JUDGES – Chapter 9

The last few verses of Chapter 8 give a short introduction to Chapter 9.

“And it came to pass, as soon as Gideon was dead, that the children of Israel turned again, and went a whoring after Baalim, and they made Baalberith their god. And the children of Israel remembered not Jehovah their God, who had delivered them out of the hands of all of their enemies on every side: and neither shewed they kindness to the house of Jerubbaal, namely, Gideon, according to all of the goodness to which he had showed to Israel.”

Gideon was a good man. He had a lot of admirable characteristics, but he also had a flaw, just as most good men have their places of weakness. With Gideon we read that he had seventy sons. This was definitely a weakness. These sons were not all from one wife, they were from many different women. He had many wives, and he also had concubines.

One of his concubines was a woman from Shechem who was a Canaanite. She was not really of the tribes of Israel, she was a Canaanitish woman living in Shechem. From her, he had a son whose name was Abimelech. And after the death of Gideon, Abimelech, the son of Gideon…….

Came to Shechem unto his mother’s brothers,

Although this woman in Shechem was a concubine to Gideon, she also had children by other men.

And so he came to his mother’s family, the brethren, and communed with them, and with all of the family of the house of his mother’s father, he said, I want you to speak to all of the men of Shechem, Whether it is better for you, either that all of the sons of Jerubbaal, which are seventy persons, reign over you, or that one reigns over you? and remember this: I am your bone and I’m your flesh.

So, he made a proposal to them, and reminded them that they were the same blood. They were related. He was proposing that they not be ruled by 70 brothers, but that they agree on one leader, and that one should be a member of the bloodline of his family.

And so his mother’s brothers spoke of him in the ears of all of the men of Shechem these words: and their hearts inclined to follow Abimelech; for they said, Well, after all, he is our brother.

Now, he is really half Canaanite, half Israelite.

And so they gave him seventy pieces of silver out of the house of Baalberith, wherewith Abimelech hired vain and light persons, which followed him.

He went out and hired a group of robbers, bandits.

And they went to his father’s house at Ophrah, and they killed his brothers the sons of Jerubbaal, being seventy persons, upon one stone: with the exception of the youngest son of Gideon whose name was Jotham; who escaped and hid himself. And all of the men of Shechem gathered together, and all of the house of Milo, and they went, and made Abimelech the king, by the plain of the pillar that was in Shechem.

This is somewhat of a creation of a kingship, which is more of a Canaanite practice. Israel, at this time in history had never had a king, for they were ruled by these judges. We now see this group of people in Shechem, with Canaanite origin, yet they are a part of the whole territory encompassed by Israel. They kill the sons of Gideon with the exception of Jotham, the youngest son, and they set up Abimelech as king.

Now when it was told to Jotham, he went and stood in the top of mount Gerizim, and he lifted up his voice, and he cried, and he said unto them, Hearken unto me, ye men of Shechem, that God may hearken unto you.

So, the one son of Gideon, who was left, went to Mount Gerizim. Mount Gerizim rises directly above the city of Shechem. The valley below Mount Gerizim, with Mount Ebal on the backside, forms a type of natural amphitheater. So, from the top of Mount Gerizim a person can yell down, and the people can hear you in the valley. This is the place where when they came into the land, where the men of certain tribes stood and pronounced the blessings, if they would keep the law of God, to the congregation that was assembled in the valley below.

Here, we see the youngest son of Gideon upon on this mount, calling down to the men of Shechem, who had conspired against his family, to his other brothers who had slain them. Then, he gives them a parable, which actually becomes a prophecy, or a curse, on them. The parable is this:

The trees went forth on a time to anoint a king over them;

The people of Shechem are represented by the trees in the parable, and Gideon is represented as the olive tree.

…….and they said to the olive tree, Reign over us. But the olive tree said unto them, Should I leave my fatness, wherewith by me they honor God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees? So the trees said to the fig tree, Come thou, and reign over us. But the fig tree said unto them, Should I forsake my sweetness, and my good fruit, to go and be promoted over the trees? Then they said to the vine, Come, and reign over us. And the vine said unto them, Should I leave my wine, which cheereth God and man, to go and be promoted over the trees?

This is referring to the drink offerings that they offered to the Lord from the fruit of the vine. They would pour out the drink offering to God. ‘Should I leave this ministry, to be promoted over the trees?’

Now, bramble is a thorny bush, like a tumbleweed, Abimelech is represented as the tumbleweed.

Then said all of the trees unto the bramble, Come thou, and reign over us. And the bramble said unto the trees, If in truth ye anoint me king over you, then come and put your trust in my shadow: and if not, let fire come out of the bramble, and devour the cedars of Lebanon.

Now, I have never seen much of a shadow come from a tumbleweed, have you? The bramble bush was used mainly for kindling, because it ignites in a hurry and flames up fast. This is why we see the reference here ‘let fire come out of the bramble, but let it consume the cedars of Lebanon.’

Now therefore, if you have done truly and sincerely, in that you have made Abimelech the king, and you have dealt well with Jerubbaal and his house, and have done unto him according to the deserving of his hands;

Quite an “IF” here, isn’t it? ‘If what you have done is really right, if it’s honorable.’ He is speaking of the dastardly deed upon the family of Gideon.

(For my father fought for you, and put his own life in jeopardy for you, and delivered you out of the hand of Midian:

Pretty difficult to find that what he had done to the sons of Gideon is right, at this point, isn’t it?

……. you have risen up against my father’s house this day, you have slain his sons, seventy persons, upon one stone, you’ve made Abimelech, the son of his maidservant, the king over the men of Shechem, because he is your brother;) If you have dealt truly and sincerely with Jerubbaal and with his house this day, then rejoice in Abimelech, and let him also rejoice in you: but if not, let fire come out from Abimelech, and devour the men of Shechem, and the house of Milo; and let fire come out from the men of Shechem, and from the house of Milo, and devour Abimelech.
And then Jotham took off running,

So, he tells them, if what they have done is right, then have at it. But, if not, let there be a problem that arises, and let that problem cause you to burn each other.

If you ran at top speed, it would take you about 20 minutes to get from the valley to the top of the hill where Jotham was preaching his sermon. It is probable that the men of the city started to pursue him, but he had a 20 minute head start. It’s a flat, plain area on top of the mount, so you can really move. By the time they got to the top of the hill, he had disappeared. He fled to a city called Beer, which means ‘well.’

So Jotham ran away, and fled, went to Beer, and he dwelt there, for the fear of Abimelech his brother. Now when Abimelech had reigned for three years over Israel, then God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the men of Shechem; the men of Shechem dealt treacherously with Abimelech: that the cruelty done to the seventy sons of Jerubbaal might come, and their blood be laid upon Abimelech their brother, who slew them; and upon the men of Shechem, which aided him in killing of his brothers. And the men of Shechem set liars in wait for him in the top of the mountains, and they robbed all that came along that way by them: and it was told Abimelech.

About three years into Abimelech’s reign, the problems (fire) began to develop between the people in Shechem and Abimelech. This problem that arose, was of God. So, these guys become a sort of pirate group. They would rob anybody that would come along the road towards Shechem, and this was reported to Abimelech.

And then this fellow Gaal the son of Ebed came with his brethren, and they went over to Shechem: and the men of Shechem put their confidence in him.

Here, we see this guy, Gaal, come into the picture. He’s a Shechemite, but evidently he hasn’t been around. He comes with his brothers, and he gains the confidence of the people, who are already somewhat at odds with Abimelech.

And at the time of harvest they went out into the fields, gathered their vineyards, they tread the grapes, and made merry, and went into the house of their god, and did eat and drink, and
they cursed Abimelech.

They begin to get a little drunk, while celebrating the harvest. They are eating and drinking, and cursing Abimelech.

And then 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 (who was the governor of the city of Shechem) is just his officer? serve the men of Hamor

In other words, he was suggesting that they serve the true Shechemites. He wanted them to go back to Hamor, who was a Canaanite. He had inhabited and established the city of Shechem, about the time of Jacob.

For why should we serve him? And would to God that I was ruling over these people! then I would remove Abimelech.

And so begins the bragging. “Too bad I’m not in charge, because I would kick him out.”

And then he sent a message to Abimelech, and it said, Gather your army, and come out and let’s fight.

Now, he is stating all this, within this circle of men. “Where’s Abimelech? Let him come out and fight me. Get his men, and come out and fight me.” His bragging is influence by the wine, I am sure.

Now when Zebul who was the governor of the city [appointed by Abimelech] heard the words of Gaal the son of Ebed, his anger was kindled.

He wasn’t strong enough to put down the rebellion himself.

So he sent messengers unto Abimelech privately, saying, Behold, Gaal the son of Ebed and his brothers are come to Shechem; and, behold, they have fortified the city against you. Therefore come by night, you and the people that are with you, and lie and wait in the field: and it shall be, that in the morning, as soon as the sun is up, you shall rise early, and set upon the city: and, behold, when he and the people that is with him come out against you, then you may do to them as you shall find occasion. So Abimelech rose up, and all the people that were with him, by night, and they laid in wait against Shechem in four companies. And Gaal the son of Ebed went out, and stood in the entering of the gate of the city: and Abimelech rose up, and the people that were with him, from lying in wait. And when Gaal saw the people, he said to Zebul, Behold, there are people coming down from the top of the mountains. And Zebul said to him, You’re just seeing the shadow of the mountains.

He was suggesting that he might be seeing things, perhaps shadows, as the sun is rising, looking like me. Zebul, of course, knew what was going on, but he was trying to hold Gaal back as long as possible.

And then Gaal spoke again and said, Look there are people coming down from the middle of the land, and another company is along the plain there. Then said Zebul unto him, Where is your mouth now, where you said, Who is Abimelech, that we should serve him? is not this the people that you have despised? go out now, I pray you, and fight with them.

He is now being called a big mouth. “Where is all your bragging at this point? If you’re such a man, have at it. Go out and fight with them.”

And Gaal went out before the men of Shechem, fought with Abimelech. Abimelech chased him, and they fled before him, and many were overthrown and wounded, even as he pursued him back to the gate of the city. And Abimelech dwelt in Arumah: and Zebul thrust out Gaal and his brethren, so that they should not dwell at Shechem.

With his forces now decimated by the battle, Zebul was powerful enough to expel Gaal out of the city.

And it came to pass on the morrow, that the people went out into the field; and they told Abimelech. And he took the people, and divided them into three companies, and he laid in wait in the field, and looked, and, behold, the people were come forth out of the city; and he rose up against them, and smote them.

Evidently, the folks who were still in Shechem figured that Abimelech had taken care of Gaal, so the danger had passed. There was no more problem. So, the next morning, as the gates were open, they went out into their fields to work. At night, the folks would come into the security of the city, most of them having small farms outside the city walls. At daylight, they would leave the protection of the wall of the city and go out to work their fields. This day, as they went out of the city, Abimelech attacked them, because there is still the bad blood between them.

And Abimelech, and the company that was with him, rushed forward, stood at the entering of the gate of the city: and two other companies ran upon all the people that were in the fields, and killed them. And Abimelech fought against the city all that day; and he took the city, and killed the people that were in it, and he beat down the city, and sowed it with salt.

He conquered the city of Shechem. The sowing of the salt was to destroy it, so that they could not plant. It was really just to lay waste the city.

And when the men of the tower of Shechem heard that, they entered into the fortress of the house of the god Berith. And it was told Abimelech, that the men of the tower of Shechem were gathered together. So Abimelech got to mount Zalmon, he and the people that were with him; and he took an ax in his hand, and he cut down a bough from the trees, and he took it, and laid it on his shoulder, and he said to the people, Do what you have seen me do. And so the people also cut down every man his bough, and they followed Abimelech, and put them against the fortress, and they set the fortress on fire upon them; so that all of the men in the tower of Shechem were cremated, about a thousand men and women that were in the tower. Then Abimelech decided to attack Thebez,

Thebez was about 6 miles away. He most likely believed that they were evolved in the conspiracy against him.

…….and he encamped against Thebez, and he took it. But there was a strong tower within that city, and all of the men and women of that city, fled to that strong tower, and they shut it up, and got in to the top of the tower. And so Abimelech came to that tower, fought against it, and he went hard against the door of the tower to burn it with fire.

He attempted to use the same strategy that worked in the tower of Shechem.

But there was a certain woman who cast a piece of a millstone upon Abimelech’s head, and crushed his skull.

I love this story. The millstone referred to here was probably one of the hand held millstones. Some millstones can weigh up to 300 or 400 pounds. No doubt, this wasn’t one of those. The woman wouldn’t be able to toss it off of the roof. They also had these smaller stones, similar to what the Indians used to grind their ears of corn. They used these pestles to pound their ear of corns, which were usually about ten inches long. These were long enough, so that they could do a lot of damage, if they were thrown off a tower and landed on the skull of someone. So, here is Abimelech, trying to beat down the door, and this woman heaves the rock over the side and hits him in the head, but it didn’t kill him. He was still alive, but he was fully aware that his time had come.

And he called hastily unto his armourbearer, and he said to his armourbearer, Take your sword, and kill me, I don’t want men to say, That I was killed by a woman.

It amazes me that pride ruled this man’s life, and now it rules his death. He keeps his pride, up to the end. It will get you every time. Amazing!

And the young man thrust him through, and he died. And the men of Israel saw that Abimelech was dead, and they departed every one to his own place. And thus God rendered the wickedness of Abimelech, which he did to his father, in the killing of his seventy brothers: and all of the evil of the men of Shechem did God render upon their heads: and upon them came the curse of Jotham the son of Jerubbaal.

The ‘fire’ came out and devoured them. It is interesting that he did cremate one thousand people or so that had found refuge in the tower. So, we see somewhat of a literal fulfillment of the curse that Jotham had pronounced against Shechem and against Abimelech for their treachery.

Teaching Notes:
Don D. Stephens

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