Abimelech Is Made King by the
1. Abimelech the son of Jerubbaal went to
Shechem—The idolatry which had been stealthily creeping into
Israel during the latter years of Gideon was now openly professed;
Shechem was wholly inhabited by its adherents; at least, idolaters had
the ascendency. Abimelech, one of Gideon's numerous sons, was connected
with that place. Ambitious of sovereign power, and having plied
successfully the arts of a demagogue with his maternal relatives and
friends, he acquired both the influence and money by which he raised
himself to a throne.
communed … with all the family of the
house of his mother's father—Here is a striking instance of
the evils of polygamy—one son has connections and interests
totally alien to those of his brothers.
2. Whether is better for you, either that all the
sons of Jerubbaal, … or that one reign over you—a false
insinuation, artfully contrived to stir up jealousy and alarm. Gideon
had rejected, with abhorrence, the proposal to make himself or any of
his family king, and there is no evidence that any of his other sons
coveted the title.
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
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
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
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
6. all the men of Shechem …, and all the
house of Millo—that is, a mound or rampart, so that the
meaning is, all the men in the house or temple; namely, the priests of
made Abimelech king, by the plain of the
pillar—rather, "by the oak near a raised mound"—so that
the ceremony of coronation might be conspicuous to a crowd.
Jotham by a Parable Reproaches Them.
7. he … stood in the top of mount Gerizim
and lifted up his voice—The spot he chose was, like the
housetops, the public place of Shechem; and the parable [Jud 9:8-15] drawn from the rivalry of the
various trees was appropriate to the diversified foliage of the valley
below. Eastern people are exceedingly fond of parables and use them for
conveying reproofs, which they could not give in any other way. The top
of Gerizim is not so high in the rear of the town, as it is nearer to
the plain. With a little exertion of voice, he could easily have been
heard by the people of the city; for the hill so overhangs the valley,
that a person from the side or summit would have no difficulty in
speaking to listeners at the base. Modern history records a case, in
which soldiers on the hill shouted to the people in the city and
endeavored to instigate them to an insurrection. There is something
about the elastic atmosphere of an Eastern clime which causes it to
transmit sound with wonderful celerity and distinctness [Hackett].
13. wine, which cheereth God and man—not
certainly in the same manner. God might be said to be "cheered" by it,
when the sacrifices were accepted, as He is said also to be honored by
21. Joatham … went to Beer—the
modern village El-Bireh, on the ridge which bounds the northern
prospect of Jerusalem.
Jud 9:22-49. Gaal's
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.
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.
26. Gaal … came with his brethren …,
and the men of Shechem put their confidence in him—An
insurrection of the original Canaanites, headed by this man, at last
broke out in Shechem.
28-45. would to God this people were under my
hand—He seems to have been a boastful, impudent, and cowardly
person, totally unfit to be a leader in a revolutionary crisis. The
consequence was that he allowed himself to be drawn into an ambush, was
defeated, the city of Shechem destroyed and strewn with salt. The
people took refuge in the stronghold, which was set on fire, and all in
Jud 9:50-57. Abimelech
50. Then went Abimelech to Thebez, and encamped
against Thebez—now Tubas—not far from Shechem.
51-53. all the men and women, … gat them up
to the top of the tower—The Canaanite forts were generally
mountain fastnesses or keeps, and they often had a strong tower which
served as a last refuge. The Assyrian bas-reliefs afford counterparts
of the scene here described so vivid and exact, that we might almost
suppose them to be representations of the same historic events. The
besieged city—the strong tower within—the men and
women crowding its battlements—the fire applied to the
doors, and even the huge fragments of stone dropping from the hands of
one of the garrison on the heads of the assailants, are all well
represented to the life—just as they are here described in the
narrative of inspired truth [Goss].