Contemporary English Version
3 1-2 And the Lord had another reason for letting these enemies stay. The Israelites needed to learn how to fight in war, just as their ancestors had done. Each new generation would have to learn by fighting 3 the Philistines and their five rulers, as well as the Canaanites, the Sidonians, and the Hivites that lived in the Lebanon Mountains from Mount Baal-Hermon to Hamath Pass.[a]
4 Moses had told the Israelites what the Lord had commanded them to do, and now the Lord was using these nations to find out if Israel would obey. 5-6 But they refused. And it was because of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites who lived all around them. Some of the Israelites married the people of these nations, and that’s how they started worshiping foreign gods.
7 The Israelites sinned against the Lord by forgetting him and worshiping idols of Baal and Astarte. 8 This made the Lord angry, so he let Israel be defeated by King Cushan Rishathaim of northern Syria,[b] who ruled Israel eight years and made everyone pay taxes. 9 The Israelites begged the Lord for help, and he chose Othniel to rescue them. Othniel was the son of Caleb’s younger brother Kenaz.[c] 10 The Spirit of the Lord took control of Othniel, and he led Israel in a war against Cushan Rishathaim. The Lord gave Othniel victory, 11 and Israel was at peace until Othniel died about forty years later.
12 Once more the Israelites started disobeying the Lord. So he let them be defeated by King Eglon of Moab, 13 who had joined forces with the Ammonites and the Amalekites to attack Israel. Eglon and his army captured Jericho.[d] 14 Then he ruled Israel for eighteen years and forced the Israelites to pay heavy taxes.
15-16 The Israelites begged the Lord for help, and the Lord chose Ehud[e] from the Benjamin tribe to rescue them. They put Ehud in charge of taking the taxes to King Eglon, but before Ehud went, he made a double-edged dagger. Ehud was left-handed, so he strapped the dagger to his right thigh, where it would be hidden under his robes.
17-18 Ehud and some other Israelites took the taxes to Eglon, who was a very fat man. As soon as they gave the taxes to Eglon, Ehud said it was time to go home.
19-20 Ehud went with the other Israelites as far as the statues[f] at Gilgal.[g] Then he turned back and went upstairs to the cool room[h] where Eglon had his throne. Ehud said, “Your Majesty, I need to talk with you in private.”
Eglon replied, “Don’t say anything yet!” His officials left the room, and Eglon stood up as Ehud came closer.
“Yes,” Ehud said, “I have a message for you from God!” 21 Ehud pulled out the dagger with his left hand and shoved it so far into Eglon’s stomach 22-23 that even the handle was buried in his fat. Ehud left the dagger there. Then after closing and locking the doors to the room, he climbed through a window onto the porch[i] 24 and left.
When the king’s officials came back and saw that the doors were locked, they said, “The king is probably inside relieving himself.” 25 They stood there waiting until they felt foolish, but Eglon never opened the doors. Finally, they unlocked the doors and found King Eglon lying dead on the floor. 26 But by that time, Ehud had already escaped past the statues.[j]
Ehud went to the town of Seirah 27-28 in the hill country of Ephraim and started blowing a signal on a trumpet. The Israelites came together, and he shouted, “Follow me! The Lord will help us defeat the Moabites.”
The Israelites followed Ehud down to the Jordan valley, and they captured the places where people cross the river on the way to Moab. They would not let anyone go across, 29 and before the fighting was over, they killed about ten thousand Moabite warriors—not one escaped alive.
30 Moab was so badly defeated that it was a long time before they were strong enough to attack Israel again. And Israel was at peace for eighty years.
31 Shamgar the son of Anath was the next to rescue Israel. In one battle, he used a sharp wooden pole[k] to kill six hundred Philistines.
Deborah and Barak
4 After the death of Ehud, the Israelites again started disobeying the Lord. 2 So the Lord let the Canaanite King Jabin of Hazor conquer Israel. Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, lived in Harosheth-Ha-Goiim. 3 Jabin’s army had nine hundred iron chariots, and for twenty years he made life miserable for the Israelites, until finally they begged the Lord for help.
4 Deborah the wife of Lappidoth was a prophet and a leader[l] of Israel during those days. 5 She would sit under Deborah’s Palm Tree between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, where Israelites would come and ask her to settle their legal cases.
6 One day, Barak the son of Abinoam was in Kedesh in Naphtali, and Deborah sent word for him to come and talk with her. When he arrived, she said:
I have a message for you from the Lord God of Israel! You are to get together an army of ten thousand men from the Naphtali and Zebulun tribes and lead them to Mount Tabor. 7 The Lord will trick Sisera into coming out to fight you at the Kishon River. Sisera will be leading King Jabin’s army as usual, and they will have their chariots, but the Lord has promised to help you defeat them.
8 “I’m not going unless you go!” Barak told her.
9 “All right, I’ll go!” she replied. “But I’m warning you that the Lord is going to let a woman defeat Sisera, and no one will honor you for winning the battle.”
Deborah and Barak left for Kedesh, 10 where Barak called together the troops from Zebulun and Naphtali. Ten thousand soldiers gathered there, and Barak led them out from Kedesh. Deborah went too.
11 At this time, Heber of the Kenite clan was living near the village of Oak in Zaanannim,[m] not far from Kedesh. The Kenites were descendants of Hobab, the father-in-law of Moses, but Heber had moved and had set up his tents away from the rest of the clan.
12 When Sisera learned that Barak had led an army to Mount Tabor, 13 he called his troops together and got all nine hundred iron chariots ready. Then he led his army away from Harosheth-Ha-Goiim to the Kishon River.
14 Deborah shouted, “Barak, it’s time to attack Sisera! Because today the Lord is going to help you defeat him. In fact, the Lord has already gone on ahead to fight for you.”
Barak led his ten thousand troops down from Mount Tabor. 15 And during the battle, the Lord confused Sisera, his chariot drivers, and his whole army. Everyone was so afraid of Barak and his army, that even Sisera jumped down from his chariot and tried to escape. 16 Barak’s forces went after Sisera’s chariots and army as far as Harosheth-Ha-Goiim.
Sisera’s entire army was wiped out. 17 Only Sisera escaped. He ran to Heber’s camp, because Heber and his family had a peace treaty with the king of Hazor. Sisera went to the tent that belonged to Jael, Heber’s wife. 18 She came out to greet him and said, “Come in, sir! Please come on in. Don’t be afraid.”
After they had gone inside, Sisera lay down, and Jael covered him with a blanket. 19 “Could I have a little water?” he asked. “I’m thirsty.”
Jael opened a leather bottle and poured him some milk, then she covered him back up.
20 “Stand at the entrance to the tent,” Sisera told her. “If someone comes by and asks if anyone is inside, tell them ‘No.’”
21 Sisera was exhausted and soon fell fast asleep. Jael took a hammer and drove a tent-peg through his head into the ground, and he died.
22 Meanwhile, Barak had been following Sisera, and Jael went out to meet him. “The man you’re looking for is inside,” she said. “Come in and I’ll show him to you.”
They went inside, and there was Sisera—dead and stretched out with a tent-peg through his skull.
23 That same day the Israelites defeated the Canaanite King Jabin, and his army was no longer powerful enough to attack the Israelites. 24 Jabin grew weaker while the Israelites kept growing stronger, and at last the Israelites destroyed him.
Deborah and Barak Sing for the Lord
5 After the battle was over that day, Deborah and Barak sang this song:
2 We praise you, Lord!
Our soldiers volunteered,
ready to follow you.
3 Listen, kings and rulers,
while I sing for the Lord,
the God of Israel.
4 Our Lord, God of Israel,
when you came from Seir,
where the Edomites live,
5 rain poured from the sky,
the earth trembled,
and mountains shook.
6 In the time of Shamgar
son of Anath,
and now again in Jael’s time,
roads were too dangerous
Travelers had to take
the back roads,
7 and villagers couldn’t work
in their fields.[n]
Then Deborah[o] took command,
as a mother
protects her children.
8 The Israelites worshiped
and the gates of their towns
were then attacked.[p]
But they had no shields
or spears to fight with.
9 I praise you, Lord,
and I am grateful
for those leaders and soldiers
10 Listen, everyone!
Whether you ride a donkey
with a padded saddle
or have to walk.
11 Even those who carry water[q]
to the animals will tell you,
“The Lord has won victories,
and so has Israel.”
Then the Lord’s people marched
down to the town gates
12 and said, “Deborah, let’s go!
Let’s sing as we march.
Barak, capture our enemies.”
13 The Lord’s people who were left
joined with their leaders
and fought at my side.[r]
14 Troops came from Ephraim,
where Amalekites once lived.
Others came from Benjamin;
officers and leaders
from Machir and Zebulun.
15 The rulers of Issachar
came along with Deborah,
and Issachar followed Barak
into the valley.
But the tribe of Reuben
was no help at all![s]
16 Reuben, why did you stay
among your sheep pens?[t]
Was it to listen to shepherds
whistling for their sheep?
No one could figure out
why Reuben wouldn’t come.[u]
17 The people of Gilead stayed
across the Jordan.
Why did the tribe of Dan
remain on their ships
and the tribe of Asher
stay along the coast
near the harbors?
18 But soldiers of Zebulun
risked their lives
to attack the enemy.[v]
19 Canaanite kings fought us
at Taanach by the stream
but they couldn’t rob us
of our silver.[x]
20 From their pathways in the sky
the stars[y] fought Sisera,
21 and his soldiers were swept away
by the ancient Kishon River.
I will march on and be brave.
22 Sisera’s horses galloped off,
their hoofs thundering
23 The Lord’s angel said,
“Put a curse on Meroz Town!
Its people refused
to help the Lord fight
his powerful enemies.”
24 But honor Jael,
the wife of Heber
from the Kenite clan.
Give more honor to her
than to any other woman
who lives in tents.
Yes, give more honor to her
than to any other woman.
25 Sisera asked for water,
but Jael gave him milk—
cream in a fancy cup.
26 She reached for a tent-peg
and held a hammer
in her right hand.
And with a blow to the head,
she crushed his skull.
27 Sisera sank to his knees
and fell dead at her feet.
28 Sisera’s mother looked out
through her window.
“Why is he taking so long?”
“Why haven’t we heard
his chariots coming?”
29 She and her wisest women
gave the same answer:
30 “Sisera and his troops
are finding treasures
to bring back—
a woman, or maybe two,
for each man,
and beautiful dresses
for those women to wear.”[z]
31 Our Lord, we pray
that all your enemies
will die like Sisera.
But let everyone who loves you
like the sun
Midian Steals Everything from Israel
There was peace in Israel for about forty years. 6 1 Then once again the Israelites started disobeying the Lord, so he let the nation of Midian control Israel for seven years. 2 The Midianites were so cruel that many Israelites ran to the mountains and hid in caves.
3 Every time the Israelites would plant crops, the Midianites invaded Israel together with the Amalekites and other eastern nations. 4-5 They rode in on their camels, set up their tents, and then let their livestock eat the crops as far as the town of Gaza. The Midianites stole food, sheep, cattle, and donkeys. Like a swarm of locusts,[aa] they could not be counted, and they ruined the land wherever they went.
6-7 The Midianites took almost everything that belonged to the Israelites, and the Israelites begged the Lord for help. 8-9 Then the Lord sent a prophet to them with this message:
I am the Lord God of Israel, so listen to what I say. You were slaves in Egypt, but I set you free and led you out of Egypt into this land. And when nations here made life miserable for you, I rescued you and helped you get rid of them and take their land. 10 I am your God, and I told you not to worship Amorite gods, even though you are living in the land of the Amorites. But you refused to listen.
The Lord Chooses Gideon
11 One day an angel from the Lord went to the town of Ophrah and sat down under the big tree that belonged to Joash, a member of the Abiezer clan. Joash’s son Gideon was nearby, threshing grain in a shallow pit, where he could not be seen by the Midianites.
12 The angel appeared and spoke to Gideon, “The Lord is helping you, and you are a strong warrior.”
13 Gideon answered, “Please don’t take this wrong, but if the Lord is helping us, then why have all of these awful things happened? We’ve heard how the Lord performed miracles and rescued our ancestors from Egypt. But those things happened long ago. Now the Lord has abandoned us to the Midianites.”
14 Then the Lord himself said, “Gideon, you will be strong, because I am giving you the power to rescue Israel from the Midianites.”
15 Gideon replied, “But how can I rescue Israel? My clan is the weakest one in Manasseh, and everyone else in my family is more important than I am.”
16 “Gideon,” the Lord answered, “you can rescue Israel because I am going to help you! Defeating the Midianites will be as easy as beating up one man.”
17 Gideon said, “It’s hard to believe that I’m actually talking to the Lord. Please do something so I’ll know that you really are the Lord. 18 And wait here until I bring you an offering.”
“All right, I’ll wait,” the Lord answered.
19 Gideon went home and killed a young goat, then started boiling the meat. Next, he opened a big sack of flour and made it into thin bread.[ab] When the meat was done, he put it in a basket and poured the broth into a clay cooking pot. He took the meat, the broth, and the bread and placed them under the big tree.
20 God’s angel said, “Gideon, put the meat and the bread on this rock, and pour the broth over them.” Gideon did as he was told. 21 The angel was holding a walking stick, and he touched the meat and the bread with the end of the stick. Flames jumped from the rock and burned up the meat and the bread.
When Gideon looked, the angel was gone. 22 Gideon realized that he had seen one of the Lord’s angels. “Oh!” he moaned. “Now I’m going to die.”[ac]
23 “Calm down!” the Lord told Gideon. “There’s nothing to be afraid of. You’re not going to die.”
24 Gideon built an altar for worshiping the Lord and called it “The Lord Calms Our Fears.” It still stands there in Ophrah, a town in the territory of the Abiezer clan.
Gideon Tears Down Baal’s Altar
25 That night the Lord spoke to Gideon again:
Get your father’s second-best bull, the one that’s seven years old. Use it to pull down the altar where your father worships Baal and cut down the sacred pole[ad] next to the altar. 26 Then build an altar for worshiping me on the highest part of the hill where your town is built. Use layers of stones for my altar, not just a pile of rocks. Cut up the wood from the pole, make a fire, kill the bull, and burn it as a sacrifice to me.
27 Gideon chose ten of his servants to help him, and they did everything God had said. But since Gideon was afraid of his family and the other people in town, he did it all at night.
28 When the people of the town got up the next morning, they saw that Baal’s altar had been knocked over, and the sacred pole next to it had been cut down. Then they noticed the new altar covered with the remains of the sacrificed bull.
29 “Who could have done such a thing?” they asked. And they kept on asking, until finally someone told them, “Gideon the son of Joash did it.”
30 The men of the town went to Joash and said, “Your son Gideon knocked over Baal’s altar and cut down the sacred pole next to it. Hand him over, so we can kill him!”
31 The crowd pushed closer and closer, but Joash replied, “Are you trying to take revenge for Baal? Are you trying to rescue Baal? If you are, you will be the ones who are put to death, and it will happen before another day dawns. If Baal really is a god, let him take his own revenge on someone who tears down his altar.”
32 That same day, Joash changed Gideon’s name to Jerubbaal, explaining, “He tore down Baal’s altar, so let Baal take revenge himself.”[ae]
Gideon Defeats the Midianites
33 All the Midianites, Amalekites, and other eastern nations got together and crossed the Jordan River. Then they invaded the land of Israel and set up camp in Jezreel Valley.
34 The Lord’s Spirit took control of Gideon, and Gideon blew a signal on a trumpet to tell the men in the Abiezer clan to follow him. 35 He also sent messengers to the tribes of Manasseh, Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali, telling the men of these tribes to come and join his army. Then they set out toward the enemy camp.
36-37 Gideon prayed to God, “I know that you promised to help me rescue Israel, but I need proof. Tonight I’ll put some wool on the stone floor of that threshing-place over there. If you really will help me rescue Israel, then tomorrow morning let there be dew on the wool, but let the stone floor be dry.”
38 And that’s just what happened. Early the next morning, Gideon got up and checked the wool. He squeezed out enough water to fill a bowl. 39 But Gideon prayed to God again. “Don’t be angry at me,” Gideon said. “Let me try this just one more time, so I’ll really be sure you’ll help me. Only this time, let the wool be dry and the stone floor be wet with dew.”
40 That night, God made the stone floor wet with dew, but he kept the wool dry.
2 The Lord said, “Gideon, your army is too big. I can’t let you win with this many soldiers. The Israelites would think that they had won the battle all by themselves and that I didn’t have anything to do with it. 3 So call your troops together and tell them that anyone who is really afraid can leave Mount Gilead[ah] and go home.”
Twenty-two thousand men returned home, leaving Gideon with only ten thousand soldiers.
4 “Gideon,” the Lord said, “you still have too many soldiers. Take them down to the spring and I’ll test them. I’ll tell you which ones can go along with you and which ones must go back home.”
5 When Gideon led his army down to the spring, the Lord told him, “Watch how each man gets a drink of water. Then divide them into two groups—those who lap the water like a dog and those who kneel down to drink.”
6 Three hundred men scooped up water in their hands and lapped it, and the rest knelt to get a drink. 7 The Lord said, “Gideon, your army will be made up of everyone who lapped the water from their hands. Send the others home. I’m going to rescue Israel by helping you and your army of three hundred defeat the Midianites.”
8 Then Gideon gave these orders, “You three hundred men stay here. The rest of you may go home, but leave your food and trumpets with us.”
Gideon’s army camp was on top of a hill overlooking the Midianite camp in the valley.
9 That night, the Lord said to Gideon. “Get up! Attack the Midianite camp. I am going to let you defeat them, 10 but if you’re still afraid, you and your servant Purah should sneak down to their camp. 11 When you hear what the Midianites are saying, you’ll be brave enough to attack.”
Gideon and Purah worked their way to the edge of the enemy camp, where soldiers were on guard duty. 12 The camp was huge. The Midianites, Amalekites, and other eastern nations covered the valley like a swarm of locusts.[ai] And it would be easier to count the grains of sand on a beach than to count their camels. 13 Gideon overheard one enemy guard telling another, “I had a dream about a flat[aj] loaf of barley bread that came tumbling into our camp. It hit the headquarters tent,[ak] and the tent flipped over and fell down.”
14 The other soldier answered, “Your dream must have been about Gideon, the Israelite commander. It means God will let him and his army defeat the Midianite army and everyone else in our camp.”
15 As soon as Gideon heard about the dream and what it meant, he bowed down to praise God. Then he went back to the Israelite camp and shouted, “Let’s go! The Lord is going to let us defeat the Midianite army.”
16 Gideon divided his little army into three groups of one hundred men, and he gave each soldier a trumpet and a large clay jar with a burning torch inside. 17-18 Gideon said, “When we get to the enemy camp, spread out and surround it. Then wait for me to blow a signal on my trumpet. As soon as you hear it, blow your trumpets and shout, ‘Fight for the Lord! Fight for Gideon!’”
19 Gideon and his group reached the edge of the enemy camp a few hours after dark, just after the new guards had come on duty.[al] Gideon and his soldiers blew their trumpets and smashed the clay jars that were hiding the torches. 20 The rest of Gideon’s soldiers blew the trumpets they were holding in their right hands. Then they smashed the jars and held the burning torches in their left hands. Everyone shouted, “Fight with your swords for the Lord and for Gideon!”
21 The enemy soldiers started yelling and tried to run away. Gideon’s troops stayed in their positions surrounding the camp 22 and blew their trumpets again. As they did, the Lord made the enemy soldiers pull out their swords and start fighting each other.
23 Gideon sent word for more Israelite soldiers to come from the tribes of Naphtali, Asher, and both halves of Manasseh[ao] to help fight the Midianites. 24 He also sent messengers to tell all the men who lived in the hill country of Ephraim, “Come and help us fight the Midianites! Put guards at every spring, stream, and well, as far as Beth-Barah before the Midianites can get to them. And guard the Jordan River.”
Troops from Ephraim did exactly what Gideon had asked, 25 and they even helped chase the Midianites on the east side of the Jordan River. These troops captured Raven and Wolf,[ap] the two Midianite leaders. They killed Raven at a large rock that has come to be known as Raven Rock, and they killed Wolf near a wine-pit that has come to be called Wolf Wine-Pit.[aq]
The men of Ephraim brought the heads of the two Midianite leaders to Gideon.
8 But the men were really upset with Gideon and complained, “When you went to war with Midian, you didn’t ask us to help! Why did you treat us like that?”
2 Gideon answered:
Don’t be upset! Even though you came later, you were able to do much more than I did. It’s just like the grape harvest: The grapes your tribe doesn’t even bother to pick are better than the best grapes my family can grow. 3 Besides, God chose you to capture Raven and Wolf. I didn’t do a thing compared to you.
By the time Gideon had finished talking, the men of Ephraim had calmed down and were no longer angry at him.
Gideon Finishes Destroying the Midianite Army
4 After Gideon and his three hundred troops had chased the Midianites as far as the Jordan River, they were exhausted. 5 The town of Succoth was nearby, so he went there and asked, “Please give my troops some food. They are worn out, but we have to keep chasing Zebah and Zalmunna, the two Midianite kings.”
6 The town leaders of Succoth answered, “Why should we feed your army? We don’t know if you really will defeat Zebah and Zalmunna.”
7 “Just wait!” Gideon said. “After the Lord helps me defeat them, I’m coming back here. I’ll make a whip out of thorns and rip the flesh from your bones.”
8 After leaving Succoth, Gideon went to Penuel and asked the leaders there for some food. But he got the same answer as he had gotten at Succoth. 9 “I’ll come back safe and sound,” Gideon said, “but when I do, I’m going to tear down your tower!”[ar]
10 Zebah and Zalmunna were in Karkor[as] with an army of fifteen thousand troops. They were all that was left of the army of the eastern nations, because one hundred twenty thousand of their warriors had been killed in the battle.
11 Gideon reached the enemy camp by going east along Nomad[at] Road past Nobah and Jogbehah. He made a surprise attack, 12 and the enemy panicked. Zebah and Zalmunna tried to escape, but Gideon chased and captured them.
13 After the battle, Gideon set out for home. As he was going through Heres Pass, 14 he caught a young man who lived in Succoth. Gideon asked him who the town officials of Succoth were, and the young man wrote down seventy-seven names.
15 Gideon went to the town officials and said, “Here are Zebah and Zalmunna. Remember how you made fun of me? You said, ‘We don’t know if you really will defeat those two Midianite kings. So why should we feed your worn-out army?’”
16 Gideon made a whip from thorn plants and used it to beat the town officials. 17 Afterwards he went to Penuel, where he tore down the tower and killed all the town officials[au] there.
18 Then Gideon said, “Zebah and Zalmunna, tell me about the men you killed at Tabor.”
“They were a lot like you,” the two kings answered. “They were dignified, almost like royalty.”
19 “They were my very own brothers!” Gideon said. “I swear by the living Lord that if you had let them live, I would let you live.”
20 Gideon turned to Jether, his oldest son. “Kill them!” Gideon said.
But Jether was young,[av] and he was too afraid to even pull out his sword.
21 “What’s the matter, Gideon?” Zebah and Zalmunna asked. “Do it yourself, if you’re not too much of a coward!”
Gideon jumped up and killed them both. Then he took the fancy gold ornaments from the necks of their camels.
The Israelites Ask Gideon To Be Their King
22 After the battle with the Midianites, the Israelites said, “Gideon, you rescued us! Now we want you to be our king. Then after your death, your son and then your grandson will rule.”
23 “No,” Gideon replied, “I won’t be your king, and my son won’t be king either. Only the Lord is your ruler. 24 But I will ask you to do one thing: Give me all the earrings you took from the enemy.”
The enemy soldiers had been Ishmaelites,[aw] and they wore gold earrings.
25 The Israelite soldiers replied, “Of course we will give you the earrings.” Then they spread out a robe on the ground and tossed the earrings on it. 26 The total weight of this gold was over forty pounds. In addition, there was the gold from the camels' ornaments and from the beautiful jewelry worn by the Midianite kings. Gideon also took their purple robes.
27-29 Gideon returned to his home in Ophrah and had the gold made into a statue, which the Israelites soon started worshiping. They became unfaithful to God, and even Gideon and his family were trapped into worshiping the statue.[ax]
The Midianites had been defeated so badly that they were no longer strong enough to attack Israel. And so Israel was at peace for the remaining forty years of Gideon’s life.
32 Gideon lived to be an old man. And when he died, he was buried in the family tomb in his hometown of Ophrah, which belonged to the Abiezer clan.
33 Soon after Gideon’s death, the Israelites turned their backs on God again. They set up idols of Baal and worshiped Baal Berith[ba] as their god. 34 The Israelites forgot that the Lord was their God, and that he had rescued them from the enemies who lived around them. 35 Besides all that, the Israelites were unkind to Gideon’s family, even though Gideon had done so much for Israel.
Abimelech Tries To Be King
9 Abimelech the son of Gideon[bb] went to Shechem. While there, he met with his mother’s relatives 2 and told them to say to the leaders of Shechem, “Do you think it would be good to have all seventy of Gideon’s sons ruling us? Wouldn’t you rather have just one man be king? Abimelech would make a good king, and he’s related to us.”
3 Abimelech’s uncles talked it over with the leaders of Shechem who agreed, “Yes, it would be better for one of our relatives to be king.” 4 Then they gave Abimelech seventy pieces[bc] of silver from the temple of their god Baal Berith.[bd]
Abimelech used the silver to hire a gang of rough soldiers who would do anything for money. 5 Abimelech and his soldiers went to his father’s home in Ophrah and brought out Gideon’s other sons to a large rock, where they murdered all seventy. Gideon’s youngest son Jotham hid from the soldiers, but he was the only one who escaped.
6 The leaders of Shechem, including the priests and the military officers,[be] met at the tree next to the sacred rock[bf] in Shechem to crown Abimelech king. 7 Jotham heard what they were doing. So he climbed to the top of Mount Gerizim and shouted down to the people who were there at the meeting:
Leaders of Shechem,
listen to me,
and maybe God
will listen to you.
8 Once the trees searched
for someone to be king;
they asked the olive tree,
“Will you be our king?”
9 But the olive tree replied,
“My oil brings honor
to people and gods.
I won’t stop making oil,
just to have my branches wave
above the other trees.”
10 Then they asked the fig tree,
“Will you be our king?”
11 But the fig tree replied,
“I won’t stop growing
my delicious fruit,
just to have my branches wave
above the other trees.”
12 Next they asked the grape vine,
“Will you be our king?”
13 But the grape vine replied,
“My wine brings cheer
to people and gods.
I won’t stop making wine,
just to have my branches wave
above the other trees.”
14 Finally, they went
to the thornbush and asked,
“Will you be our king?”
15 The thornbush replied,
“If you really want me
to be your king,
then come into my shade
and I will protect you.
But if you’re deceiving me,
I’ll start a fire
that will spread out and destroy
the cedars of Lebanon.”[bg]
After Jotham had finished telling this story, he said:
16-18 My father Gideon risked his life for you when he fought to rescue you from the Midianites. Did you reward Gideon by being kind to his family? No, you did not! You attacked his family and killed all seventy of his sons on that rock.
And was it right to make Abimelech your king? He’s merely the son of my father’s slave girl.[bh] But just because he’s your relative, you made him king of Shechem.
19 So, you leaders of Shechem, if you treated Gideon and his family the way you should have, then I hope you and Abimelech will make each other very happy. 20 But if it was wrong to treat Gideon and his family the way you did, then I pray that Abimelech will destroy you with fire, and I pray that you will do the same to him.
21 Jotham ran off and went to live in the town of Beer, where he could be safe from his brother Abimelech.
Abimelech Destroys Shechem
22 Abimelech had been a military commander of Israel for three years, 23-24 when God decided to punish him and the leaders of Shechem for killing Gideon’s seventy sons.
So God turned the leaders of Shechem against Abimelech. 25 Then they sent some men to hide on the hilltops and watch for Abimelech and his troops, while they sent others to rob everyone that went by on the road. But Abimelech found out what they were doing.
26 One day, Gaal son of Ebed went to live in Shechem. His brothers moved there too, and soon the leaders of Shechem started trusting him.
27 The time came for the grape harvest, and the people of Shechem went into their vineyards and picked the grapes. They put the grapes in their wine-pits and walked on them to squeeze out the juice in order to make wine. Then they went into the temple of their god and threw a big party. There was a lot of eating and drinking, and before long they were cursing Abimelech.
28 Gaal said:
Hamor was the founder of Shechem, and one of his descendants should be our ruler. But Abimelech’s father was Gideon, so Abimelech isn’t really one of us. He shouldn’t be our king, and we shouldn’t have to obey him or Zebul, who rules Shechem for him. 29 If I were the ruler of Shechem, I’d get rid of that Abimelech. I’d tell him, “Get yourself an even bigger army, and we will still defeat you.”
30 Zebul was angry when he found out what Gaal had said. 31 And so he sent some messengers to Abimelech. But they had to pretend to be doing something else, or they would not have been allowed to leave Shechem.[bi] Zebul told the messengers to say:
Gaal the son of Ebed has come to Shechem along with his brothers, and they have persuaded the people to let Gaal rule Shechem instead of you. 32 This is what I think you should do. Lead your army here during the night and hide in the fields. 33 Get up the next morning at sunrise and rush out of your hiding places to attack the town. Gaal and his followers will come out to fight you, but you will easily defeat them.
34 So one night, Abimelech led his soldiers to Shechem. He divided them into four groups, and they all hid near the town.
35 The next morning, Gaal went out and stood in the opening of the town gate. Abimelech and his soldiers left their hiding places, 36 and Gaal saw them. Zebul was standing there with Gaal, and Gaal remarked, “Zebul, that looks like a crowd of people coming down from the mountaintops.”
“No,” Zebul answered, “it’s just the shadows of the mountains. It only looks like people moving.”
37 “But Zebul, look over there,” Gaal said. “There’s a crowd coming down from the sacred mountain,[bj] and another group is coming along the road from the tree where people talk with the spirits of the dead.”
38 Then Zebul replied, “What good is all of your bragging now? You were the one who said Abimelech shouldn’t be the ruler of Shechem. Out there is the army that you made fun of. So go out and fight them!”
39 Gaal and the leaders of Shechem went out and fought Abimelech. 40 Soon the people of Shechem turned and ran back into the town. However, Abimelech and his troops were close behind and killed many of them along the way.
41 Abimelech stayed at Arumah,[bk] and Zebul forced Gaal and his brothers out of Shechem.
42 The next morning, the people of Shechem were getting ready to work in their fields as usual, but someone told Abimelech about it. 43 Abimelech divided his army into three groups and set up an ambush in the fields near Shechem. When the people came out of the town, he and his army rushed out from their hiding places and attacked. 44 Abimelech and the troops with him ran to the town gate and took control of it, while two other groups attacked and killed the people who were in the fields. 45 He and his troops fought in Shechem all day, until they had killed everyone in town. Then he and his men tore down the houses and buildings and scattered salt[bl] everywhere.
46 Earlier that day, the leaders of the temple of El Berith[bm] at Shechem had heard about the attack. So they went into the temple fortress, 47 but Abimelech found out where they were. 48 He led his troops to Mount Zalmon, where he took an ax and chopped off a tree branch. He lifted the branch onto his shoulder and shouted, “Hurry! Cut off a branch just as I did.”
49 When they all had branches, they followed Abimelech back to Shechem. They piled the branches against the fortress and set them on fire, burning down the fortress and killing about one thousand men and women.
50 After destroying Shechem, Abimelech went to Thebez. He surrounded the town and captured it. 51 But there was a tall fortress in the middle of the town, and the town leaders and everyone else went inside. Then they barred the gates and went up to the flat roof.
52 Abimelech and his army rushed to the fortress and tried to force their way inside. Abimelech himself was about to set the heavy wooden doors on fire, 53 when a woman on the roof dropped a large rock[bn] on his head and cracked his skull. 54 The soldier who carried his weapons was nearby, and Abimelech told him, “Take out your sword and kill me. I don’t want people to say that I was killed by a woman!”
So the soldier ran his sword through Abimelech. 55 And when the Israelite soldiers saw that their leader was dead, they went back home.
56 That’s how God punished Abimelech for killing his brothers and bringing shame on his father’s family. 57 God also punished the people of Shechem for helping Abimelech.[bo] Everything happened just as Jotham’s curse said it would.
10 Tola was the next person to rescue Israel. He belonged to the Issachar tribe, but he lived in Shamir, a town in the hill country of Ephraim. His father was Puah, and his grandfather was Dodo. 2 Tola was a leader[bp] of Israel for twenty-three years, then he died and was buried in Shamir.
3 The next leader[bq] of Israel was Jair, who lived in Gilead. He was a leader for twenty-two years. 4 He had thirty sons, and each son had his own mule [br] and was in charge of one town in Gilead. Those thirty towns are still called The Settlements of Jair.[bs] 5 When he died, he was buried in the town of Kamon.
Israel Is Unfaithful Again
6 Before long, the Israelites began disobeying the Lord by worshiping Baal, Astarte, and gods from Syria, Sidon, Moab, Ammon, and Philistia.
7 The Lord was angry at Israel and decided to let Philistia and Ammon conquer them. 8 So the same year that Jair died, Israel’s army was crushed by these two nations. For eighteen years, Ammon was cruel to the Israelites who lived in Gilead, the region east of the Jordan River that had once belonged to the Amorites. 9 Then the Ammonites began crossing the Jordan and attacking the tribes of Judah, Benjamin, and Ephraim. Life was miserable for the Israelites. 10 They begged the Lord for help and confessed, “We were unfaithful to you, our Lord. We stopped worshiping you and started worshiping idols of Baal.”
11-12 The Lord answered:
In the past when you came crying to me for help, I rescued you. At one time or another I’ve rescued you from the Egyptians, the Amorites, the Ammonites, the Philistines, the Sidonians, the Amalekites, and the Maonites.[bt] 13-14 But I’m not going to rescue you any more! You’ve left me and gone off to worship other gods. If you’re in such big trouble, go cry to them for help!
15 “We have been unfaithful,” the Israelites admitted. “If we must be punished, do it yourself, but please rescue us from the Ammonites.”
16 Then the Israelites got rid of the idols of the foreign gods, and they began worshiping only the Lord. Finally, there came a time when the Lord could no longer stand to see them suffer.
The Ammonites Invade Gilead
17 The rulers of Ammon called their soldiers together and led them to Gilead, where they set up camp.
The Israelites gathered at Mizpah[bu] and set up camp there. 18 The leaders of Gilead asked each other, “Who can lead an attack on the Ammonites?” Then they agreed, “If we can find someone who can lead the attack, we’ll make him the ruler of Gilead.”
- 3.3 Hamath Pass: Or “Lebo-Hamath.”
- 3.8 northern Syria: The Hebrew text has “Aram-Naharaim,” probably referring to the land around the city of Haran (see Genesis 24.10; 25.20; 28.2,6; 31.18,20; 33.18; 35.23-26; 46.8-15; 48.7).
- 3.9 Othniel was the son of. . . Kenaz: See the note at 1.13.
- 3.13 Jericho: See the note at 1.16.
- 3.15,16 Ehud: Hebrew “Ehud the son of Gera.”
- 3.19,20 statues: Or “stone idols” or “stone monuments.”
- 3.19,20 Gilgal: About a mile and a half from Jericho, where Eglon probably was (see verse 13).
- 3.19,20 upstairs. . . cool room: Houses usually had flat roofs, and sometimes a room was built on one corner of the roof where it could best catch the breeze and be kept cooler than the rest of the house.
- 3.22,23 he climbed. . . porch: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
- 3.26 statues: See the note at 3.19,20.
- 3.31 sharp wooden pole: The Hebrew text has “cattle-prod,” a pole with a sharpened tip or metal point at one end.
- 4.4 leader: See 2.16 and the note there.
- 4.11 the village. . . Zaanannim: Or “the oak tree in the town of Zaanannim.”
- 5.7 villagers. . . fields: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
- 5.7 Deborah: Or “I, Deborah.”
- 5.8 The Israelites. . . attacked: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
- 5.11 Even. . . water: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
- 5.13 side: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text of verse 13.
- 5.15 But. . . at all: Or “But the people of Reuben couldn’t make up their minds.”
- 5.16 sheep pens: Or “campfires.”
- 5.16 No. . . come: Or “The people of Reuben couldn’t make up their minds.”
- 5.18 to attack the enemy: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
- 5.19 stream near Megiddo: Probably refers to one of the streams that flow into the Kishon River.
- 5.19 rob us of our silver: The army that won a battle would take everything of value from the dead enemy soldiers.
- 5.20 stars: In ancient times, the stars were sometimes regarded as supernatural beings.
- 5.30 and beautiful. . . wear: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
- 6.4,5 locusts: Insects like grasshoppers that travel in swarms and cause great damage to crops.
- 6.19 thin bread: Bread made without yeast, since there was no time for the dough to rise.
- 6.22 Now I’m going to die: The Hebrew text has “I have seen an angel of the Lord face to face.” Some people believed that if they saw one of the Lord’s angels, they would die (see 13.22).
- 6.25 sacred pole: Or “sacred tree,” used as a symbol of Asherah, the Canaanite goddess of fertility.
- 6.32 Jerubbaal. . . take revenge himself: In Hebrew, “Jerubbaal” means “Let Baal take revenge.”
- 7.1 Fear Spring: Or “Harod Spring.”
- 7.1 Moreh Hill: About 5 miles north of Fear Spring.
- 7.3 Mount Gilead: Usually “Gilead” refers to an area east of the Jordan River, but in this verse it refers to a place near Jezreel Valley west of the Jordan.
- 7.12 locusts: See the note at 6.4,5.
- 7.13 flat: Or “moldy.”
- 7.13 the headquarters tent: Or “a tent.”
- 7.19 a few hours after dark, just. . . duty: The Hebrew text has “at the beginning of the second watch, just. . . duty.” The night was divided into three periods called “watches,” each about four hours long, and different guards would come on duty at the beginning of each watch. The first watch began at sunset, so the beginning of the second watch would have been shortly after 10:00 (P.M.)
- 7.22 Zeredah: Some Hebrew manuscripts; most Hebrew manuscripts “Zererah” ; these may be different names for the town of Zarethan in the Jordan River valley.
- 7.22 Acacia Tree Town. . . Zeredah. . . Abel-Meholah near Tabbath: These were places east of the Jordan River.
- 7.23 both halves of Manasseh: Half of Manasseh lived east of the Jordan River, and the other half lived on the west.
- 7.25 Raven and Wolf: Or “Oreb and Zeeb.”
- 7.25 Raven Rock. . . Wolf Wine-Pit: Or “Oreb Rock. . . Zeeb Wine-Pit.”
- 8.9 tower: Towers were often part of a town wall.
- 8.10 Karkor: A little over 100 miles east of the Dead Sea.
- 8.11 Nomad: A person who lives in a tent and moves from place to place.
- 8.17 all. . . officials: Or “every man in town.”
- 8.20 young: Gideon wanted to insult the kings by having a young boy kill them.
- 8.24 Ishmaelites: According to Genesis 25.1,2,12, both Ishmaelites and Midianites were descendants of Abraham. It is possible that in this passage “Ishmaelites” has the meaning “nomadic traders,” while “Midianites” (verses 22,26-29) refers to their ethnic origin.
- 8.27-29 statue. . . statue: Or “sacred priestly vest. . . vest.”
- 8.31 wife: This translates a Hebrew word for a woman who was legally bound to a man, but without the full privileges of a wife.
- 8.31 who lived at Shechem: Sometimes marriages were arranged so that the wife lived with her parents, and the husband visited her from time to time.
- 8.33 Baal Berith: Or “Baal of the Agreement” or “the Lord of the Agreement.”
- 9.1 Gideon: The Hebrew text has “Jerubbaal,” another name for Gideon (see 6.32).
- 9.4 seventy pieces: About 28 ounces.
- 9.4 Baal Berith: See the note at 8.33.
- 9.6 including the priests and the military officers: The Hebrew text has “and the Millo house,” another name for the temple of Baal Berith. It probably also served as a military fortress.
- 9.6 tree. . . rock: One ancient translation; Hebrew “propped-up sacred tree.”
- 9.15 cedars of Lebanon: The cedars that grew in the Lebanon mountains were some of the largest trees in that part of the world.
- 9.16-18 son of. . . slave girl: See 8.31.
- 9.31 But. . . Shechem: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
- 9.37 sacred mountain: The Hebrew text has “the navel of the land,” which probably refers to Mount Gerizim as a sacred mountain linking heaven and earth.
- 9.41 Arumah: About five miles from Shechem.
- 9.45 scattered salt: This may have been part of a ceremony to place a curse on the town.
- 9.46 temple of El Berith: The Hebrew text also calls all or part of this temple the “Fortress of Shechem.” El Berith, “the God of the Agreement,” was also known as Baal Berith, “the Lord of the Agreement” (see also 8.33; 9.4).
- 9.53 large rock: One that was used in the grinding of grain.
- 9.57 helping Abimelech: Hebrew “their evil” (see 9.3,4).
- 10.2,3 leader: See 2.16 and the note there.
- 10.4 each son had his own mule: A sign that the family was wealthy.
- 10.4 each son had his own mule: A sign that the family was wealthy.
- 10.4 The Settlements of Jair: Or “Havvoth-Jair.”
- 10.11,12 Maonites: Hebrew; one ancient translation “Midianites.”
- 10.17; 11.11 Mizpah: In chapters 10-12, Mizpah is the name of a town in Gilead (see 11.29), not the same town as the Mizpah of chapters 20,21.