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Judges - Chapter 9

1 Abimelech son of Jerubbaal confronted his mother's brothers at Shechem and, to them and to the whole clan of his maternal grandfather's family, he said,

2 'Please put this question to the leading men of Shechem: Which is better for you: to be ruled by seventy people -- all Jerubbaal's sons -- or to be ruled by one? Remember too that I am your own flesh and bone.'

3 His mother's brothers said all this on his behalf to all the leading men of Shechem, and their feelings swayed them to follow Abimelech, since they argued, 'He is our brother.'

4 So they gave him seventy shekels of silver from the temple of Baal-Berith, and with this Abimelech paid violent adventurers to follow him.

5 He then went to his father's house at Ophrah and put his brothers, Jerubbaal's seventy sons, to death on one and the same stone. Jotham, however, Jerubbaal's youngest son, escaped by going into hiding.

6 All the leading men of Shechem and all Beth-Millo then met and proclaimed Abimelech king at the oak of the cultic stone at Shechem.

7 News of this was brought to Jotham. He went and stood on the top of Mount Gerizim and shouted at the top of his voice: Hear me, leaders of Shechem, so that God may also hear you!

8 One day the trees went out to anoint a king to rule them. They said to the olive tree, 'Be our king!'

9 The olive tree replied, 'Must I forgo my oil which gives honour to gods and men, to stand and sway over the trees?'

10 Then the trees said to the fig tree, 'You come and be our king!'

11 The fig tree replied, 'Must I forgo my sweetness, forgo my excellent fruit, to go and sway over the trees?'

12 Then the trees said to the vine, 'You come and be our king!'

13 The vine replied, 'Must I forgo my wine which cheers gods and men, to go and sway over the trees?'

14 Then the trees all said to the thorn bush, 'You come and be our king!'

15 And the thorn bush replied to the trees, 'If you are anointing me in good faith to be your king, come and shelter in my shade. But, if not, fire will come out of the thorn bush and devour the cedars of Lebanon.'

16 'Now then, if you have acted in sincerity and good faith in making Abimelech king, if you have dealt honourably with Jerubbaal and his family, and have treated him as his actions deserved,

17 my father having fought for you, risked his life and rescued you from the power of Midian,

18 and you today having risen up against my father's family, murdered his sons -- seventy of them on one and the same stone -- and appointed Abimelech, his slave-girl's son, to rule the leading men of Shechem, because he is your brother!-

19 if, I say, you have acted in sincerity and good faith towards Jerubbaal and his family, then may Abimelech be your joy and may you be his!

20 If not, may fire come out of Abimelech and devour the leading men of Shechem and Beth-Millo, and fire come out of the leading men of Shechem and Beth-Millo to devour Abimelech!'

21 Jotham then took to his heels; he fled and made his way to Beer; and there he stayed, to be out of his brother Abimelech's reach.

22 Abimelech ruled Israel for three years.

23 God then sent a spirit of discord between Abimelech and the leaders of Shechem, and the leaders of Shechem betrayed Abimelech.

24 And this was so that the crime committed against Jerubbaal's seventy sons should be avenged, and their blood recoil on their brother Abimelech who had murdered them, and on those leaders of Shechem who had helped him to murder his brothers.

25 The leaders of Shechem put men to ambush him on the mountain tops, and these robbed anyone travelling their way. Abimelech was told of this.

26 Gaal son of Obed, with his brothers, happened to pass through Shechem and win the confidence of the leaders of Shechem.

27 These went out into the countryside to harvest their vineyards; they trod the grapes and made merry and went into the temple of their god. They ate and drank there and cursed Abimelech.

28 Gaal son of Obed said, 'Who is Abimelech, and what is Shechem, for us to be his slaves? Should not Jerubbaal's son and his lieutenant, Zebul, be serving the men of Hamor, father of Shechem? Why should we be his slaves?

29 Who will put this people under my command, so that I can expel Abimelech? I should say to him, "Reinforce your army and come out!" '

30 Zebul the governor of the town was told what Gaal son of Obed had said, and he was furious.

31 He sent messengers secretly to Abimelech to say, 'Look! Gaal son of Obed has come to Shechem with his brothers, and they are stirring up the town against you.

32 So, move under cover of dark, you and the men you have with you, and take up concealed positions in the countryside;

33 then in the morning at sunrise, break cover and rush on the town. When Gaal and his supporters come out to meet you, treat them as occasion offers.'

34 So Abimelech set off under cover of dark with all his own supporters and took up concealed positions over against Shechem, in four groups.

35 As Gaal son of Obed was coming out and pausing at the entrance of the town gate, Abimelech and his supporters rose from their ambush.

36 Gaal saw these men and said to Zebul, 'Look, there are men coming down from the tops of the mountains!' Zebul answered, 'You mistake the shadow of the mountains for men.'

37 But Gaal insisted, 'Look, there are men coming down from the Navel of the Earth and another group is coming from the direction of the Diviners' Oak.'

38 Zebul then said, 'Where are your mouthings now about "Who is Abimelech, for us to be his slaves?" Are not these the men you made light of? Sally out, then, and fight him.'

39 Gaal sallied out at the head of the leaders of Shechem and engaged Abimelech.

40 Abimelech drove Gaal off, who turned tail, many of his men falling dead before they could reach the gate.

41 Abimelech then stayed at Aruma, and Zebul expelled Gaal and his brothers and prevented them from living in Shechem.

42 Next day, when the people went out into the countryside, Abimelech was told of this.

43 He took his men, divided them into three groups and lay in wait in the fields. When he saw the people leaving the town, he bore down on them and slaughtered them.

44 While Abimelech and his group rushed forward and took position at the entrance to the town gate, the two other groups fell on everyone in the fields and slaughtered them.

45 All that day Abimelech attacked the town. He stormed it and slaughtered the people inside, razed the town and sowed it with salt.

46 On hearing this, all the leading men inside Migdal-Shechem took refuge in the crypt of the temple of El-Berith.

47 As soon as Abimelech heard that the leading men inside Migdal-Shechem had all gathered there,

48 he went up Mount Zalmon with all his men. Then taking an axe in his hands, he cut off the branch of a tree, picked it up and put it on his shoulder, and said to the men with him, 'Hurry and do what you have seen me do.'

49 Each of his men similarly cut off a branch; then, following Abimelech, they piled the branches over the crypt and set it on fire over those who were inside; so that all the people in Migdal-Shechem died too, about a thousand men and women.

50 Abimelech then marched on Thebez, besieged it and captured it.

51 In the middle of the town there was a fortified tower in which all the men and women and all the leading men of the town took refuge. They locked the door behind them and climbed up to the roof of the tower.

52 Abimelech reached the tower and attacked it. As he was approaching the door of the tower to set it on fire,

53 a woman threw down a millstone on his head and cracked his skull.

54 He instantly called his young armour-bearer and said, 'Draw your sword and kill me, so that it will not be said of me that "A woman killed him".' His armour-bearer ran him through, and he died.

55 When the men of Israel saw that Abimelech was dead, they dispersed to their homes.

56 Thus God made to recoil on Abimelech the evil he had done his father by murdering his seventy brothers,

57 and all the evil that the men of Shechem had done God made recoil on their heads too. And so the curse of Jotham son of Jerubbaal came true for them.

Book of Judges Chapters

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