Judges 9:23
Then God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the men of Shechem; and the men of Shechem dealt treacherously with Abimelech:
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(23) An evil spirit.—Whether the word used for spirit (ruach) is here meant to be personal or not we cannot say. Sometimes it seems to mean an evil being (1Samuel 16:14), sometimes only an evil temper (Numbers 14:24). The later Jews would have made little or no difference between the two, since they attributed almost every evil to the direct agency of demons.

Dealt treacherously.—The word is used for the beginning of a defection.

Jdg 9:23-24. God sent an evil spirit — That is, gave Satan permission to work upon their minds. That the cruelty done to the sons of Jerubbaal, &c. — That is, the punishment of the cruelty. Men may do evil, and think they have profited themselves; may imagine they have strengthened themselves in their wickedness, and are quite secure; that they have procured themselves friends, who will stand by them, and save them: but God can, with the greatest ease, make all the devices of the wicked of none effect; can turn their best contrivances to their ruin, and punish them by those on whom they depended for help and security. The example of Abimelech and the men of Shechem, recorded in this chapter, may assure us, that God will not suffer the murderer to escape even in this world; but will punish him in some grievous manner or other.9:22-29 Abimelech is seated in the throne his father refused. But how long does this glory last? Stay but three years, and see the bramble withered and burned. The prosperity of the wicked is short and fickle. The Shechemites are plagued by no other hand than Abimelech's. They raised him unjustly to the throne; they first feel the weight of his sceptre.Had reigned - Rather, "had ruled." It is not the phrase used in 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. 23. Then God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the men of Shechem—In the course of providence, jealousy, distrust, secret disaffection, and smothered rebellion appeared among his subjects disappointed and disgusted with his tyranny; and God permitted those disorders to punish the complicated crimes of the royal fratricide and idolatrous usurper. God gave the devil commission to enter into or work upon their minds and hearts; knowing that he of himself, and by his own inclination, would fill them with mistakes, and jealousies, and dissensions, and heart-burnings, which would end in civil wars and mutual ruin. Then God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the men of Shechem,.... Permitted, yea, gave a commission to Satan, the evil spirit, to go among them, who stirred up suspicions, jealousies, hatred, and ill will to one another, and sowed the seeds of discord and contention among them; or God gave them up to their own hearts' lusts, to think ill of one another, grow jealous, and meditate revenge:

and the men of Shechem dealt treacherously with Abimelech; did not openly declare their minds, but secretly conspired against him, and privately consulted ways to find means to get rid of him, and shake off his government.

Then God {h} sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the men of Shechem; and the men of Shechem dealt treacherously with Abimelech:

(h) Because the people consented with the king in shedding innocent blood, therefore God destroys both one and the other.

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.Verses 23, 24. - These two verses contain the summary of what is related in detail in the rest of the chapter, and we arc told that it all happened providentially, that the violence done to the sons of Jerubbaal, and their blood, might come to be laid (literally, for some one to lay) upon Abimelech, etc. Which aided him - literally, strengthened his hands, by giving him money, and encouraging him to make way to the throne by killing his brothers. In 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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