh’khem fortress had gathered together; 48 so he led all his men up to Mount Tzalmon, where he took an axe in his hand, cut a branch off a tree, and laid it on his shoulder. Then he said to those with him, “Quick! Do just what you saw me do!” 49 They all did likewise, each man cutting off his branch; and they followed Avimelekh. They put the branches up against the stronghold, set them on fire, and burned down the stronghold; so that all the people from the Sh’khem fortress died, about a thousand men and women.

50 Then Avimelekh went to Tevetz, set up camp against Tevetz and captured it. 51 But there was a fortified tower inside the city; and all the men and women took refuge in it, everyone in the city. They shut themselves inside and went up onto the roof of the tower. 52 However, when Avimelekh approached the tower, attacked it, and then came up close to the tower’s door in order to burn it down, 53 a woman dropped an upper millstone on Avimelekh’s head, cracking his skull. 54 He quickly called out to the young man holding his armor, “Draw your sword, and finish me off, so that people won’t say a woman killed me.” So his attendant ran him through, and he died. 55 When the men of Isra’el saw that Avimelekh was dead, they all went back home.

56 This is how God paid back Avimelekh for the wrong he did to his father in murdering his seventy brothers. 57 God also repaid the men of Sh’khem for all the wrong they had done; on them came the curse of Yotam the son of Yeruba‘al.

Abimelek

Abimelek(A) son of Jerub-Baal(B) went to his mother’s brothers in Shechem and said to them and to all his mother’s clan, “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.(C)

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.” They gave him seventy shekels[a] of silver from the temple of Baal-Berith,(D) and Abimelek used it to hire reckless scoundrels,(E) who became his followers. He went to his father’s home in Ophrah and on one stone murdered his seventy brothers,(F) the sons of Jerub-Baal. But Jotham,(G) the youngest son of Jerub-Baal, escaped by hiding.(H) Then all the citizens of Shechem and Beth Millo(I) gathered beside the great tree(J) at the pillar in Shechem to crown Abimelek king.

When Jotham(K) was told about this, he climbed up on the top of Mount Gerizim(L) and shouted to them, “Listen to me, citizens of Shechem, so that God may listen to you. One day the trees went out to anoint a king for themselves. They said to the olive tree, ‘Be our king.’

“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,(M) 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;(N) but if not, then let fire come out(O) of the thornbush and consume the cedars of Lebanon!’(P)

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(Q) 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(R) 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?(S) If you have, may Abimelek be your joy, and may you be his, too! 20 But if you have not, let fire come out(T) from Abimelek and consume you, the citizens of Shechem(U) and Beth Millo,(V) and let fire come out from you, the citizens of Shechem and Beth Millo, and consume Abimelek!”

21 Then Jotham(W) fled, escaping to Beer,(X) 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(Y) 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,(Z) the shedding(AA) of their blood, might be avenged(AB) on their brother Abimelek and on the citizens of Shechem, who had helped him(AC) 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(AD) 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(AE) them, they held a festival in the temple of their god.(AF) While they were eating and drinking, they cursed Abimelek. 28 Then Gaal son of Ebed(AG) said, “Who(AH) 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,(AI) Shechem’s father! Why should we serve Abimelek? 29 If only this people were under my command!(AJ) Then I would get rid of him. I would say to Abimelek, ‘Call out your whole army!’”[b](AK)

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(AL) 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.(AM)

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(AN) just as Abimelek and his troops came out from their hiding place.(AO)

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?(AP) 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(AQ) and set an ambush(AR) 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(AS) and scattered salt(AT) over it.

46 On hearing this, the citizens in the tower of Shechem went into the stronghold of the temple(AU) of El-Berith. 47 When Abimelek heard that they had assembled there, 48 he and all his men went up Mount Zalmon.(AV) 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(AW) 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.(AX)

54 Hurriedly he called to his armor-bearer, “Draw your sword and kill me,(AY) 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.(AZ) The curse of Jotham(BA) son of Jerub-Baal came on them.

Footnotes

  1. Judges 9:4 That is, about 1 3/4 pounds or about 800 grams
  2. Judges 9:29 Septuagint; Hebrew him.” Then he said to Abimelek, “Call out your whole army!”
  3. Judges 9:37 The Hebrew for this phrase means the navel of the earth.
  4. Judges 9:39 Or Gaal went out in the sight of

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