Add parallel Print Page Options

The Rise of Abimelek

Abimelek son of Jerubbaal went to Shechem to visit his mother’s brothers. He spoke to them and to the entire clan of his mother’s household, saying, “Please announce this in the hearing of all the citizens[a] of Shechem: What is better for you? If seventy men—all of the sons of Jerubbaal—rule over you, or if one man rules over you? Also remember this—I am your own flesh and blood.”

His mother’s brothers spoke all these words concerning him in the hearing of all the citizens of Shechem. So their hearts were inclined toward Abimelek, because they said, “He is our brother.”

They gave him seventy pieces[b] of silver from the house of Baal of the Covenant. With the money, Abimelek hired worthless, reckless men, who traveled with him. He came to his father’s household at Ophrah, and he murdered his brothers, the sons of Jerubbaal—seventy men slaughtered on one stone. Only one remained alive, Jotham son of Jerubbaal, the youngest, for he had hidden himself. Then all the citizens of Shechem and Beth Millo gathered together, and they went and crowned Abimelek as king by the oak tree next to the memorial pillar that was in Shechem.

When Jotham was told, he went and stood at the top of Mount Gerizim and called out with a loud voice, “Listen to me, citizens of Shechem, and God will listen to you.”

Jotham’s Parable

One day the trees went to anoint a king over them, and they said to the olive tree, “Be king over us.” But the olive tree said to them, “Should I stop producing my rich oil, with which both God and men are honored, to go and sway over the other trees?”

10 Then the trees said to the fig tree, “Come, you be king over us.” 11 But the fig tree said to them, “Should I stop producing my sweetness and my good fruit to go and sway over the other trees?”

12 Then the trees said to the grape vine, “Come, you be king over us.” 13 But the vine said to them, “Should I stop producing my new wine, which gladdens both God and men, to go and sway over the other trees?”

14 Finally all the trees said to the bramble, “Come, you be king over us.”

15 So the bramble said to the trees, “If you are sincere about anointing me to be king over you, come, seek refuge in my shade. But if you are not, may fire come out from the bramble and consume the cedars of Lebanon.”

16 Jotham said, “So now, if you acted in truth and integrity when you made Abimelek king, and if you have treated Jerubbaal and his household well, and if you have dealt with him as his hands dealt with you— 17 My father waged war for you and put his life at grave risk and delivered you from the hand of Midian. 18 Yet you have risen up against the house of my father today, and you have killed his sons, seventy men on one stone, and you have crowned Abimelek, son of his concubine, as king over the citizens of Shechem, because he is your relative. 19 If you have acted in good faith and integrity with Jerubbaal and with his household this day, rejoice in Abimelek, and let him also rejoice in you. 20 But if not, may fire come out from Abimelek and consume the citizens of Shechem and Beth Millo, and may fire come out from the citizens of Shechem and Beth Millo and consume Abimelek.”

21 With that, Jotham fled and escaped to Be’er,[c] where he remained because of Abimelek his brother.

The Fall of Abimelek

22 After Abimelek ruled over Israel three years, 23 God sent an evil spirit between Abimelek and the citizens of Shechem, who acted treacherously against Abimelek, 24 so that the violence perpetrated against the seventy sons of Jerubbaal would come back on Abimelek, and their blood would be charged to their brother Abimelek, who killed them, and to the citizens of Shechem, who supported him when he killed his brothers.

25 In opposition to Abimelek, the citizens of Shechem set up ambushes on the mountains, and they robbed everyone who went by along the road. This was reported to Abimelek.

26 At this time Ga’al son of Ebed and his brothers had come to Shechem and settled there, and the citizens of Shechem put their trust in him.

27 The people of Shechem went out into the fields and gathered grapes from their vineyards. They trod the grapes into wine and held a thanksgiving festival. They went to the house of their god and ate and drank, and they cursed Abimelek.

28 Ga’al son of Ebed said, “Who is Abimelek? Why should the city of Shechem serve him? Isn’t he the son of Jerubbaal? Isn’t Zebul his representative? Serve the descendants of Hamor, the founding father of Shechem, but why should we serve Abimelek? 29 If only someone would give this people into my hand! I would remove Abimelek!”

So he said to Abimelek, “Get a bigger army and come out!”

30 When Zebul, ruler of the city, heard the words of Ga’al son of Ebed, he was hot with anger. 31 He secretly sent messengers to Abimelek, saying, “Look, Ga’al son of Ebed and his brothers have been coming to Shechem, and now they are stirring up the city against you. 32 So now, get up tonight, you and the troops who are with you, and hide yourselves in the countryside. 33 When morning comes, at sunrise, get up early and make an attack on the city. Then when Ga’al and the people with him come out against you, do to him whatever you can.”

34 So Abimelek and all the troops who were with him set out in the middle of the night and set an ambush for Shechem, in four units.

35 Ga’al son of Ebed came out and stood at the entrance to the city gate. Then Abimelek and the troops with him rose up from their hiding places.

36 When Ga’al saw them, he said to Zebul, “Look! People are coming down from the mountains.”

But Zebul said to him, “You are seeing shadows on the mountains and mistaking them for men.”

37 But Ga’al spoke up again. He said, “No, look! There are people coming down from the navel of the land,[d] and one unit is coming from the direction of the Oak of the Fortune Tellers.”

38 Zebul said to him, “Where is your big mouth now? You said, ‘Who is Abimelek that we should serve him?’ Aren’t these the people you despised? Go out now, and fight against him!”

39 So Ga’al went out in front of the citizens of Shechem and fought against Abimelek. 40 Abimelek pursued him, and Ga’al fled from him. Many fell wounded all the way up to the entrance to the city’s gatehouse. 41 Abimelek remained in Arumah, but Zebul drove out Ga’al and his brothers, so that they could not stay in Shechem.

42 The next day, when the people went out into the countryside, this was reported to Abimelek. 43 He took his people and divided them into three units and set up an ambush in the countryside.

As he kept watch, he saw people coming out of the city. He rose up against them and struck them down. 44 Abimelek and the unit that was with him rushed forward and took a position in front of the entrance to the city’s gatehouse. The other two units attacked everyone who was still out in the open country and struck them down. 45 Abimelek fought against the city all that day and captured it. He killed the people who were in it, and he tore down the city and sowed it with salt.

46 When all the citizens defending the citadel of Shechem realized what was happening, they went into the vault[e] of the temple of El[f] of the Covenant. 47 When it was reported to Abimelek that all the citizens were gathered together in the citadel of Shechem, 48 Abimelek went up to Mount Zalmon—he and all the people who were with him. Abimelek took an ax in his hand and cut brushwood. He picked up the brush and placed it on his shoulder. He told the people who were with him, “Quickly do exactly what you saw me do.” 49 All the people, each man, also cut brushwood and followed Abimelek. They placed the branches against the vault and with the branches they set the vault on fire, and all the people in the citadel of Shechem died, about a thousand men and women.

50 Abimelek then went to Thebez, besieged it, and captured it. 51 There was a strong tower in the middle of the city, and all the men and women and all the rulers of the city fled there. They shut it up tight behind them and went up to the roof of the tower. 52 Abimelek came up to the tower and attacked it. He approached the entrance of the tower to burn it down.

53 A certain woman threw down an upper millstone onto the head of Abimelek, and she fractured his skull. 54 He called quickly to the young man who carried his gear and said to him, “Draw your sword and kill me, so that they do not say about me, ‘A woman killed him.’” So this young man ran him through with his sword, and Abimelek died. 55 When the men of Israel saw that Abimelek was dead, they all went back, each to his place.

56 In this way God avenged the evil that Abimelek had done to his father by killing his seventy brothers. 57 God also returned all the evil done by the men of Shechem onto their own heads, and the curse of Jotham son of Jerubbaal came upon them.

Footnotes

  1. Judges 9:2 Or lords or rulers. At times this term seems to refer to all the male citizens, at other times it refers to a smaller group of leaders.
  2. Judges 9:4 The Hebrew text does not provide any unit of measurement. It is probably shekels.
  3. Judges 9:21 The stop mark’ is inserted into some names as a pronunciation guide. Beer should not be read as one syllable, beer, but as two syllables, be-eer.
  4. Judges 9:37 This is apparently a name for Mount Ebal.
  5. Judges 9:46 Or inner chamber
  6. Judges 9:46 El is the chief god of the Canaanites, the father god, but here El seems to be another name for Baal.

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

Bible Gateway Sponsors