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Zebah and Zalmunna Routed

And the men of [the tribe of] Ephraim said to Gideon, “What is this thing that you have done to us, not calling us when you went to fight with Midian?” And they quarreled with him vehemently. But he said to them, “What have I done now [that is so significant] in comparison with you? Is not the gleaning (leftovers) of the grapes of [your tribe of] Ephraim better than the vintage (entire harvest) of [my clan of] Abiezer? God has given the leaders of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb into your hands; and what was I able to do in comparison with you?” Then their anger toward him subsided when he made this statement.

So Gideon came to the Jordan and crossed over [the river], he and the three hundred men who were with him—exhausted, yet [still] pursuing [the enemy]. He said to the men of Succoth, “Please give loaves of bread to the people who are following me since they are exhausted, and I am pursuing Zebah and Zalmunna, kings of Midian.” But the leaders of Succoth said, “Are Zebah and Zalmunna already in your hands, that we should give bread to your army?” Gideon said, “For that [response], when the Lord has handed over Zebah and Zalmunna to me, I will thrash your bodies with the thorns and briars of the wilderness.” He went from there up to Penuel and spoke similarly to them; and the men of Penuel answered him just as the men of Succoth had answered. So Gideon said also to the men of Penuel, “When I come again in peace, I will tear down this tower.”

10 Now Zebah and Zalmunna were in Karkor with their armies, about fifteen thousand [fighting] men, all who were left of the entire army of the sons of the east; for a hundred and twenty thousand swordsmen had fallen. 11 Gideon went up by the route of those who lived in tents to the east of Nobah and Jogbehah, and he attacked their camp when the camp was unsuspecting. 12 When Zebah and Zalmunna fled, he pursued them and captured the two kings of Midian, Zebah and Zalmunna, and terrified the entire army.

13 Then Gideon the son of Joash returned from the battle by the ascent of Heres. 14 He captured a young man of Succoth and questioned him. And the youth wrote down for him [the names of] the leaders of Succoth and its elders, seventy-seven men. 15 He came to the men of Succoth and said, “Look here, Zebah and Zalmunna, about whom you taunted me, saying, ‘Are Zebah and Zalmunna now in your hand, that we should give bread to your men who are exhausted?’” 16 He took the elders of the city, and thorns of the wilderness and briars, and with them he [a]punished the men of Succoth. 17 He tore down the tower of Penuel and killed the men of the city.

18 Then Gideon said to Zebah and Zalmunna, “What kind of men were they whom you killed at Tabor?” And they replied, “They were like you, each one of them resembled the son of a king.” 19 He said, “They were my brothers, the sons of my mother. As the Lord lives, if only you had let them live, I would not kill you.” 20 So [to humiliate them] Gideon said to Jether his firstborn, “Stand up, and kill them!” But the youth did not draw his sword, because he was afraid, for he was still [just] a boy. 21 Then Zebah and Zalmunna said, “Rise up yourself and strike us; for as the man is, so is his strength.” So Gideon arose and killed Zebah and Zalmunna, and took the crescent amulets that were on their camels’ necks.

22 Then the men of Israel said to Gideon, “Rule [as king] over us, both you and your son, also your son’s son, for you have rescued us from the hand of Midian.” 23 But Gideon said to them, “I will not rule over you, and my son will not rule over you; the Lord shall rule over you.” 24 And Gideon said to them, “I would make a request of you, that each one of you give me an earring from his spoil.” For the Midianites had gold earrings, because they were [b]Ishmaelites [who customarily wore them]. 25 They answered, “We will certainly give them to you.” And they spread out a garment, and every one of them threw an earring there from his spoil. 26 And the weight of the golden earrings that he requested was [c]seventeen hundred shekels of gold, apart from the crescent amulets and pendants and the purple garments which were worn by the kings of Midian, and apart from the chains that were on their camels’ necks. 27 Gideon made [all the golden earrings into] an ephod [a sacred, high priest’s garment], and put it in his city of Ophrah, and all Israel [d]worshiped it as an idol there, and [e]it became a trap for Gideon and his household.

Forty Years of Peace

28 So Midian was subdued and humbled before the sons of Israel, and they no longer lifted up their heads [in pride]. And the land was at rest for forty years in the days of Gideon.

29 Jerubbaal (Gideon) the son of Joash went and lived in his own house. 30 Now Gideon had seventy sons born to him, because he had many wives. 31 And his [f]concubine who was in Shechem also bore him a son, whom he named Abimelech. 32 Gideon the son of Joash died at a good advanced age and was buried in the tomb of Joash his father in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.

33 Then it came about, as soon as Gideon was dead, that the Israelites again played the prostitute with the Baals, and made Baal-berith their god. 34 And the Israelites did not remember the Lord their God, who had rescued them from the hand of all their enemies on every side; 35 nor did they show kindness to the family of Jerubbaal (that is, Gideon) in return for all the good that he had done for Israel.

Abimelech’s Conspiracy

Now Abimelech the son of Jerubbaal (Gideon) went to Shechem to his mother’s relatives, and said to them and to the whole clan of the household of his mother’s father, “Speak now in the hearing of all the leaders of Shechem, ‘Which is better for you, that seventy men, all of the sons of Jerubbaal rule over you, or that one man rule over you?’ Also, remember that I am your own bone and flesh.” So his mother’s relatives spoke all these words concerning him so that all the leaders of Shechem could hear; and their hearts were inclined to follow Abimelech, for they said, “He is our relative.” And they gave him seventy pieces of silver from the house of Baal-berith, with which Abimelech hired worthless and undisciplined men, and they followed (supported) him. Then he went to his father’s house at Ophrah and murdered his brothers the sons of Jerubbaal, seventy men, [in a public execution] on one stone. But Jotham the youngest son of Jerubbaal was left alive, because he had hidden himself. All the men of Shechem and all of [g]Beth-millo assembled together, and they went and made Abimelech king, by the oak (terebinth) of the pillar (memorial stone) at Shechem.

When they told Jotham, he went and stood at the top of Mount Gerizim and shouted to them, “Hear me, O men of Shechem, so that God may hear you. [h]Once the trees went forth to anoint a king over them, and they said to the olive tree, ‘Reign over us!’ But the olive tree said to them, ‘Should I give up my fatness by which God and men are honored, and go to 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 give up my sweetness and my good fruit, and go to wave over the trees?’ 12 Then the trees said to the vine, ‘You come and reign over us.’ 13 And the vine replied, ‘Should I give up my new wine, which makes God and men happy, and go to wave over the trees?’ 14 Then all the trees said to the bramble, ‘You come and reign over us.’ 15 So the bramble said to the trees, ‘If in truth 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 then, if you acted in truth and integrity when you made Abimelech king, and if you have dealt well with Jerubbaal and his house, and have dealt with him as he 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 against my father’s house today and have murdered his sons, seventy men, on one stone, and have made Abimelech, son of his maidservant, king over the people of Shechem, because he is your relative— 19 if then you have acted in truth and integrity with Jerubbaal and his house this day, then rejoice in Abimelech, and let him also rejoice in you. 20 But if not, may fire come out from Abimelech and devour the people of Shechem and Beth-millo; and may fire come out from the people of Shechem and Beth-millo, and devour Abimelech.” 21 Then Jotham escaped and fled, and went to Beer and lived there because of Abimelech his brother.

Shechem and Abimelech Fall

22 Abimelech ruled over Israel for three years. 23 Then God sent an [i]evil spirit between Abimelech and the leaders of Shechem; and the leaders of Shechem acted treacherously against Abimelech, 24 so that the violence done to the seventy sons of Jerubbaal (Gideon) might come [on the guilty], and that their [innocent] blood might be laid on Abimelech their brother, who had killed them, and on the leaders of Shechem, who strengthened his hands (encouraged him) to kill his brothers. 25 The leaders of Shechem set men in ambush against Abimelech on the mountaintops, and they robbed all who passed by them along the road; and it was reported to Abimelech.

26 Now Gaal the son of Ebed came with his relatives, and moved into Shechem; and the leaders of Shechem trusted him. 27 They went out into the field, gathered the grapes of their vineyard and trod them, and held a festival; and they entered the house of their god, and they ate and drank, and cursed Abimelech. 28 Gaal the son of Ebed said, “Who is Abimelech, and who is Shechem, that we should serve him? Is he not [merely] the son of Jerubbaal and is Zebul not his lieutenant? Serve the men of Hamor the father (founder) of Shechem. Why then should we serve Abimelech? 29 If only this people were under my authority! Then I would remove Abimelech and say to him, ‘Increase [the size of] your army and come out [to fight].’”

30 When Zebul the ruler of the city heard the words of Gaal the son of Ebed, his anger burned. 31 He sent messengers to Abimelech secretly, saying, “Behold, Gaal the son of Ebed and his relatives have come to Shechem; and they are stirring up the city against you. 32 Now then, get up during the night, you and the people who are with you, and set up an ambush in the field. 33 Then in the morning, at sunrise, you will get up early and rush upon and attack the city; and when Gaal and the people who are with him come out against you, you shall do to them [j]whatever you can.”

34 So Abimelech and all the people who were with him got up during the night, and set up an ambush against Shechem, in four companies. 35 Now Gaal the son of Ebed came out and stood in the entrance of the city gate; then Abimelech and the people who were with him got up from the ambush. 36 When Gaal saw the people, he said to Zebul, “Look, people are coming down from the mountaintops.” But Zebul said to him, “You are only seeing the shadow of the mountains as if they were men.” 37 Gaal spoke again and said, “Look! People are coming down from the highest part of the land, and one company is coming by way of the sorcerers’ oak tree.” 38 Then Zebul said to Gaal, “Where is your [boasting] mouth now, you who said, ‘Who is Abimelech that we should serve him?’ Is this not the people whom you despised? Go out now and fight with them!” 39 So Gaal went out ahead of the leaders of Shechem and fought with Abimelech. 40 Abimelech chased him, and he fled before him; and many fell wounded as far as the entrance of the gate. 41 Then Abimelech stayed at Arumah, and Zebul drove out Gaal and his relatives so that they could not remain in Shechem.

42 The next day the people went out to the field, and it was reported to Abimelech. 43 So he took his people and divided them into three companies, and set an ambush in the field; and he looked and saw the people coming out of the city. And he rose up against them and struck them down. 44 Then Abimelech and the company with him advanced forward and stood in the entrance of the city gate; the two other companies attacked all who were in the field and killed them. 45 Abimelech fought against the city that entire day. He took the city and killed the people who were in it; he demolished the city and [k]sowed it with salt.

46 When all the leaders of the Tower of Shechem heard about it, they entered the inner chamber (stronghold) of the [l]temple of El-berith (the god of a covenant). 47 Abimelech was told that all the leaders of the Tower of Shechem were assembled together. 48 So Abimelech went up to Mount Zalmon, he and all the people with him; and Abimelech took an axe in his hand and cut down a branch from the trees, picked it up, and laid it on his shoulder. And he said to the people with him, “What you have seen me do, hurry and do just as I have done.” 49 So everyone of the people also cut down his branch and followed Abimelech, and they put the branches on top of the inner chamber and set it on fire over those inside, so that all the people in the Tower of Shechem also died, about a thousand men and women.

50 Then Abimelech went to Thebez, and camped against Thebez and took it. 51 But there was a strong (fortified) tower in the center of the city, and all the men and women with all the leaders of the city fled to it and shut themselves in; and they went up on the roof of the tower. 52 So Abimelech came to the tower and fought against it, and approached the entrance of the tower to burn it down with fire. 53 But a certain woman threw an upper millstone [down] on Abimelech’s head and crushed his skull. 54 Then he called quickly to the young man who was his armor bearer, and said to him, “Draw your sword and kill me, so that it will not be said of me, ‘A woman killed him.’” So the young man pierced him through, and he died. 55 When the men of Israel saw that Abimelech was dead, each departed to his home. 56 In this way God repaid the wickedness of Abimelech, which he had done to his father [Jerubbaal] by killing his seventy brothers. 57 Also God repaid all the wickedness of the men of Shechem on their heads, and the curse of Jotham the son of Jerubbaal (Gideon) came upon them.(A)


  1. Judges 8:16 Or taught them humility. The Hebrew is uncertain.
  2. Judges 8:24 A general term for the descendants of Keturah, the woman Abraham married after Sarah’s death (Gen 25:1); synonymous with Midianite.
  3. Judges 8:26 I.e. about 40 lbs. of gold.
  4. Judges 8:27 Lit played the prostitute with.
  5. Judges 8:27 The reason Gideon chose to make the golden ephod is unclear, but the fact that he did so, and that it became an object of worship for Israel, casts a shadow over his otherwise remarkable accomplishments.
  6. Judges 8:31 Perhaps originally one of Gideon’s slaves, this woman became a type of secondary wife who lived at home with her family and was visited on occasion by her husband.
  7. Judges 9:6 Or the house of Millo.
  8. Judges 9:8 This riveting speech in which inanimate objects (trees, a vine, a bush) are personified is the first of only a few fables recorded in the Bible. It ends with a curse (v 20) which is fulfilled at the end of the chapter.
  9. Judges 9:23 I.e. a disruptive, hateful attitude.
  10. Judges 9:33 Lit as your hand finds.
  11. Judges 9:45 Even if Abimelech had been able to supply enough salt, spreading it over Shechem was not intended to actually make the ground unproductive; it was a symbol of perpetual desolation, and a warning that Shechem should never be rebuilt. However, Shechem was later rebuilt (1 Kin 12:25).
  12. Judges 9:46 Lit house.