Judges 9
Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Ch. 9 Abimelech’s kingdom and fall

This chapter seems to be derived from a single source, with the exception, perhaps, of Jdg 9:26-41, the account of Gaal’s revolt, which Moore proposes to assign to J. There are no traces of the Deuteronomic editor here, for the reason suggested above. Historically the chapter possesses great value as illustrating the relations between Canaanites and Israelites in one of the chief towns of the country. Ch. 1 made it clear that the Israelite conquest was very far from being complete. Here, at Shechem, the native Canaanites were in the ascendant, and yet there was a sufficiently strong Israelite element in the place to raise Abimelech to the position of ruler. But the time was not ripe for an Israelite monarchy; a reaction soon set in, and though the Canaanite revolt was unsuccessful it brought about Abimelech’s fall and death.

And Abimelech the son of Jerubbaal went to Shechem unto his mother's brethren, and communed with them, and with all the family of the house of his mother's father, saying,
1. Shechem] now Nâblus (the Roman Flavia Neapolis), 30 miles N. of Jerusalem, 5 miles S.E. of Samaria, situated in a narrow, fertile valley, at the entrance to which rise the two mountains, Ebal on the N. and Gerizim (Jdg 9:7) on the S. The town lies on the watershed (1870 ft.) between the Mediterranean and the Jordan basins, hence perhaps its name, shoulder. Easily dominated from the heights on either side, it could never defend itself against attack (Jdg 9:44 f.); but it had the great advantage of lying close to the crossing of the two main routes which traverse the country from N. to S. and from E. to W.; this accounts for the highway robbery in lawless times (Jdg 9:25, cf. Hosea 6:9). The ancient Canaanite city is often mentioned in the patriarchal stories (Genesis 12:6 J, Genesis 33:18 P, Genesis 33:19-20 E, Gen 33:34 J and P, Genesis 37:12 ff. J): how and when it passed into Israelite possession cannot be learnt with certainty, for the traditions differ; thus Genesis 48:22 E does not agree with Genesis 33:19 E, Joshua 24:32 E; and while Joshua 24:1; Joshua 24:25-26; Joshua 24:32 implies that the town was entirely Israelite before the death of Joshua, the present narrative shews that it was still largely Canaanite.

Speak, I pray you, in the ears of all the men of Shechem, Whether is better for you, either that all the sons of Jerubbaal, which are threescore and ten persons, reign over you, or that one reign over you? remember also that I am your bone and your flesh.
2. the men of Shechem] lit. possessors (plur. of ba‘al) i.e. citizens of S.; so throughout this chap., cf. Jdg 20:5, 1 Samuel 23:11 f. etc.

all the sons of Jerubbaal] Evidently Gideon had exercised some kind of authority in Ophrah and its neighbourhood which his sons claimed to inherit; see on Jdg 8:23. But we need not think of 70 men literally ‘ruling’; Abimelech wanted to put the case in the worst light possible. If his mother had been a ṣadâḳa wife (cf. Jdg 8:31), the children would have belonged to her clan and not the father’s; this would make the appeal to ‘bone and flesh’ all the stronger, cf. Genesis 29:14, 2 Samuel 5:1; 2 Samuel 19:12 f.

And his mother's brethren spake of him in the ears of all the men of Shechem all these words: and their hearts inclined to follow Abimelech; for they said, He is our brother.
And they gave him threescore and ten pieces of silver out of the house of Baalberith, wherewith Abimelech hired vain and light persons, which followed him.
4. the house of Baal-berith] In Jdg 9:46 El-bĕrîth = God of the covenant; see Jdg 8:33 n. Temples in antiquity had their own treasuries into which offerings and fines were paid; they also served the purpose of banks for public and private money, cf. 2Ma 3:10-12.

vain and light fellows] i.e. disreputable and reckless, cf. Jdg 11:3, 2 Chronicles 13:7.

And he went unto his father's house at Ophrah, and slew his brethren the sons of Jerubbaal, being threescore and ten persons, upon one stone: notwithstanding yet Jotham the youngest son of Jerubbaal was left; for he hid himself.
5. upon one stone] as if they were sacrificial victims (cf. 1 Samuel 14:33 f.); perhaps also to avoid promiscuous blood-shed. For this Oriental manner of inaugurating a new reign cf. 2 Kings 10:1 ff; 2 Kings 11:1. Jotham escaped, like Joash 2 Kings 11:2.

And all the men of Shechem gathered together, and all the house of Millo, and went, and made Abimelech king, by the plain of the pillar that was in Shechem.
6. and all the house of Millo] Follow marg. and all Beth-millo, the name of a place not of a family Jdg 9:20, cf. 2 Kings 12:20, in the neighbourhood of Shechem, but not the tower of S. mentioned in Jdg 9:46-49. The name suggests that the place was called after the temple which stood there, bêth = ‘temple’ as in Jdg 9:4; millo = ‘filling up,’ so an artificial mound or terrace (in Assyrian mulû, tamlû). The Millo at Jerusalem was some part of the fortifications of the old Jebusite city, 2 Samuel 5:9, 1 Kings 11:27 (LXX ἡ ἃκρα), Jdg 9:15; Jdg 9:24; or possibly, as Winckler considers, the original site of the sanctuary (Gesch. Isr. ii. 252, KAT, 239).

by the oak of the pillar] A sacred terebinth (cf. on Jdg 6:11) at or near Shechem is mentioned in the stories of Abraham Genesis 12:6 J and Jacob Genesis 35:4 E, and in Joshua 24:26 E (‘in Jehovah’s sanctuary’); in the last passage Joshua is said to have set up a stone beneath the oak. The stone is here called a ‘pillar,’ reading maṣṣçbâh for muṣṣâb (which does not make sense); the pillar marked a holy place among both Hebrews (Exodus 24:4 E, Hosea 3:4; Hosea 10:1, Isaiah 19:19) and Canaanites (Exodus 23:24 E, Exodus 34:13 J etc.). Abimelech was made king at the sanctuary, as Saul at Gilgal, 1 Samuel 11:15.

And when they told it to Jotham, he went and stood in the top of mount Gerizim, and lifted up his voice, and cried, and said unto them, Hearken unto me, ye men of Shechem, that God may hearken unto you.
7. the top of mount Gerizim] is 979 ft. above the town: the language is not to be pressed.

7–21. Jotham’s fable

The author of the fable had several points in his mind: (a) the contrast between Gideon’s refusal of the kingship and the arrogant claim of the son of his concubine; the other sons (or many respectable members of the community) had qualities which entitled them to rule; it was left to the mean ‘bramble’ to claim the rank of king; (b) a warning to the Shechemites of the dangerous character of their upstart chief; his protection was worthless if they trusted him, and if they did not he would be their ruin; (c) a rebuke of the Shechemites for their ingratitude towards the house of Gideon. The fable, however, is not entirely consistent with the moral drawn from it; especially after Jdg 9:15, the connexion is so difficult to trace, that many think that the fable was not composed for the occasion but borrowed from the folk-tales current at the time. This is possible; nevertheless we can hardly look for rigid consistency in the details of a fable; similar inconsistencies may be found in some of the Gospel parables (e.g. St Luke 16:1-9).

The trees went forth on a time to anoint a king over them; and they said unto the olive tree, Reign thou over us.
8. The trees went forth] Cf. 2 Kings 14:9. Fables of trees that speak and act like human beings spring from the instinct for personification, which is a characteristic of an early stage of civilization; they were current not only among the Hebrews, but among the Babylonians and Assyrians. Part of a fable of this kind, taking the form of a dispute between the trees, has been discovered in the library of Ashurbanipal. Baudissin, Adonis u. Esmun, p. 436.

the olive] comes first, as being the most valuable and highly prized of the trees of Palestine. The olive, the vine and the fig are the staple products of the Judaean range. See G. A. Smith, Jerusalem, i. p. 299.

But the olive tree said unto them, Should I leave my fatness, wherewith by me they honour God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees?
9. my fatness] i.e. the oil from the crushed berry, almost a necessity of life in Palestine, where it takes the place of butter.

wherewith by me they honour] For by me read by it (LXX. cod. B, Vulgate, Targ.) i.e. whereby they honour gods and men, parallel to cheereth gods and men in Jdg 9:13; they honour has the force of a passive, are honoured. Probably to avoid this sense the text was altered to mean ‘which God and man honour in me,’ RVm., LXX. cod. A, Peshitto A staple article of man’s daily food, oil was offered as sacrificial food to the gods, and among the Hebrews to Jehovah. But oil was not an article of food by itself; accordingly in Hebr. ritual it was not poured out as a libation, but used to moisten and enrich a cereal offering (Micah 6:7; Leviticus 2:1 ff.; Exodus 29:23; Exodus 29:40)1[40] Further, a guest was anointed as a sign of honour and festivity (Psalm 23:5; Psalm 45:7; Psalm 141:5; cf. the anointing of a king and priest); on this analogy we may explain the ancient custom of pouring oil upon sacred stones (Genesis 28:18 E, Genesis 35:14 J; cf. the smearing of sacred furniture Exodus 30:24 ff. P). See Robertson Smith, Rel. of Sem., pp. 203 f., 214 f.

[40] Cf. a similar usage among the Phoenicians, NSI., p. 120 f.

And the trees said to the fig tree, Come thou, and reign over us.
10. fig] One of the commonest trees in Palestine, and cultivated from very early days; cf. on Jdg 9:12.

But the fig tree said unto them, Should I forsake my sweetness, and my good fruit, and go to be promoted over the trees?
11. my sweetness] The early ripe fig, especially, was and is esteemed for its flavour; see Isaiah 28:4, Jeremiah 24:2, Hosea 9:10, Micah 7:1.

Then said the trees unto the vine, Come thou, and reign over us.
12. the vine] The old phrase ‘to sit each under his vine and fig-tree,’ denoting peaceful occupation of the land, shews how widely spread and ancient was the cultivation of the vine in Palestine; 1 Kings 4:25, Micah 4:4 etc.

And the vine said unto them, Should I leave my wine, which cheereth God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees?
13. my wine] must (Micah 6:15, Vulgate mustum), the unfermented juice as it comes from the wine-press1[41]; but also the fermented juice, as is implied here and in Hosea 4:11 (‘taketh away the heart’); cf. Genesis 27:37, Zechariah 9:17.

[41] In 19 passages out of 38 tîrôsh ‘must’ is associated with ‘corn and oil,’ i.e. threshed corn and oil freshly expressed (though these words are also used of corn in the ear and oil in the berry), hence by analogy ‘freshly expressed juice of the grape.’ See Driver, Joel and Amos, p. 79 f.

cheereth God and man] or gods and men, cf. Jdg 9:9; the reference is to libations (Numbers 15:7; Numbers 28:7; Sir 50:15) and feasts (Psalm 104:15). See Rob. Smith l. c. 213 f.

Then said all the trees unto the bramble, Come thou, and reign over us.
14. the bramble] LXX, Vulgate rhamnus, the common, worthless thornbush, the very opposite of the noble trees just mentioned.

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.
15. put your trust in my shadow] take refuge in …: an absurdity which sharpens the point of the moral.

let fire come out] A fire will sometimes spread from a thornbush to the monarchs of the forest (cf. Isaiah 9:18); the base bramble thus becomes the starting-point of all the ruin.

So the fable points a contrast: on the one hand were those who naturally would have been the men to rule, Gideon and his sons, or (generally) more than one able member of the community, but they would have nothing to do with the proposal; on the other hand was the worthless Abimelech, who not only seized power with avidity but threatened those who refused to submit to him. Here the fable is dropped, though an echo of it is heard in Jdg 9:20; what follows is not strictly an application of it, but a couple of fresh topics: a stern reproof of the Shechemites for ingratitude, and a warning that they and their upstart chief are doomed to destroy one another.

Now therefore, if ye have done truly and sincerely, in that ye have made Abimelech king, and if ye have dealt well with Jerubbaal and his house, and have done unto him according to the deserving of his hands;
(For my father fought for you, and adventured his life far, and delivered you out of the hand of Midian:
And ye are risen up against my father's house this day, and have slain his sons, threescore and ten persons, upon one stone, and have made Abimelech, the son of his maidservant, king over the men of Shechem, because he is your brother;)
18. his maidservant] This goes beyond Jdg 9:1 and Jdg 8:31, which imply that Abimelech’s mother was not a slave but a freewoman.

If ye then have dealt truly and sincerely with Jerubbaal and with his house this day, then rejoice ye in Abimelech, and let him also rejoice in you:
19. rejoice ye etc.] Ironical: ‘much joy may you have in each other,’ cf. Jdg 9:15 a.

But if not, let fire come out from Abimelech, and devour the men of Shechem, and the house of Millo; and let fire come out from the men of Shechem, and from the house of Millo, and devour Abimelech.
20. but if not etc.] ‘Your chief will be fatal to you and you to him,’ cf. Jdg 9:15 b. This was Jotham’s ‘curse’; the fulfilment comes in Jdg 9:44 ff., Jdg 9:56 f.

And Jotham ran away, and fled, and went to Beer, and dwelt there, for fear of Abimelech his brother.
21. Beer] Unknown; a common name = a well.

When Abimelech had reigned three years over Israel,
22–25. The Shechemites turn against Abimelech

22. was prince over Israel] Strictly, as the whole ch. implies, only over Shechem and its neighbourhood (Ophrah, Thebez). The words are an editorial generalization. The title of king is purposely avoided.

Then God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the men of Shechem; and the men of Shechem dealt treacherously with Abimelech:
23. God sent an evil spirit] i.e. an infatuation which led to their destruction, and so carried out the punishment which God determined. Where we speak of secondary causes, the ancients thought of the direct intervention of God; cf. 1 Samuel 16:14, 1 Kings 22:21 ff., Amos 3:6. Elohim is thought to indicate that Jdg 9:22-25 come from the source E; Jdg 9:24 goes with Jdg 9:16-18.

That the cruelty done to the threescore and ten sons of Jerubbaal might come, and their blood be laid upon Abimelech their brother, which slew them; and upon the men of Shechem, which aided him in the killing of his brethren.
And the men of Shechem set liers 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.
25. liers in wait for him] They hoped to catch A., who apparently was non-resident, and failing him, they plundered his friends. From the heights round Shechem the roads are easily watched. Probably in their original context Jdg 9:22-25 were followed by Jdg 9:42-45; on being told of the treason, A. at once (Jdg 9:43) took measures.

And Gaal the son of Ebed came with his brethren, and went over to Shechem: and the men of Shechem put their confidence in him.
26–41. Gaal stirs up the Shechemites: Abimelech defeats them

26. Gaal the son of Ebed] i.e. of a slave; but pronounce throughout Obed, with LXX. cod. B (Ιωβηλ for Ιωβηδ) and Vulgate; a common name. Gaal is described as a new-comer, whether an Israelite or a Canaanite is not clear. Jdg 9:26-33 seem to be parallel to Jdg 9:22-25; both narrate the rise of treason in Shechem, and both lead up to parallel accounts of Abimelech’s retaliation.

And they went out into the fields, and gathered their vineyards, and trode the grapes, and made merry, and went into the house of their god, and did eat and drink, and cursed Abimelech.
27. held festival] held a merry-making. The marg. offered a praise offering is based upon the special sense of the word in Leviticus 19:24; here, more generally, a vintage feast like the one described in Jdg 21:19 ff. Cf. the orgiastic feasts held by the Carthaginians, no doubt in the temples; North-Sem. lnscr., p. 121 f.

And Gaal the son of Ebed said, Who is Abimelech, and who is Shechem, that we should serve him? is not he the son of Jerubbaal? and Zebul his officer? serve the men of Hamor the father of Shechem: for why should we serve him?
28. who is Shechem?] i.e. what is Abimelech’s kingdom, that we should be bound to obey him? does it belong to him of right?

is not … serve ye] As it stands the text does not make sense; read the imperat. serve ye as a perf., they served, and translate Did not the son of J. and Z. his officer serve the men of Hamor, the father of Shechem? why then should we serve him? Gaal works upon the Shechemites’ national pride: ‘this chief of yours and his lieutenant were once the servants of the ancient race which sprang from Hamor (the traditional founder of Shechem, cf. Genesis 34); are we, the freemen of Shechem, to become the servants of this usurping half-breed?’ The emphasis is on we, in antithesis to ‘the son of J.’ etc.

And would to God this people were under my hand! then would I remove Abimelech. And he said to Abimelech, Increase thine army, and come out.
29. And he said] Read with a slight change and I would say, so LXX; cf. Jdg 9:38.

And when Zebul the ruler of the city heard the words of Gaal the son of Ebed, his anger was kindled.
30. Zebul the ruler of the city] He ruled as the representative of Abimelech; cf. for the title (sar) 1 Kings 22:26, 2 Kings 23:8. He had no force at his disposal; all he could do was to warn his master of Gaal’s treason and advise an immediate attack.

And he sent messengers unto Abimelech privily, saying, Behold, Gaal the son of Ebed and his brethren be come to Shechem; and, behold, they fortify the city against thee.
31. craftily] The form of the Hebr. word is suspicious and the meaning unsuitable; read in Arumah, mentioned as Abimelech’s dwelling-place in Jdg 9:41.

they constrain the city] An attempt to translate the unusual construction of the Hebr. verb, which means besiege (so Verss.). But the text is at fault; perhaps we should read they are stirring up.

Now therefore up by night, thou and the people that is with thee, and lie in wait in the field:
And it shall be, that in the morning, as soon as the sun is up, thou shalt rise early, and set upon the city: and, behold, when he and the people that is with him come out against thee, then mayest thou do to them as thou shalt find occasion.
33. set upon] make a dash upon, rush forward against, from a place of hiding, cf. Jdg 9:44, Jdg 20:37.

as thou shalt find occasion] For the idiom (see marg.) cf. 1 Samuel 10:7; 1 Samuel 25:8, Ecclesiastes 9:10.

And Abimelech rose up, and all the people that were with him, by night, and they laid 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 come people down from the top of the mountains. And Zebul said unto him, Thou seest the shadow of the mountains as if they were men.
And Gaal spake again and said, See there come people down by the middle of the land, and another company come along by the plain of Meonenim.
37. the middle of the land] the Navel of the land; this is the traditional meaning of the word, Talm., LXX ὀμφαλός, Vulgate umbilicus. The word only occurs again in Ezekiel 38:12 of the mountains of Israel, apparently as central and prominent in the earth. Some hill near Shechem was called the Navel, perhaps because it was supposed to be midway between the sea and the Jordan (cf. the navel of Italy, Sicily, Greece, in Latin authors).

the oak of Meonenim] the augurs’ terebinth (marg.), the seat of a Canaanite tree-oracle, administered by priests here called augurs or soothsayers, cf. Deuteronomy 18:10, Micah 5:12; the omens were taken, it seems, from the rustling leaves or waving boughs (2 Samuel 5:24), or by the “ordinary processes of divination performed in the presence of the sacred object” (R. Smith, Rel. of Sem., p. 178). The allusions to a sacred terebinth at or near Shechem (Jdg 9:6, Genesis 12:6; Genesis 35:4, Deuteronomy 11:30, Joshua 24:26) need not all refer to the same tree. See further on Jdg 9:6 and Jdg 6:11.

Then said Zebul unto him, Where is now thy mouth, wherewith thou saidst, Who is Abimelech, that we should serve him? is not this the people that thou hast despised? go out, I pray now, and fight with them.
38. thy mouth] i.e. thy boastful mockery; cf. Isaiah 57:4, Psalm 35:21, Job 16:10.

And Gaal went out before the men of Shechem, and fought with Abimelech.
And Abimelech chased him, and he fled before him, and many were overthrown and wounded, even unto the entering of the gate.
40. wounded] i.e. mortally, so slain, 1 Samuel 31:1, 1 Chronicles 5:22, 2 Chronicles 13:17; cf. Jdg 16:24.

the entering of the gate] Cf. Jdg 9:44. The city gateway (sha‘ar) was a large building and covered a considerable space, cf. Joshua 20:4, 1 Kings 22:10; it included a high entrance (péthaḥ) and a door (déleth), or doors, with posts and bars, Jdg 16:3. Abimelech did not enter the city, probably because he thought that the Shechemites had been punished enough. Zebul was now in a position to deal with Gaal and his following, Jdg 9:41.

And Abimelech dwelt at Arumah: and Zebul thrust out Gaal and his brethren, that they should not dwell in Shechem.
41. Arumah] Unknown; el-‘Örme (the initial letter is different), 2 m. S.E. of Nâblus, has been suggested. This verse evidently brings the narrative to an end.

And it came to pass on the morrow, that the people went out into the field; and they told Abimelech.
42. the people went out] Perhaps to lie in wait for passers by, if we connect this verse with Jdg 9:25.

42–49. Abimelech destroys Shechem and Migdal-Shechem

After the Shechemites have suffered the severe defeat just described, and Abimelech has retired and dwelt at Arumah, it is incredible that, on the next morning, the people should come out of the city as if nothing had happened, and that Abimelech should be able to surprise them by the same device which had proved so successful the day before. All difficulties disappear if we regard these verses, not as the sequel to 34–41, but as a second account of Abimelech’s attack on Shechem, originally following 22–25. The Shechemites break out into open treason (Jdg 9:25); A. takes instant (‘on the morrow’ Jdg 9:42) and severe revenge. Moore thinks that Jdg 9:22-25 are derived from E, Jdg 9:42-49 and Jdg 9:26-41 from J.

And he took the people, and divided them into three companies, and laid 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.
43. three companies] Cf. Jdg 7:16.

And Abimelech, and the company that was with him, rushed forward, and stood in the entering of the gate of the city: and the two other companies ran upon all the people that were in the fields, and slew them.
44. the companies that were] Read the company that was, with Vulgate and some mss. of LXX; rushed forward, as the same word in Jdg 9:33 is to be rendered.

And Abimelech fought against the city all that day; and he took the city, and slew the people that was therein, and beat down the city, and sowed it with salt.
45. sowed it with salt] Usually explained as a symbolic act shewing that A. had reduced the city to a salt, uninhabitable desert; cf. Deuteronomy 29:23, Jeremiah 17:6, Psalm 107:34, Job 39:6. More probably the strewing of salt had a religious significance (cf. Ezekiel 43:24) and denoted the sacrificial consecration of the city which, to judge from its utter destruction, had been put under the ban to Jehovah (see on Jdg 1:17); Rel. of Sem., p. 435 n. The custom is mentioned only here in the O.T.; but it is referred to in the great historical inscriptions of Tiglath-Pileser I (circ. 1100 b.c.) and Ashurbanipal (668–626 b.c.); Keilinschr. Biblioth. i. p. 37 and ii. p. 2071[42]. There is a tradition that Attila treated Padua, and Frederick Barbarossa treated Milan, in this way. Early in 1828 Ibrahim Pasha, after blowing up and burning Tripolitza, sprinkled salt over the ruins1[43].

[42] The transl. ‘stones’ and ‘dry sand’ given here is to be corrected to ‘salt’; Zimmern in Gunkel. Genesis, p. 193.

[43] K. Mendelssohn Bartholdy, Gesch. Griechenlands, ii. p. 99. This reference is due to Prof. J. E. B. Mayor.

And when all the men of the tower of Shechem heard that, they entered into an hold of the house of the god Berith.
46. the tower of Shechem] Migdal-Shechem or Tower of Shechem, not the citadel of S., but an unwalled village in the neighbourhood, marked by a tower, cf. Jdg 8:9; Jdg 8:17.

the hold of the house of El-berith) The rendering hold Jdg 9:49, i.e. an underground excavation, suits the only other place where the word (ṣerîaḥ) occurs, 1 Samuel 13:6; in Nabataean Aramaic the word is used for the vault of a grave (NSI., pp. 237, 241); it is frequently found in Arabic epitaphs from Egypt with the sense of tomb (Clermont Ganneau, Recueil d’Arch. Or., vii. p. 200). So in Jdg 9:49; they laid the faggots upon the vault, set the vault on fire over the heads of the people within. For El-bĕrîth cf. Jdg 9:4, Jdg 8:33 Baal-bĕrîth.

And it was told Abimelech, that all the men of the tower of Shechem were gathered together.
And Abimelech gat him up to mount Zalmon, he and all the people that were with him; and Abimelech took an axe in his hand, and cut down a bough from the trees, and took it, and laid it on his shoulder, and said unto the people that were with him, What ye have seen me do, make haste, and do as I have done.
48. mount Zalmon] An unknown hill hard by; in Psalm 68:14 it is the name of a hill on the E. of the Jordan.

an axe] The Hebr. has the axes; the plur. cannot be explained (note in his hand), and must be corrected to the sing., LXX. cod. A, Vulgate; read his axe.

And all the people likewise cut down every man his bough, and followed Abimelech, and put them to the hold, and set the hold on fire upon them; so that all the men of the tower of Shechem died also, about a thousand men and women.
49. upon them] See Jdg 9:46 n.

Then went Abimelech to Thebez, and encamped against Thebez, and took it.
50–57. The end of Abimelech

50. Thebez] 2 Samuel 11:21, probably the modern Ṭûbâs, about 10 m. N.E. of Nâblus on the road to Bçsân; so Eusebius, On. Sacr., 262, 44. Perhaps Thebez had been subject to Abimelech and had joined the revolt of Shechem.

But there was a strong tower within the city, and thither fled all the men and women, and all they of the city, and shut it to them, and gat them up to the top of the tower.
51. and all they of the city] (even) all the citizens of the city, the same word as that translated men in Jdg 9:2 (see note), Jdg 9:23; Jdg 9:26 etc.; and should be omitted, unless citizens means ‘the chief men,’ which is not the case elsewhere in this chapter.

And Abimelech came unto the tower, and fought against it, and went hard unto the door of the tower to burn it with fire.
And a certain woman cast a piece of a millstone upon Abimelech's head, and all to brake his skull.
53. upper millstone] lit. ‘millstone of riding’; i.e. the upper stone of a mill turned by a handle, the lower stone being stationary. In Palestine the grinding of corn for the household was, and still is, done by the women (Ecclesiastes 12:3, St Matthew 24:41); this explains how a woman came to use such a weapon. Cf. Jdg 4:21.

Then he called hastily unto the young man his armourbearer, and said unto him, Draw thy sword, and slay me, that men say not of me, A woman slew him. And his young man thrust him through, and he died.
54. armourbearer] Cf. Jdg 7:10 f., 1 Samuel 31:4.

and kill me] and dispatch me, i.e. give the death stroke; cf. 1 Samuel 14:13; 1 Samuel 17:51, especially 2 Samuel 1:9 f. The first aspirant to kingship and the first real king in Israel met their deaths in the same way.

And when the men of Israel saw that Abimelech was dead, they departed every man unto his place.
55. the men of Israel] Though A. was only half an Israelite, his force was made up of Israelites; he put himself at the head of the Israelite enterprise against the Canaanites—such were the natives of Thebez; and with his death united action of this kind seems to have ceased.

Thus God rendered the wickedness of Abimelech, which he did unto his father, in slaying his seventy brethren:
And all 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.
57. the curse of Jotham] See Jdg 9:20. The writer has a strong sense that God controls history, and that His control is just, Jdg 9:56.

The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges

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Judges 8
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