And Abimelech the son of Jerubbaal went to Shechem unto his mother's brethren, and communed with them, and with all the family of the house of his mother's father, saying,
Speak, I pray you, in the ears of all the men of Shechem, Whether is better for you, either that all the sons of Jerubbaal, which are threescore and ten persons, reign over you, or that one reign over you? remember also that I am your bone and your flesh.
Heb. What is good? whether, etc. threescore.
And his mother's brethren spake of him in the ears of all the men of Shechem all these words: and their hearts inclined to follow Abimelech; for they said, He is our brother.
Heb. after. our brother.
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.
Anashim raikim oophochozim, "worthless and dissolute men;" persons who were living on the public, and had nothing to lose. Such was the foundation of his Babel government. By a cunning management of such unprincipled men most revolutions are brought about.
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.
And all the men of Shechem gathered together, and all the house of Millo, and went, and made Abimelech king, by the plain of the pillar that was in Shechem.
Probably the name of a person of note in Shechem.
And when they told it to Jotham, he went and stood in the top of mount Gerizim, and lifted up his voice, and cried, and said unto them, Hearken unto me, ye men of Shechem, that God may hearken unto you.
The trees went forth on a time to anoint a king over them; and they said unto the olive tree, Reign thou over us.
This is the most ancient fable or apologue extant; and is extremely beautiful, apposite, and intelligible.
The zayith, or olive tree, in the Linnean system, is a genus of the diandra monogynia class of plants. It is of a moderate height, and grows best in sunny places. Its trunk is knotty; bark smooth, of an ash colour: wood solid and yellowish; leaves oblong, almost like those of the willow, of a dark green colour on the upper side, and whitish below. In June it puts forth white flowers, growing in bunches, each of one piece, widening towards the top, and dividing into four parts. After this succeeds the fruit, which is oblong and plump; first green, then pale, and when quite ripe, black. Within it is enclosed a hard stone, filled with oblong seeds. It was the most useful of all trees in the forest; as the bramble was the meanest and most worthless.
But the olive tree said unto them, Should I leave my fatness, wherewith by me they honour God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees?
Elohim, rather gods; the parable being adapted to the idolatrous Shechemites.
to be promoted over the trees
Heb. up and down for other trees.
But the fig tree said unto them, Should I forsake my sweetness, and my good fruit, and go to be promoted over the trees?
And the vine said unto them, Should I leave my wine, which cheereth God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees?
Then said all the trees unto the bramble, Come thou, and reign over us.
And the bramble said unto the trees, If in truth ye anoint me king over you, then come and put your trust in my shadow: and if not, let fire come out of the bramble, and devour the cedars of Lebanon.
Now therefore, if ye have done truly and sincerely, in that ye have made Abimelech king, and if ye have dealt well with Jerubbaal and his house, and have done unto him according to the deserving of his hands;
(For my father fought for you, and adventured his life far, and delivered you out of the hand of Midian:
adventured his life
Heb. cast his life.
And ye are risen up against my father's house this day, and have slain his sons, threescore and ten persons, upon one stone, and have made Abimelech, the son of his maidservant, king over the men of Shechem, because he is your brother;)
If ye then have dealt truly and sincerely with Jerubbaal and with his house this day, then rejoice ye in Abimelech, and let him also rejoice in you:
But if not, let fire come out from Abimelech, and devour the men of Shechem, and the house of Millo; and let fire come out from the men of Shechem, and from the house of Millo, and devour Abimelech.
let fire come out
And Jotham ran away, and fled, and went to Beer, and dwelt there, for fear of Abimelech his brother.
Probably the Beer mentioned by Mr. Maundrell, three hours and a half, or about ten miles, north of Jerusalem, towards Shechem. It is situated toward the south, on an easy declivity; and has a fountain of excellent water at the bottom of the hill, from which it has taken its name. Close to the well are the mouldering walls of a ruined khan; and on the summit of the hill two large arches still remain of a ruined convent. Dr. Richardson says, that it seems to have been once a place of considerable consequence.
Then God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the men of Shechem; and the men of Shechem dealt treacherously with Abimelech:
A. M. 2771. B.C. 1233. An. Ex. Is. 258. God. That is, God permitted the evil spirit of jealousy, treachery, and discord, to break out between Abimelech and the Shechemites
That the cruelty done to the threescore and ten sons of Jerubbaal might come, and their blood be laid upon Abimelech their brother, which slew them; and upon the men of Shechem, which aided him in the killing of his brethren.
aided him in the killing of
Heb. strengthened his hands to kill. Sooner or later, God will make inquisition for blood, and will return it on the heads of those that shed it. Accessaries will be reckoned with, as well as principals, in that and other sins. The Shechemites, who countenanced Abimelech's pretensions, aided and abetted him in his bloody project, and avowed the fact by making him king after he had done it, must fall with him, fall by him, and fall first. Those that combine together to do wickedly, are justly dashed in pieces one against another. Blood cannot be a lasting cement to any interest.
And the men of Shechem set liers in wait for him in the top of the mountains, and they robbed all that came along that way by them: and it was told Abimelech.
And Gaal the son of Ebed came with his brethren, and went over to Shechem: and the men of Shechem put their confidence in him.
And they went out into the fields, and gathered their vineyards, and trode the grapes, and made merry, and went into the house of their god, and did eat and drink, and cursed Abimelech.
And Gaal the son of Ebed said, Who is Abimelech, and who is Shechem, that we should serve him? is not he the son of Jerubbaal? and Zebul his officer? serve the men of Hamor the father of Shechem: for why should we serve him?
Who is Abimelech
And would to God this people were under my hand! then would I remove Abimelech. And he said to Abimelech, Increase thine army, and come out.
would to God
The very words and conduct of a sly, hypocritical demagogue.
And he said
Rather, "and I would say to Abimelech," as the LXX. renders; for as Dr. Wall observes, this was probably not said in the presence of Abimelech; but at an intemperate feast, in his absence, when he boasted he would challenge him.
Increase thine army
And when Zebul the ruler of the city heard the words of Gaal the son of Ebed, his anger was kindled.
And he sent messengers unto Abimelech privily, saying, Behold, Gaal the son of Ebed and his brethren be come to Shechem; and, behold, they fortify the city against thee.
Heb. craftily, or, to Tormah. they fortify. Under pretence of repairing the walls and towers, they were actually putting the place in a state of defence, intending to seize on the government as soon as they found Abimelech coming against them.
Now therefore up by night, thou and the people that is with thee, and lie in wait in the field:
And it shall be, that in the morning, as soon as the sun is up, thou shalt rise early, and set upon the city: and, behold, when he and the people that is with him come out against thee, then mayest thou do to them as thou shalt find occasion.
as thou shalt find
Heb. as thine hand shall find.
And Gaal the son of Ebed went out, and stood in the entering of the gate of the city: and Abimelech rose up, and the people that were with him, from lying in wait.
Of this person we know no more than is here recorded. He was probably one of the descendants of the Canaanites, who hoped, from the state of the public mind and their disaffection to Abimelech, to cause a revolution, and thus to restore the ancient government as it was under Hamor, the father of Shechem. Josephus says he was a man of authority, who sojourned with them, with his armed men and kinsmen; and that the Shechemites desired that he would allow them a guard during the vintage.
And when Gaal saw the people, he said to Zebul, Behold, there come people down from the top of the mountains. And Zebul said unto him, Thou seest the shadow of the mountains as if they were men.
seest the shadow
Doubdan states, that in some parts of the Holy Land there are many detached rocks scattered up and down, some growing out of the ground, and others fragments broken off from rocky precipices, the shadow of which, it appears, Josephus thought might be most naturally imagined to look like troops of men at a distance, rather than that of the mountains; for he represents Zebul as saying to Gaal, that he mistook the shadow of the rocks for men.
And Gaal spake again and said, See there come people down by the middle of the land, and another company come along by the plain of Meonenim.
Heb. navel. Meonenim. or, the regarders of the times.
Then said Zebul unto him, Where is now thy mouth, wherewith thou saidst, Who is Abimelech, that we should serve him? is not this the people that thou hast despised? go out, I pray now, and fight with them.
And Abimelech chased him, and he fled before him, and many were overthrown and wounded, even unto the entering of the gate.
he fled before
And Abimelech dwelt at Arumah: and Zebul thrust out Gaal and his brethren, that they should not dwell in Shechem.
This place appears from the next verse to have been near Shechem; and is perhaps the same as Ruma, a village of Galilee, mentioned by Josephus, Bell. 1. iii. c. 9.
And Abimelech, and the company that was with him, rushed forward, and stood in the entering of the gate of the city: and the two other companies ran upon all the people that were in the fields, and slew them.
And Abimelech fought against the city all that day; and he took the city, and slew the people that was therein, and beat down the city, and sowed it with salt.
Salt in small quantities renders land extremely fertile; but too much of it destroys vegetation. Every place, says Pliny, in which salt is found is barren, and produces nothing. Hence the sowing of a place with salt was a custom in different nations to express permanent desolation. Sigonius observes, that when Milan was taken, A.D. 1162, the walls were razed, and it was sown with salt. And Brantome informs us, that it was an ancient custom in France, to sow the house of a man with salt, who had been declared a traitor to his king. Charles IX., king of France, the most base and perfidious of human beings, caused the house of Admiral Coligni (whom he and the Duke of Guise caused to be murdered, with thousands more of Protestants, on the eve of St. Bartholomew, 1572,) to be sown with salt!
And when all the men of the tower of Shechem heard that, they entered into an hold of the house of the god Berith.
And Abimelech gat him up to mount Zalmon, he and all the people that were with him; and Abimelech took an axe in his hand, and cut down a bough from the trees, and took it, and laid it on his shoulder, and said unto the people that were with him, What ye have seen me do, make haste, and do as I have done.
Heb. I have done.
And all the people likewise cut down every man his bough, and followed Abimelech, and put them to the hold, and set the hold on fire upon them; so that all the men of the tower of Shechem died also, about a thousand men and women.
Then went Abimelech to Thebez, and encamped against Thebez, and took it.
According to Eusebius, thirteen miles from Shechem, towards Scythopolis.
And Abimelech came unto the tower, and fought against it, and went hard unto the door of the tower to burn it with fire.
And a certain woman cast a piece of a millstone upon Abimelech's head, and all to brake his skull.
and all to
An antiquated expression, meaning "full intention" to complete an object. "All to," observes Dr. Johnson, "is a particle of mere enforcement." The original is wattaritz eth gulgalto, which is simply as the LXX. render [kai eklase to kranion autou] "and she brake his skull." Plutarch relates, that Pyrrhus was killed at the siege of Thebes, by a piece of a tile, which a woman threw upon his head.
Then he called hastily unto the young man his armourbearer, and said unto him, Draw thy sword, and slay me, that men say not of me, A woman slew him. And his young man thrust him through, and he died.
And his young man
It was a disgrace to be killed by a woman.
And when the men of Israel saw that Abimelech was dead, they departed every man unto his place.
Thus God rendered the wickedness of Abimelech, which he did unto his father, in slaying his seventy brethren:
Both the fratricide Abimelech and the unprincipled men of Shechem had the iniquity visited upon them of which they had been guilty. Man's judgment may be avoided; but there is no escape from that of God. How many houses have been sown with salt in France, by the just judgment of God, for the massacre of the Protestants on the eve of St. Bartholomew! See Note on ver. 45.
And all the evil of the men of Shechem did God render upon their heads: and upon them came the curse of Jotham the son of Jerubbaal.