-This chapter chronicles the conspiracy and self-proclaimed kingship over a portion of Israel by Abimelech, Gideon’s (or Jerubbaal’s) son through a concubine of Shechem (Judges 8:31). Abimelech went to his mother’s relatives in Shechem and spoke to them, the whole clan of the household of his mother’s father, about being the sole ruler over the region rather than splitting authority between the other 70 sons of Gideon. Idolatry had overtaken their hearts again (Judges 8:33), and the nation was going wayward as we can discern in this narrative. Abimelech’s family spoke to all the leaders of Shechem, and they were inclined to follow a local legend and relative. He was power hungry, over confident, and ruthless, but a qualified tactical planner and organizer. The leaders of Shechem gave him 70 pieces of silver from the house of Baal-berith (Baal, lord of the covenant, an idol in substitute for the Living Covenant God of Israel). With this money, Abimelech hired mercenaries, which the Bible describes as “worthless and reckless fellows.” These despicable men followed Abimelech as they went led by the illegitimate son of Gideon up to Ophrah (Gideon’s hometown), and killed all his 70 brothers on one execution stone except one, Jotham, who was the youngest of Jerubbaal (Gideon). He hid himself and survived. Now all the men of Shechem and all of Beth-millo assembled together to make Abimelech their king by the oak of the pillar (a place of idolatry) which was in Shechem (Judges 9:1-6).
-When Jotham was told of what had transpired, he courageously went and stood on the top of Gerizim, the mount of blessing (Deuteronomy 27:12, Joshua 8:33-34), lifting his voice and crying out, “Listen to me, O men of Shechem, that God may listen to you.” He gave a parable of trees representing Gideon’s sons with the bramble representing Abimelech as a worthless person obsessed with power politics, which proves unproductive in the end. He prophesied fire consuming the men of Shechem if they had not treated Gideon and his family, who had fought for them and risked his life and delivered them from Midian, righteously by promoting an illegitimate relative into leadership. Abimelech would consume Shechem and Beth-millo with his fire, and then the reverse would come upon Abimelech from the men of Shechem and Beth-millo if they had done a dastardly deed. If Abimelech was on the up and up, and they had dealt in truth and integrity with Gideon (Jerubbaal), then all would rejoice in peace and tranquility. Then Jotham escaped and fled for his life to Beer and remained there in that safe haven because of his brother, Abimelech (Judges 9:7-21).
-Some three years later, when I am sure the words of Jotham had faded and everyone felt pretty good about things in the idolatrous land, God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the men of Shechem. This led the men of Shechem to deal treacherously with Abimelech “so that the violence done to the seventy sons of Jerubbaal might come, and their blood might be laid on Abimelech their brother, who killed them, and on the men of Shechem, who strengthened his hands to kill his brothers.” An ambush was set in the mountains against Abimelech by the men of Shechem, and they robbed all who might pass by them on the road. When Abimelech found out and a man by the name of Gaal, the son of Ebed, came with his relatives crossing over into Shechem as a usurper, things got very tense. The inhabitants of Shechem went out into the field and gathered the grapes of their vineyards, trod them, and held a festival. They went into the house of their god and ate and drank cursing Abimelech. In the mocking spirit, Gaal ended up saying, “Who is Abimelech, and who is Shechem, that we should serve him? Is he not the son of Jerubbaal, and is Zebul not his lieutenant? Serve the men of Hamor the father of Shechem; but why should we serve him? Would, therefore, that this people were under my authority! Then I would remove Abimelech.” Then he taunted Abimelech to come out with his army increased. Zebul, the ruler of the city under Abimelech, burned with much anger at the hearing of this boast. He sent messengers to Abimelech deceitfully (tormah- fraudulent, treachery, deceit), saying how Gaal and his relatives had come to Shechem stirring up the city against him. He advised for Abimelech and the people with him to arise and lie in wait in the field for his enemy. They were to rise the next morning early and rush upon the city to fight them as boldly as they possibly could. Abimelech followed this advice in four different companies of warriors. Now Gaal went out and stood in the gate entrance of the city, and the fight was on. Zebul had a conversation with Gaal before the ruckus wondering where his boasting was now. Gaal thought he saw people coming down the mountains, but Zebul persuaded him it was only shadows on the mountains. He prompted Gaal, with the leaders of Shechem at his side, to go out and fight Abimelech and his men. When he did go out to fight, the battle turned against Gaal and he fled. Abimelech stayed put in a place by the name of Arumah, but his lieutenant Zebul drove out Gaal and his relatives so that they could not remain in Shechem (Judges 9:22-41). Now it came about on the next day that the people went out to the field from Shechem. Abimelech was told that they had abandoned their city, so he divided his people into three companies and lay in wait out in the fields. When he looked and saw the people coming out of the city, his company arose and fought against them and slew them. Then they rushed the gate of the city of Shechem and stood in its entrance. The other two companies dashed against their opponents who were in the field and slew them also. Abimelech fought against the city of Shechem all that day. He finally captured it and killed the people who were left in it. “Then he razed (nathats- to tear down, beat down, destroy, overthrow) the city and sowed it with salt (a ritual of that time to symbolize the perpetual desolation of a city, Shechem would not be rebuilt for another 150 years).” Abimelech, in a show of mighty and unyielding force tormented his very own hometown as a sign to all who might oppose him (Judges 9:42-45).
-But the story doesn’t end there. There was a further completion of Jotham’s prophecy of a curse. When the leaders of the tower of Shechem heard of the events, they gathered together in this inner chamber tower of the city known as the temple of El-berith (God of alliance, agreement, or covenant, again a place of idolatry). A thousand people were killed as Abimelech found out that they were in there. He took his people to Mount Zalmon, outside the city, and axed down branches from the trees. He then had them carry down the branches on their shoulders, put them in the inner chamber, and set it on fire. Devastating. Abimelech next went to Thebez, camped against it, and captured it. But there was a strong tower in this city also as there was in Shechem. All the men and women of the city fled there and shut themselves in for protection as best they could, and then they went up on the roof of the tower so as to not be caught in a fire this time. So Abimelech came and fought against the people in the tower attempting to set the structure on fire as he previously had done in Shechem. “But a certain woman threw a millstone on Abimelech’s head, crushing his skull.” He quickly called to his young armor bearer to have him draw a sword to kill him so it would not be said that a woman killed him. The armor bearer obeyed, thrust him through, and the disobedient son of Gideon died horrifically. Upon seeing the destruction of this leader, the men of Israel, who had been so deceived and misinformed, each turned and departed back to his home. “Thus God repaid the wickedness of Abimelech, which he had done to his father in killing his seventy brothers. Also God returned all the wickedness of the men of Shechem on their heads, and the curse of Jotham the son of Jerubbaal came upon them (Judges 9:46-57).”
-*Application* God observes everything that goes on and will eventually deal righteously with any situation. For God is not mocked, whatever a man sows, this he will also reap (Galatians 6:7-9).
Verses to Memorize: Judges 9:56-57