Judges 9

Abimelech becomes king

1 Gideon's son Abimelech went to Shechem to speak to his mother's brothers. He said to them and to her family's clan, 2 ‘Say this to the leaders of Shechem: “You should not agree to let all of Gideon's 70 sons rule over you. It would be better for you to have only one man rule over you. Remember that I belong to your own family.” ’

3 Abimelech's mother's family told the men of Shechem what Abimelech had said. They agreed that Abimelech would be a good ruler for them. They said, ‘He is our brother.’

4 So they gave him 70 pieces of silver from the temple of their god, Baal-Berith. Abimelech used this money to pay some wicked men to help him. 5 He went to his father's home in Ophrah. He killed his 70 brothers, the sons of Gideon. He killed them all on one rock. But Jotham, Gideon's youngest son, hid himself and he escaped.

9:5Abimelech's 70 brothers were his half-brothers. They were the true sons of Gideon. Abimelech was the son of Gideon's slave wife. See Judges 8:31.

6 Then the leaders of Shechem and Beth Millo met together. They took Abimelech to the oak tree near the pillar of rock in Shechem. There they made Abimelech king.

7 When Jotham heard the news of what had happened, he climbed to the top of Mount Gerizim. He stood there and he shouted to the people, ‘Leaders of Shechem, listen to me! Then perhaps God will listen to you.

8 One day, the trees decided to choose a king for themselves. They said to the olive tree, “Be our king.” 9 But the olive tree replied, “My oil pleases men and even the gods. I will not stop making my oil so that I can rule over all you other trees!”

10 Then the trees said to the fig tree, “Come and be our king.” 11 The fig tree replied, “I will not stop making my good, sweet figs so that I can rule over you.”

12 Then the trees said to the vine, “Come and be our king.” 13 But the vine answered, “Wine from my grapes makes gods and people happy. I will not stop making wine so that I can rule over you.”

14 Finally, the trees said to the thorn bush, “Come and be our king.” 15 The thorn bush said to the trees, “If you really want to choose me as your king, come here. Hide under my branches to keep safe. If not, I will cause fire to come out from the thorn bush. It will burn up all the big cedar trees in Lebanon!”

9:15All the trees in Jotham's story, except the thorn bush, were valuable. People kept them because they were valuable. Thorn bushes were only useful to burn on a fire. Jotham was telling them that Abimelech was useless.

16 When you chose Abimelech to be your king, you have not been faithful to Gideon and his family. You have not given Gideon the honour that he deserves. 17 My father Gideon fought to save you. He did not try to keep his own life safe. He rescued you from the power of the Midianites. 18 But you have turned against my father's family today. You killed his 70 sons on one rock. You have made Abimelech king because he belongs to your family. He is the son of my father's slave wife. 19 If you have really been faithful to Gideon and his family today, I pray that Abimelech will make you happy! I pray that you will make Abimelech happy, too! 20 But if you have not been faithful, I pray that Abimelech will destroy you! I pray that his fire will completely burn up the leaders of Shechem and Beth Millo. And I pray that fire from you leaders will completely destroy Abimelech!’

21 After he said that, Jotham ran away to Beer. He lived there because he was afraid of his brother, Abimelech.

Abimelech rules Israel

22 Abimelech ruled Israel for three years. 23 Then God caused the leaders of Shechem to turn against Abimelech. They were no longer friends. 24 God did this to punish Abimelech because he had killed his brothers, Gideon's 70 sons. The leaders of Shechem were also guilty for their murder, because they had helped Abimelech.

25 The leaders of Shechem no longer obeyed Abimelech. They sent men to hide in the hills near Shechem. Those men robbed everyone who travelled on that road. But someone told Abimelech about this.

26 Ebed's son Gaal went to live in Shechem with his brothers. The leaders of Shechem started to trust Gaal as their leader. 27 They went out of the city to pick grapes in their fields. They squeezed the grapes to make wine. They went to the temple of their god and they had a party. They ate a lot of food and they drank a lot of wine. At their party, they cursed Abimelech.

28 Gaal said, ‘Why does Abimelech think he is so great? There is no reason why the people of Shechem should serve him! He is a son of Gideon and he does not really belong here. Zebul only serves Abimelech as his officer. Instead we should be faithful to Hamor's descendants. He is the ancestor of Shechem's clan. 29 If I were the leader of these people, I would remove Abimelech as king. I would say to him, “Make your army strong and try to fight against us!” ’

30 Some people told Zebul, the town's officer, what Gaal had said. Zebul was very angry when he heard this. 31 He sent men secretly to Abimelech with a message. They told him, ‘Ebed's son Gaal and his brothers have come to live in Shechem. They are causing the people of the city to turn against you. 32 So you must come here in the night with your men. Hide in the fields outside the city. 33 When the sun rises in the morning, quickly attack the city. When Gaal and his men come out to fight, you can do to them whatever you want.’

34 So Abimelech and all his soldiers came out at night. They hid in four groups outside Shechem.

35 The next morning, Gaal stood beside the city gate. Abimelech and his men came out from the places where they were hiding. 36 Gaal saw them. He said to Zebul, ‘Look! There are men coming down from the tops of the hills.’ Zebul replied, ‘No, you are wrong. You can see shadows in the hills. They only look like men.’ 37 Gaal said again, ‘Look! I can really see men who are coming down from the middle of the land. There is another group of men who are coming along the road from the Diviner's Oak Tree.’

38 Then Zebul said to Gaal, ‘What has happened to your proud words now? You boasted when you said, “Abimelech is nobody! We should not serve him.” Here are the men that you insulted as useless! So now go out and fight them!’

39 Gaal led the men of Shechem out of the city to fight against Abimelech. 40 Abimelech chased after him. Gaal and his men ran back to the city. But Abimelech and his men caught and killed many of them before they reached the city gate. 41 Abimelech went back to live in Arumah. Zebul made Gaal and his brothers leave Shechem.

42 The next day, the people of Shechem went out into the fields around the city. Abimelech heard about this. 43 He took his men with him. He made them hide in three groups in the fields. When he saw the people coming out of the city, he and his men attacked them. 44 Abimelech and his group of soldiers ran to stand at the city gate. They stopped people going back into the city. The other two groups attacked the people in the fields and killed them.

45 Abimelech attacked the city all that day. He took the city and he killed all the people who lived there. Then he destroyed the city. He put salt all over it as a curse.

46 The city's leaders who lived in the tower of Shechem heard the news. They went to hide in the strong building of El-berith's temple. 47 Somebody told Abimelech that all the leaders were there together in the temple. 48 He took all his men up to Mount Zalmon. He used an axe to cut some branches off a tree. He put the branches on his shoulders. Then he said to his men, ‘Be quick! Do the same thing as you have seen me do!’ 49 So all the men cut branches and they followed Abimelech. They put the branches around the strong building. Then they brought fire to burn down the building. There were about 1,000 men and women in the tower of Shechem. They all died in the fire.

50 Then Abimelech and his men went to Thebez. They made their camp around the city to attack it. 51 There was a strong tower in the middle of the city. All the leaders of the city, as well as all the men and women, ran there to hide. They locked the door. They went up onto the roof of the tower. 52 Abimelech and his men came to attack the tower. Abimelech went near to the door of the tower, to put a fire there. 53 A woman on the roof dropped a heavy rock down on his head. It broke Abimelech's skull. 54 Abimelech quickly said to the young man who carried his weapons, ‘Take hold of your sword and kill me! I do not want people to say that a woman killed me!’ So the young man killed him with his sword. 55 When the Israelites saw that Abimelech was dead, they went home.

56 That was how God punished Abimelech. He had done an evil thing against his father when he killed his 70 brothers. 57 God was also punishing the people of Shechem for the evil things that they had done. When Gideon's son Jotham had cursed them, he said that these things would happen.