Abimelech the sixth Judge of Israel

Abimelech was the son of Gideon by a concubine in Shechem. Abimelech ruled for three years from 1151BC-1149BC. He started his rule by killing the 70 sons of Gideon. In some places Gideon is also called Jerub-Baal. Gideon’s youngest son escaped. Abimelech was an evil ruler by God’s standards.

The curse that Jotham the youngest son of Gideon spoke to Abimelech came about when God sent an evil spirit on Abimelech and the people of Shechem.

Abimelech in Hebrew means: Father of the King.

This Abimelech is not the same Abimelech who was the King of Gerar in Genesis 20:1-18.

Background Reading:

Abimelech Attempts to Become King and sixth Judge of Israel

9:1 Then Jerubbaal’s son Abimelech went to his mother’s relatives in Shechem. He spoke to the entire family of his mother’s father, telling them, 2 “Ask all the “lords” of Shechem, ‘What’s better for you? That 70 men, each of them Jerubbaal’s sons, rule over you? Or that one man rule over you?’ Keep in mind that I’m like your own close relative.”

3 So his mother’s relatives spoke all of this on his behalf in the presence of all the “lords” of Shechem. Since they were inclined to follow Abimelech, they said, “He’s our relative!” 4 and they gave him 70 silver coins from the temple that they had built tod Baal-berith. Abimelech hired some worthless and useless men, who followed him 5 to his father’s house in Ophrah. There he murdered his own brothers, Jerubbaal’s sons—all 70 of them—in one place. But Jerubbaal’s youngest son Jotham survived by hiding himself.

6 All the men from Shechem and Beth-millo gathered together and set up Abimelech as king near the pillar erected in Shechem. 7 When Jotham was informed about this, he went out, took his stand on top of Mount Gerizim, and cried out loudly, “Listen to me, you “lords” of Shechem, and God will listen to you.

8 “Once upon a time the trees went out

to consecrate a king for themselves.

“So they told the olive tree,

‘Reign over us!’

9 But the olive tree asked them,

‘Should I stop producing my rich oils

by which both God and men are honored

and go take dominion over trees?’

10 “So the trees told the fig tree,

‘Hey you! Come and reign over us!’

11 But the fig tree asked them,

‘Should I leave my sweet, good fruit

and go take dominion over trees?’

12 “So the trees told the grape vine,

‘Hey you! Come and reign over us!’

13 But the grape vine asked them,

‘Should I leave my new wine,

which cheers God and man,

and go take dominion over trees?’

14 “So all the trees told the bramble bush,

‘Hey you! Come and reign over us!’

15 Then the bramble bush replied to the trees,

‘If you really are consecrating me to rule you,

come and put your confidence in my shade;

but if not, may fire spring out from the bramble bush

and burn up the cedars of Lebanon…’

16 “Now then, if you have been acting in good faith and integrity by making a king out of Abimelech, if you have treated Jerubbaal and his household appropriately by acting toward him as he deserved — 17 because my father fought on your behalf, throwing away all concern for his own life, and delivered you from Midian’s domination.

18 “But now as for you, you’ve rebelled against my father’s house today. You’ve murdered his sons—70 men—in one place, and you’ve installed Abimelech, the son of his mistress, as king to rule over the “lords” of Shechem, since he’s related to you. 19 So if you’ve acted in good faith and integrity toward Jerubbaal and his household today, then you’re welcome to Abimelech, and he’s welcome to you… 20 But if not, may fire spring out from Abimelech and consume the “lords” of Shechem and Beth-millo, and may fire spring out from the “lords” of Shechem and Beth-millo to consume Abimelech.” 21 Then Jotham escaped by running away. He went to Beer and remained there because of his brother Abimelech.

The Destruction of Shechem

22 Abimelech dominated Israel for three years. 23 Then God sent an evil spirit to divide Abimelech and the “lords” of Shechem 24 so that the violence committed against the 70 sons of Jerubbaal might come back on their brother Abimelech, who murdered them, and so it might come back on the “lords” of Shechem, who provoked him to murder his brothers. 25 The “lords” of Shechem sent out men to ambush him on the mountain tops, and they robbed everyone who came by them along the roads, and this was reported to Abimelech.

26 Meanwhile, Ebed’s son Gaal arrived with his relatives and crossed over into Shechem. The “lords” of Shechem put their faith in him. 27 They went out into the fields, harvested their vineyards, made some wine, and threw a party. Then they went into the temple of their god, ate, drank, and cursed Abimelech.

28 Then Ebed’s son Gaal remarked, “Who is this Abimelech? And who is Shechem? Should we serve him? Isn’t he Jerubbaal’s son? Isn’t Zebul his lieutenant? Serve the men of Hamor, Shechem’s ancestor—but why are we serving him? 29 If only authority over this people were given to me. Then I would remove Abimelech!” Then he challenged Abimelech: “Build up your army and then come out and fight!”

30 When Zebul, the ruler of the city, heard what Ebed’s son Gaal had said, he flew into a rage. 31 He sent messengers to Abimelech in secret and told him, “Look out! Ebed’s son Gaal and his family have arrived here in Shechem. Watch out! They’re stirring up the city against you. 32 So get up at night, take your soldiers with you, and wait in ambush out in the field. 33 Tomorrow morning when the sun is up, get up early and attack the city. When Gaalq and his army come out to fight you, do whatever you can to them.”

34 So Abimelech and his entire army got up that night and waited in ambush against Shechem in four separate companies.

35 Ebed’s son Gaal went out and stood in the entrance to the city gate while Abimelech and his army were creeping out of their ambush. 36 When Gaal saw the army, he observed to Zebul, “Look there! People are coming down from the top of the mountains.”

But Zebul replied to him, “You’re looking at morning shadows cast by the mountains. They just look like men to you.”

37 Gaal spoke up again to say, “Look! People are coming down from the highest part of the land, and there’s a company approaching from the diviner’s oak tree.”

38 So Zebul replied, “Right… So where’s your boasting now? You said, ‘Who is Abimelech? Should we serve him?’ Isn’t this the army that you insulted? So go out right now and fight them!”

39 So Gaal went out in full view of the “lords” of Shechem and fought Abimelech. 40 Abimelech chased him, and Gaal ran away from him. Many fell wounded right up to the entrance to the city gate. 41 Afterwards, Abimelech remained at Arumah, but Zebul expelled Gaal and his family so they couldn’t remain in Shechem.

42 The next day, the people went out to the field, and Abimelech learned about it. 43 So he took his army, divided it into three separate companies, and laid in ambush out in the field. When Abimelech noticed the people coming out from the city, his army attacked them and killed them. 44 Then Abimelech and the soldiers who were with him rushed forward and commandeered the entrance to the city gate while the other two companies ran out to kill everyone who was in the field. 45 Abimelech fought against the city all that day, captured the city, killed the people in it, then tore the city to the ground and sowed it with salt.

46 When all the “lords” at the tower of Shechem heard what had happened, they retreated into the inner chamber of the temple of El-berith. 47 Abimilech was told that all of the “lords” of the Shechem Tower had assembled there. 48 So he went up to Mount Zalmon, accompanied by his entire army. Abimelech had an axe in his hand, so he cut down a branch from a tree, lifted it up, and laid it on his shoulder. Then he told the army that had accompanied him, “You’ve seen what I just did. Hurry up! Do the same thing!”

49 Then his entire army also cut down a branch for each soldier, followed Abimelech to the inner chamber, and set fire to it while they were inside. As a result, all the men of the tower of Shechem died, including about a thousand men and women.

The Death of Abimelech

50 Later on, Abimelech went to Thebe, set up a siege encampment there, and captured it. 51 But there was a fortified tower in the center of the city, and all the men, women, and leaders of the city escaped to it, shut themselves in, and went up to the roof of the tower. 52 So Abimelech approached the tower, attacked it, and approached the tower’s gate, intending to burn it down. 53 But a certain woman threw an upper millstone down on Abimelech’s head, fracturing his skull.

54 So he cried out to his young armor bearer and ordered him, “Draw your sword and kill me, so no one will say about me that ‘A woman killed him.’” So the young man pierced him through, and he died. 55 When the men of Israel noticed that Abimelech was dead, they each left for home. 56 That’s how God repaid Abimelech for the evil thing he did to his father by killing his 70 brothers. 57 God also repaid the men of Shechem for their wickedness, and the curse of Jerubbaal’s son Jotham came true for them.
Judges 9:1-57

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