1 [a]Abimelech, the son of Jerubbaal, traveled to Shechem to see his mother’s brothers, and he said to them and to all of his mother’s clan,[b] 2 “Ask in the hearing of the men of Shechem, ‘Which is better for you, that you have the seventy sons of Jerubbaal rule over you, or that you have one rule over you?’ Remember that I am your flesh and blood.” 3 When his mother’s brothers proclaimed this in the hearing of the men of Shechem, they were inclined to agree with Abimelech about this matter, for they said, “He is our brother.” 4 They gave him seventy shekels of silver from the temple of Baal-berith, and Abimelech used it to hire some worthless and reckless fellows who followed him. 5 Then he went to his father’s house at Ophrah and he killed his brothers, the sons of Jerubbaal, seventy men, upon one stone. There was no one left except for Jotham, the son of Jerubbaal, the youngest, for he had hid himself. 6 All of the men in Shechem and Beth-millo assembled together and they went and made Abimelech king by the oak of the pillar that is in Shechem.
7 When Jotham was told about it, he went and stood on top of Mount Gerizim and shouted out, “Listen to me, O men of Shechem, so that God might listen to you. 8 Once the trees went out to anoint a king for themselves. They said to the olive tree, ‘Reign over us.’ 9 But the olive tree said to them, ‘Why should I give up my oil, with which God and men are honored, to go and hold sway over the trees?’ 10 Then the trees said to the fig tree, ‘You come and reign over us.’ 11 But the fig tree said to them, ‘Why should I give up my sweetness and my good fruit to go and hold sway over the trees?’ 12 Then the trees said to the vine, ‘You come and reign over us.’ 13 But the vine said to them, ‘Why should I give up my wine which cheers both God and man[c] to go and hold sway over the trees?’ 14 Then all of the trees said to the bramble, ‘You come and reign over us.’ 15 The bramble said to the trees, ‘If you truly intend to anoint me as your king, then come, and take refuge in my shade. If not, then let fire come out of the bramble and consume the cedars of Lebanon.’
16 “Now if you have truly and in all sincerity made Abimelech king, if you have treated Abimelech and his household well, dealing with him as he deserved, 17 for my father fought for you, he risked his life and delivered you out of the hands of Midian, 18 but you have risen up against my father’s household, killing his sons, seventy men on one stone, and you have made Abimelech, the son of his handmaid, as king of the men of Shechem because he is your relative, 19 if you have truly and in all sincerity dealt with Jerubbaal and his household today, then rejoice in Abimelech and let him also rejoice in you. 20 But if not, then let fire come out of Abimelech and consume the men of Shechem and Beth-millo, and let fire come out from the men of Shechem and Beth-millo and consume Abimelech.”
21 Jotham ran away and fled, going to Beer where he remained, for he was afraid of Abimelech his brother. 22 Now Abimelech ruled over Israel for three years. 23 Then God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the men of Shechem, and the men of Shechem dealt treacherously with Abimelech. 24 This happened because of the violence that was done to the seventy sons of Jerubbaal, so that their blood might be upon Abimelech, their brother, and upon the men of Shechem, who had assisted in killing his brothers.
25 The men of Shechem sat in ambush against him upon the mountain tops. They robbed all of those who passed by on the road, and Abimelech was told about it. 26 Now Gaal, the son of Ebed, arrived in Shechem, and the men of Shechem trusted him. 27 They went out into the fields and gathered the grapes, treading them. They threw a celebration and went in to the temple of their god, eating and drinking and cursing Abimelech. 28 Then Gaal, the son of Ebed, asked, “Who is Abimelech, and who is Shechem, that we should serve him? Is he not the son of Jerubbaal, and is not Zebul his assistant? Serve the men of Hamor, the father of Shechem. Why should we serve him? 29 I wish that the people were under my authority, for then I would get rid of Abimelech. I would say to Abimelech, ‘Gather your army and come out!’ ”
30 Zebul, the ruler of the city, heard what Gaal, the son of Ebed, had said and he grew angry at him. 31 He secretly sent messengers to Abimelech saying, “Gaal, the son of Ebed, and his brethren have come to Shechem, and they are stirring up the city against you. 32 You and your men should come up by night and lie in wait in the fields. 33 In the morning, at sunrise, advance on the city. He and his men will come out against you, and you can do whatever you see fit to them.”
34 So Abimelech and all the men who were with him arose, and they laid in wait near Shechem during the night. They were divided into four companies. 35 Now Gaal, the son of Ebed, had gone out and he was standing at the entrance to the city just as Abimelech and his men were coming out from their hiding places. 36 When Gaal saw them, he said to Zebul, “Look, people are coming down from the mountain tops.” Zebul said to him, “You are just seeing the shadows on the mountain, they just look like men.” 37 But Gaal said, “Look, people are coming down from Tabbur-haarez. Another company is coming by way of the Diviner’s Terebinth.” 38 Then Zebul said to him, “Where is your mouth now, you who said, ‘Who is Abimelech that we should serve him?’ Are these not the men whom you despised? So go out, now, and fight them!”
39 Gaal went out with the men of Shechem and they fought against Abimelech. 40 Abimelech chased after him, and he fled away from him. A large number fell wounded at the entrance to the city. 41 Abimelech dwelt in Arumah, and Zebul expelled Gaal and his brethren so that they could no longer live in Shechem. 42 The next day the people went out into the field, and they told Abimelech. 43 He took his men, divided them into three companies, and lay in wait in the fields for them. He kept watch, and when they came out of the city, he rose up and attacked them. 44 Abimelech and the company that was with him rushed forward and stood in the entranceway to the gate of the city; the other two companies rushed upon the people who were in the fields and killed them. 45 Abimelech fought against the city all day long, and he captured the city and killed the people who were there. He demolished the city and sowed it with salt.
46 When the men in the tower of Shechem[d] heard about this, they entered the stronghold in the temple of El-berith. 47 Abimelech was told that all the men from the tower of Shechem were gathered together, 48 so Abimelech and all the people who were with him climbed up Mount Zalmon. Abimelech took an ax in his hand and cut down a branch from a tree, and he carried it on his shoulder. He said to the people who were with him, “Hurry up and do what I just did.” 49 So each of the men cut a branch like he had and they followed Abimelech. They laid them next to the stronghold, and they set fire to them so that all of the men in the tower of Shechem died, a thousand men and women.
50 Abimelech went off to Thebez. He camped before Thebez and captured it. 51 There was a strong tower in the city, so all the men and women from the city fled there and shut themselves in, climbing up to the top of the tower. 52 So Abimelech came up to the tower and fought against it. He approached the door of the tower to set it on fire.
53 [e]A certain woman cast the upper part of a millstone down upon Abimelech’s head, and it cracked his skull. 54 He called out quickly to his young man, his armor-bearer, and he said, “Draw out your sword and kill me, so that they cannot say, ‘A woman killed him.’ ” His young man thrust him through, and he died. 55 When the Israelites saw that Abimelech was dead, they left, each man going home.
56 God repaid Abimelech for the wicked thing that he had done against his father by killing his seventy brothers. 57 The Lord repaid all of the evil that the men of Shechem had done upon their own heads, for the curse of Jotham, the son of Jerubbaal, came down upon them.
- Judges 9:1 One of the sons of Gideon slaughters his rivals in order to win power. This is unlike his father who refused to start a monarchy.
- Judges 9:1 The Canaanites predominate in Shechem. Abimelech’s mother must have been a Canaanite woman, and Gaal (v. 26), a Canaanite.
- Judges 9:13 Cheers both God and man: wine here goes beyond the social aspect as it is often used in worship.
- Judges 9:46 Tower of Shechem: probably a village (tower) quite near Shechem, on Mount Gerizim.
- Judges 9:53 The indignity of being struck by a woman and the weapon she used was God’s way of reducing Abimelech’s stature and punishing him for murdering his brothers to gain power.