Judges 9
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Abimelech’s Conspiracy

1Now Abimelech son of Jerubbaal went to his mother’s brothers at Shechem and said to them and to all the clan of his mother, 2“Please ask all the leaders of Shechem, Is it better for you that seventy men, all the sons of Jerubbaal, rule over you, or just one man?’ Remember that I am your own flesh and blood.”

3And when his mother’s brothers spoke all these words about him in the presence of all the leaders of Shechem, their hearts were inclined to follow Abimelech, for they said, “He is our brother.” 4So they gave him seventy shekels of silver from the temple of Baal-berith, with which Abimelech hired some worthless and reckless men to follow him. 5He went to his father’s house in Ophrah, and on one stone murdered his seventy brothers, the sons of Jerubbaal. But Jotham, the youngest son of Jerubbaal, survived, because he hid himself.

6Then all the leaders of Shechem and Beth-millo gathered beside the oak at the pillar in Shechem and proceeded to make Abimelech their king.

Jotham’s Parable

7When this was reported to Jotham, he climbed to the top of Mount Gerizim, raised his voice, and cried out:

“Listen to me, O leaders of Shechem,

and may God listen to you.

8One day the trees set out

to anoint a king for themselves.

They said to the olive tree,

‘Reign over us.’

9But the olive tree replied,

‘Should I stop giving my oil

that honors both God and man,

to hold sway over the trees?’

10Then the trees said to the fig tree,

‘Come and reign over us.’

11But the fig tree replied,

‘Should I stop giving my sweetness

and my good fruit,

to hold sway over the trees?’

12Then the trees said to the grapevine,

‘Come and reign over us.’

13But the grapevine replied,

‘Should I stop giving my wine

that cheers both God and man,

to hold sway over the trees?’

14Finally all the trees said to the thornbush,

‘Come and reign over us.’

15But the thornbush replied,

‘If you really are anointing me as king over you,

come and find refuge in my shade.

But if not, may fire come out of the thornbush

and consume the cedars of Lebanon.’

16Now if you have acted faithfully and honestly in making Abimelech king, if you have done well by Jerubbaal and his family, and if you have done to him as he deserves— 17for my father fought for you and risked his life to deliver you from the hand of Midian, 18but you have risen up against my father’s house this day and killed his seventy sons on a single stone, and you have made Abimelech, the son of his maidservant, king over the leaders of Shechem because he is your brother— 19if you have acted faithfully and honestly toward Jerubbaal and his house this day, then may you rejoice in Abimelech, and he in you.

20But if not, may fire come from Abimelech and consume the leaders of Shechem and Beth-millo, and may fire come from the leaders of Shechem and Beth-millo and consume Abimelech.”

21Then Jotham ran away, escaping to Beer, and he lived there for fear of his brother Abimelech.

Gaal Conspires with the Shechemites

22After Abimelech had reigned over Israel for three years, 23God sent a spirit of animosity between Abimelech and the leaders of Shechem and caused them to treat Abimelech deceitfully, 24in order that the crime against the seventy sons of Jerubbaal might come to justice and their blood be avenged on their brother Abimelech and on the leaders of Shechem, who had helped him murder his brothers.

25The leaders of Shechem set up an ambush against Abimelech on the hilltops, and they robbed all who passed by them on the road. So this was reported to Abimelech.

26Meanwhile, Gaal son of Ebed came with his brothers and crossed into Shechem, and the leaders of Shechem put their confidence in him. 27And after they had gone out into the fields, gathered grapes from their vineyards, and trodden them, they held a festival and went into the house of their god; and as they ate and drank, they cursed Abimelech.

28Then Gaal son of Ebed said, “Who is Abimelech, and who is Shechem, that we should serve him? Is he not the son of Jerubbaal, and is not Zebul his officer? You are to serve the men of Hamor, the father of Shechem. Why should we serve Abimelech? 29If only this people were under my authority, I would remove Abimelech; I would say to him, ‘Muster your army and come out!’”

The Fall of Shechem

30When Zebul the governor of the city heard the words of Gaal son of Ebed, he burned with anger. 31So he covertly sent messengers to Abimelech to say, “Look, Gaal son of Ebed and his brothers have come to Shechem and are stirring up the city against you. 32Now then, tonight you and the people with you are to come and lie in wait in the fields. 33And in the morning at sunrise, get up and advance against the city. When Gaal and his men come out against you, do to them whatever you are able.”

34So Abimelech and all his troops set out by night and lay in wait against Shechem in four companies.

35Now Gaal son of Ebed went out and stood at the entrance of the city gate just as Abimelech and his men came out from their hiding places.

36When Gaal saw the people, he said to Zebul, “Look, people are coming down from the mountains!”

But Zebul replied, “The shadows of the mountains look like men to you.”

37Then Gaal spoke up again, “Look, people are coming down from the center of the land, and one company is coming by way of the Diviners’ Oak.”

38“Where is your gloating now?” Zebul replied. “You said, ‘Who is Abimelech that we should serve him?’ Are these not the people you ridiculed? Go out now and fight them!”

39So Gaal went out before the leaders of Shechem and fought against Abimelech, 40but Abimelech pursued him, and Gaal fled before him. And many Shechemites fell wounded all the way to the entrance of the gate. 41Abimelech stayed in Arumah, and Zebul drove Gaal and his brothers out of Shechem.

42 The next day the people of Shechem went out into the fields, and this was reported to Abimelech. 43So he took his men, divided them into three companies, and lay in wait in the fields. When he saw the people coming out of the city, he rose up against them and attacked them.

44Then Abimelech and the companies with him rushed forward and took their stand at the entrance of the city gate. The other two companies rushed against all who were in the fields and struck them down. 45And all that day Abimelech fought against the city until he had captured it and killed its people. Then he demolished the city and sowed it with salt.

46On hearing of this, all the leaders in the tower of Shechem entered the inner chamber of the temple of El-berith. 47And when Abimelech was told that all the leaders in the tower of Shechem were gathered there, 48he and all his men went up to Mount Zalmon. Abimelech took his axe in his hand and cut a branch from the trees, which he lifted to his shoulder, saying to his men, “Hurry and do what you have seen me do.”

49So each man also cut his own branch and followed Abimelech. Then they piled the branches against the inner chamber and set it on fire above them, killing everyone in the tower of Shechem, about a thousand men and women.

Abimelech’s Punishment

50Then Abimelech went to Thebez, encamped against it, and captured it. 51But there was a strong tower inside the city, and all the men, women, and leaders of the city fled there. They locked themselves in and went up to the roof of the tower.

52When Abimelech came to attack the tower, he approached its entrance to set it on fire. 53But a woman dropped an upper millstone on Abimelech’s head, crushing his skull. 54He quickly called his armor-bearer, saying, “Draw your sword and kill me, lest they say of me, ‘A woman killed him.’”

So Abimelech’s armor-bearer ran his sword through him, and he died. 55And when the Israelites saw that Abimelech was dead, they all went home.

56In this way God repaid the wickedness that Abimelech had done to his father in murdering his seventy brothers. 57And God also brought all the wickedness of the men of Shechem back upon their own heads. So the curse of Jotham son of Jerubbaal came upon them.

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