Judges Chapter 9 - Abimelech Murdered His Seventy Brothers!
Judges Chapter 9 – Abimelech Murdered His Seventy Brothers!
Abimelech went to his mother’s brothers in Shechem. They gave him silver shekels to hire reckless scoundrels. Abimelech murdered his seventy brothers.
Abimelech son of Jerub-Baal went to his mother’s brothers in Shechem and said to them and to all his mother’s clan, “Ask all the citizens of Shechem, ‘Which is better for you: to have all seventy of Jerub-Baal’s sons rule over you, or just one man?’ Remember, I am your flesh and blood.” Judges 9:1-2
Because Gideon had broken down his father’s altar to Baal, the townspeople of Ophrah gave him the name Jerub-Baal saying, “Let Baal contend with him” (Judges 6:32).
Gideon had many wives who had born him seventy sons and a concubine who gave birth to his son named Abimelech. Abimelech means “my father is king.” He was the first Israelite to bear that name. There are three Philistine rulers mentioned in the Bible bearing the title of Abimelech in much the same way that the rulers of Egypt were called Pharaoh. The seventy sons of Gideon were Abimelech’s half-brothers who lived in Ophrah.
Abimelech’s question, “Which is better for you: to have all seventy of Jerub-Baal’s sons rule over you, or just one man?” was a false insinuation. Gideon had rejected, with abhorrence, the proposal to make himself or any of his family king. Abimelech’s purpose was to stir up jealousy and alarm amongst the citizens of Shechem.
When the brothers repeated all this to the citizens of Shechem, they were inclined to follow, for they said, “He is related to us.” Judges 9:3
Gideon was from the tribe of Manasseh, while Abimelch’s mother and the citizens of Shechem were from Ephraim. Although Gideon was chosen by God to serve as a warrior judge of Israel and free the Israelites from the oppressive rule of the Midianites, Abimelech’s uncles convinced the citizens of Shechem to rebel against the sons of Gideon and make Abimelech their king.
They gave him seventy shekels of silver from the temple of Baal-Berith, and used it to hire reckless scoundrels, who became his followers. Judges 9:4
No sooner had Gideon died than the Israelites again prostituted themselves by worshipping idols. They rejected Yehovah who had brought them out of the bondage of Egypt and into the Promised Land. The Shechemites had erected a temple to Baal-Berith. They took seventy shekels of silver from the temple offerings and used it to hire unscrupulous mercenaries to be Abimelech’s enforcers.
He went to his father’s home in Ophrah and on one stone murdered his seventy brothers, the sons of Jerub-Baal. But Jotham, the youngest son of Jerub-Baal, escaped by hiding. Judges 9:5
Abimelech probably seized the opportunity of some local or family feast at which all his brothers would be gathered. He wanted to kill his half-brothers so that no descendant of Gideon would be left alive to challenge his tyranny, and in revenge for the demolition of Baal's altar by their father. Abimelech used the stone as a block, on which the victims were executed one after another.
No doubt Abimelech and his mercenaries began by laying hold of the eldest sons, and sacrificed them first, since they were the greatest threat. This alerted Jotham the youngest not only to their plan, but gave him an opportunity to escape to a place where he was safe and avoid his own execution. Jotham’s name means, “Yehovah is perfect.”
Then all the citizens of Shechem and Beth Millo gathered beside the great tree at the pillar in Shechem to crown Abimelech king. Judges 9:6
The citizens of Shechem and Beth Millo did not gather to prosecute and punish Abimelech for his barbarous acts of murder, but to make him a king. They gathered under the great tree where the altar to Baal had been erected.
Am I suggesting, then, that food sacrificed to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God. And I do not want you to be participants with demons. 1 Corinthians 10:20-21
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; John10:10a
The Ephraimites rejected Yehovah as God. Instead, they embraced lewd Baal worship and offered up sacrifices to him. They became so demonized that they became like their father Satan, and sanctioned cold-blooded murder.
When Jotham was told about this, he climbed up on the top of Mount Gerizim and shouted to them, “Listen to me, citizens of Shechem, so that God may listen to you. One day the trees went out to anoint a king for themselves. They said to the olive tree, ‘Be our king.’
“But the olive tree answered, ‘Should I give up my oil, by which both gods and humans are honored, to hold sway over the trees?’
“Next, the trees said to the fig tree, ‘Come and be our king.’
“But the fig tree replied, ‘Should I give up my fruit, so good and sweet, to hold sway over the trees?’
“Then the trees said to the vine, ‘Come and be our king.’
“But the vine answered, ‘Should I give up my wine, which cheers both gods and humans, to hold sway over the trees?’
“Finally all the trees said to the thornbush, ‘Come and be our king.’
“The thornbush said to the trees, ‘If you really want to anoint me king over you, come and take refuge in my shade; but if not, then let fire come out of the thornbush and consume the cedars of Lebanon!’ Judges 9:7-15
Jotham, Gideon’s youngest son who escaped Abimelech’s massacre of his sixty nine brothers, later returned to the top of Mount Gerizim to tell his prophetic parable under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Mount Gerizim rises as a steep wall of rock to the height of about 800 feet above the valley of Shechem on the south side of the city. From this lofty height, Jotham cried out with a loud voice. While his parable foretold the apostasy of the nation of Israel, Jotham himself represented a faithful remnant.
The olive tree, fig tree, and grape vine chose rather to serve than to rule. The basic lesson of the parable is simple. The trees pictured Gideon and other worthy men of noble stature who felt that their calling was to serve in various capacities and not to assert rulership over their fellow Israelites. Only the lowly thornbush; an unworthy, prickly nuisance of a shrub representing Abimelech, would be so presumptuous as to assume such a lofty office, and so callous as to take it by shedding innocent blood.
“Have you acted honorably and in good faith by making him king? Have you been fair to Jerub-Baal and his family? Have you treated him as he deserves? Remember that my father fought for you and risked his life to rescue you from the hand of Midian. But today you have revolted against my father’s family. You have murdered his seventy sons on a single stone and have made, the son of his female slave, king over the citizens of Shechem because he is related to you. Judges 9:16-18
Jotham posed a rhetorical question. Of course the citizens of Shechem and Beth Millo did not act honorably or in good faith by making Abimelech king. They disregarded the debt they owed to Gideon who had delivered them after seven years of harsh oppression by the Midianites and they slaughtered his sons.
So have you acted honorably and in good faith toward Jerub-Baal and his family today? If you have, may he be your joy, and may you be his, too! But if you have not, let fire come out from Abimelech and consume you, the citizens of Shechem and Beth Millo, and let fire come out from you, the citizens of Shechem and Beth Millo, and consume Abimelech!” Judges 9:19-20
Jotham’s parable is a prophetic declaration and curse against the citizens of Shechem and those of Beth Milo. These two groups who had conspired together and acted ruthlessly against the family of Gideon would one day be at each other’s throats and reap what they have sown.
Then Jotham fled, escaping to Beer, and he lived there because he was afraid of his brother. Judges 9:21
Being close to the top of Gerizim, Jotham had the open country before him. It would take the men of Shechem at least twenty minutes to ascend the mount, by which time Jotham would be out of sight, and two or three miles on his way to Beer. This town noted for its well (beer means “well”), was most probably located outside of Ephraimite territory.
After Abimelech had governed Israel three years, God stirred up animosity between Abimelech and the citizens of Shechem so that they acted treacherously against Abimelech. God did this in order that the crime against Jerub-Baal’s seventy sons, the shedding of their blood, might be avenged on their brother and on the citizens of Shechem, who had helped him murder his brothers. Judges 9:22-24
Everything seemed fine between the men of Shechem and Abimelech for three years. Then, in judgment, God removed the peace that was between them and provoked them to hatred towards one another.
In opposition to him these citizens of Shechem set men on the hilltops to ambush and rob everyone who passed by, and this was reported to Abimelech. Judges 9:24
The men of Shechem set ambushes on the mountain roads, hoping to disrupt the trade routes that profited Abimelech.
Now Gaal son of Ebed moved with his clan into Shechem, and its citizens put their confidence in him. After they had gone out into the fields and gathered the grapes and trodden them, they held a festival in the temple of their god. While they were eating and drinking, they cursed Abimelech. Judges 9:26-27
Gaal was the son of Ebed, whose name means “servant” or “slave.” This “son of a slave” was a Canaanite. He was a descendant of Hamor who was the prince of Shechem during the time of Jacob. Since the expulsion of the Canaanites by the Israelites, his family had settled outside of Israelite territory. When Gaal learned of the animosity between Abimelech and the Shechemites, Gaal and his clan moved back to Shechem.
Then Gaal son of Ebed said, “Who is Abimelech, and why should we Shechemites be subject to him? Isn’t he Jerub-Baal’s son, and isn’t Zebul his deputy? Serve the family of Hamor, Shechem’s father! Why should we serve Abimelech? If only this people were under my command! Then I would get rid of him. I would say to, ‘Call out your whole army!’” Judges 9:28-29
Abimelech, the son of a concubine, had convinced the citizen’s of Shechem to rebel against Gideon’s sons and put them to death because Gideon was from the tribe of Manasseh, while Abimelch’s mother and the citizens of Shechem were from Ephraim.
Now, the tables are turned. Gaal, the son of a slave and a Canaanite, appeals to the citizens of Shechem to rebel against Abimelech whose father was Gideon, an Israelite. Gaal refers to Abimelech’s father as Jerub-Baal, the one who tore down Baal’s altar, to provoke the apostate Ephraimites to overthrow Abimelech. Gaal also appealed to his own Canaanite clan make him their leader because Gaal descended from Hamor who had founded the city of Shechem.
Ironically, Abimelech who rose to power in Shechem because of his mother was now in jeopardy of being overthrown because of his father.
When Zebul the governor of the city heard what Gaal son of Ebed said, he was very angry. Under cover he sent messengers to Abimelech, saying, “Gaal son of Ebed and his clan have come to Shechem and are stirring up the city against you. Now then, during the night you and your men should come and lie in wait in the fields. In the morning at sunrise, advance against the city. When Gaal and his men come out against you, seize the opportunity to attack them.” Judges 9:30-33
Zebul secretly informed Abimelech that Gaal was inciting the citizens of Shechem to rebel against their king. He advised Abimelech to launch a surprise attack against the city at sunrise when the inhabitants would be awakening from their sleep and disoriented.
So Abimelech and all his troops set out by night and took up concealed positions near Shechem in four companies. Judges 9:34
Abimelech’s four companies had hidden themselves and had taken positions so that they would completely surround the city.
Now Gaal son of Ebed had gone out and was standing at the entrance of the city gate just as Abimelech and his troops came out from their hiding place.
When Gaal saw them, he said to Zebul, “Look, people are coming down from the tops of the mountains!”
Zebul replied, “You mistake the shadows of the mountains for men.” Judges 9:35-36
The governor lied to Gaal in order to delay Gaal for as long as possible from calling the men of Shechem to take up arms and defend their city.
But Gaal spoke up again: “Look, people are coming down from the central hill, and a company is coming from the direction of the diviners’ tree.”
Then Zebul said to him, “Where is your big talk now, you who said, ‘Who is Abimelech that we should be subject to him?’ Aren’t these the men you ridiculed? Go out and fight them!” Judges 9:37-38
Zebul challenges the braggart Gaal to put his money where his mouth is!
So Gaal led out the citizens of Shechem and fought Abimelech. Abimelech chased him all the way to the entrance of the gate, and many were killed as they fled. Then Abimelech stayed in Arumah, and Zebul drove Gaal and his clan out of Shechem. Judges 9:39-41
Abimelech’s troops were victorious; but Gaal and his remaining forces were able to secure themselves in Shechem. They succeeded in closing the gates against their pursuers, but only at the cost of many lives.
The next day the people of Shechem went out to the fields, and this was reported to Abimelech. So he took his men, divided them into three companies and set an ambush in the fields. When he saw the people coming out of the city, he rose to attack them. Abimelech and the companies with him rushed forward to a position at the entrance of the city gate. Then two companies attacked those in the fields and struck them down. All that day Abimelech pressed his attack against the city until he had captured it and killed its people. Then he destroyed the city and scattered salt over it. Judges 9:42-45
When all the Shechemites in the field were either killed or scared off, Abimelech stormed the city, weakened as it was by the previous loss of so many of its defenders. The residents of the city held off the attackers as long as they could, but the city was taken before night fall. All the inhabitants were put to the sword. The walls were then razed to the ground, and the site was sown with salt. The sowing of salt upon a place was a symbolical custom at that time, to express great hatred and anger against the people who had resided there, and that the city should remain barren and desolate.
On hearing this, the citizens in the tower of Shechem went into the stronghold of the temple of El-Berith. When Abimelech heard that they had assembled there, he and all his men went up Mount Zalmon. He took an ax and cut off some branches, which he lifted to his shoulders. He ordered the men with him, “Quick! Do what you have seen me do!” So all the men cut branches and followed Abimelech. They piled them against the stronghold and set it on fire with the people still inside. So all the people in the tower of Shechem, about a thousand men and women, also died. Judges 9:46-49
The tower of Shechem was a lookout tower located in an unwalled village outside of the city. Some of those people who were working in the fields and escaped from Abimelech’s attack, warned the Shechemites to find a more fortified location.
Zalmon was a lofty and thickly-wooded hill near Shechem. The name Zalmon is taken from the Hebrew root word, “tselem” which means “shady.” It was there that Abimelech had his men cut wood to set the temple of Baal stronghold on fire and burned a thousand men and women to death.
Next Abimelech went to Thebez and besieged it and captured it. Inside the city, however, was a strong tower, to which all the men and women—all the people of the city—had fled. They had locked themselves in and climbed up on the tower roof. Abimelech went to the tower and attacked it. But as he approached the entrance to the tower to set it on fire, a woman dropped an upper millstone on his head and cracked his skull. Judges 9:50-53
Thebez was a city about thirteen miles from Shechem and within its territory. Canaanite forts were generally secure mountain safe havens and often had a strong tower which served as a last refuge. Millstones come in pairs. The base or bedstone is stationary. Above the bedstone is a smaller turning runner stone which actually does the grinding. When Abimelech approached the fortified tower to set it on fire, a woman took an upper millstone and dropped it upon Abimelech’s head cracking his skull.
So as Jael, a woman and tentmaker, used her mallet and a tent peg to crack the skull of Sisera, the commander of the Canaanite army; so did a woman and miller use a tool of her trade, an upper millstone, to crack the skull of Abimelech, the commander of his band of ruthless mercenaries.
Hurriedly he called to his armor-bearer, “Draw your sword and kill me, so that they can’t say, ‘A woman killed him.’” So his servant ran him through, and he died. When the Israelites saw that Abimelech was dead, they went home. Judges 9:54-55
Abimelech wasn’t concerned that he would be remembered for butchering the sons of Gideon, or for burning men and women alive. He was concerned that he would be remembered for being slain by a woman.
Thus God repaid the wickedness that Abimelech had done to his father by murdering his seventy brothers. God also made the people of Shechem pay for all their wickedness. The curse of Jotham son of Jerub-Baal came on them. Judges 9:56-57
The account of cruel Abimelech and the slaughter of his seventy brothers is a prophetic picture. Genesis chapter 10 lists a total of seventy original founders of the nations of the world or racial groups. Numbers 29:12-34 details the offerings for the seven days of the Feast of Tabernacles. Thirteen bulls are offered the first day, twelve on the second, eleven on the third, etc. 13+12+11+10+9+8+7=70. According to Isaiah 56:7, the temple in Jerusalem was to be a house of prayer for all nations. The sacrifice of 70 bulls was offered as an atonement of the seventy nations.
Abimelech, who embraced idolatry and was a murderer, is a type of the Antichrist. The 70 sons of Gideon, who were worshippers of Yehovah, are a type of the followers of Yeshua (Jesus) from every nation who will be martyred during the Great Tribulation.
After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. Revelation 7:9
Then one of the elders addressed me: “These in white robes, he asked, “who are they, and where have they come from?” Sir,” I answered, “you know.” So he replied, “These are the ones who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Revelation 7:13-14
Just as idol worshipping Abimelech had the seventy sons of godly Gideon put to the sword by his reckless scoundrels, so will a multitude from every nation die a martyr’s death by the army of the Antichrist because they will refuse to worship his image.
The beast and the ten horns you saw will hate the prostitute. They will bring her to ruin and leave her naked; they will eat her flesh and burn her with fire. For God has put it into their hearts to accomplish his purpose by agreeing to hand over to the beast their royal authority, until God’s words are fulfilled. The woman you saw is the great city that rules over the kings of the earth. ”Revelation 17:16-18
The above passage of Scripture is a description of the future punishment of the city Babylon which is the seat of power of the one-world false religion. The beast is the Antichrist and the ten horns represent the ten nation confederacy that supports him with their armies and resources. Just as God will put it into their hearts to burn this city because the idolatrous “Whore of Babylon” had spilled the blood of multitudes of God’s people, in a similar manner God stirred up animosity between Abimelech and the citizens of Shechem who spilled the blood of Jerub-Baal’s sons. Abimelech destroyed the city and burned to death a thousand of her citizens.
Both Abimelech and the Antichrist will endure an eternity of punishment for their heinous acts against the worshippers of Yehovah, while the followers of the Almighty will experience an eternal state of bliss.