We have seen the ruin of the Shechemites completed by the hand of Abimelech; and now it comes to his turn to be reckoned with who was their leader in villany. Thebez was a small city, probably not far from Shechem, dependent upon it, and in confederacy with it. Now,
I. Abimelech attempted the destruction of this city (Jdg. 9:50), drove all the inhabitants of the town into the castle, or citadel, Jdg. 9:51. When he had them there he did not doubt but he should do the same execution here that he had lately done at the strong-hold of the temple of Baal-berith, not considering that the tower of an idol-temple lay more exposed to divine vengeance than any other tower. He attempted to set fire to this tower, at least to burn down the door, and so force an entrance, Jdg. 9:52. Those who have escaped and succeeded well in one desperate attempt are apt to think the like attempt another time not desperate. This instance was long after quoted to show how dangerous it is to come near the call of a besieged city, 2 Sam. 11:20, 21 But God infatuates those whom he will ruin.
II. In the attempt he was himself destroyed, having his brains knocked out with a piece of a millstone, Jdg. 9:57. No doubt this man was a murderer, whom, though he had escaped the dangers of the war with Shechem, yet vengeance suffered not to live, Acts 28:4. Evil pursues sinners, and sometimes overtakes them when they are not only secure, but triumphant. Thebez, we may suppose, was a weak inconsiderable place, compared with Shechem. Abimelech, having conquered the greater, makes no doubt of being master of the less without any difficulty, especially when he had taken the city, and had only the tower to deal with; yet he lays his bones by that, and there is all his honour buried. Thus are the mighty things of the world often confounded by the weakest and those things that are most made light of. See here what rebukes those are justly put under many times by the divine providence that are unreasonable in their demands of satisfaction for injuries received. Abimelech had some reason to chastise the Shechemites, and he had done it with a witness; but when he will carry his revenges further, and nothing will serve but that Thebez also must be sacrificed to his rage, he is not only disappointed there, but destroyed; for verily there is a God that judges in the earth. Three circumstances are worthy of observation in the death of Abimelech:—1. That he was slain with a stone, as he had slain his brethren all upon one stone. 2. That he had his skull broken. Vengeance aimed at that guilty head which had worn the usurped crown. 3. That the stone was cast upon him by a woman, Jdg. 9:53. He saw the stone come; it was therefore strange he did not avoid it, but, no doubt, this made it so much the greater mortification to him to see from what hand it came. Sisera died by a woman’s hand and knew it not; but Abimelech not only fell by the hand of a woman but knew it, and, when he found himself ready to breathe his last, nothing troubled him so much as this, that it should be said, A woman slew him. See, (1.) His foolish pride, in laying so much to heart this little circumstance of his disgrace. Here was no care taken about his precious soul, no concern what would become of that, no prayer to God for his mercy; but very solicitous he is to patch up his shattered credit, when there is no patching his shattered skull. “O let it never be said that such a mighty man as Abimelech was killed by a woman!” The man was dying, but his pride was alive and strong, and the same vain-glorious humour that had governed him all along appears now at last. Qualis vita, finis ita—As was his life, such was his death. As God punished his cruelty by the manner of his death, so he punished his pride by the instrument of it. (2.) His foolish project to avoid this disgrace; nothing could be more ridiculous; his own servant must run him through, not to rid him the sooner out of his pain, but that men say not, A woman slew him. Could he think that this would conceal what the woman had done, and not rather proclaim it the more? Nay, it added to the infamy of his death, for hereby he became a self-murderer. Better have it said, A woman slew him, than that it should be said, His servant slew him by his own order; yet now both will be said of him to his everlasting reproach. And it is observable that this very thing which Abimelech was in such care to conceal appears to have been more particularly remembered by posterity than most passages of his history; for Joab speaks of it as that which he expected David would reproach him with, for coming so nigh the wall, 2 Sam. 11:21. The ignominy we seek to avoid by sin we do but perpetuate the remembrance of.
III. The issue of all is that Abimelech being slain, 1. Israel’s peace was restored, and an end was put to this civil war; for those that followed him departed every man to his place, Jdg. 9:55. 2. God’s justice was glorified (Jdg. 9:56, 57): Thus God punished the wickedness of Abimelech, and of the men of Shechem, and fulfilled Jotham’s curse, for it was not a curse causeless. Thus he preserved the honour of his government, and gave warning to all ages to expect blood for blood. The Lord is known by the judgments which he executes, when the wicked is snared in the work of his own hands. Though wickedness may prosper awhile, it will not prosper always.