When Abimelech had reigned three years over Israel,
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Had reigned.—The verb is here sûr, not malak, as in Judges 9:6; but whether the change of word is meant to be significant we cannot say.
Over Israel—i.e., over all the Israelites who would accept his authority—mainly the central tribes.Jdg 9:22. Had reigned three years over Israel — For though the men of Shechem were the first authors of Abimelech’s advancement, the rest of the people easily consented to that form of government which they so much desired.Judges 9:6. It looks as if the Shechemites alone had made him king, and the rest of Israel had submitted to his dominion, without allowing his title of king.
22. When Abimelech had reigned three years—His reign did not, probably at first, extend beyond Shechem; but by stealthy and progressive encroachments he subjected some of the neighboring towns to his sway. None could "reign" in Israel, except by rebellious usurpation; and hence the reign of Abimelech is expressed in the original by a word signifying "despotism," not that which describes the mild and divinely authorized rule of the judge.When Abimelech had reigned three years over Israel,
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)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.Verse 22. - Had reigned. The Hebrew word here used is quite a different one from that in vers. 8, 10, 12, 14, and elsewhere, where the reign of a king is designated. It means to exercise dominion, to be a chief or captain over a people. The use of it here suggests that though, as we read in ver. 6, the Canaanite men of Shechem and the house of Millo had made him their king, yet he was not made king by the tribes in general, only he exercised a kind of dominion over them, or over a sufficiently large portion of them to warrant their being called Israel. Judges 9:16-20 Jotham gives the application of his fable, for there was no necessity for any special explanation of it, since it was perfectly clear and intelligible in itself. These verses form a long period, the first half of which is so extended by the insertion of parentheses introduced as explanations (Judges 9:17, Judges 9:18), that the commencement of it (Judges 9:16) is taken up again in Judges 9:19 for the purpose of attaching the apodosis. "If ye have acted in truth and sincerity, and (i.e., when he) made Abimelech king; if ye have done well to Jerubbaal and his house, and if ye have done to him according to the doing of his hands ... as my father fought for you ... but ye have risen up to-day against my father's house, and have slain ... if (I say) ye have acted in truth and sincerity to Jerubbaal and his house this day: then rejoice in Abimelech ...." נפשׁו השׁליך, to throw away his life, i.e., expose to death. מנּגד, "from before him," serves to strengthen the השׁליך. Jotham imputes the slaying of his brothers to the citizens of Shechem, as a crime which they themselves had committed (Judges 9:18), because they had given Abimelech money out of their temple of Baal to carry out his designs against the sons of Jerubbaal (Judges 9:4). In this reproach he had, strictly speaking, already pronounced sentence upon their doings. When, therefore, he proceeds still further in Judges 9:19, "If ye have acted in truth towards Jerubbaal ... then rejoice," etc., this turn contains the bitterest scorn at the faithlessness manifested towards Jerubbaal. In that case nothing could follow but the fulfilment of the threat and the bursting forth of the fire. In carrying out this point the application goes beyond the actual meaning of the parable itself. Not only will fire go forth from Abimelech and consume the lords of Shechem and the inhabitants of Millo, but fire will also go forth from them and devour Abimelech himself. The fulfilment of this threat was not long delayed, as the following history shows (Judges 9:23.).
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