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Bloodshed of Abimelech and Shechem

Now Abimelech son of Jerubbaal went to Shechem, to his mother’s brothers, and spoke to them and the whole clan of his mother’s father’s household saying, “Speak now, in the ears of all the leaders of Shechem: Which is better for you, that 70 men—all the sons of Jerubbaal—rule over you, or that a single man rules over you? Remember also that I am your flesh and bone.”

When his mother’s brothers discussed all these words of his in the ears of all Shechem’s leaders, their hearts inclined to follow Abimelech, for they said, “He is our brother.” So they gave him 70 pieces of silver from the temple of Baal-berith[a]. Abimelech then hired idle and reckless fellows, who followed him. Then he went to his father’s house at Ophrah and slew his brothers, the sons of Jerubbaal, 70 men, on top of one stone. But Jotam, the youngest son of Jerubbaal, survived, for he hid himself. Then all the leaders of Shechem and all Beth-millo assembled themselves together and went and made Abimelech king at the terebinth of the pillar that was in Shechem.

Now when they told Jotam, he went and stood on the top of Mount Gerizim, lifted up his voice, called out and said to them, “Listen to me, O lords of Shechem, that God may listen to you! Once the trees set out to anoint a king over them. So they said to the olive tree, ‘Reign over us.’ But the olive tree said to them, ‘Should I stop yielding my oil, that honors God and man, and go wave over the trees?’ 10 Then the trees said to the fig tree, ‘You come and reign over us.’ 11 But the fig tree said to them, ‘Should I stop yielding my sweetness and my delicious fruit, and go wave over the trees?’ 12 So the trees said to the vine, ‘You come and reign over us.’ 13 But the vine said to them, ‘Should I stop yielding my new wine, which cheers God and man, and go wave over the trees?’ 14 Then all the trees said to the bramble, ‘You come and reign over us.’ 15 And the bramble said to the trees, ‘If you truly are going to anoint me king over you, then come and take refuge in my shadow; but if not, let fire come out of the bramble and devour the cedars of Lebanon.’

16 “So now, if you have acted in truth and integrity by making Abimelech king, and if you have dealt kindly with Jerubbaal and his household, and have done for him as he deserved— 17 for my father fought for you, and risked his life and delivered you from the hand of Midian, 18 but you have risen up against my father’s household today and have slain his sons—70 men on one stone—and have made Abimelech, son of his maidservant, king over the lords of Shechem just because he is your brother— 19 if you then have dealt in truth and integrity with Jerubbaal and with his household today, 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 Jotam ran away and fled, and went to Beer and remained there because of his brother Abimelech.

22 After Abimelech had ruled over Israel for three years, 23 God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the lords of Shechem. So the men of Shechem dealt treacherously with Abimelech— 24 in order that the violence done to Jerubbaal’s 70 sons might come due, so their blood might be laid on their brother Abimelech who slew them, and on the lords of Shechem who strengthened his hands to slay his brothers.

25 So the lords of Shechem set up ambushers on the tops of the mountains, and they robbed anyone who passed by them along that road. So it was reported to Abimelech. 26 Now Gaal son of Ebed had come with his relatives and moved to Shechem, and the lords of Shechem put their trust in him. 27 When they went out into the field, they gathered grapes of their vineyards, trod them and had a party. Then they went into the house of their god, ate and drank, and cursed Abimelech.

28 Then Gaal son of Ebed said, “Who is Abimelech, and who is Shechem, that we should serve him? Isn’t he the son of Jerubbaal? Isn’t Zebul his deputy? Serve the men of Hamor the father of Shechem—but why should we serve him? 29 Now, if this people were under my hand, then I would get rid of Abimelech.” So he said to Abimelech, “Muster your army and come out!”

30 When Zebul the governor of the city heard the words of Gaal son of Ebed, his anger burned. 31 So he sent messengers to Abimelech in deceit saying, “Watch out, Gaal son of Ebed and his relatives have moved to Shechem, and look, they are inciting the city against you. 32 So now, arise by night, you and the people who are with you, and lie in wait in the field. 33 So it will be in the morning, as soon as the sun is up, you will rise early and advance on the city; and behold, when he and the people who are with him come out against you, then you should do to them whatever your hand finds.”

34 So Abimelech and all the people who were with him rose up by night and lay in wait against Shechem in four columns. 35 Now Gaal son of Ebed went out and stood at the entrance of the city gate. Then Abimelech and the people who were with him emerged from the ambush. 36 When Gaal saw the people, he said to Zebul, “Look, people are coming down from the tops of the mountains!”

But Zebul said to him, “You’re seeing the shadow of the mountains as if they were men.”

37 Then Gaal spoke up again and said, “Look, people are coming down from the middle of the land, and one column is coming by the road of the Diviner’s Oak.”

38 Then Zebul said to him, “Where is your mouth now? With it you said, ‘Who is Abimelech that we should serve him?’ Isn’t this the people that you have trashed? Now go out and fight him!” 39 So Gaal went out ahead of the lords of Shechem and fought with Abimelech. 40 But Abimelech chased him, and he fled before him, and many fell wounded up to the entrance of the gate. 41 While Abimelech stayed in Arumah, Zebul drove Gaal and his relatives out so that they could not stay in Shechem.

42 Now it came to pass the next day that the people went out into the field, and it was reported to Abimelech. 43 So he took his people, divided them into three columns, and lay in ambush in the field. When he looked and saw the people were coming out of the city, he pounced on them and struck them down. 44 Then Abimelech and the column that was with him rushed forward and stood at the entrance of the city gate, and the other two columns rushed on all who were in the open field and struck them down. 45 So Abimelech fought against the city all that day, captured the city and killed the people that were in it. Then he razed the city and sowed it with salt.

46 Now when all the lords of Shechem’s Tower heard about it, they went into the vault of the temple of El-berith. 47 When Abimelech was told that all the lords of Shechem’s Tower had gathered there, 48 he and all the people with him went up to Mount Zalmon. Then Abimelech took an axe in his hand and cut down a branch from the trees and lifted it up and laid it on his shoulder. Then he said to the people who were with him, “What you’ve seen me do, hurry and do likewise.” 49 So all the people likewise each cut down his branch and followed Abimelech. He laid them against the vault and set the vault on fire over them. So all the people of Shechem’s Tower also died—about a thousand men and women.

50 Then Abimelech went to Thebez, camped against Thebez and captured it. 51 But there was a strong tower in the center of the city, and all the men and women with all the city leaders fled there and shut themselves in, and went up to the roof of the tower. 52 So Abimelech came to the tower and fought against it, and approached the door 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 Then he called quickly to the young man, his armor-bearer, and said to him, “Draw your sword and kill me, lest they say of me, ‘A woman slew him.’” So his young man thrust him through, and he died. 55 So when the men of Israel saw that Abimelech was dead, they each departed to his place. 56 Thus God repaid the wickedness of Abimelech—what he had done to his father by slaying his 70 brothers. 57 Also all the wickedness of the men of Shechem God requited on their heads. Thus on them came the curse of Jotam son of Jerubbaal.


  1. Judges 9:4 Meaning Lord of the Covenant.