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Judges 9:4 . Baal-berith. Berith signifies a covenant, which those bad people had made with Baal. The Greeks had their ζευς ορκιος , their Jupiter, or their Baal, to which they made vows.
Judges 9:5 . Slew threescore and ten upon one stone, as an offering to his God. It is a credit to the Hebrew religion, that Abimelech was an apostate.
Judges 9:8 . The trees went forth to anoint a king. This parable seems to have been divinely inspired. The figures and all the drapery of diction, open in a succession of beauties, alike wise, moral, and rural.
Judges 9:13 . Wine which cheereth God and man. Both the nouns being plural, it should read gods and men. The LXX by translating Elohim, God, have led many into the same error. In Genesis 6:2, and Psalms 82:6, the word is understood of princes and prophets, as our Saviour affirms. John 10:34. Hence wine is here understood to cheer the hearts of the princes, and the poor. Yet some will vainly contend that the gods adored by the heathen being once men, were lovers of wine. Others contend also, that wine being used at the sacrifices of oblations, caused God to rejoice in the oblations of his people.
Judges 9:45 . Sowed it with salt, to detest its memory, like that of Sodom.
Judges 9:53 . Piece of a millstone, or the upper stone of a handmill. God directed the hand of this woman to complete his judgments on an apostate people. Yet the Hebrew apostates always secreted their idols under the best of their kings.
We have just seen Gideon, immortal in the memory of his country, refuse the crown of Israel. Now we see his illegitimate son, who neither knew himself nor the duties of a king, aspiring through vain glory at the regal dignity. To accomplish this design, how shamefully mean and dreadfully wicked were the steps he pursued. He flattered the elders of Shechem with the advantages of having a relative on the throne; of its becoming a royal city; and urged the insupportable burden of maintaining seventy princes of Gideon’s house in seventy of the principal towns. Nor was he wanting to urge the civil wars which would immediately follow, on the accession of seventy kings. How dreadful then is ambition, when long fostered in the heart of man. It accounts the meanest intrigues acts of prudence; and canonizes the foulest crimes with the epithet of virtuous deeds. Few men dream of thrones, it is true; but ambition in the acquisition of wealth, and in the aggrandizement of their families, often leads to actions in trade, or in domestic affairs, which cause them to be execrated wherever they are known. Hence one wicked and ruling passion may render the whole of life, as is exemplified in Abimelech, a continued scene of tragedy and crimes.
Though providence suffered Gideon’s incontinence to be punished with the death of his sons, yet we admire its care in preserving Jotham, to perpetuate the name of his father, and to see his curse of burning devolve on the murderers of his brethren. God showed the same kindness to the house of David, when Athaliah slew all the royal family; Joash, an infant, was preserved in the temple. Hence the greatest overflowings of wickedness are checked and restrained by the hand of heaven.
We learn that the wicked, unhappy by their own propensities, are incapable of enjoying repose. Ambition, which made Abimelech uneasy in private life, made him equally so on the throne, and caused him to be hated of his people. The bonds of wickedness are rusty chains, which presently gall and poison the flesh. Scarcely had he reigned three years before he was driven into exile, where he formed those plots which terminated in the destruction of himself, and all the murderers of his father’s sons. Hence God carefully preserved the life of this wicked man, till the Shechemites were either slain with the sword, or burnt in the tower; then he threw the last bolt of vengeance on Abimelech’s head. And mark, reader, mark here the retributive characters of divine justice. The Shechemites had taken money out of the house or tower of Baal to supply Abimelech; and in that house many of them were burnt. They had surprised and slain the sons of Gideon with the sword; and they themselves were surprised and slain in the field when going forth to labour. Abimelech, with their aid, had slain his brethren on a certain stone; and now he is slain by a stone from the tower, and by a woman too! Let us learn to rest our cause with God, to suffer with patience, praying for the conversion of our enemies; otherwise God will surely requite them according to their works. Let the heads of houses learn also, that their efforts in buying land, and forming family establishments, may all be frustrated like those of Gideon. But Christ says, the Father will give us a kingdom.
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Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Judges 9". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany