Judges 9:4
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.
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(4) Pieces.—Rather, shekels, which is the word normally understood in similar phrases (Judges 8:26). “Neither the citizens of Shechem nor the ignobly-ambitious bastard understood what true monarchy was, and still less what it ought to be in the commonwealth of Jehovah” (Ewald, ii. 389).

Out of the house of Baal-berith.—Like most temples in ancient days (e.g., that of Venus on Mount Eryx, the Parthenon, and that of Jupiter Latiaris), this served at once as a sanctuary, a fortress, and a bank. Similarly the treasures amassed at Delphi enabled the three Phocian brothers, Phayllus, Phalaekus, and Onomarchus, to support the whole burden of the sacred war (Diodor. xvi. 30; comp. Thuc. i. 121, 2:13). (Comp. also 1Kings 15:18.)

Vain and light persons.—These are exactly analogous to the doruphoroi—a body-guard of spear-bearers, which an ambitious Greek always hired as the first step to setting up a tyranny (Diog. Laert. 1:49). We find Jephthah (Judges 11:3), and David (1Samuel 22:2), and Absalom (2Samuel 15:1), and Rezon (1Kings 11:24), and Adonijah (1Kings 1:5), and Jeroboam (2Chronicles 13:7) doing exactly the same thing. Who these “vain” persons were is best defined in 1Samuel 22:2. They were like the condottieri, or free-lances. The word vain (rikîm) is from the same root as Raca; it means vauriens. The word for “light persons” (pochazîm) occurs in Genesis 49:4 (applied to Reuben) and Zephaniah 3:4. It is from a root which means to boil over.

Jdg 9:4. They gave him threescore and ten pieces of silver — To bear the charges which he would be put to in making good his pretensions. It is not said what the value of these pieces was: so many shekels would have been but a small present to make a man a prince, and too little to serve his purposes; and so many talents too much for them to give. Therefore the Vulgate translates it so many pounds weight of silver, which learned men approve. Out of the house of Baal-berith — Out of the sacred treasury of that idol-temple, which they had probably built since Gideon’s death, (for he would never have suffered it while he lived,) and endowed it with considerable revenues. Wherewith Abimelech hired vain and light persons — The word ריקים, reekim, which we translate vain, signifies empty; that is, ignorant, inconsiderate, and needy persons. And the other word, פחזים, pochazim, means idle, vagabond fellows, that could settle to no business, but wandered about the country, who, being commonly men of loose and profligate lives, were fittest for his purpose.

9:1-6 The men of Shechem chose Abimelech king. God was not consulted whether they should have any king, much less who it should be. If parents could see what their children would do, and what they are to suffer, their joy in them often would be turned into sorrow: we may be thankful that we cannot know what shall happen. Above all, we should fear and watch against sin; for our evil conduct may produce fatal effects upon our families, after we are in our graves.The Ephraimite pride revolted from Abi-ezrite rulers, and inclined them to one who was a Shechemite by birth. (Compare the same spirit in the time of David and Rehoboam, 2 Samuel 20:1; 1 Kings 12:16.) 4. the house of Baal-berith—either the temple, or the place where this idol was worshipped; Baal-berith, "god of the covenant," by invocation of whom the league of cities was formed.

Abimelech hired vain and light persons, which followed him—idle, worthless vagabonds, the scum of society, who had nothing to lose, but much to gain from the success of a revolutionary movement.

Threescore and ten, agreeably to the number of his enemies, Gideon’s seventy sons.

Pieces of silver; not shekels, as some fancy, which were too small a sum for this purpose; but far larger pieces, the exact worth whereof it is neither possible nor needful for us now to know.

Out of the house of Baal-berith; out of his sacred treasury; for even they; who were very parsimonious and base in their expenses about God’s service, were liberal in their contributions to idols; having since Gideon’s death built this temple, (which he would never have suffered whilst he lived,) and endowed it with considerable revenues.

Vain and light persons; unsettled, idle, and necessitous persons, the most proper instruments for tyranny and cruelty.

And they gave him seventy pieces of silver out of the house of Baalbirith,.... The temple of their idol; of this name See Gill on Judges 8:33, out of the money which had been dedicated to his service by freewill offering, or out of a bank which they deposited there for greater safety, and perhaps out of a superstitious notion of its being more prosperous and successful: of what value these pieces were is not certain; by pieces of silver, commonly shekels are meant; but these are thought to be of too little value to be given to a man to raise an army with, or carry on a scheme to advance himself to the throne; and talents are judged to be too large a sum for such a city to contribute out of a temple of theirs, and that but lately built, as it must be since the death of Gideon; they are therefore thought to be pounds, as the Vulgate Latin version renders it; however, in the number of them there seems to be some reference to the number of Gideon's sons, who were to be destroyed by bribing men with this sum, which was the scheme concerted between Abimelech and the men of Shechem:

wherewith Abimelech hired vain and light persons, which followed him; perhaps seventy of them, giving to each a piece or pound of silver; these were a base scoundrel sort of people, that lived in an idle scandalous manner, a sort of freebooters, that lived upon what they could lay hold on in a way of force and rapine; men of light heads and empty brains, and whose pockets were as light and empty as their heads, and fit to engage in any enterprise, though ever so barbarous, for the sake of a little money.

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.

Verse 4. - Threescore and ten of silver, i.e. shekels, which is always understood. Equal in value to about seven pounds; quite enough with which to hire a band of "vain and light persons," who would afterwards maintain themselves by plunder. Out of the house of Baal-berith. The custom of collecting treasures at the temple, both that of the true God and of idols, whether they were offerings and gifts for the service of the temple, or treasures deposited there for safety, was very general (see Joshua 6:19; 1 Kings 15:18; 1 Chronicles 29:8; Daniel 1:2, etc.). The treasures belonging to the temple of Apollo at Delphi were very great, and excited the cupidity of Xerxes, who sent an army to plunder the temple, but was foiled in the attempt. The Phocians are related to have seized 10,000 talents from the treasury of Delphi, nearly two and a half millions sterling. The temple of Diana at Ephesus had considerable treasures in money, as well as other valuable articles. Many other notices of the riches of temple treasures occur in classical writers. Vain and light persons. Of. Judges 11:3; 1 Samuel 22:2; 2 Samuel 15:1; 2 Chronicles 13:7. Vain, literally, empty; light, literally, boiling over. Applied to the false prophets (Zephaniah 3:4). In German, sprudel-kopf is a hot-headed, hasty man. Judges 9:4They gave him seventy shekels of silver from the house of Baal-berith, i.e., from the treasury of the temple that was dedicated to the covenant Baal at Shechem, as temple treasures were frequently applied to political purposes (see 1 Kings 15:18). With this money Abimelech easily hired light and desperate men, who followed him (attached themselves to him); and with their help he murdered his brethren at Ophrah, seventy men, with the exception of Jotham the youngest, who had hidden himself. The number seventy, the total number of his brethren, is reduced by the exception mentioned immediately afterwards to sixty-nine who were really put to death. ריק, empty, i.e., without moral restraint. פּחז lit. gurgling up, boiling over; figuratively, hot, desperate men. "Upon (against) one stone," that is to say, by a formal execution: a bloody omen of the kingdom of ten tribes, which was afterwards founded at Shechem by the Ephraimite Jeroboam, in which one dynasty overthrew another, and generally sought to establish its power by exterminating the whole family of the dynasty that had been overthrown (see 1 Kings 15:27., 2 Kings 10:1.). Even in Judah, Athaliah the worshipper of Baal sought to usurp the government by exterminating the whole of the descendants of her son (2 Kings 11). Such fratricides have also occurred in quite recent times in the Mohammedan countries of the East.
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