Study Guide

Book of Judges Chapter 9

Chapter 9

The Homicidal Rise And Fall Of Abimelech

  • Abimelech, son of Gideon, goes to his hometown of Shechem and convinces his mom's family that he ought to be king of Israel.
  • The only people standing in his way are his 70 brothers. No biggie.
  • He gathers campaign contributions from the men of Shechem and hires "vain and light persons, which followed him" (KJV 9:4). Politics, baby.
  • Abimelech goes to his father's house and massacres his 70 brothers.
  • But one brother escapes! Jotham, the youngest, hides himself and avoids the slaughter.
  • With his brothers out of the picture (or so he thinks), Abimelech is made king of Israel.
  • When Jotham hears about this, he goes and stands atop a mountain, where the men of Shechem can hear him. He tells them a story (see KJV 9:8-15):
    Once upon a time, the trees wanted a king.
    They asked the olive tree, but he preferred to continue giving olive oil to God and man.
    So they asked the fig tree, but he preferred to keep giving fruit.
    So they asked the grape vine, but he preferred to keep giving wine.
    Finally, the trees asked the lowly bramble to be king. He agrees, but warns:
    If we do this and it turns out I'm not the rightful king, a fire will come from me and burn down all of the trees.
  • Jotham then gives the interpretation of his story: You men of Shechem have destroyed Gideon's family, even after all he did for you. Abimelech is not the rightful king, and a fire will come out from him to destroy you (see KJV 9:16-20).
  • Jotham decides storytime's over and does what Jotham does best: Hides from Abimelech, who never finds him.
  • After 3 years, the men of Shechem are sick of Abimelech, and hatch a plan to get rid of him.
  • After failing to get him killed by robbers in the mountains, they team up with Gaal, who gathers an army in Shechem and challenges Abimelech to come and get 'em.
  • But Zebul, the ruler of Shechem, doesn't like Gaal, so he secretly tells Abimelech to come and hide his armies in the fields surrounding the city until morning.
  • Abimelech does just that, and in the morning Gaal looks out of the city gates and thinks he sees them hiding.
  • But Zebul convinces him that he's just seeing things, allowing Abimelech to stage a surprise attack against Gaal's army.
  • Abimelech chases them until they retreat back into Shechem.
  • Zebul throws Gaal out of the city, but his army remains there.
  • The next day, Abimelech overruns Shechem, destroys their crops, and kills everyone except those that barricade themselves inside a temple of the god Baal-berith.
  • Abimelech and his men go to the mountains and chop down a bunch of tree branches, which they use to set the temple on fire, killing 1,000 men and women (this might be a good time to remember Jotham's tree story).
  • Next, Abimelech takes his army to another city, Thebez, and captures it like he did Shechem.
  • This time, the survivors shut themselves in a tall tower in the city.
  • Abimelech prepares to burn the tower, just like in Shechem, but as he does, a woman drops a heavy stone off of the tower right onto his head! Girls rule, boys drool.
  • His skull crushed, Abimelech knows he's about to die, but he can't bear the embarrassment of being killed by a woman, so he has his servant stab him.
  • Everyone gets their come-uppance, and Abimelech's army goes home.

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