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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged
Judges 9

 

 

Verse 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,

Abimelech the son of Jerubbaal went to Shechem. The idolatry which had been stealthily creeping into Israel during the latter years of Gideon was now openly professed; Shechem was wholly inhabited by its adherents: at least idolaters had the ascendancy. Abimelech, one of Gideon's numerous sons, was connected with that place, was ambitious of sovereign power, and having plied successfully the arts of a demagogue with his maternal relatives and friends, he acquired both the influence and money by which he raised himself to a throne.

Communed ... with all the family of the house of his mother's father. Here is a striking instance of the evils of polygamy-one son has connections and interests totally alien to those of his brothers.


Verse 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.

Whether is better for you ... that all the sons of Jerubbaal ... or that one reign over you? - a false insinuation, artfully contrived to stir up jealousy and alarm. Gideon had rejected with abhorrence the proposal to make himself or any of his family king; and there is no evidence that any of his other sons coveted the title.


Verse 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.

No JFB commentary on this verse.


Verse 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.

The house of Baal-berith - either the temple or the place where this idol was worshipped-Baal-berith, 'god of the covenant,' by invocation of whom the league of the cities was formed.

Vain and light persons, which followed him - idle, worthless vagabonds, the scum of society, who had nothing to lose, but much to gain, from the success of a revolutionary movement.


Verse 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.

Went unto ... Ophrah, and slew his brethren ... upon one stone. This is the first mention of a barbarous atrocity which has, with appalling frequency, been perpetrated in the despotic countries of the East-that of some one son of the deceased monarch usurping the throne, and hastening to confirm himself in the possession by the massacre of all the natural or legitimate competitors. Abimelech killed his brothers on one stone, either by dashing them from one rock or sacrificing them on one stone altar, in revenge for the demolition of Baal's altar by their father. This latter view is the more probable, from the Shechemites (Judges 9:24) aiding in it.

Threescore and ten persons. A round number is used, but it is evident that two are wanting to complete that amount.


Verse 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.

All the men of Shechem ... and all the house of Millo - i:e. a mound or rampart; so that the meaning is, all the men in the house or temple; namely, the priests of Baal.

Made Abimelech king by the plain of the pillar - rather, by the oak near a raised mound, so that the ceremony of coronation might be conspicuous to a crowd.


Verse 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.

He went and stood in the top of mount Gerizim, and lifted up his voice. The spot he chose was, like the house-tops, the public place of Shechem; and the parable drawn from the rivalry of the various trees was appropriate to the diversified foliage of the valley below. Eastern people are exceedingly fond of parables, and use them for conveying reproofs which they could not give in any other way. The top of Gerizim is not so high in the rear of the town as it is nearer to the plain. With a little exertion of voice, he could easily have been heard by the people of the city; because the hill so overhangs the valley that a person from the side or summit would have no difficulty in speaking to listeners at the base. Modern history records a case in which soldiers on the hill shouted to the people in the city, and endeavoured to instigate them to an insurrection. There is something about the elastic atmosphere of an Eastern clime which causes it to transmit sound with, wonderful celerity and distinctness (Hackett, 'Illustrations of Scripture,' p. 198; Buckingham's 'Palestine,' 2:,

p. 470; Stanley's Sinai and Palestine,' p. 235, note).


Verse 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.

The trees went forth - literally, 'went on going.'


Verses 9-12

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?

No JFB commentary on these verses.


Verse 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?

Wine, which cheereth God and man. Not certainly in the same manner. God might be said to be 'cheered' by it when the sacrifices were accepted, as He is said also to be honoured by oil (Judges 9:9). [But '


Verse 14

Then said all the trees unto the bramble, Come thou, and reign over us.

Bramble [Rhamnus paliurus, Linnaeus] - southern buckthorn.


Verses 15-20

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.

No JFB commentary on these verses.


Verse 21

And Jotham ran away, and fled, and went to Beer, and dwelt there, for fear of Abimelech his brother.

Jotham ran away, and fled. The moral of the parable he had spoken was this-That foolish and wicked men are found boldly usurping places of power and prominence, from the responsibility of which wise and good men are apt to shrink; and that the associates in such proceedings, where no regard is paid to principle or personal merit, will sooner or later fall by mutual destruction.

And went to Beer - the modern village el-Bireh, on the ridge which bounds the northern prospects of Jerusalem.


Verse 22

When Abimelech had reigned three years over Israel,

When Abimelech had reigned three years. His reign did not probably at first extend beyond Shechem; but by stealthy and progressive encoachments he subjected some of the neighbouring towns to his away. None could 'reign' in Israel except by rebellious usurpation; and hence, the reign of Abimelech is expressed in the original by a word signifying 'despotism;' not that which describes the mild and divinely-authorized rule of the judge.


Verse 23

Then God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the men of Shechem; and the men of Shechem dealt treacherously with Abimelech:

Then God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the men of Shechem - i:e., in the course of Providence, jealousy, distrust, secret disaffection, and smothered rebellion appeared among his subjects, disappointed and disgusted with his tyranny; and God permitted those disorders to punish the complicated crimes of the royal fratricide and idolatrous usurper.


Verse 24-25

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.

No JFB commentary on these verses.


Verse 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.

Gaal ... came with his brethren ... and the men of Shechem put their confidence in him. An insurrection of the original Canaanites, headed by this man, at last broke out in Shechem.


Verse 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.

They went out into the fields, and gathered their vineyards ... and went into the house of their god, and did eat and drink. This is an instance of what is universally admitted, that wine was used in the sacred feasts of the pagan.

And cursed Abimelech - i:e., expressed their malevolence to him in the songs they sung on that occasion in the temple (Harmer, 4:, p. 149).


Verse 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? No JFB commentary on this verse.


Verse 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.

Would to God this people were under my hand! He seems to have been a boastful, impudent, and cowardly person, totally unfit to be a leader in a revolutionary crisis. The consequence was, that he allowed himself to be drawn into an ambush, was defeated, the city of Shechem destroyed and strewn with salt-Abimelech thereby intimating his desire that it might always continue barren and uninhabited-and the people took refuge in the stronghold, which was set fire to, and all in it perished.


Verses 30-45

And when Zebul the ruler of the city heard the words of Gaal the son of Ebed, his anger was kindled.

No JFB commentary on these verses.


Verse 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.

They entered into an hold ... - literally, into the tower of the house of the god Berith, which was capacious enough to admit more than a thousand persons. Among the pagan, temples and places of worship were commonly built on mountains or high places, either in the form of forts or with towers attached to them.


Verse 47-48

And it was told Abimelech, that all the men of the tower of Shechem were gathered together.

No JFB commentary on these verses.


Verse 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.

All the people ... followed Abimelech ... and set the hold on fire upon them. Since this tower or fortress was so strong, and there was no hope of its being taken by storm, Abimelech resolved to set it on fire, being a wooden edifice. With this view he went up to mount Zalmon, which, in the opinion of Dr. Robinson ('Physical Geography of Palestine,' p. 36), 'could only be some part of Gerizim or Ebal, then covered with wood, since there is no other mountain near to Shechem.' There having cut down a branch, he lifted it on his shoulder, and bade all the people around do the same. A large quantity of fuel was thus brought down from the mountain, and laid in the lease round the tower. This being ignited, the flames, communicating with the tower, began to act on its wooden walls, so that all who had taken refuge in it were suffocated by the smoke or perished in the conflagration. The application of fire was a common expedient in sieges (see Layard, 'Nineveh and its Remains,' 2: p. 373). The assailants, creeping stealthily to the gates, applied torches to them, while they screened themselves from observation and from danger by o'ercanopying their heads with their uplifted shields (cf. Homer, 'Iliad,' 2:, 464; 15:; AEschylus, 'Supplicants,' 76).


Verse 50

Then went Abimelech to Thebez, and encamped against Thebez, and took it.

Then went Abimelech to Thebez, and encamped against ... it - now Tobas, not far from Shechem.


Verse 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.

All the men and women ... gat them up to the top of the tower. The Canaanite forts were generally mountain-fastnesses or keeps, and they often had a strong tower, which served as a last refuge.


Verse 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.

No JFB commentary on this verse.


Verse 53

And a certain woman cast a piece of a millstone upon Abimelech's head, and all to brake his skull.

A certain woman cast a ... millstone upon Abimelech's head, and all to break his skull. Similar was the fate of Pyrrhus. The Argives did not receive him; he fell before the wall, a certain woman having thrown down a tile from above on his head (Strabo, lib. 5:, 101). The Assyrian bas-reliefs afford counterparts of the scene here described, so vivid and exact that we might almost suppose them to be representations of the same historic events. The besieged city, the strong tower within, the men and women crowding its battlements, the fire applied to the doors, and even the huge fragments of stone dropping from the hands of one of the garrison on the heads of the assailants, are all well represented to the life, just as they are here described in the narrative of inspired truth (Goose, 'Assyria,' p. 343).


Verse 54-55

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.

No JFB commentary on these verses.


Verse 56

Thus God rendered the wickedness of Abimelech, which he did unto his father, in slaying his seventy brethren:

Thus God rendered the wickedness of Abimelech ... The manner in which the Nemesis was dealt out to this fratricide and unprincipled usurper affords a striking instance of particular administration of Providence over the Jews, and of which several instances have already occurred in this book (Judges 1:1-19; Judges 1:22; Judges 1:27-33; Judges 2:3). 'The apparent severity in some of these instances arose from the operation of human passions in the agents employed or permitted to execute these judgments, without being miraculously controlled in their conduct; or if directly commanded, we may be well assured it was indispensably necessary to effect the purposes of the divine economy' (Graves, 'Lectures on the Pentateuch,' 2:, p. 151).

 


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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Judges 9:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/judges-9.html. 1871-8.

Lectionary Calendar
Friday, November 22nd, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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