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 on to 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.