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Abimelech usurps the government at Shechem, ver. 1 - 6.
Jotham's parable, ver. 7 - 21.
Strife between Abimelech and the Shechemites, ver. 22 - 41.
The slaughter of the Shechemites, ver. 42 - 49.
The death of Abimelech, fulfilling Jotham's curse, ver. 50 - 57.
2: Reign - He supposed they would take that government which their
father refused; and that the multitude of his sons would occasion divisions,
and confusions, which they might avoid by chusing him king; and so they
might enjoy the monarchy which they had long desired.
Your bone and flesh - Your kinsman, of the same tribe and city with you;
which will be no small honour and advantage to you.
3: Brethren - That is, kinsmen. He is our brother - They were
easily persuaded to believe what served their own interest.
4: Pieces of silver - Not shekels, which were too small a sum for
this purpose; but far larger pieces, the exact worth whereof it is not
possible for us now to know. The house of Baal - berith - Out of his sacred
treasury; having since Gideon's death built this temple (which he would
never have suffered whilst he lived) and endowed it with considerable
revenues. Light persons - Unsettled, idle and necessitous persons, the
proper instruments of tyranny and cruelty.
5: His brethren - The only persons who were likely to hinder him in
establishing his tyranny. Threescore and ten - Wanting one, who is here
expressed. Jotham was left - Whereby he would signify, that this was an
act of justice, in cutting them all off in an orderly manner, for some
supposed crime, probably, as designing sedition and rebellion.
6: House of Millo - Some eminent and potent family living in
Shechem, or near it. King - Over all Israel, ver.(22), which
was a strange presumption for the inhabitants of one city; but they had many
advantages for it; as the eager, and general, and constant inclination of
the Israelites to kingly government; Abimelech's being the son of
Gideon, to whom, and to his sons, they offered the kingdom.
And though the father could, and did refuse it for himself; yet they
might imagine, that he could not give away his sons' right, conveyed to
them by the Israelites, in their offer; the universal defection of
the Israelites from God to Baal, whose great patron and champion
Abimelech pretended to be; the power and prevalency of the tribe of
Ephraim, in which Shechem was, whose proud and imperious spirit,
would make them readily close with a king of their own brethren; and
Abimelech's getting the start of all others, having the crown actually
put upon his head, and an army already raised to maintain his tyranny.
Of the pillar - Or, by the oak of the pillar, by the oak, where
Joshua erected a pillar as a witness of the covenant renewed between God
and Israel, (Jos 24:26). This place they chose, to signify that
they still owned God, and their covenant with him; and did not worship
Baal in opposition to God, but in conjunction with him, or in
subordination to him.
7: Mount Gerizim - Which lay near Shechem. The valley between
Gerizim and Ebal, was a famous place, employed for the solemn
reading of the law, and its blessings and curses: and it is probable it was
still used, even by the superstitious and idolatrous Israelites for such
occasions, who delighted to use the same places which their ancestors had
used. Cried - So that they who stood in the valley might hear him, though
not suddenly come at him to take him. Men of Shechem - Who were here met
together upon a solemn occasion, as Josephus notes, Abimelech being
absent. That God may hearken - When you cry unto him for mercy; so he
conjures and persuades them to give him patient audience.
8: The trees, &c. - A parabolical discourse, usual among the
ancients, especially in the eastern parts. To anoint - To make a king,
which was done among the Israelites, and some others, with the ceremony
of anointing. Olive - tree - By which he understands Gideon.
9: Honour God - In whose worship oil was used for divers things; as,
about the lamps, and offerings, and for anointing sacred persons and things.
And man - For oil was used in the constitution of kings, and priests, and
prophets, and for a present to great persons, and to anoint the head and
face. Promoted - Heb. to move hither and thither, to wander to and
fro, to exchange my sweet tranquility, for incessant cares and travels.
10: Fig - tree - Gideon refused this honour, both for himself, and
for his sons; and the sons of Gideon, whom Abimelech had slain, upon
pretence of their affecting the kingdom, were as far from such thoughts as
13: Cheareth God - Wherewith God is well pleased, because it was
offered to God.
14: Bramble - Or, thorn, fitly representing Abimelech, the
son of a concubine, and a person of small use, and great cruelty.
15: If in truth - If you deal truly and justly in making me king.
Then trust - Then you may expect protection under my government.
Devour the cedars - In stead of protection, you shall receive destruction
by me; especially you cedars, that is, nobles, such as the house of
Millo, who have been most forward in this work.
18: Ye have slain - Abimelech's fact is justly charged upon them,
as done by their consent, approbation and assistance. Maidservant - His
concubine, whom he so calls by way of reproach. Over Shechem - By which
limitation of their power, and his kingdom, he reflects contempt upon him,
and chargeth them with presumption, that having only power over their own
city, they durst impose a king upon all Israel.
20: Devour Abimelech - This is not so much a prediction as an
imprecation, which, being grounded upon just cause, had its effect, as
others in like case had.
21: And fled - Which he might easily do, having the advantage of the
hill, and because the people were not forward to pursue a man whom they knew
to have such just cause to speak, and so little power to do them hurt.
To Beer - A place remote from Shechem, and out of Abimelech's
22: Over Israel - For though the men of Shechem were the first
authors of Abimelech's advancement, the rest of the people easily
consented to that form of government which they so much desired.
23: God sent - God gave the devil commission to work upon their
24: The cruelty - That is, the punishment of the cruelty.
25: For him - To seize his person. Robbed all - Such as favoured
or served Abimelech; for to such only their commission reached, though
it may be, they went beyond their bounds, and robbed all passengers
26: Gaal - It is not known who he was; but it is evident, he was a
man very considerable for wealth, and strength and interest; and ill - pleased
with Abimelech's power. Went to Shechem - By his presence and council
to animate and assist them against Abimelech.
27: Went out - Which, 'till his coming they durst not do, for fear
of Abimelech. Made merry - Both from the custom of rejoicing, and
singing songs in vintage time, and for the hopes of their redemption from
Abimelech's tyranny. Their goals - Baal - berith, ver.(4), either
to beg his help against Abimelech, or to give him thanks for the hopes
of recovering their liberty. Eat and drink - To the honour of their
idols, and out of the oblations made to them, as they used to do to the
honour of Jehovah, and out of his sacrifices. Cursed - Either by
reviling him after their manner, or, rather in a more solemn and religious
manner, cursing him by their god, as Goliath did David.
28: Who is Abimelech - What is he but a base - born person, a cruel
tyrant, and one every way unworthy to govern you? Who is Shechem - That
is, Abimelech, named in the foregoing words, and described in those
which follow. He is called Shechem for the Shechemite. The sense
is, who is this Shechemite? For so he was by the mother's side, born of
a woman of your city, and she but his concubine and servant; why should you
submit to one so basely descended? Of Jerubbaal - Of Gideon, a person
famous only by his fierceness against that Baal which you justly honour
and reverence, whose altar he overthrew, and whose worship he endeavoured to
abolish. And Zebul - And you are so mean spirited, that you do not only
submit to him, but suffer his very servants to bear rule over you; and
particularly, this ignoble and hateful Zebul. Serve, &c. - If you
love bondage, call in the old master and lord of the place; chuse not an
upstart, as Abimelech is; but rather take one of the old flock, one
descended from Hamor, (Ge 34:2), who did not carry himself like a
tyrant, as Abimelech did; but like a father of his city. This he might
speak sincerely, as being himself a Canaanite and Shechemite, and
possibly came from one of those little ones whom Simeon and Levi
spared when they slew all the grown males, (Ge 34:29). And it may be
that he was one of the royal blood, a descendent of Hamor, who hereby
sought to insinuate himself into the government, as it follows, ver.(29).
Would to God that this people were under my hand; which he might judge
the people more likely to chuse both because they were now united with the
Canaanites in religion; and because their present distress might oblige
them to put themselves under him, a valiant and expert commander.
29: My hand - That is, under my command; I wish you would unanimously
submit to me, as your captain and governor; for he found them divided; and
some of them hearkening after Abimelech, whom they had lately rejected,
according to the levity of the popular humour. I would remove - As you
have driven him out of your city, I would drive him out of your country.
He said - He sent this message or challenge to him.
Increase thine army - I desire not to surprise thee at any disadvantage;
strengthen thyself as much as thou canst, and come out into the open field,
that thou and I may decide it by our arms.
35: And stood - To put his army in order, and to conduct them against
Abimelech, whom he supposed to be at a great distance.
36: To Zebul - Who concealed the anger which he had conceived,
ver.(30), and pretended compliance with him in this expedition, that he
might draw him forth into the field where Abimelech might have the
opportunity of fighting with him, and overthrowing him.
The shadow - For in the morning, as this was, and in the evening, the
shadows are longest, and move quickest.
38: Where is now, &c. - Now shew thyself a man, and fight valiantly
for thyself and people.
40: He fled - Being surprised by the unexpected coming of
Abimelech, and probably not fully prepared for the encounter.
41: Dwelt at Arumah - He did not prosecute his victory, but retreated
to Arumah, to see whether the Shechemites would not of themselves
return to his government, or else, that being hereby grown secure, he might
have the greater advantage against them. Thrust out - It seems the same
night. Probably the multitude, which is generally light and unstable, were
now enraged against Gaal, suspecting him of cowardice or ill - conduct.
Zebul's interest was not so considerable with them, that he could
prevail with them either to kill Gaal and his brethren, or to yield
themselves to Abimelech; and therefore he still complies with the
people, and waits for a fairer opportunity.
42: Went out - to their usual employments about their land.
43: Three companies - Whereof he kept one with himself, ver.(44),
and put the rest under other commanders.
44: Entering of the gate - To prevent their retreat into the city,
and give the other two companies opportunity to cut them off.
45: With salt - In token of his desire of their utter and
46: The tower - A strong place belonging to the city of Shechem,
made for its defence without the city. Berith - Or, Baal - berith,
ver.(4). Hither they fled out of the town belonging to it, fearing the
same event with Shechem; and here they thought to be secure; partly by
the strength of the place, partly by the religion of it, thinking that
either their god would protect them there, or that Abimelech would spare
them out of pity to that god.
48: Zalmon - A place so called from its shadiness.
50: Thebez - Another town near to Shechem; and, as it seems,
within its territory.
51: And all - All that were not slain in the taking of the town.
Top of the tower - Which was flat and plain, after their manner of
53: Mill - stone - Such great stones no doubt they carried up with
them, whereby they might defend themselves, or offend those who assaulted
them. Here the justice of God is remarkable in suiting the punishment to
his sin. He slew his brethren upon a stone, ver.(5), and he loseth his
own life by a stone.
54: A women - Which was esteemed a matter of disgrace.
56: Wickedness - In rooting out, as far as he could, the name and
memory of his father.
57: Render upon their heads - Thus God preserved the honour of his
government, and gave warning to all ages, to expect blood for blood.