Judges 9:5
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.
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(5) And he went unto his father’s house at Ophrah.—Probably, like Absalom, he seized the opportunity of some local or family feast at which all his brethren would be assembled (2Samuel 13:23); it may even have been the anniversary of Gideon’s vision.

Slew his brethren . . .—This is the first mention in Scripture of the hideous custom, which is so common among all Oriental despots, of anticipating conspiracies by destroying all their brothers and near kinsmen. (Comp. Pope, Epistle to Arbuthnot: “Bear, like the Turk, no brother near the throne.”) There is little affection and much jealousy in polygamous households. Abimelech by this vile wickedness set a fatal precedent, which was followed again and again in the kingdom of Israel by Baasha (1Kings 15:29), Zimri (1Kings 16:11), Jehu (2Kings 10:7), and probably by other kings (2 Kings 15); and by Athaliah (2Kings 11:1) in the kingdom of Judah. Herod also put to death most of his kinsmen, and some of his sons (see Life of Christ, i. 43). Seneca says, “Nec regna socium ferre, nec taedae sciunt”—nor realms nor weddings admit a sharer (Agam. 259).

Threescore and ten persons.—Jotham is counted in this number.

Upon one stone.—Perhaps on the rock on which was built Gideon’s altar; at any rate, by some formal execution. How ruthlessly these murders were carried out we see from 2Kings 10:7, and from many events in Eastern history. On one occasion, at a banquet in Damascus. Abdallah-Ebn-Ali murdered no less than ninety of the rival dynasty of the Ommiades.

Jdg 9:5. He went and slew his brethren — The persons who were most likely to hinder him in establishing his tyranny. Threescore and ten — Wanting one, as is here expressed. Here we see the power of ambition; what savage beasts it will render men to each other; how it will break through all the ties of natural affection, and natural conscience, and sacrifice that which is most sacred, dear, and valuable to its designs. We see also the peril attending high birth and honour. It was their being the sons of so great a man as Gideon that made Abimelech jealous of them, and exposed them thus to danger and to death. We find just the same number of Ahab’s sons slain together at Samaria, 2 Kings 10:1. “Let none then,” says Henry, “envy those of high extraction, or complain of their own meanness and obscurity: the lower the safer.” Upon one stone — As a stone was sometimes used for an altar, (1 Samuel 6:14,) some have conjectured from hence, that Abimelech intended to make his brethren a great victim to Baal, in revenge of the sacrifice of the bullock prepared for Baal, chap. Jdg 6:25; and to expiate the crime of Gideon, as these idolaters accounted it, by the sacrifice of all his sons.

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.Such wholesale slaughters have always been common in Eastern monarchies, and are among the fruits of polygamy. 5. went unto … Ophrah, and slew his brethren i. e., upon one stone—This is the first mention of a barbarous atrocity which has, with appalling frequency, been perpetrated in the despotic countries of the East—that of one son of the deceased monarch usurping the throne and hastening to confirm himself in the possession by the massacre of all the natural or legitimate competitors. Abimelech slew his brethren on one stone, either by dashing them from one rock, or sacrificing them on one stone altar, in revenge for the demolition of Baal's altar by their father. This latter view is the more probable, from the Shechemites (Jud 9:24) aiding in it.

threescore and ten persons—A round number is used, but it is evident that two are wanting to complete that number.

The sons of Jerubbaal; the only persons who were likely to hinder him in establishing his tyranny.

Threescore and ten persons; wanting one, who is here expressed; and these synecdochical expressions are frequent in Scripture: see Genesis 35:26 42:13 Numbers 14:32,33Jo 20:24 1 Corinthians 15:5.

Upon one stone; whereby he would signify that this was either,

1. An act of justice, in cutting them all off in an orderly manner, for some supposed crime probably as designing sedition and rebellion; or,

2. An act of religion, in avenging the dishonour and injury done to Baal by Gideon, Judges 6:27,28, upon his children, whom he offered up as so many sacrifices to Baal upon this stone, which served for an altar; and for this reason it seems the money was taken out of Baal’s house, because it was to be laid out in his service.

And he went to his father's house at Ophrah,.... Which, according to Bunting (a), was ten miles from Shechem:

and slew his brethren the sons of Jerubbaal, being seventy persons, upon one stone: in which he was assisted by the ruffians he had hired with seventy pieces of silver; these were laid one after another upon one and the same stone, as being convenient for the execution of them; or as serving as an altar on which they were sacrificed to Baal, out of whose temple the money was taken to hire the executioners with. They are said to be seventy that were slain, though one escaped, the round number being given, as in many other instances, as in Genesis 46:27,

notwithstanding, yet Jotham the youngest son of Jerubbaal was left; or remained alive, not out of compassion to his youth, but because he could not be found:

for he hid himself; for no doubt Abimelech, and his crew, were most forward to lay hold of the eldest, and sacrifice them first, as being most in his way; this gave Jotham the youngest not only notice of their design, but an opportunity of providing for his safety, or however his friends; for it may be rendered, as in some versions, "he was hidden" (b), that is, by others.

(a) Travels of the Patriarchs, &c. p. 111. (b) Sept. "absconditus est", V. L. "qui absconditus fuit", Tigurine version; so the Targum.

And he went unto his father's house at Ophrah, and {c} 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.

(c) Thus tyrants to establish their usurped power, spare not the innocent blood, 2Ki 10:7, 2Ch 21:4.

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.

Verse 5. - Upon one stone. Used as a block, on which the victims were executed one after another. Compare the similar wholesale murders of the seventy sons of Ahab by order of Jehu (2 Kings 10:7), of the seed royal of Judah by Athaliah (2 Kings 11:1), of the whole house of Jeroboam by Baasha (1 Kings 15:29), of the whole house of Baasha by Zimri (1 Kings 16:11, 12). Timour, on his conquest of Persia, is said to have destroyed the whole male family of the king. At the conquest of Bagdad he is said to have made a pyramid of 90,000 human heads. In Persia and Turkey in modern times it has been a common practice for the sovereign to slay or put out the eyes of all his brothers and cousins. So destructive of natural affection is polygamy, and so cruel is power. Judges 9:5They 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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