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Jdg 9:1 And Abimelech the son of Jerubbaal went to Shechem unto his mother’s brethren, and communed with them, and with all the family of the house of his mother’s father, saying,
Ver. 1. And communed with them. ] What might be the likeliest means of effecting his design. Ambition rideth without reins; and like the crocodile, groweth as long as it liveth. These uncles of his might haply advise him, whom they saw thirsting after sovereignty, as Calvus once did Vatinius, Perfrica frontem, et digniorem te dic, qui Praetor fieres, quam Catonem. a Set a good face upon it, and say that thou better deservest the office than ever Cato did.
And with all the family. ] Who haply were leading men, and might do much with that people.
Jdg 9:2 Speak, I pray you, in the ears of all the men of Shechem, Whether [is] better for you, either that all the sons of Jerubbaal, [which are] threescore and ten persons, reign over you, or that one reign over you? remember also that I [am] your bone and your flesh.
Ver. 2. Whether is better for yon. ] Heb., What is good? The public good is usually pretended to private interest. He taketh it for granted that they would have a king, because they offered that dignity to his father: who, not so wise as he should have been, Abimelech thinks, refused it. He cunningly insinuateth also, that all Gideon’s sons affected domination over them; for so ill minded men muse as they use, and measure others by themselves; and would divide the kingdom amongst them, which would cause great stirs in the state.
Remember also that I am your bone and your flesh. ] And will therefore favour you, and promote you. Thus he singeth a song of utile in their ears, which he knew would take with them. Machiavel was not now in rerum natura: but the devil was as great a master then as afterwards.
Jdg 9:3 And his mother’s brethren spake of him in the ears of all the men of Shechem all these words: and their hearts inclined to follow Abimelech; for they said, He [is] our brother.
Ver. 3. And his mother’s brethren spake of him.] And perhaps they gained the same commendation that the Duke of Buckingham, speaking to the Londoners for Richard III to be made likewise king, did, viz., that no man could deliver so much bad matter in so good words and quaint phrases.
Jdg 9:4 And they gave him threescore and ten [pieces] of silver out of the house of Baalberith, wherewith Abimelech hired vain and light persons, which followed him.
Ver. 4. And they gave him threescore and ten pieces. ] Pounds, saith the Vulgate: but more likely, shekels: which though it were a small sum, yet we must know that a little money would go a great way in those days; as also that such soldiers might be hired for small wages, &c.
Hired vain and light persons. ] Beggarly rascals, fit for his purpose, debauched desperadoes.
Jdg 9:5 And he went unto his father’s house at Ophrah, and slew his brethren the sons of Jerubbaal, [being] threescore and ten persons, upon one stone: notwithstanding yet Jotham the youngest son of Jerubbaal was left; for he hid himself.
Ver. 5. And slew his brethren. ] So did afterwards Joram, the degenerate son of good Jehoshaphat; Romulus, first king of Rome; Jugurtha, king of tbe Numidians; and so doth the great Turk to this day, so soon as he cometh to the kingdom, that he may have no competitors.
Upon one stone. ] Whereon, likely, they laid down their necks, and had their heads stricken off, under some pretence of justice, as if they had conspired against him, or against the state. Howsoever, Abimelech, knowing that it was no good policy to play the villain by half-deal, was resolved to suffer never a rub to lie in the way that might hinder the true running of his bowl.
Jdg 9:6 And all the men of Shechem gathered together, and all the house of Millo, and went, and made Abimelech king, by the plain of the pillar that [was] in Shechem.
Ver. 6. And all the men of Shechem. ] They might have foreseen by his bloody fratricide what kind of king they should have of him; but they were set upon it, and they soon had enough of it; for as these Shechemites were first in raising Abimelech unjustly to the throne, so they were the first that felt the weight of his sceptre. The foolish bird fouls and smears herself with that which grew from her own excretion. Who wondereth to see the kind peasant stung with his own snake?
Jdg 9:7 And when they told [it] to Jotham, he went and stood in the top of mount Gerizim, and lifted up his voice, and cried, and said unto them, Hearken unto me, ye men of Shechem, that God may hearken unto you.
Ver. 7. And when they told it to Jotham. ] He only escaped of all the seventy sons, to tell Abimelech and his Shechemites their own, and that on the coronation day too; thundering out God’s curses from the very mountain of blessings. This could not but be terrible, and much dissweeten that day’s solemnity. Sed surdis fabulam. Where ambition hath possessed itself thoroughly of the soul, it turneth the heart into steel, and maketh it incapable of a conscience.
Hearken unto me, &c. ] An august exordium, whereby, and by the whole speech, it appeareth that this young man was vir bonus dicendi peritus, as Quintilian saith an orator should be, one that could deliver his mind fitly, and that durst do it freely.
Jdg 9:8 The trees went forth [on a time] to anoint a king over them; and they said unto the olive tree, Reign thou over us.
Ver. 8. The trees went forth on a time. ] An apologue or parable. The like whereunto see 2 Kings 14:9 2Sa 12:2 Matthew 13:2-40.13.3 , &c. The trees, that is, the men of Israel (Plato compared a man to a tree inverted, with the root above and the branches below) went forth, eundo iverunt, they went hastily, but (to an ill bargain) they returned heavily. They might have foreseen, by his bloody dealing with his innocent brethren, what kind of king they should have of him. But, Deus quos destruit, demental they were infatuated, because destined to destruction.
And they said unto the olive tree, Reign thou over us. ] Those that are most unworthy of honour are hottest in the chase of it; while the conscience of better deserts bids men sit still, and stay to be either importuned or neglected. The Venetians have magistrates called Pregadi; because at first men were prayed to take the office, and to help to govern the state.
Jdg 9:9 But the olive tree said unto them, Should I leave my fatness, wherewith by me they honour God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees?
Ver. 9. But the olive-tree said unto them. ] The bramble thought it a great matter to reign over the rest; not so the olive. Animo mayno nihil magnum. The violent obtain heaven; but for earth, they look upon it as a magnum nihil.
Should I leave my fatness? ] That is, My fitness to serve God and men in my place and station. It is hard and happy not to be worse for outward honour and greatness. Vespasian is said to be the only one of all the emperors, qui accepto imperio melior factus est, who was made a better man by that preferment.
And go to be promoted? ] Or, Go up and down for other trees. Ut item vayatum, id est cireumcur satum ad regium munus exquendum, a that I should go haliprancing from place to place in the execution of my kingly office. This made Florus the poet sing:
“ Nolo ego Caesar esse,
Ambulare per Britannos,
Rigidas pati pruinas. ” - Carion. Chron.
This made Rodolphus Rufus, the Emperor, thus bespeak his crown:
“ Nobilis es fateor, rutilisque onerata lapillis:
Innumeris curis sed comitata venis.
Quod bene si nossent omnes expendere, nemo,
Nemo foret qui te tollere vellet humo. ” - Par. Medul.
Jdg 9:10 And the trees said to the fig tree, Come thou, [and] reign over us.
Ver. 10. And the trees said to the fig tree. ] By the fig tree the Jewish doctors understand Deborah, as by the olive tree Othniel or Ehud; and by the fruitful vine, Gideon with his numerous offspring.
Jdg 9:11 But the fig tree said unto them, Should I forsake my sweetness, and my good fruit, and go to be promoted over the trees?
Ver. 11. Should I forsake, &c. ] See Judges 9:9 .
And my good fruit. ] Dioscorides scribit ficum utile alimentum praebere: Figs are good for meat and medicine.
Jdg 9:12 Then said the trees unto the vine, Come thou, [and] reign over us.
Ver. 12. Then said the trees unto the vine. ] So fond they were of a king, howsoever it went. When the Romans offered the Capadocians to make them a free state, they refused it, saying they could not live without a king.
Jdg 9:13 And the vine said unto them, Should I leave my wine, which cheereth God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees?
Ver. 13. Should I leave my wine? ] This is the drunkard’s motto, Malle so, vitam quam vinum eripi. a Take away my liquor, you take away my life. Ambrose reporteth of one Theotimus (too good a name for such a wretch), that, having a disease upon his body, and told by the physician that unless he did abstain from wine he was like to lose his eyes, Vale lumen amicum, said he, If they will not away with wine, they are no eyes for me. He would rather lose his sight than his sin. So will many their souls. Woe to those drunkards of Ephraim!
Which cheereth God and man. ] God, because poured out in sacrifices of a sweet smelling odour to him: and man, by "refreshing his spirits"; Psa 104:15 Pro 1:6 whence Plato reckoneth wine among the μαλακτικα of man’s life: and Simonides saith that it is αμυντωρ δυσφροσιναων , an expeller of sadness.
a Aug., De Temp. Serm., 131.
Jdg 9:14 Then said all the trees unto the bramble, Come thou, [and] reign over us.
Ver. 14. Then said all the trees unto the bramble. ] Or, Thistle, or teazle; which is not a tree but a shrub, prickly, barren, base, abject, good-for-nothing but to stop gaps, or kindle a fire. Abimelech was a right bramble indeed, who grew in the base hedgerow of a concubine, and scratched and drew blood to purpose, when once he had scrambled up to be king of Israel.
Jdg 9:15 And the bramble said unto the trees, If in truth ye anoint me king over you, [then] come [and] put your trust in my shadow: and if not, let fire come out of the bramble, and devour the cedars of Lebanon.
Ver. 15. If in truth ye anoint me king over you. ] Whereunto he also must be entreated for fashionsake: like as Richard III was by the Londoners at the solicitation of Buckingham, who knew his mind and factored for him, as here Abimelech’s uncles did. This base bramble, a dry, empty, sapless kex and weed, apt and able only to scratch, tear, and vex, must needs be up, and hoised into a high room, and domineer over others. Men of most prostituted consciences are, for most part, the most pragmatical prawlers, saith a grave divine, a after undeserved preferments, and the only men to serve themselves viis et modis, as they say, into offices, honours, and places of advancement.
Then come and put your trust in my shadow. ] At umbra rhamni non est commendabilis. The bramble bush yieldeth no very good shade; the silly sheep flying to it for shelter and defence in weather, is sure to lose part of his fleece, if not of his flesh.
Let fire come out of the bramble. ] Isidore and many other learned men b say, that the bramble being much shaken by the wind, is thereby set on fire, whereby both itself and all the trees about it are consumed. Jotham might allude to this. The counsel is good that one here giveth; Let not the bramble be king; let not earthly things bear rule over thine affections. Fire will arise out of them that will consume thy cedars, emasculate all the powers of thy soul. One bastard will destroy all the true born sons.
a Bishop Hall.
b Testatus, Mercer, Forster, Carthusian, Moller.
Jdg 9:16 Now therefore, if ye have done truly and sincerely, in that ye have made Abimelech king, and if ye have dealt well with Jerubbaal and his house, and have done unto him according to the deserving of his hands;
Ver. 16. Now therefore. ] This is the επιμυθιον , the explication and application of the parable, the key to it, and use of it, bringing it home to the hearers.
If ye have done truly and sincerely. ] With God, whose government ye have rejected: and if candidly and gratefully with my father, who jeoparded his life for you, then much happiness may you have in your new choice. But, alas! he that hath but half an eye may see the contrary, and foresee the mischief that will follow upon it.
Judges 9:17 (For my father fought for you, and adventured his life far, and delivered you out of the hand of Midian:
Ver. 17. And adventured his life. ] Heb., Threw his life far from him, set light by it, was prodigal of it. And was not the Lord Christ much more so for us? Out upon our uuthankfulness!
Jdg 9:18 And ye are risen up against my father’s house this day, and have slain his sons, threescore and ten persons, upon one stone, and have made Abimelech, the son of his maidservant, king over the men of Shechem, because he [is] your brother;)
Ver. 18. And ye are risen up against my father’s house, &c.] This was
“ Mordaci radere vero, ”
plain dealing indeed. They who do what they should not, shall once hear what they would not; as Ahab did from Eliah; Herod from John Baptist; Eudoxia, the Empress, from Chrysostom; &c.
Jdg 9:19 If ye then have dealt truly and sincerely with Jerubbaal and with his house this day, [then] rejoice ye in Abimelech, and let him also rejoice in you:
Ver. 19. Then rejoice you in Abimelech. ] As I hardly think you ever will; for it is an irony: Mutuum oblectemini, May there be all good correspondency.
Jdg 9:20 But if not, let fire come out from Abimelech, and devour the men of Shechem, and the house of Millo; and let fire come out from the men of Shechem, and from the house of Millo, and devour Abimelech.
Ver. 20. But if not. ] As your own consciences, those domestical chaplains, will tell you: for
“ Conscia mens ut cuique sua est, ira concipit intra
Pectora pro facto spemque metumque, suo. ” - Ovid.
Let fire come. ] See Judges 9:15 .
Jdg 9:21 And Jotham ran away, and fled, and went to Beer, and dwelt there, for fear of Abimelech his brother.
Ver. 21. And Jotham ran away, and fled, and went. ] It was but high time to fly, Cito, citius, citissime, whence all this heap of words in the text. So fled Jacob from Esau, David from Saul, Paul from his persecutors. Act 9:23-25 It is not unlawful in some cases to save ourselves by flight. Tertullian was too rigid in this point. God hath not set us as standing marks or butts to be shot at.
Jdg 9:22 When Abimelech had reigned three years over Israel,
Ver. 22. When Abimelech had reigned three years. ] And now haply began to think, as afterward Dionysius the tyrant of Sicily did, that his kingdom was tied to him with chains of adamant.
Jdg 9:23 Then God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the men of Shechem; and the men of Shechem dealt treacherously with Abimelech:
Ver. 23. Then God sent an evil spirit. ] The devil, that troubler, that seedsman of sedition, that great kindle coal and mischief maker of the world, who, working upon these men’s corruptions, whom God had justly given over to a reprobate mind, filled them with "envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity," &c. Rom 1:28-29
Dealt treacherously with Abimelech. ] Whom themselves had chosen and set up. What a fickle tenure holdeth he by, who holdeth of the multitude! Neutrum modo, mas modo Vulgus. So the English were soon weary of Richard III, who yet was a good prince though an evil man, and made many good laws against those evils in others which himself practised.
Jdg 9:24 That the cruelty [done] to the threescore and ten sons of Jerubbaal might come, and their blood be laid upon Abimelech their brother, which slew them; and upon the men of Shechem, which aided him in the killing of his brethren.
Ver. 24. That the cruelty done. ] God maketh inquisition for blood, and suffereth not murder, but especially parricide, to pass unpunished: for it ever bleedeth fresh in his eyes. 2Ki 9:26
Jdg 9:25 And the men of Shechem set liers in wait for him in the top of the mountains, and they robbed all that came along that way by them: and it was told Abimelech.
Ver. 25. Set liers in wait for him. ] Attempting thereby secretly to have slain him, or at least to have seized his person.
And it was told Abimelech. ] These robbers going beyond their commission discovered the plot, and so Abimelech escaped. But this preservation was but a reservation.
Jdg 9:26 And Gaal the son of Ebed came with his brethren, and went over to Shechem: and the men of Shechem put their confidence in him.
Ver. 26. And Gaal the son of Ebed. ] This thrasonical fellow, no less ambitious, subtle, and seditious than Abimelech, offereth to head the Shechemites, whom he saw to be at this time in a disorder, and to lead them against Abimelech.
Put their confidence in him. ] As before they had done in Abimelech, Jdg 9:15 and were now grown no whit wiser by what they had suffered, but ripened apace for utter ruin.
Jdg 9:27 And they went out into the fields, and gathered their vineyards, and trode [the grapes], and made merry, and went into the house of their god, and did eat and drink, and cursed Abimelech.
Ver. 27. And they went out into their vineyards. ] Which till Gaal came they durst not do, belike, for fear of Abimelech, who was Hannibal ad portas.
And made merry. ] Or, Made songs. See Isaiah 16:10 . The Septuagint renders it εποιησαν χορους , they danced; little thinking how soon that merry dance would end in a miserable downfall The Hebrew is, praises: for at first God was thereby praised.
And cursed Abimelech. ] Which they ought not to have done, since they had made him ruler of the people. Exo 22:28 So Dr Story cursed Queen Elizabeth in his daily grace before eating, and was worthily executed at Tyburn: Sanders railed bitterly against her, calling her Lupam Anglicanam, &c., and had his mouth stopped with famine in Ireland.
Jdg 9:28 And Gaal the son of Ebed said, Who [is] Abimelech, and who [is] Shechem, that we should serve him? [is] not [he] the son of Jerubbaal? and Zebul his officer? serve the men of Hamor the father of Shechem: for why should we serve him?
Ver. 28. Who is Abimelech, and who is Shechem? ] Or, Who is Shechem? q.d., Is it so contemptible a city, that so base a fellow as Abimelech should have the sovereignty over it?
Is not he the son of Jerubbaal? ] That is, Of one who bereft us of that religion, Baal worship, which is now happily re-established. Thus, this cunning fellow raketh together arguments of all sorts, whereby to wind himself into the people’s affections, and to get the government of the city.
And Zebul his officer? ] His viceroy. O rem miseram! Dominum ferre non potuimus, et conservo servimus, a But why did they not turn Zebul, Abimelech’s intelligencer, out of this city? This, Gaal drove at doubtless, but could not obtain.
Serve the men of Hamor the father Shechem. ] Who was rather a father than a ruler of this city: serve such as are descended of him (so Gaal pretended to be, as some think), or at least, will resemble him in fatherly lenity.
a Cicer., Epist., lib. xii.
Jdg 9:29 And would to God this people were under my hand! then would I remove Abimelech. And he said to Abimelech, Increase thine army, and come out.
Ver. 29. And would to God this people, &c. ] This is the very voice of these quorum bibulas animas ambitionis possidet salsugo; witness Absalom, Julius Caesar, Phocas, &c.
And he said to Abimelech. ] Who perhaps heard him not, or else he sent him a challenge. We have those that in their mad mood dare say as much to death: who yet when death comes indeed, cannot look him in the face with blood in their cheeks.
Jdg 9:30 And when Zebul the ruler of the city heard the words of Gaal the son of Ebed, his anger was kindled.
Ver. 30. His anger was kindled, ] sc., To hear his lord and himself so slighted and debased: there being nothing that man’s nature is more impatient of than contempt; for a reproachful scorn showeth an utter disrespect, which issueth from the very superfluity of malice.
Jdg 9:31 And he sent messengers unto Abimelech privily, saying, Behold, Gaal the son of Ebed and his brethren be come to Shechem; and, behold, they fortify the city against thee.
Ver. 31. Behold, Gaal … and, behold, they fortify.] Abimelech was but a usurper, yet Gaal, his prefect or lieutenant, sticketh to him. So did John, Duke of Norfolk, to Richard III, though the night before Bosworth-field he had this distich fastened to his tent-door -
“Jocky of Norfolk, be not too bold:
For Dicky, thy master, is bought and sold.”
So Sir Ralph Percy, slain upon Hegely moor, in Northumberland, by the Lord Mountacute, General for Edward IV, would in nowise depart the field, though defeated; but in dying said, "I have saved the bird in my breast," meaning his oath to King Henry VI. a
a Speed, 869.
Jdg 9:32 Now therefore up by night, thou and the people that [is] with thee, and lie in wait in the field:
Ver. 32. Thou and the people that is with thee. ] Those thou hast ready: lose not the present opportunity. In bello non datur bis errare, in war there is no use of after wise.
Jdg 9:33 And it shall be, [that] in the morning, as soon as the sun is up, thou shalt rise early, and set upon the city: and, behold, [when] he and the people that [is] with him come out against thee, then mayest thou do to them as thou shalt find occasion.
Ver. 33. As thou shalt find occasion. ] This was welcome advice to Abimelech, who might probably hereupon set as high a price upon Zebul, as afterwards Darius did upon Zopyrus. a
a Justin., lib. i.
Jdg 9:34 And Abimelech rose up, and all the people that [were] with him, by night, and they laid wait against Shechem in four companies.
Ver. 34. And Abimelech rose up … by night.] According to Zebul’s advice. It is best not to need good counsel; and it is next best to take it when given. a
Jdg 9:35 And Gaal the son of Ebed went out, and stood in the entering of the gate of the city: and Abimelech rose up, and the people that [were] with him, from lying in wait.
Ver. 35. And stood in the entering of the gate of the city. ] To see what he could discover of the enemy: and had he been as valiant as he was vigilant, it might have gone better with him and his partisans.
Jdg 9:36 And when Gaal saw the people, he said to Zebul, Behold, there come people down from the top of the mountains. And Zebul said unto him, Thou seest the shadow of the mountains as [if they were] men.
Ver. 36. He said to Zebul. ] Who had hitherto played on both hands, and seemed to side with Gaal, that he might bring him into the hands of Abimelech’s ambuscado. Huiusmodi homines instructi arte Pelasga, &c. Fair words make fools fain.
Thou seest the shadow of the mountains as if they were men. ] Either thine eyes are not matches or thy fear hath blinded thee: -
“ Pessimus in dubiis augur timor. ” - Statius Theb., lib. iii.
The Burgundians, once expecting a battle, thought long thistles were lances. So saith Zebul here, in a jeer, thou takest mountains for men, shadows for substances.
Jdg 9:37 And Gaal spake again and said, See there come people down by the middle of the land, and another company come along by the plain of Meonenim.
Ver. 37. By the plain of Meonenim. ] Or, Of the soothsayers. It may be rendered, By the oak of the oraculous diviners. The oak was consecrated to Jupiter: and of the Dodonaean oak much is spoken by the poets: but what meant such places or such doings among the people of Israel, who were flatly forbidden them? Deu 18:9-14
Jdg 9:38 Then said Zebul unto him, Where [is] now thy mouth, wherewith thou saidst, Who [is] Abimelech, that we should serve him? [is] not this the people that thou hast despised? go out, I pray now, and fight with them.
Ver. 38. Where is now thy mouth? ] Thy bubbles of words, thy thrasonical boastings? Now play the man, and fight the approaching enemy, or thou art shamed for ever.
Jdg 9:39 And Gaal went out before the men of Shechem, and fought with Abimelech.
Ver. 39. And Gaal went out. ] Zebul’s taunts had made him ashamed to retire: but God had a special hand in it, for his just punishment. That is a true saying of one, Where iniquity breaketh fast, calamity will be sure to dine; to sup where it dineth, and to lodge where it suppeth.
Jdg 9:40 And Abimelech chased him, and he fled before him, and many were overthrown [and] wounded, [even] unto the entering of the gate.
Ver. 40. And he fled before him. ] Notwithstanding his great brags and insolent challenge. Those who vaunt most have oft the least courage: as those creatures which have the greatest hearts of flesh are the most timorous, as the stag, panther, hare, a &c.
Jdg 9:41 And Abimelech dwelt at Arumah: and Zebul thrust out Gaal and his brethren, that they should not dwell in Shechem.
Ver. 41. And Abimelech dwelt at Arumah. ] a Concealing his ill-will against the Shechemites, as though he had meant it to Gaal only. It is said of Tiberius the Emperor, that the farther off he threatened, the heavier the stroke fell. And of our Richard III, that he would use most compliment and courtesy to him in the morning whose throat he had taken order to be cut that evening.
a Jerome saith that Arumah is the same with Arimathea.
Jdg 9:42 And it came to pass on the morrow, that the people went out into the field; and they told Abimelech.
Ver. 42. Went out into the field, ] viz., To renew the battle, and to rid the country of Abimelech; not to their grape gathering, or about their husbandry, as Josephus and Procopius say.
Jdg 9:43 And he took the people, and divided them into three companies, and laid wait in the field, and looked, and, behold, the people [were] come forth out of the city; and he rose up against them, and smote them.
Ver. 43. Were come forth out of the city. ] As ambitious of their own destruction. Judgments need not go to find out wicked persons; they run to meet their bane.
Jdg 9:44 And Abimelech, and the company that [was] with him, rushed forward, and stood in the entering of the gate of the city: and the two [other] companies ran upon all [the people] that [were] in the fields, and slew them.
Ver. 44. Ran upon all the people. ] Omnia sunt misera in bellis civilibus, saith Cicero. Civil war is a woe which no words, how wide soever, are able to express.
Jdg 9:45 And Abimelech fought against the city all that day; and he took the city, and slew the people that [was] therein, and beat down the city, and sowed it with salt.
Ver. 45. He took the city, and slew the people. ] There was, as at Athens when taken by Sulla, ανελεης σφαγη , a merciless massacre, the streets running down with blood. a
And beat down the city, and sowed it with salt. ] Milan was so served by the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa, A.D. 1162, but rebuilt not long after, b as was likewise Shechem by Jeroboam. 1Ki 12:25 But here the bramble, or thistle, made good his motto, Nemo me impune lacessit. He dealt most barbarously with his native country, turning the place of his birth into a place of "nettles and saltpits, and a perpetual desolation," Zep 2:9 as far as in him lay.
b Sigon. Naucler.
Jdg 9:46 And when all the men of the tower of Shechem heard [that], they entered into an hold of the house of the god Berith.
Ver. 46. Into an hold of the house of the god Berith. ] This was as if a man should run into a stack of straw or barrel of gunpowder, to secure himself from a raging fire. Their covenant with Baal, that image of jealousy, Eze 8:3 was the cause of their ruin. They looked upon this hold as both a fort and a sanctuary; but it saved them not.
Jdg 9:47 And it was told Abimelech, that all the men of the tower of Shechem were gathered together.
Ver. 47. And it was told Abimelech. ] Who carefully watched all their motions, and had his corycaei to give him intelligence of all passages.
Jdg 9:48 And Abimelech gat him up to mount Zalmon, he and all the people that [were] with him; and Abimelech took an axe in his hand, and cut down a bough from the trees, and took it, and laid [it] on his shoulder, and said unto the people that [were] with him, What ye have seen me do, make haste, [and] do as I [have done].
Ver. 48. To mount Zalmon. ] Which had its name from the shadiness, by reason of the many trees there growing.
What ye have seen me do, make haste, and do. ] Princeps imperio maximus, exemplo maior, as Paterculus a saith of Tiberius; Princes are easily imitated. Vespasian undertaking to repair the decayed capitol, first with his own hands shovelled up the rubbish, and carried it forth on his shoulders. b
a Paterc., lib. ii.
b Sueton., in Vesp., cap. 8.
Jdg 9:49 And all the people likewise cut down every man his bough, and followed Abimelech, and put [them] to the hold, and set the hold on fire upon them; so that all the men of the tower of Shechem died also, about a thousand men and women.
Ver. 49. All the men of the tower of Shechem. ] Who were, probably, those men of Millo that had helped to make Abimelech king; and so Jotham’s parable was fulfilled.
Jdg 9:50 Then went Abimelech to Thebez, and encamped against Thebez, and took it.
Ver. 50. Then went Abimelech to Thebez. ] Elijah the Tishbite’s country, and more famous for him than Thebes, in Greece, was afterwards for Pindarus the poet.
Jdg 9:51 But there was a strong tower within the city, and thither fled all the men and women, and all they of the city, and shut [it] to them, and gat them up to the top of the tower.
Ver. 51. Thither fled all the men and women. ] As all creatures in times of danger run to their refuges. Proverbs 30:26 ; Proverbs 18:11 Psa 104:18 Dan 4:10-11
Jdg 9:52 And Abimelech came unto the tower, and fought against it, and went hard unto the door of the tower to burn it with fire.
Ver. 52. And went hard unto the door. ] This was not soldier-like, whose rule must be, Neque timide neque temere, Be neither timorous nor temerarious. See 2 Samuel 11:21 . But Abimelech, lifted up with his former successes, thought, belike, he might do anything, and said within himself,
“ Maior sum quam cui possit fortuna, nocere. ”
Jdg 9:53 And a certain woman cast a piece of a millstone upon Abimelech’s head, and all to brake his skull.
Ver. 53. And a certain woman. ] Women have sometimes done singular service against an enemy: as at the siege of Lamia, laid by M. Acilius, the Roman general: a of Coccinum, in the isle of Lemnus, by the Turks, where Marulla, a maiden, fought desperately in defence of her country: b of Buda, where the Hungarian women bestirred them lustily to save the town. c But what monstrous mothers were those Suevian women, who, assisting their husbands in fight against the Romans, under the conduct of Drusus, son-in-law to Augustus Caesar, threw their young children at them instead of darts. d
Cast a piece of a millstone. ] So that ambitious King Pyrrhus was at last slain with a tile stone thrown upon his head by a woman. e And the like deadly blow light by a like hand, upon the head of Hermanius Earl of Lucelburg, whom Pope Hildebrand had set up in opposition to Henry the Emperor, whom he had excommunicated. f Simeon De Monteforti also, another of the Pope’s champions, fighting against those ancient Protestants the Waldenses, was brained with a stone at the siege of Tholouse. g That scholar that took his death by the falling of a letter of stone from the Earl of Northampton’s house at the funeral of Queen Anne, was to be pitied. But commentators observe it for a just hand of God upon Abimelech, that upon one stone he had slain his seventy brethren, and now a stone slayeth him: his head had stolen the crown of Israel, and now his head is smitten.
a Liv., lib. xxxvii.
b Turk. Hist., 413.
c Ibid., 741.
d Heyl., Geog.
f Val. Max. Christ.
g Arch. Ussher.
Jdg 9:54 Then he called hastily unto the young man his armourbearer, and said unto him, Draw thy sword, and slay me, that men say not of me, A woman slew him. And his young man thrust him through, and he died.
Ver. 54. Then he called hastily unto the young man. ] Exemplum pertinacis ambitionis et impaenitentiae. a A fearful example of a man who died in his sins, which is far worse than to die in a ditch, niggardly of his reputation, prodigal of his soul. Do we not sometimes see vain fools running wilfully into the field, into the grave, into hell? and all lest it should be said they have as much fear as wit.
And his young man thrust him through, and he died. ] So there lay the greatness of Abimelech, "killed with death," as the phrase is in Revelation 2:23 . Of him it might be truly said, as it was afterwards of Pope Boniface VIII, that he entered like a fox, reigned as a lion, and died as a dog.
Jdg 9:55 And when the men of Israel saw that Abimelech was dead, they departed every man unto his place.
Ver. 55. They departed every man to his place. ] They stayed not to take the tower, and to revenge their lord’s death, but haply were glad they were rid of such a tyrant.
“ Cure mors crudelem rapuisset saeva Neronem,
Credibile est multos Romam agitasse iocos.”
Jdg 9:56 Thus God rendered the wickedness of Abimelech, which he did unto his father, in slaying his seventy brethren:
Ver. 56. Which he did unto his father. ] Wrong done to a parent in any kind, is a heinous sin, and hath a heavy punishment.
Jdg 9:57 And all the evil of the men of Shechem did God render upon their heads: and upon them came the curse of Jotham the son of Jerubbaal.
Ver. 57. And upon them came the curse. ] The prophetical curse, though it were more than three years after. Subito tollitur qui diu toleratur: et Dei patientia quo diuturnior eo est minacior.
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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Judges 9". Trapp's Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany