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Judges 9 Easy-to-Read Version (ERV)

Abimelech Becomes King

Abimelech was the son of Gideon. Abimelech went to his uncles who lived in the city of Shechem. He said to his uncles and all of his mother’s family, “Ask the leaders of the city of Shechem this question: ‘Is it better for you to be ruled by the 70 sons of Gideon or to be ruled by only one man? Remember, I am your relative.’”

Abimelech’s uncles spoke to the leaders of Shechem and asked them that question. The leaders of Shechem decided to follow Abimelech. They said, “After all, he is our brother.” So the leaders of Shechem gave Abimelech 70 pieces of silver. That silver was from the temple of the god Baal Berith. Abimelech used the silver to hire some men. These men were worthless, reckless men. They followed Abimelech wherever he went.

Abimelech went to his father’s house at Ophrah and murdered his brothers. He killed the 70 sons of his father Gideon. He killed them all at the same time,[a] but Gideon’s youngest son hid from Abimelech and escaped. The youngest son’s name was Jotham.

Then all the leaders in Shechem and the house of Millo[b] came together. Everyone gathered beside the big tree of the pillar in Shechem and made Abimelech their king.

Jotham’s Story

Jotham heard that the leaders of the city of Shechem had made Abimelech king. When he heard this, he went and stood on the top of Mount Gerizim[c] and shouted out this story to the people:

“Listen to me you leaders of the city of Shechem. Then let God listen to you.

“One day the trees decided to choose a king to rule over them. The trees said to the olive tree, ‘You be king over us.’

“But the olive tree said, ‘My oil is used to honor gods and humans. Should I stop making my oil just to go and sway over the other trees?’

10 “Then the trees said to the fig tree, ‘Come and be our king.’

11 “But the fig tree answered, ‘Should I stop making my good, sweet fruit just to go and sway over the other trees?’

12 “Then the trees said to the vine, ‘Come and be our king.’

13 “But the vine answered, ‘My wine makes men and kings happy. Should I stop making my wine just to go and sway over the trees?’

14 “Finally, all the trees said to the thornbush, ‘Come and be our king.’

15 “But the thornbush said to the trees, ‘If you really want to make me king over you, come and find shelter in my shade. But if you don’t want to do this, let fire come out of the thornbush. Let the fire burn even the cedar trees of Lebanon.’

16 “Now if you were completely honest when you made Abimelech king, may you be happy with him. And if you have been fair to Gideon and his family, and if you have treated him as you should, this is also good. 17 But remember what my father did for you. He fought for you and risked his life when he saved you from the Midianites. 18 But now you have turned against my father’s family. You have killed 70 of his sons all at the same time. You made Abimelech the new king over the city of Shechem. He is only the son of my father’s slave girl. But you made him king because he is your relative. 19 So if you have been completely honest to Gideon and his family today, then may you be happy with Abimelech as your king. And may he be happy with you. 20 But leaders of Shechem and the house of Millo,[d] if you have not acted right, may Abimelech destroy you. And may Abimelech be destroyed too!”

21 After Jotham had said this, he ran away and escaped to the city named Beer. He stayed there because he was afraid of his brother Abimelech.

Abimelech Fights Against Shechem

22 Abimelech ruled the Israelites for three years. 23-24 Abimelech had killed Gideon’s 70 sons—and they were his own brothers. The leaders of Shechem had supported him in doing this evil thing. So God caused trouble between Abimelech and the leaders of Shechem. And they began planning ways to hurt Abimelech. 25 The leaders of the city of Shechem did not like Abimelech anymore. They put men on the hilltops to attack and rob everyone who went by. Abimelech found out about the attacks.

26 A man named Gaal son of Ebed and his brothers moved to the city of Shechem. The leaders of the city of Shechem decided to trust and follow Gaal.

27 One day the people of Shechem went out to the vineyards to pick grapes. They squeezed the grapes to make wine. And then they had a party at the temple of their god. The people ate and drank and cursed Abimelech.

28 Then Gaal son of Ebed said, “We are the men of Shechem. Why should we obey Abimelech? Who does he think he is? Abimelech is one of Gideon’s sons, right? And Abimelech made Zebul his officer, right? We should not obey Abimelech. We should follow our own people, men from Hamor.[e] (Hamor was the father of Shechem.) 29 If you make me the commander of these people, I will destroy Abimelech. I will say to him, ‘Get your army ready and come out to battle.’”

30 Zebul was the governor of the city of Shechem. Zebul heard what Gaal son of Ebed said, and he became very angry. 31 Zebul sent messengers to Abimelech in the city of Arumah.[f] This is the message:

“Gaal son of Ebed and Gaal’s brothers have come to the city of Shechem. They are making trouble for you. Gaal is turning the whole city against you. 32 So now you and your men should come tonight and hide in the fields outside the city. 33 When the sun comes up in the morning, attack the city. Gaal and his men will come out of the city to fight you. When they come out to fight, do what you can to them.”

34 So Abimelech and all his soldiers got up during the night and went to the city. The soldiers separated into four groups. They hid near the city of Shechem. 35 Gaal son of Ebed went out and was standing at the entrance to the gate of the city of Shechem. While Gaal was standing there, Abimelech and his soldiers came out of their hiding places.

36 When Gaal saw the soldiers, he said to Zebul, “Look, there are people coming down from the mountains.”

But Zebul said, “You are only seeing the shadows of the mountains. The shadows just look like people.”

37 But again Gaal said, “Look, there are some people coming down from that place over there by Land’s Navel. And there! I saw someone’s head over by Magician’s Tree.[g] 38 Zebul said to Gaal, “Why aren’t you bragging now? You said, ‘Who is Abimelech? Why should we obey him?’ You made fun of these men. Now go out and fight them.”

39 So Gaal led the leaders of Shechem out to fight Abimelech. 40 Abimelech and his men chased Gaal and his men. Gaal’s men ran back toward the gate of the city of Shechem, but many were killed before they could get back to the gate.

41 Then Abimelech returned to the city of Arumah. Zebul forced Gaal and his brothers to leave the city of Shechem.

42 The next day the people of Shechem went out to the fields to work. Abimelech found out about it. 43 So Abimelech separated his men into three groups. He wanted to attack the people of Shechem by surprise. So he hid his men in the fields. When he saw the people coming out of the city, he jumped up and attacked them. 44 Abimelech and his group ran to a place near the gate to Shechem. The other two groups ran out to the people in the fields and killed them. 45 Abimelech and his men fought against the city of Shechem all that day. They captured the city of Shechem and killed its people. Then Abimelech tore down the city and threw salt over the ruins.

46 There were some people who lived at the Tower of Shechem.[h] When they heard what had happened to Shechem, they gathered together in the safest room[i] of the temple of the god El Berith.[j]

47 Abimelech heard that all the leaders of the Tower of Shechem had gathered together. 48 So Abimelech and all his men went up to Mount Zalmon.[k] Abimelech took an ax and cut off some branches and carried them on his shoulders. Then Abimelech said to the men with him, “Hurry! Do the same thing that I have done.” 49 So all the men cut branches and followed Abimelech. They piled the branches against the safest room of the temple of the god El Berith. Then they set the branches on fire and burned the people in the room. About 1000 men and women living near the Tower of Shechem died.

Abimelech’s Death

50 Then Abimelech and his men went to the city of Thebez and captured that city. 51 But inside the city there was a strong tower, so all the leaders and other men and women of that city ran to the tower. When the people were inside the tower, they locked the door behind them. Then they climbed up to the roof of the tower. 52 Abimelech and his men came to the tower to attack it. Abimelech went up to the door of the tower to burn it. 53 But, while Abimelech was standing at the door of the tower, a woman on the roof dropped a grinding stone on his head. The grinding stone crushed his skull. 54 Abimelech quickly said to the servant who carried his weapons, “Take out your sword and kill me. I want you to kill me so that people will not say, ‘A woman killed Abimelech.’” So the servant stabbed Abimelech with his sword, and he died. 55 The Israelites saw that Abimelech was dead, so they all went back home.

56 In that way God punished Abimelech for all the bad things he had done. Abimelech sinned against his own father by killing his 70 brothers. 57 God also punished the men of the city of Shechem for the bad things they had done. So the things said by Jotham son of Gideon came true.

Footnotes:

  1. Judges 9:5 all at the same time Literally, “on one stone.” Also in verse 18.
  2. Judges 9:6 Millo This was probably a well-protected part of the city, perhaps even the palace area. It might have been in the city itself or somewhere near the city.
  3. Judges 9:7 Mount Gerizim This mountain is right beside the city of Shechem.
  4. Judges 9:20 house of Millo Or “Royal Family of Millo.”
  5. Judges 9:28 men from Hamor This refers to native born citizens of Shechem. Hamor was the father of Shechem in a story in Gen. 34. The city of Shechem is said to have been named after Hamor’s son.
  6. Judges 9:31 in the city of Arumah Or “secretly” or “in Tormah,” the town where Abimelech lived as king. It was probably about eight miles south of Shechem.
  7. Judges 9:37 Land’s Navel … Magician’s Tree Two places in the hills near Shechem.
  8. Judges 9:46 Tower of Shechem This was probably a place near Shechem but not actually part of the city.
  9. Judges 9:46 safest room The meaning of this Hebrew word is uncertain. Also in verse 49.
  10. Judges 9:46 El Berith Another name for the god Baal Berith mentioned in verses 4 and 8:33. The name here means “God of the Agreement.” Also in verse 49.
  11. Judges 9:48 Mount Zalmon This is probably another name for Mount Ebal, a mountain near Shechem.
Easy-to-Read Version (ERV)

Copyright © 2006 by Bible League International

Judges 9 New International Version (NIV)

Abimelek

Abimelek son of Jerub-Baal went to his mother’s brothers in Shechem and said to them and to all his mother’s clan, “Ask all the citizens of Shechem, ‘Which is better for you: to have all seventy of Jerub-Baal’s sons rule over you, or just one man?’ Remember, I am your flesh and blood.

When the brothers repeated all this to the citizens of Shechem, they were inclined to follow Abimelek, for they said, “He is related to us.” They gave him seventy shekels[a] of silver from the temple of Baal-Berith, and Abimelek used it to hire reckless scoundrels, who became his followers. He went to his father’s home in Ophrah and on one stone murdered his seventy brothers, the sons of Jerub-Baal. But Jotham, the youngest son of Jerub-Baal, escaped by hiding. Then all the citizens of Shechem and Beth Millo gathered beside the great tree at the pillar in Shechem to crown Abimelek king.

When Jotham was told about this, he climbed up on the top of Mount Gerizim and shouted to them, “Listen to me, citizens of Shechem, so that God may listen to you. One day the trees went out to anoint a king for themselves. They said to the olive tree, ‘Be our king.’

“But the olive tree answered, ‘Should I give up my oil, by which both gods and humans are honored, to hold sway over the trees?’

10 “Next, the trees said to the fig tree, ‘Come and be our king.’

11 “But the fig tree replied, ‘Should I give up my fruit, so good and sweet, to hold sway over the trees?’

12 “Then the trees said to the vine, ‘Come and be our king.’

13 “But the vine answered, ‘Should I give up my wine, which cheers both gods and humans, to hold sway over the trees?’

14 “Finally all the trees said to the thornbush, ‘Come and be our king.’

15 “The thornbush said to the trees, ‘If you really want to anoint me king over you, come and take refuge in my shade; but if not, then let fire come out of the thornbush and consume the cedars of Lebanon!’

16 “Have you acted honorably and in good faith by making Abimelek king? Have you been fair to Jerub-Baal and his family? Have you treated him as he deserves? 17 Remember that my father fought for you and risked his life to rescue you from the hand of Midian. 18 But today you have revolted against my father’s family. You have murdered his seventy sons on a single stone and have made Abimelek, the son of his female slave, king over the citizens of Shechem because he is related to you. 19 So have you acted honorably and in good faith toward Jerub-Baal and his family today? If you have, may Abimelek be your joy, and may you be his, too! 20 But if you have not, let fire come out from Abimelek and consume you, the citizens of Shechem and Beth Millo, and let fire come out from you, the citizens of Shechem and Beth Millo, and consume Abimelek!”

21 Then Jotham fled, escaping to Beer, and he lived there because he was afraid of his brother Abimelek.

22 After Abimelek had governed Israel three years, 23 God stirred up animosity between Abimelek and the citizens of Shechem so that they acted treacherously against Abimelek. 24 God did this in order that the crime against Jerub-Baal’s seventy sons, the shedding of their blood, might be avenged on their brother Abimelek and on the citizens of Shechem, who had helped him murder his brothers. 25 In opposition to him these citizens of Shechem set men on the hilltops to ambush and rob everyone who passed by, and this was reported to Abimelek.

26 Now Gaal son of Ebed moved with his clan into Shechem, and its citizens put their confidence in him. 27 After they had gone out into the fields and gathered the grapes and trodden them, they held a festival in the temple of their god. While they were eating and drinking, they cursed Abimelek. 28 Then Gaal son of Ebed said, “Who is Abimelek, and why should we Shechemites be subject to him? Isn’t he Jerub-Baal’s son, and isn’t Zebul his deputy? Serve the family of Hamor, Shechem’s father! Why should we serve Abimelek? 29 If only this people were under my command! Then I would get rid of him. I would say to Abimelek, ‘Call out your whole army!’”[b]

30 When Zebul the governor of the city heard what Gaal son of Ebed said, he was very angry. 31 Under cover he sent messengers to Abimelek, saying, “Gaal son of Ebed and his clan have come to Shechem and are stirring up the city against you. 32 Now then, during the night you and your men should come and lie in wait in the fields. 33 In the morning at sunrise, advance against the city. When Gaal and his men come out against you, seize the opportunity to attack them.

34 So Abimelek and all his troops set out by night and took up concealed positions near Shechem in four companies. 35 Now Gaal son of Ebed had gone out and was standing at the entrance of the city gate just as Abimelek and his troops came out from their hiding place.

36 When Gaal saw them, he said to Zebul, “Look, people are coming down from the tops of the mountains!”

Zebul replied, “You mistake the shadows of the mountains for men.”

37 But Gaal spoke up again: “Look, people are coming down from the central hill,[c] and a company is coming from the direction of the diviners’ tree.”

38 Then Zebul said to him, “Where is your big talk now, you who said, ‘Who is Abimelek that we should be subject to him?’ Aren’t these the men you ridiculed? Go out and fight them!”

39 So Gaal led out[d] the citizens of Shechem and fought Abimelek. 40 Abimelek chased him all the way to the entrance of the gate, and many were killed as they fled. 41 Then Abimelek stayed in Arumah, and Zebul drove Gaal and his clan out of Shechem.

42 The next day the people of Shechem went out to the fields, and this was reported to Abimelek. 43 So he took his men, divided them into three companies and set an ambush in the fields. When he saw the people coming out of the city, he rose to attack them. 44 Abimelek and the companies with him rushed forward to a position at the entrance of the city gate. Then two companies attacked those in the fields and struck them down. 45 All that day Abimelek pressed his attack against the city until he had captured it and killed its people. Then he destroyed the city and scattered salt over it.

46 On hearing this, the citizens in the tower of Shechem went into the stronghold of the temple of El-Berith. 47 When Abimelek heard that they had assembled there, 48 he and all his men went up Mount Zalmon. He took an ax and cut off some branches, which he lifted to his shoulders. He ordered the men with him, “Quick! Do what you have seen me do!” 49 So all the men cut branches and followed Abimelek. They piled them against the stronghold and set it on fire with the people still inside. So all the people in the tower of Shechem, about a thousand men and women, also died.

50 Next Abimelek went to Thebez and besieged it and captured it. 51 Inside the city, however, was a strong tower, to which all the men and women—all the people of the city—had fled. They had locked themselves in and climbed up on the tower roof. 52 Abimelek went to the tower and attacked it. But as he approached the entrance to the tower to set it on fire, 53 a woman dropped an upper millstone on his head and cracked his skull.

54 Hurriedly he called to his armor-bearer, “Draw your sword and kill me, so that they can’t say, ‘A woman killed him.’” So his servant ran him through, and he died. 55 When the Israelites saw that Abimelek was dead, they went home.

56 Thus God repaid the wickedness that Abimelek had done to his father by murdering his seventy brothers. 57 God also made the people of Shechem pay for all their wickedness. The curse of Jotham son of Jerub-Baal came on them.

Footnotes:

  1. Judges 9:4 That is, about 1 3/4 pounds or about 800 grams
  2. Judges 9:29 Septuagint; Hebrew him.” Then he said to Abimelek, “Call out your whole army!”
  3. Judges 9:37 The Hebrew for this phrase means the navel of the earth.
  4. Judges 9:39 Or Gaal went out in the sight of
New International Version (NIV)

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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