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Judges 9

Abimelech becomes king

1 Abimelech, the son of Gideon in Shechem, spoke to his mother's brothers and all her family.

2 He told them to ask the men of Shechem who they wanted as a ruler. He asked if they wanted Gideon's 70 sons or just one man to rule them. He said, ‘Remember that I belong to your family’.

3 Abimelech's brothers told all this to the men of Shechem. They decided that they wanted Abimelech as their ruler. They said, ‘He is our brother’. 4 They gave him 70 shekels (about 1.75 pounds or 0.8 kilos in weight) of silver from the house of Baal-Berith. Abimelech used this money to pay bad men. Then they became his soldiers.

5 He went to his father's house in Ophrah. There he killed Gideon's 70 sons on one rock. They were his brothers. But Jotham, the youngest son hid himself. He did not die.

6 The men of Shechem and Beth Millo met together. They met at the tree by the tall rock in Shechem. There they made Abimelech king.

7 When he heard this, Jotham climbed up Mount Gerizim. He shouted to the men of Shechem, ‘Listen to me, so that God may listen to you. 8 One day, the trees decided to make a king for themselves. They said to the olive tree, “Be our king”. 9 But the olive tree answered, “My oil pleases men and the gods. I will not stop making oil to be your king”. 10 Next, the trees said to the fig tree, “Come and be our king”. 11 The fig tree replied, “I will not stop making my sweet fruit to rule over you”. 12 Then the trees said to the vine, “Come and be our king”. 13 But the vine answered, “Wine from my fruit makes men and gods happy. I will not stop making fruit to rule over you”. 14 At last, the trees said to the thorn bush, “Come and be our king”. 15 The thorn bush said to the trees, “If you really want me to be your king, come and hide under my branches. If not, fire will come from the thorn bush and burn up all the big cedar trees!”

16 You have made Abimelech king. You have not been good to Gideon's family. You have hurt them. 17 But Gideon fought for you. He did not think about his own life. He saved you from being slaves to the Midianites. 18 Today you threw out my father's family. You have killed his 70 sons. You have made Abimelech king because he is your brother. He is the son of my father's slave-girl. 19 If you have been good to Gideon, I hope that Abimelech will make you happy! I hope that you will make him happy, too! 20 If you have not, I hope that Abimelech will destroy you. And I hope that you men of Shechem and Beth Millo will burn Abimelech!’

21 Jotham ran away to Beer because he was frightened of his brother, Abimelech.

9:21All the trees in Jotham's story, except the thorn bush, were valuable. People kept them to enjoy their oil, wine and fruit. The thorn bush lay on the ground. It gave no shade. It was only good to burn. It is very clear that Jotham believed that Abimelech was worth nothing. Later, God punished Abimelech, as Jotham hoped.

Abimelech fights the people of Shechem

22 Abimelech ruled Israel for 3 years. 23 Then God caused the people of Shechem to argue with Abimelech. 24 God was punishing Abimelech for killing Gideon's 70 sons. God was punishing Abimelech and the people of Shechem for their murder.

25 The people of Shechem did not obey Abimelech. They put men on the top of the hills near Shechem. They took money and valuable things from everyone who went past. Abimelech heard about this.

26 Gaal son of Ebed went to live in Shechem with his brothers. The people of Shechem began to want Gaal as their leader. 27 They picked the fruit of the vine and made wine. Then they had a party. This was in the house (temple) where they worshipped their god. As they ate and drank, they said bad things about Abimelech. They wanted Gaal to give Abimelech a lot of trouble. 28 Gaal, son of Ebed, said, ‘We should not let Abimelech lead us. He is Gideon's son and Zebul is his officer. We should let men of Hamor (Shechem's father) lead us. 29 If I led this people I would not let Abimelech be king. I would say to him, “Call out your whole army!” ’

30 They told Zebul what Gaal, son of Ebed, had said. Zebul ruled the city, and he was very angry.

31 Zebul sent men to Abimelech by hidden paths. They told him, ‘Gaal and his brothers are making the men of Shechem want to fight us. They are causing trouble. 32 Come in the night with your men. Hide in the fields until sunrise. 33 Then, in the morning, attack the city. When Gaal and his men come out, fight your best’.

34 So Abimelech and all his army came at night. They hid near Shechem in four groups.

35 Gaal was standing outside the city gates. Abimelech and his men came out from where they were hiding. 36 Gaal saw them. He said to Zebul, ‘Look, there are men coming from the tops of the mountains’. Zebul replied, ‘You are wrong. You are looking at shadows’. 37 Gaal said again, ‘Look, there are two groups of people. Some are coming from the centre of the land. Other men are coming from the prophet's tree’. 38 Then Zebul spoke to Gaal, ‘Where are your big words now? You said that Abimelech should not rule us. These are the men that you said were no use. Now go out and fight them!’

39 Gaal led the people of Shechem out to fight Abimelech. 40 Abimelech ran after him. Many men were hurt. They fell all along the way to the city gate. 41 Abimelech stayed in Arumah. Zebul made Gaal and his brothers leave Shechem.

42 The next day, the people of Shechem went out into the fields. Men told Abimelech about this. 43 He took his men and put them into three groups. When the people came out of the city, he attacked them. 44 Abimelech and his soldiers ran to stand at the city gate. The other two groups ran and killed the people in the fields.

45 Abimelech fought hard all day. He won the fight and killed the people. Then he destroyed the city. He put salt all over it.

46 The people in the strong building of Shechem heard the news. The strong place was in the house (temple) of El-Berith. 47 Men told Abimlelech about the people in the strong building.

48 He took his men up to Mount Zalmon. He cut branches off a tree with an axe. He put the branches on his shoulders. He shouted to his men, ‘Be quick! Do as you have seen me do!’ 49 So all the men cut branches and followed Abimelech. They put the branches round the strong building. Then they put fire to them. There were about 1000 men and women of Shechem in the building. They all died.

50 Abimelech went to Thebez next. He and his men attacked it. They won the fight for the city. 51 All the people of the city hid in a strong building. The building was inside the city. They locked the door. They went on to the roof. 52 Abimelech and his men attacked the strong building. He went near to the door, to burn it. 53 A woman dropped a very heavy stone on his head and broke his bones. 54 Abimelech said to his army servant, ‘Be quick. Kill me. I do not want people to say that a woman killed me!’ So his servant killed him with a sharp knife. 55 When the Israelites saw that Abimelech was dead, they went home.

56 This was how God punished Abimelech for murdering his 70 brothers. He had made his father's name look bad. 57 God was also punishing the people of Shechem for all the bad things that they had done. Jotham, son of Gideon had said that these things should happen.

9:57Abimelech was not a good man. God did not choose him to be a judge of Israel. But sometimes God uses bad men to do his work. Shechem was a Canaanite city. God had told Israel to kill all the Canaanites. Abimelech killed all the people in Shechem. He even killed his own family. This was because they did not obey him. He put salt on the city to show that he had completely destroyed it. They could not have put enough salt on the land to stop plants from growing.