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Judges 9 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Abimelech Attempts to Establish a Monarchy

Now Abimelech son of Jerubbaal went to Shechem to his mother’s kinsfolk and said to them and to the whole clan of his mother’s family, “Say in the hearing of all the lords of Shechem, ‘Which is better for you, that all seventy of the sons of Jerubbaal rule over you, or that one rule over you?’ Remember also that I am your bone and your flesh.” So his mother’s kinsfolk spoke all these words on his behalf in the hearing of all the lords of Shechem; and their hearts inclined to follow Abimelech, for they said, “He is our brother.” They gave him seventy pieces of silver out of the temple of Baal-berith with which Abimelech hired worthless and reckless fellows, who followed him. He went to his father’s house at Ophrah, and killed his brothers the sons of Jerubbaal, seventy men, on one stone; but Jotham, the youngest son of Jerubbaal, survived, for he hid himself. Then all the lords of Shechem and all Beth-millo came together, and they went and made Abimelech king, by the oak of the pillar[a] at Shechem.

The Parable of the Trees

When it was told to Jotham, he went and stood on the top of Mount Gerizim, and cried aloud and said to them, “Listen to me, you lords of Shechem, so that God may listen to you.

The trees once went out
    to anoint a king over themselves.
So they said to the olive tree,
    ‘Reign over us.’
The olive tree answered them,
    ‘Shall I stop producing my rich oil
        by which gods and mortals are honored,
        and go to sway over the trees?’
10 Then the trees said to the fig tree,
    ‘You come and reign over us.’
11 But the fig tree answered them,
    ‘Shall I stop producing my sweetness
        and my delicious fruit,
        and go to sway over the trees?’
12 Then the trees said to the vine,
    ‘You come and reign over us.’
13 But the vine said to them,
    ‘Shall I stop producing my wine
        that cheers gods and mortals,
        and go to sway over the trees?’
14 So all the trees said to the bramble,
    ‘You come and reign over us.’
15 And the bramble said to the trees,
    ‘If in good faith you are anointing me king over you,
        then come and take refuge in my shade;
    but if not, let fire come out of the bramble
        and devour the cedars of Lebanon.’

16 “Now therefore, if you acted in good faith and honor when you made Abimelech king, and if you have dealt well with Jerubbaal and his house, and have done to him as his actions deserved— 17 for my father fought for you, and risked his life, and rescued you from the hand of Midian; 18 but you have risen up against my father’s house this day, and have killed his sons, seventy men on one stone, and have made Abimelech, the son of his slave woman, king over the lords of Shechem, because he is your kinsman— 19 if, I say, you have acted in good faith and honor with Jerubbaal and with his house this day, then rejoice in Abimelech, and let him also rejoice in you; 20 but if not, let fire come out from Abimelech, and devour the lords of Shechem, and Beth-millo; and let fire come out from the lords of Shechem, and from Beth-millo, and devour Abimelech.” 21 Then Jotham ran away and fled, going to Beer, where he remained for fear of his brother Abimelech.

The Downfall of Abimelech

22 Abimelech ruled over Israel three years. 23 But God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the lords of Shechem; and the lords of Shechem dealt treacherously with Abimelech. 24 This happened so that the violence done to the seventy sons of Jerubbaal might be avenged[b] and their blood be laid on their brother Abimelech, who killed them, and on the lords of Shechem, who strengthened his hands to kill his brothers. 25 So, out of hostility to him, the lords of Shechem set ambushes on the mountain tops. They robbed all who passed by them along that way; and it was reported to Abimelech.

26 When Gaal son of Ebed moved into Shechem with his kinsfolk, the lords of Shechem put confidence in him. 27 They went out into the field and gathered the grapes from their vineyards, trod them, and celebrated. Then they went into the temple of their god, ate and drank, and ridiculed Abimelech. 28 Gaal son of Ebed said, “Who is Abimelech, and who are we of Shechem, that we should serve him? Did not the son of Jerubbaal and Zebul his officer serve the men of Hamor father of Shechem? Why then should we serve him? 29 If only this people were under my command! Then I would remove Abimelech; I would say[c] to him, ‘Increase your army, and come out.’”

30 When Zebul the ruler of the city heard the words of Gaal son of Ebed, his anger was kindled. 31 He sent messengers to Abimelech at Arumah,[d] saying, “Look, Gaal son of Ebed and his kinsfolk have come to Shechem, and they are stirring up[e] the city against you. 32 Now therefore, go by night, you and the troops that are with you, and lie in wait in the fields. 33 Then early in the morning, as soon as the sun rises, get up and rush on the city; and when he and the troops that are with him come out against you, you may deal with them as best you can.”

34 So Abimelech and all the troops with him got up by night and lay in wait against Shechem in four companies. 35 When Gaal son of Ebed went out and stood in the entrance of the gate of the city, Abimelech and the troops with him rose from the ambush. 36 And when Gaal saw them, he said to Zebul, “Look, people are coming down from the mountain tops!” And Zebul said to him, “The shadows on the mountains look like people to you.” 37 Gaal spoke again and said, “Look, people are coming down from Tabbur-erez, and one company is coming from the direction of Elon-meonenim.”[f] 38 Then Zebul said to him, “Where is your boast[g] now, you who said, ‘Who is Abimelech, that we should serve him?’ Are not these the troops you made light of? Go out now and fight with them.” 39 So Gaal went out at the head of the lords of Shechem, and fought with Abimelech. 40 Abimelech chased him, and he fled before him. Many fell wounded, up to the entrance of the gate. 41 So Abimelech resided at Arumah; and Zebul drove out Gaal and his kinsfolk, so that they could not live on at Shechem.

42 On the following day the people went out into the fields. When Abimelech was told, 43 he took his troops and divided them into three companies, and lay in wait in the fields. When he looked and saw the people coming out of the city, he rose against them and killed them. 44 Abimelech and the company that was[h] with him rushed forward and stood at the entrance of the gate of the city, while the two companies rushed on all who were in the fields and killed them. 45 Abimelech fought against the city all that day; he took the city, and killed the people that were in it; and he razed the city and sowed it with salt.

46 When all the lords of the Tower of Shechem heard of it, they entered the stronghold of the temple of El-berith. 47 Abimelech was told that all the lords of the Tower of Shechem were gathered together. 48 So Abimelech went up to Mount Zalmon, he and all the troops that were with him. Abimelech took an ax in his hand, cut down a bundle of brushwood, and took it up and laid it on his shoulder. Then he said to the troops with him, “What you have seen me do, do quickly, as I have done.” 49 So every one of the troops cut down a bundle and following Abimelech put it against the stronghold, and they set the stronghold on fire over them, so that all the people of the Tower of Shechem also died, about a thousand men and women.

50 Then Abimelech went to Thebez, and encamped against Thebez, and took it. 51 But there was a strong tower within the city, and all the men and women and all the lords of the city fled to it and shut themselves in; and they went to the roof of the tower. 52 Abimelech came to the tower, and fought against it, and came near to the entrance of the tower to burn it with fire. 53 But a certain woman threw an upper millstone on Abimelech’s head, and crushed his skull. 54 Immediately he called to the young man who carried his armor and said to him, “Draw your sword and kill me, so people will not say about me, ‘A woman killed him.’” So the young man thrust him through, and he died. 55 When the Israelites saw that Abimelech was dead, they all went home. 56 Thus God repaid Abimelech for the crime he committed against his father in killing his seventy brothers; 57 and God also made all the wickedness of the people of Shechem fall back on their heads, and on them came the curse of Jotham son of Jerubbaal.

Footnotes:

  1. Judges 9:6 Cn: Meaning of Heb uncertain
  2. Judges 9:24 Heb might come
  3. Judges 9:29 Gk: Heb and he said
  4. Judges 9:31 Cn See 9.41. Heb Tormah
  5. Judges 9:31 Cn: Heb are besieging
  6. Judges 9:37 That is Diviners’ Oak
  7. Judges 9:38 Heb mouth
  8. Judges 9:44 Vg and some Gk Mss: Heb companies that were
New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Judges 9 Common English Bible (CEB)

Abimelech becomes a king

Abimelech, Jerubbaal’s son, went to his mother’s brothers in Shechem. He spoke to them and to the entire clan of the household to which his mother belonged: “Ask all the leaders of Shechem, ‘Which do you think is better to have ruling over you: seventy men—all of Jerubbaal’s sons—or one man?’ And remember that I’m your flesh and blood!”

So his mother’s brothers spoke all these words on his behalf to all the leaders of Shechem. They decided to follow Abimelech because they said, “He’s our relative.” They gave him seventy pieces of silver from the temple of Baal-berith, with which Abimelech hired worthless and reckless men, who became his posse. He went to his household in Ophrah and killed all seventy of his brothers, Jerubbaal’s sons, on a single stone. Only Jotham the youngest of Jerubbaal’s sons survived, because he had hidden himself. Then all the leaders of Shechem and all Beth-millo assembled and proceeded to make Abimelech king by the oak at the stone pillar[a] in Shechem.

Jotham’s fable

When Jotham was told about this, he went and stood on the top of Mount Gerizim. He raised his voice and called out, “Listen to me, you leaders of Shechem, so that God may listen to you!

“Once the trees went out to anoint a king over themselves. So they said to the olive tree, ‘Be our king!’

“But the olive tree replied to them, ‘Should I stop producing my oil, which is how gods and humans are honored, so that I can go to sway over the trees?’

10 “So the trees said to the fig tree, ‘You come and be king over us!’

11 “The fig tree replied to them, ‘Should I stop producing my sweetness and my delicious fruit, so that I can go to sway over the trees?’

12 “Then the trees said to the vine, ‘You come and be king over us!’

13 “But the vine replied to them, ‘Should I stop providing my wine that makes gods and humans happy, so that I can go to sway over the trees?’

14 “Finally, all the trees said to the thornbush, ‘You come and be king over us!’

15 “And the thornbush replied to the trees, ‘If you’re acting faithfully in anointing me king over you, come and take shelter in my shade; but if not, let fire come out of the thornbush and burn up the cedars of Lebanon.’

16 “So now, if you acted faithfully and innocently when you made Abimelech king, and if you’ve done right by Jerubbaal and his household, and have treated him as his actions deserve— 17 my father fought for you and risked his life to rescue you from Midian’s power, 18 but today you’ve risen up against my father’s household, killed his seventy sons on a single stone, and made Abimelech, his female servant’s son, king over the leaders of Shechem, because he’s your relative— 19 so if you’ve acted faithfully and innocently toward Jerubbaal and his household today, then be happy with Abimelech and let him be happy with you. 20 But if not, let fire come out from Abimelech and burn up the leaders of Shechem and Beth-millo; and let fire come out from the leaders of Shechem and Beth-millo and burn up Abimelech.”

21 Then Jotham ran away. He fled to Beer and stayed there for fear of his brother Abimelech.

Abimelech’s monarchy fails

22 Abimelech ruled over Israel for three years. 23 Then God stirred up ill will between Abimelech and the leaders of Shechem, and they acted like traitors toward Abimelech. 24 This occurred because of the violence done to Jerubbaal’s seventy sons. Their blood came back on their brother Abimelech, who killed them, and on the leaders of Shechem, who supported him when he killed his brothers. 25 As an act against him, the leaders of Shechem set ambushes on the hilltops that robbed everyone who passed by them on the road. This was reported to Abimelech.

26 Then Gaal, Ebed’s son, and his relatives came passing through Shechem, and the leaders of Shechem shifted their allegiance to him. 27 They went out into the field, cut off clusters from their vineyards, trampled them out, and had a celebration. They entered their god’s temple and ate, drank, and made fun of Abimelech. 28 Gaal, Ebed’s son, said, “Who is Abimelech, and who are we of Shechem that we ought to serve him? Didn’t this son of Jerubbaal and his deputy Zebul once serve the men of Hamor, Shechem’s father? Why should we of all people serve him? 29 If only this people were under my command! I would push Abimelech aside! I[b] would tell Abimelech, ‘Build up your army and march out for battle.’”

30 When Zebul the city’s ruler heard the words of Gaal, Ebed’s son, he became angry. 31 He sent messengers to Abimelech at Arumah[c] to say, “Watch out! Gaal, Ebed’s son, and his relatives have come to Shechem and are stirring up the city against you. 32 Now, you and the men who are with you: Get up tonight and set an ambush in the fields. 33 Then in the morning, at sunrise, rise early and rush on the city. Just as he and the men with him are marching out to face you, you can do to him whatever you wish.”

34 So Abimelech and all the men who were with him got up that night and set an ambush around Shechem in four companies. 35 When Gaal, Ebed’s son, came out and stood in the entrance of the city’s gate, Abimelech and the men with him sprang up from the ambush. 36 Gaal saw the men and said to Zebul, “Look! People are coming down from the hilltops.”

Zebul replied to him, “The shadows on the hills just look like persons to you.”

37 But Gaal spoke up again, “Look! People are coming down from Tabbur-erez, and one company is coming from the direction of Elon-meonenim.”[d]

38 Then Zebul replied to him, “Where’s all your talk now, you who said, ‘Who is Abimelech that we ought to serve him?’ Aren’t these the men you despised? Now march out and fight them!” 39 So Gaal marched out at the head of the leaders of Shechem and fought with Abimelech. 40 Abimelech routed him, and he ran away. Many fell wounded, all the way up to the entrance of the gate. 41 Afterward, Abimelech stayed in Arumah, and Zebul drove away Gaal and his relatives so they couldn’t stay in Shechem.

42 The next day, the men of Shechem went out into the fields. When it was reported to Abimelech, 43 he took his men, divided them into three companies, and set an ambush in the fields. As soon as he saw the men coming from the city, he sprang upon them and attacked them. 44 Abimelech and his company charged forward and took a position at the entrance of the city’s gate, while the other two companies charged at all those in the fields and attacked them. 45 Abimelech fought against the city that entire day. He captured the city and killed its people. Then he leveled the city and scattered salt over it.

46 When all the leaders in the Tower of Shechem heard about this, they entered the side rooms in the El-berith temple. 47 It was reported to Abimelech that all the leaders from the Tower of Shechem had gathered in one place. 48 So Abimelech and all the men who were with him went up on Mount Zalmon. He grabbed an ax, cut off a bundle of branches, and hoisted them onto his shoulder. Then he ordered the men who were with him, “Hurry up and do what you’ve seen me do!” 49 Each one of the men cut off a bundle as well and followed Abimelech. They piled them up against the side rooms and set fire to the side rooms above them. So all the people in the Tower of Shechem died too, about one thousand men and women.

50 Then Abimelech moved on to Thebez, set up camp against it, and captured it. 51 But there was a strong tower inside the city. All the men and women and all the city’s leaders had fled there, shut themselves inside, and climbed to the tower’s roof. 52 Abimelech came to the tower to storm it. But when he approached the tower’s entrance to set it on fire, 53 a woman dropped an upper millstone on Abimelech’s head and cracked his skull. 54 He quickly cried out to the servant who carried his armor, “Draw your sword and kill me. Don’t let it be said of me, ‘A woman killed him.’” So his servant stabbed him, and he died. 55 When the Israelites saw that Abimelech was dead, they all went home.

56 Thus God paid back Abimelech for the evil he had done to his father by killing his seventy brothers. 57 God also paid back the people of Shechem for their evil. The curse of Jotham, Jerubbaal’s son, had come upon them.

Footnotes:

  1. Judges 9:6 Heb uncertain
  2. Judges 9:29 LXX; MT he
  3. Judges 9:31 Cf 9:41; Heb Tormah
  4. Judges 9:37 Or the Diviners’ Oak
Common English Bible (CEB)

Copyright © 2011 by Common English Bible

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