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Judges 9 Good News Translation (GNT)

Abimelech

Gideon's son Abimelech went to the town of Shechem, where all his mother's relatives lived, and told them to ask the men of Shechem, “Which would you prefer? To have all seventy of Gideon's sons govern you or to have just one man? Remember that Abimelech is your own flesh and blood.” His mother's relatives talked to the men of Shechem about this for him, and the men of Shechem decided to follow Abimelech because he was their relative. They gave him seventy pieces of silver from the temple of Baal-of-the-Covenant, and with this money he hired a bunch of worthless scoundrels to join him. He went to his father's house at Ophrah, and there on top of a single stone he killed his seventy brothers, Gideon's sons. But Jotham, Gideon's youngest son, hid and was not killed. Then all the men of Shechem and Bethmillo got together and went to the sacred oak tree at Shechem, where they made Abimelech king.

When Jotham heard about this, he went and stood on top of Mount Gerizim and shouted out to them, “Listen to me, you men of Shechem, and God may listen to you! Once upon a time the trees went out to choose a king for themselves. They said to the olive tree, ‘Be our king.’ The olive tree answered, ‘In order to govern you, I would have to stop producing my oil, which is used to honor gods and human beings.’ 10 Then the trees said to the fig tree, ‘You come and be our king.’ 11 But the fig tree answered, ‘In order to govern you, I would have to stop producing my good sweet fruit.’ 12 So the trees then said to the grapevine, ‘You come and be our king.’ 13 But the vine answered, ‘In order to govern you, I would have to stop producing my wine, that makes gods and human beings happy.’ 14 So then all the trees said to the thorn bush, ‘You come and be our king.’ 15 The thorn bush answered, ‘If you really want to make me your king, then come and take shelter in my shade. If you don't, fire will blaze out of my thorny branches and burn up the cedars of Lebanon.’

16 “Now then,” Jotham continued, “were you really honest and sincere when you made Abimelech king? Did you respect Gideon's memory and treat his family properly, as his actions deserved? 17 Remember that my father fought for you. He risked his life to save you from the Midianites. 18 But today you turned against my father's family. You killed his sons—seventy men on a single stone—and just because Abimelech, his son by his servant woman, is your relative, you have made him king of Shechem. 19 Now then, if what you did today to Gideon and his family was sincere and honest, then be happy with Abimelech and let him be happy with you. 20 But if not, may fire blaze out from Abimelech and burn up the men of Shechem and Bethmillo. May fire blaze out from the men of Shechem and Bethmillo and burn Abimelech up.” 21 Then because he was afraid of his brother Abimelech, Jotham ran away and went to live at Beer.

22 Abimelech ruled Israel for three years. 23 Then God made Abimelech and the men of Shechem hostile to each other, and they rebelled against Abimelech. 24 This happened so that Abimelech and the men of Shechem, who encouraged him to murder Gideon's seventy sons, would pay for their crime. 25 The men of Shechem put men in ambush against Abimelech on the mountaintops, and they robbed everyone who passed their way. Abimelech was told about this.

26 Then Gaal son of Ebed came to Shechem with his brothers, and the men of Shechem put their confidence in him. 27 They all went out into their vineyards and picked the grapes, made wine from them, and held a festival. They went into the temple of their god, where they ate and drank and made fun of Abimelech. 28 Gaal said, “What kind of men are we in Shechem? Why are we serving Abimelech? Who is he, anyway? The son of Gideon! And Zebul takes orders from him, but why should we serve him? Be loyal to your ancestor Hamor, who founded your clan! 29 I wish I were leading this people! I would get rid of Abimelech! I would tell[a] him, ‘Reinforce your army, come on out and fight!’”

30 Zebul, the ruler of the city, became angry when he heard what Gaal had said. 31 He sent messengers to Abimelech at Arumah[b] to say, “Gaal son of Ebed and his brothers have come to Shechem, and they are not going to let you into the city. 32 Now then, you and your men should move by night and hide in the fields. 33 Get up tomorrow morning at sunrise and make a sudden attack on the city. Then when Gaal and his men come out against you, hit them with all you've got!”

34 So Abimelech and all his men made their move at night and hid outside Shechem in four groups. 35 When Abimelech and his men saw Gaal come out and stand at the city gate, they got up from their hiding places. 36 Gaal saw them and said to Zebul, “Look! There are men coming down from the mountaintops!”

“Those are not men,” Zebul answered. “They are just shadows on the mountains.”

37 Gaal said again, “Look! There are men coming down the crest of the mountain and one group is coming along the road from the oak tree of the fortunetellers!”

38 Then Zebul said to him, “Where is all your big talk now? You were the one who asked why we should serve this man Abimelech. These are the men you were making fun of. Go on out now and fight them.” 39 Gaal led the men of Shechem out and fought Abimelech. 40 Abimelech started after Gaal, and Gaal ran. Many were wounded, even at the city gate. 41 Abimelech lived in Arumah, and Zebul drove Gaal and his brothers out of Shechem, so that they could no longer live there.

42 The next day Abimelech found out that the people of Shechem were planning to go out into the fields, 43 so he took his men, divided them into three groups, and hid in the fields, waiting. When he saw the people coming out of the city, he came out of hiding to kill them. 44 While Abimelech and his group hurried forward to guard the city gate, the other two companies attacked the people in the fields and killed them all. 45 The fighting continued all day long. Abimelech captured the city, killed its people, tore it down, and covered the ground with salt.

46 When all the leading men in the fort at Shechem heard about this, they sought safety in the stronghold of the temple of Baal-of-the-Covenant. 47 Abimelech was told that they had gathered there, 48 so he went up to Mount Zalmon with his men. There he took an ax, cut a limb off a tree, and put it on his shoulder. He told his men to hurry and do the same thing. 49 So everyone cut off a tree limb; then they followed Abimelech and piled the wood up against the stronghold. They set it on fire, with the people inside, and all the people of the fort died—about a thousand men and women.

50 Then Abimelech went to Thebez, surrounded that city, and captured it. 51 There was a strong tower there, and every man and woman in the city, including the leaders, ran to it. They locked themselves in and went up to the roof. 52 When Abimelech came to attack the tower, he went up to the door to set the tower on fire. 53 But a woman threw a millstone down on his head and fractured his skull. 54 Then he quickly called the young man who was carrying his weapons and told him, “Draw your sword and kill me. I don't want it said that a woman killed me.” So the young man ran him through, and he died. 55 When the Israelites saw that Abimelech was dead, they all went home.

56 And so it was that God paid Abimelech back for the crime that he committed against his father in killing his seventy brothers. 57 God also made the men of Shechem suffer for their wickedness, just as Jotham, Gideon's son, said they would when he cursed them.

Footnotes:

  1. Judges 9:29 One ancient translation I would tell; Hebrew He told.
  2. Judges 9:31 Probable text Arumah; Hebrew unclear.
Good News Translation (GNT)

Copyright © 1992 by American Bible Society

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 Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)

Avimelekh the son of Yeruba‘al went to Sh’khem, to his mother’s brothers, and spoke with them and with the whole clan of his maternal grandfather. He said, “Please ask all the men of Sh’khem, ‘Which is better for you — that all seventy sons of Yeruba‘al rule over you, or that one person rule over you? And remember that I am your blood relative.’” His mother’s brothers spoke to all the men of Sh’khem and said all this about him, so that they followed their feelings and supported Avimelekh, arguing, “After all, he’s our brother.” They also gave him seventy pieces of silver from the temple of Ba‘al-B’rit; and he used these to pay good-for-nothing thugs to follow him. He went back to his father’s house in ‘Ofrah and killed his brothers the sons of Yeruba‘al, all seventy of them, on a single rock, except for Yotam Yeruba‘al’s youngest son, who stayed alive because he hid himself.

All the men of Sh’khem and all Beit-Millo got together and went and made Avimelekh king at the oak by the cult-pillar in Sh’khem. When they told this to Yotam, he went and stood on top of Mount G’rizim and shouted, “Listen to me, you leaders of Sh’khem; then God will listen to you! Once the trees went out to choose a king to rule them. They said to the olive tree, ‘Rule over us!’ But the olive tree replied, ‘Am I supposed to leave my oil, which is used to honor both God and humanity, just to go and hold sway over the trees?’ 10 So the trees said to the fig tree, ‘You, come and rule over us!’ 11 But the fig tree replied, ‘Am I supposed to leave my sweetness and my good fruit just to go and hold sway over the trees?’ 12 So the trees said to the grapevine, ‘You, come and rule over us!’ 13 But the grapevine replied, ‘Am I supposed to leave my wine, which gives cheer to God and humanity, just to go and hold sway over the trees?’ 14 Finally, all the trees said to the thorn bush, ‘You, come and rule over us!’ 15 The thorn bush replied, ‘If you really make me king over you, then come and take shelter in my shade. But if not, let fire come out of the thorn bush and burn down the cedars of the L’vanon!’

16 “Here’s the point. Have you been honest and straightforward in making Avimelekh king? Have you been fair with Yeruba‘al and his household and treated him as he deserves? 17 My father fought on your behalf, risking his life, and rescued you from the power of Midyan; 18 and now you are rebelling against my father’s household. You’ve killed his seventy sons on a single stone and made Avimelekh, the son of his slave-girl, king over the men of Sh’khem, because he’s your brother. 19 I say this: if you are dealing honestly and righteously with Yeruba‘al and his household today, then may you enjoy Avimelekh and may he enjoy you! 20 But if not, let fire come out from Avimelekh and burn up the men of Sh’khem and Beit-Millo; and let fire come out from the men of Sh’khem and Beit-Millo and burn up Avimelekh!” 21 Then Yotam fled, making his way to Be’er, and he lived there for fear of Avimelekh his brother.

22 Avimelekh was chief over Isra’el for three years. 23 But God sent a spirit of discord between Avimelekh and the men of Sh’khem, so that the men of Sh’khem dealt treacherously with Avimelekh. 24 This came about so that the crime against the seventy sons of Yeruba‘al might be avenged and the responsibility for their bloody death be placed on Avimelekh their brother, who murdered them, and on the men of Sh’khem, who helped him kill his brothers. 25 So the men of Sh’khem sent out men to ambush him on the mountaintops. They robbed everyone who went past them, and Avimelekh was told about it.

26 Ga‘al the son of a slave came with his brothers and went on to Sh’khem, and the men of Sh’khem put their trust in him. 27 They went out into the field, gathered their grapes and pressed the juice out of them. Then they held a feast and went into the house of their god to eat and drink, and there they insulted Avimelekh. 28 Ga‘al the son of a slave said, “Who is Avimelekh? Think of the contrast with Sh’khem! Why should we serve Avimelekh? Isn’t he the son of Yeruba‘al? Isn’t Z’vul his officer? Serve the men of Hamor the father of Sh’khem! Why should we serve Avimelekh? 29 If I were in control of this people, I’d get rid of Avimelekh!” Then, addressing his words to Avimelekh, he said, “Come out and fight! I don’t care if you make your army even larger!”

30 When Z’vul the ruler of the city heard the words of Ga‘al the son of a slave, he was enraged. 31 He sent messengers to Avimelekh in Tormah with this message: “Ga‘al the son of a slave and his brothers have come to Sh’khem, and they’re inciting the city against you. 32 You and the men with you should come up now at night and lie in wait in the field. 33 In the morning, get up early, as soon as the sun rises; and attack the city. Then, when Ga‘al and the men with him come out to fight you, do whatever you can to them.”

34 Avimelekh and all the men with him came up by night and lay in wait against Sh’khem in four groups. 35 Ga‘al the son of a slave went out and stationed himself at the entrance to the city gate. Then Avimelekh and his men rose from their ambush. 36 When Ga‘al saw the men, he said to Z’vul, “Look, there are men coming down from the mountaintops.” Z’vul answered, “You’re seeing the shadows of the mountains as if they were men.” 37 Ga‘al said again, “Look, there are men coming down from the main hill in the land, and one group is coming on the road from the Fortuneteller’s Oak. 38 Z’vul said to him, “Where’s your mouth now? You said, ‘Who is Avimelekh? Why should we serve him?’ Aren’t these the people you despise? Go on out and fight them!” 39 So Ga‘al went out, leading the men of Sh’khem, and fought Avimelekh. 40 But Avimelekh gave chase, and Ga‘al took to flight; many fell wounded, strewn all along the way to the city gate.

41 Then Avimelekh took up residence in Arumah, and Z’vul drove out Ga‘al and his brothers, so that they could not live in Sh’khem. 42 But the very next day, the people went out into the field, and Avimelekh was told about it. 43 He took his men, divided them into three groups, and lay in wait in the field. When he saw the people going out of the city, he came out of hiding and slaughtered them. 44 Avimelekh and his group rushed forward and occupied the entrance to the city gate, while the other two groups attacked all those in the field and killed them. 45 Avimelekh fought against the city all that day; captured it, killed its people, destroyed its buildings and sowed its land with salt.

46 When all the men in the fortress at Sh’khem heard about this, they took refuge in the stronghold of the temple of El-B’rit. 47 Avimelekh was told that all the men from the Sh’khem fortress had gathered together; 48 so he led all his men up to Mount Tzalmon, where he took an axe in his hand, cut a branch off a tree, and laid it on his shoulder. Then he said to those with him, “Quick! Do just what you saw me do!” 49 They all did likewise, each man cutting off his branch; and they followed Avimelekh. They put the branches up against the stronghold, set them on fire, and burned down the stronghold; so that all the people from the Sh’khem fortress died, about a thousand men and women.

50 Then Avimelekh went to Tevetz, set up camp against Tevetz and captured it. 51 But there was a fortified tower inside the city; and all the men and women took refuge in it, everyone in the city. They shut themselves inside and went up onto the roof of the tower. 52 However, when Avimelekh approached the tower, attacked it, and then came up close to the tower’s door in order to burn it down, 53 a woman dropped an upper millstone on Avimelekh’s head, cracking his skull. 54 He quickly called out to the young man holding his armor, “Draw your sword, and finish me off, so that people won’t say a woman killed me.” So his attendant ran him through, and he died. 55 When the men of Isra’el saw that Avimelekh was dead, they all went back home.

56 This is how God paid back Avimelekh for the wrong he did to his father in murdering his seventy brothers. 57 God also repaid the men of Sh’khem for all the wrong they had done; on them came the curse of Yotam the son of Yeruba‘al.

Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)

Copyright © 1998 by David H. Stern. All rights reserved.

Judges 9 The Message (MSG)

1-2 Abimelech son of Jerub-Baal went to Shechem to his uncles and all his mother’s relatives and said to them, “Ask all the leading men of Shechem, ‘What do you think is best, that seventy men rule you—all those sons of Jerub-Baal—or that one man rule? You’ll remember that I am your own flesh and blood.’”

His mother’s relatives reported the proposal to the leaders of Shechem. They were inclined to take Abimelech. “Because,” they said, “he is, after all, one of us.”

4-5 They gave him seventy silver pieces from the shrine of Baal-of-the-Covenant. With the money he hired some reckless riffraff soldiers and they followed along after him. He went to his father’s house in Ophrah and killed his half brothers, the sons of Jerub-Baal—seventy men! And on one stone! The youngest, Jotham son of Jerub-Baal, managed to hide, the only survivor.

Then all the leaders of Shechem and Beth Millo gathered at the Oak by the Standing Stone at Shechem and crowned Abimelech king.

7-9 When this was all told to Jotham, he climbed to the top of Mount Gerizim, raised his voice, and shouted:

Listen to me, leaders of Shechem.
    And let God listen to you!
The trees set out one day
    to anoint a king for themselves.
They said to Olive Tree,
    “Rule over us.”
But Olive Tree told them,
    “Am I no longer good for making oil
That gives glory to gods and men,
    and to be demoted to waving over trees?”

10-11 The trees then said to Fig Tree,
    “You come and rule over us.”
But Fig Tree said to them,
    “Am I no longer good for making sweets,
My mouthwatering sweet fruits,
    and to be demoted to waving over trees?”

12-13 The trees then said to Vine,
    “You come and rule over us.”
But Vine said to them,
    “Am I no longer good for making wine,
Wine that cheers gods and men,
    and to be demoted to waving over trees?”

14-15 All the trees then said to Tumbleweed,
    “You come and reign over us.”
But Tumbleweed said to the trees:
    “If you’re serious about making me your king,
Come and find shelter in my shade.
    But if not, let fire shoot from Tumbleweed
    and burn down the cedars of Lebanon!”

16-20 “Now listen: Do you think you did a right and honorable thing when you made Abimelech king? Do you think you treated Jerub-Baal and his family well, did for him what he deserved? My father fought for you, risked his own life, and rescued you from Midian’s tyranny, and you have, just now, betrayed him. You massacred his sons—seventy men on a single stone! You made Abimelech, the son by his maidservant, king over Shechem’s leaders because he’s your relative. If you think that this is an honest day’s work, this way you have treated Jerub-Baal today, then enjoy Abimelech and let him enjoy you. But if not, let fire break from Abimelech and burn up the leaders of Shechem and Beth Millo. And let fire break from the leaders of Shechem and Beth Millo and burn up Abimelech.”

21 And Jotham fled. He ran for his life. He went to Beer and settled down there, because he was afraid of his brother Abimelech.

22-24 Abimelech ruled over Israel for three years. Then God brought bad blood between Abimelech and Shechem’s leaders, who now worked treacherously behind his back. Violence boomeranged: The murderous violence that killed the seventy brothers, the sons of Jerub-Baal, was now loose among Abimelech and Shechem’s leaders, who had supported the violence.

25 To undermine Abimelech, Shechem’s leaders put men in ambush on the mountain passes who robbed travelers on those roads. And Abimelech was told.

26-27 At that time Gaal son of Ebed arrived with his relatives and moved into Shechem. The leaders of Shechem trusted him. One day they went out into the fields, gathered grapes in the vineyards, and trod them in the winepress. Then they held a celebration in their god’s temple, a feast, eating and drinking. And then they started putting down Abimelech.

28-29 Gaal son of Ebed said, “Who is this Abimelech? And who are we Shechemites to take orders from him? Isn’t he the son of Jerub-Baal, and isn’t this his henchman Zebul? We belong to the race of Hamor and bear the noble name of Shechem. Why should we be toadies of Abimelech? If I were in charge of this people, the first thing I’d do is get rid of Abimelech! I’d say, ‘Show me your stuff, Abimelech—let’s see who’s boss here!’”

30-33 Zebul, governor of the city, heard what Gaal son of Ebed was saying and got angry. Secretly he sent messengers to Abimelech with the message, “Gaal son of Ebed and his relatives have come to Shechem and are stirring up trouble against you. Here’s what you do: Tonight bring your troops and wait in ambush in the field. In the morning, as soon as the sun breaks, get moving and charge the city. Gaal and his troops will come out to you, and you’ll know what to do next.”

34-36 Abimelech and his troops, four companies of them, went up that night and waited in ambush approaching Shechem. Gaal son of Ebed had gotten up and was standing in the city gate. Abimelech and his troops left their cover. When Gaal saw them he said to Zebul, “Look at that, people coming down from the tops of the mountains!”

Zebul said, “That’s nothing but mountain shadows; they just look like men.” Gaal kept chattering away.

37 Then he said again, “Look at the troops coming down off Tabbur-erez (the Navel of the World)—and one company coming straight from the Oracle Oak.”

38 Zebul said, “Where is that big mouth of yours now? You who said, ‘And who is Abimelech that we should take orders from him?’ Well, there he is with the troops you ridiculed. Here’s your chance. Fight away!”

39-40 Gaal went out, backed by the leaders of Shechem, and did battle with Abimelech. Abimelech chased him, and Gaal turned tail and ran. Many fell wounded, right up to the city gate.

41 Abimelech set up his field headquarters at Arumah while Zebul kept Gaal and his relatives out of Shechem.

42-45 The next day the people went out to the fields. This was reported to Abimelech. He took his troops, divided them into three companies, and placed them in ambush in the fields. When he saw that the people were well out in the open, he sprang up and attacked them. Abimelech and the company with him charged ahead and took control of the entrance to the city gate; the other two companies chased down those who were in the open fields and killed them. Abimelech fought at the city all that day. He captured the city and massacred everyone in it. He leveled the city to the ground, then sowed it with salt.

46-49 When the leaders connected with Shechem’s Tower heard this, they went into the fortified God-of-the-Covenant temple. This was reported to Abimelech that the Shechem’s Tower bunch were gathered together. He and his troops climbed Mount Zalmon (Dark Mountain). Abimelech took his ax and chopped a bundle of firewood, picked it up, and put it on his shoulder. He said to his troops, “Do what you’ve seen me do, and quickly.” So each of his men cut his own bundle. They followed Abimelech, piled their bundles against the Tower fortifications, and set the whole structure on fire. Everyone in Shechem’s Tower died, about a thousand men and women.

50-54 Abimelech went on to Thebez. He camped at Thebez and captured it. The Tower-of-Strength stood in the middle of the city; all the men and women of the city along with the city’s leaders had fled there and locked themselves in. They were up on the tower roof. Abimelech got as far as the tower and assaulted it. He came up to the tower door to set it on fire. Just then some woman dropped an upper millstone on his head and crushed his skull. He called urgently to his young armor bearer and said, “Draw your sword and kill me so they can’t say of me, ‘A woman killed him.’” His armor bearer drove in his sword, and Abimelech died.

55 When the Israelites saw that Abimelech was dead, they went home.

56-57 God avenged the evil Abimelech had done to his father, murdering his seventy brothers. And God brought down on the heads of the men of Shechem all the evil that they had done, the curse of Jotham son of Jerub-Baal.

The Message (MSG)

Copyright © 1993, 2002, 2018 by Eugene H. Peterson

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