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(MT versing)
Abimelech's Conspiracy Abimelech's Conspiracy Abimelech Abimelech The Reign of Abimelech
9:1-6 9:1-6 9:1-6 9:1-6 9:1-6
The Parable of the Trees Jotham's Diatribe
9:7-15 9:7-15 9:7-15
9:7-15 9:7a





9:16-21 9:16-21 9:16-21 9:16-21 9:16-20
Shechem and Abimelech Fall Downfall of Abimelech Shechem Revolts Against Abimelech
9:22-25 9:22-25 9:22-25 9:22-25 9:22-24
9:26-29 9:26-29 9:26-29 9:26-29
9:30-33 9:30-33 9:30-33 9:30-33
9:34-41 9:34-41 9:34-41 9:34-36a
9:38-41 Destruction of the Town and Citadel of Shechem
9:42-45 9:42-45 9:42-45 9:42-45 9:42-49
9:46-49 9:46-49 9:46-49 9:46-49 Siege of Thebez and Death of Abimelech
9:50-57 9:50-55 9:50-57 9:50-55 9:50-55
9:56-57 9:56-57 9:56-57

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Bible Interpretation Seminar")


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

  1. First paragraph
  2. Second paragraph
  3. Etc.


  1. Abimelech is a "false judge." He is not informed and indwelt by YHWH's Spirit (no mention of YHWH in this chapter). In a sense, he shows what would have happened to all these charismatic leaders, if not for YHWH's Spirit. The results of the Fall (i.e., Genesis 3) remain.

    This chapter also shows the crippling, immoral influence of the Canaanites. Israel was influenced by Ba'al worship. The conquest and promises of YHWH were being compromised as He said they would be. Even the type of government (i.e., theocracy vs. city-state) is in conflict.

  2. This man affected only one city, Shechem (and its surrounding area). It was the site of a major northern Israeli sanctuary.
    1. site of YHWH's first encounter with Abraham (cf. Gen. 12:6,7) and the site of YHWH revealing Himself to Joseph (cf. Genesis 37).
    2. site of
      1. a covenant renewal event in Jos. 8:30-35
      2. site of Joshua's last covenant renewal ceremony in Joshua 24
      3. site of Joshua's burial (Jos. 24:32)

    This city-state governmental structure was Canaanite, not Israeli.

  3. Judges 9:7-15 is a spoken parable (i.e., fable; see Sandy and Giese, Cracking Old Testament Codes, pp. 267-268) by Jotham about Abimelech's reign and ultimate judgment. These are common in the ANE literature.

  4. The time line for this chapter is difficult to construct. There are several battles and several cities (also several protective and sacred structures, see note at Jdgs. 9:49).


1And Abimelech the son of Jerubbaal went to Shechem to his mother's relatives, and spoke to them and to the whole clan of the household of his mother's father, saying, 2"Speak, now, in the hearing of all the leaders of Shechem, 'Which is better for you, that seventy men, all the sons of Jerubbaal, rule over you, or that one man rule over you?' Also, remember that I am your bone and your flesh." 3And his mother's relatives spoke all these words on his behalf in the hearing of all the leaders of Shechem; and they were inclined to follow Abimelech, for they said, "He is our relative." 4They gave him seventy pieces of silver from the house of Baal-berith with which Abimelech hired worthless and reckless fellows, and they followed him. 5Then 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 was left, for he hid himself. 6All the men of Shechem and all Beth-millo assembled together, and they went and made Abimelech king, by the oak of the pillar which was in Shechem.

9:1 "Abimelech" His name means, "My father is a king" (BDB 4). He was the son of Gideon and a Canaanite concubine from Shechem.

▣ "Jerubbaal" This was Gideon's nickname. It means "Let Baal contend." See note at Jdgs. 6:32.

▣ "Shechem" This was an old, large Canaanite city located between Mt. Ebal and Mt. Gerizim. It had important ties to Israel's past.

  1. through Abraham (cf. Gen. 12:6-7)
  2. through Jacob (cf. Gen. 35:4)
  3. it was the place of Joseph's burial (cf. Jos. 24:32)
  4. it was the site of covenant renewal under Joshua (cf. Jos. 8:30-35; 24; Deuteronomy 27-28)

▣ "his mother's relatives" It was common for children of concubines to live with the mother and trace their descendants through her. Abimelech was of their "bone and flesh" (Jdgs. 9:2; cf. Gen. 29:14).

9:2 "speak" This is a Qal IMPERATIVE, which relates to the leaders of Shechem's answer to Abimelech's question.

▣ "the leaders" Literally "Baals" (BDB 127, "lord," "master," "husband") is used in the sense of "leaders" (cf. Jos. 20:5; Jdgs. 9:5; 20:5; 1 Sam. 23:11; 2 Sam. 21:12).

▣ "seventy men" This probably is a round number. See note at Jdgs. 8:30.

▣ "I am your bone and your flesh" This idiom means "I am your blood kin" (cf. Gen. 29:14; 2 Sam. 5:1; 19:12-13). The first use of this idiom was when Adam first saw Eve in Gen. 2:23.

9:4 Notice that the Canaanite population of Shechem supported Abimelech from the sacred offering to the local Ba'al temple.

Some scholars think that "Baal-berith" (i.e., lord of the covenant) was a corruption of the worship of YHWH and His covenant with Israel (cf. Jdgs. 8:33). See Roland deVaux, Ancient Israel, pp. 293-294).


▣ "seventy" Notice the mention of this number in Jdgs. 9:2, 5.


▣ "the house of Baal-berith" This shows the population was Canaanite. "Baal-berith" means "master of the covenant." This sanctuary may have been a corruption of Joshua 24.

▣ "Abimelech hired worthless and reckless fellows" These were amoral mercenaries.

  1. worthless ‒ BDB 938, ADJECTIVE meaning "empty," "vain," or "worthless"
  2. reckless ‒ BDB 808, KB 923, Qal ACTIVE PARTICIPLE; this VERB means "wanton" or "haughty" (Arabic root) and the VERB is found only here and Zeph. 3:4

Who we associate with reveals our own character!

9:5 "Ophrah" This town was about 30 miles away. Apparently it was where Gideon made his home (cf. Jdgs. 8:29).

▣ "on one stone" He must have had help. This slaughter almost has a sacrificial connotation. As Gideon destroyed the altar of Ba'al, now a man of Ba'al destroys Gideon's family.

▣ "Jotham" Gideon's youngest son; his name means "YHWH is perfect" (BDB 222).

9:6 "Beth-millo" The name means "house of fill dirt" (BDB 108 CONSTRUCT BDB 571). This seems to refer to the watchtower or citadel of the city or area. Probably the same as Jdgs. 9:46, "the tower of Shechem." "The "millo" is also mentioned in 2 Sam. 5:9; 2 Kgs. 12:20. It was some type of earthwork.

▣ "made Abimelech king" Canaanites had kings of cities, but not the Israelis.

▣ "the oak" This was a place of special reverence (cf. Gen. 35:4). Joshua 24:26, "large stone" is probably the source of the "pillar."

NASB, NKJV, NRSV, JPSOA  "the pillar"
TEV  "‒ omit ‒"
NJB  "cultic stone"
REB  "propped-up"
LXX  "of placing"
Peshitta  "of Mazpiah"

The MT has a PARTICIPLE (BDB 662, KB 714, Hophal), which means "to set up" or "to take a stand" (cf. LXX). However, most translations assume an emendation to "pillar" (BDB 663). This would have been an ancient pagan worship site or possibly a temple (cf. Jdgs. 9:46, 51; see note at 9:49).

7Now when they told Jotham, he went and stood on the top of Mount Gerizim, and lifted his voice and called out. Thus he said to them, "Listen to me, O men of Shechem, that God may listen to you. 8Once the trees went forth to anoint a king over them, and they said to the olive tree, 'Reign over us!' 9But the olive tree said to them, 'Shall I leave my fatness with which God and men are honored, and go to wave over the trees?' 10Then the trees said to the fig tree, 'You come, reign over us!' 11But the fig tree said to them, 'Shall I leave my sweetness and my good fruit, and go to wave over the trees?' 12Then the trees said to the vine, 'You come, reign over us!' 13But the vine said to them, 'Shall I leave my new wine, which cheers God and men, and go to wave over the trees?' 14Finally all the trees said to the bramble, 'You come, reign over us!' 15The bramble said to the trees, 'If in truth you are anointing me as king over you, come and take refuge in my shade; but if not, may fire come out from the bramble and consume the cedars of Lebanon.'

9:7 "stood on the top of Mount Gerizim" This was a natural amphitheater (cf. Jos. 8:30-35; Deuteronomy 27-28). Shechem was located between Mt. Ebal and Mt. Gerizim (later site of the Samarian temple).

▣ "Listen to me. . .that God may listen to you" This is a Qal IMPERATIVE and a Qal IMPERFECT used in a JUSSIVE sense (BDB 1033, KB 1570, cf. 1 Chr. 28:2).

Jotham is speaking as a spokesman for God. He is using the genre of parable. He depicts the city of Shechem's search for a king to trees asking for a king and being rejected again and again, but finally, a worthless tree (i.e., a bramble, BDB 31) agrees! The consequences are disastrous!

9:8 "Once the trees went forth" This is an emphatic phrase using an INFINITIVE ABSOLUTE and PERFECT VERB of the same root (BDB 229, KB 246). The trees of the parable are very intent on having a king! See IVP Bible Background Commentary, p. 259.

▣ "to anoint a king" See SPECIAL TOPIC: "ANOINTING" IN THE BIBLE.

9:13 "new wine, which cheers God and men" See Num. 15:7,10, where wine is offered on the altar and Psalm 104:14-15, where God gives wine to men. Fermentation is not a biblical issue but intoxication, drunkenness is!



NRSV, TEV, NJB, REB, Peshitta  "gods"

The interpretive question is "Were the citizens of Shechem mostly Canaanites or Israelites?" There is no ARTICLE with Elohim in either Jdgs. 9:9 or 9:13.

The fable of Jotham (Jdgs. 9:7-15) shows how the invading Israelis took over pagan worship sites but that later these sites again became idolatrous. The pagan fertility gods were worshiped by sexual imitation magic and drunkenness. Libations of wine were offered to their gods. This fits "gods" as the best historical option for translating elohim here. See Roland deVaux, Ancient Israel, p. 449-450, 501.


NASB, NKJV, NRSV, LXX, Peshitta  "bramble"
TEV, NJB, JPSOA, REB  "thorn bush"

The exact kind of plant this term (BDB 31) represents is uncertain (NIDOTTE, vol. 1, p. 363). What is certain, it was a useless, desert bush in comparison to the olive, fig, and grapevine, which are food for all ANE societies. It is a different word from Jdgs. 9:7, 16.

See UBS, Fauna and Flora of the Bible, pp. 184-186.

9:15 "bramble. . .take refuge in my shade" Brambles had no shade!

The VERB "take refuge" (BDB 340, KB 337, Qal IMPERATIVE) is powerful imagery for "put trust in." It is normally used of trusting YHWH.

It is only rarely used of other things/persons.

  1. pagan gods (elohim) ‒ Deut. 32:37
  2. Zion (i.e., Jerusalem) ‒ Isa. 14:32
  3. Pharaoh (i.e., his military) ‒ Isa. 30:2

Here, it is used metaphorically for protection and care but sarcastically because the bramble had no shade. Just as #1, 3 above had no help either. Only YHWH can give what they seek (cf. 2 Sam. 22:3,31; Pro. 14:32; Isa. 25:4; 57:13; Zeph. 3:12).



▣ "fire" Brambles were often used for starting fires. They posed a real danger in grass fires!

16"Now therefore, if you have dealt in truth and integrity in making Abimelech king, and if you have dealt well with Jerubbaal and his house, and have dealt with him as he deserved— 17for my father fought for you and risked his life and delivered you from the hand of Midian; 18but you have risen against my father's house today and have killed his sons, seventy men, on one stone, and have made Abimelech, the son of his maidservant, king over the men of Shechem, because he is your relative— 19if then you have dealt in truth and integrity with Jerubbaal and his house this day, rejoice in Abimelech, and let him also rejoice in you. 20But if not, let fire come out from Abimelech and consume the men of Shechem and Beth-millo; and let fire come out from the men of Shechem and from Beth-millo, and consume Abimelech." 21Then Jotham escaped and fled, and went to Beer and remained there because of Abimelech his brother.

9:16-21 Notice the number of times "if" (BDB 49) is used in the NASB (i.e., 4), which shows the contrast between what they should have done (i.e., honor Gideon and his family), but they did not (cf. Jdgs. 8:35).

There are five Qal IMPERFECTS used in a JUSSIVE sense (i.e., "Let. . .") in Jdgs. 9:19-20.

NASB, NKJV  "truth"
NRSV, LXX  "good faith"
TEV  "sincere"
NJB  "sincerity"
JPSOA  "loyalty"
REV  "fairly"
Peshitta  "truly"

This is a common FEMININE NOUN (BDB 54), which means "firmness," "faithfulness," "truth."


▣ "integrity" This is a NOUN (BDB 1071) meaning "complete," "sound" (cf. Jos. 24:14), or "blameless" (cf. Deut. 18:13). It describes

  1. Noah ‒ Gen. 6:9
  2. Abraham ‒ Gen. 17:1
  3. Israel ‒ Deut. 18:13
  4. Job ‒ Job 12:4
  5. David ‒ Ps. 18:25
  6. a person of integrity
    1. SINGULAR ‒ Pro. 11:5
    2. PLURAL ‒ Pro. 2:21; 28:10; Ps. 37:18

9:18 "the son of a maidservant" This was a derogatory way of referring to Abimelech's Canaanite mother (cf. Jdgs. 8:31).

This is another example of the problems associated with polygamy and the sexual exploitation by powerful, wealthy men, even men like Gideon! The fallen human heart tends to act on self interests.


▣ "because he is your relative" This is another aspect of fallen human nature (i.e., the desire to help family and friends, instead of doing what is right). Nepotism is a curse in human society.

9:21 "Beer" The name means "well" (BDB 91) and the site is unknown.

The ABD, p. 640, has two suggestions.

  1. Eusebius identified it as to the south, close to Beth-shemesh
  2. modern scholars identify it as to the north, close to Ophrah, 7 miles NW of Beth-Sheam

22Now Abimelech ruled over Israel three years. 23Then God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the men of Shechem; and the men of Shechem dealt treacherously with Abimelech, 24so that the violence done to the seventy sons of Jerubbaal might come, and their blood might be laid on Abimelech their brother, who killed them, and on the men of Shechem, who strengthened his hands to kill his brothers. 25The men of Shechem set men in ambush against him on the tops of the mountains, and they robbed all who might pass by them along the road; and it was told to Abimelech.

9:22 "ruled over Israel" This is a hyperbolic statement using a rare VERB (BDB 99, KB 1362), referring only to the city of Shechem, which was mostly Canaanite.

9:23 "God sent an evil spirit" In the OT YHWH is the ultimate source of all things (cf. 1 Sam. 16:14; 18:10; 19:9; 1 Kgs. 22:19-23; Ezekiel 14; and Amos 3:6b). This imagery is confusing to modern western people. God did not bless or remain with Abimelech.

▣ "the men of Shechem dealt treacherously with Abimelech" This is the divine action related to Jotham's curse in Jdgs. 9:15. Judges 9:25 reveals the treachery as robbery and fraud. We reap what we sow (cf. Job 34:11; Ps. 28:4; 62:12; Pro. 24:12; Eccl. 12:14; Jer. 17:10; 32:19; Matt. 16:27; Rom. 2:6; 14:12; 1 Cor. 3:8; 2 Cor. 5:10; Gal. 6:7-10; 2 Tim. 4:14; 1 Pet. 1:17; Rev. 2:23; 20:12; 22:12)!


9:24 "their blood might be laid on Abimelech" Taking innocent blood caused a great curse (cf. Gen. 4:10; Num. 35:33; and 2 Sam. 3:28-29).

▣ "the men of Shechem, who strengthened his hands to kill his brothers" They were equally responsible.

9:25 "Him. . .all" Possibly (1) they wanted to capture and kill Abimelech and (2) while they waited they stole taxes from travelers.

26Now Gaal the son of Ebed came with his relatives, and crossed over into Shechem; and the men of Shechem put their trust in him. 27They went out into the field and gathered the grapes of their vineyards and trod them, and held a festival; and they went into the house of their god, and ate and drank and cursed Abimelech. 28Then Gaal the son of Ebed said, "Who is Abimelech, and who is Shechem, that we should serve him? Is he not the son of Jerubbaal, and is Zebul not his lieutenant? Serve the men of Hamor the father of Shechem; but why should we serve him? 29Would, therefore, that this people were under my authority! Then I would remove Abimelech." And he said to Abimelech, "Increase your army and come out."

9:26 This shows the fickleness of the city.

▣ "Gaal the son of Ebed" The Hebrew term "Ebed" (BDB 714 II) means "servant." This possibly means "Gaal, a son of a slave." See note on "Gaal" at Jdgs. 9:29. Some Hebrew MSS have "Eber." The Hebrew letters of "d" and "r" are similar and often confused in copying.

His family is unknown but he is possibly a Canaanite (i.e., Hittite name, see D. Winton Thomas ed., Documents from Old Testament Times, p. 40), trying to depose a half-Canaanite, half-Israelite (i.e., Abimelech).

9:27 "a festival" This was a harvest festival.

▣ "the house of their god" This refers to the sanctuary of Baal-bereth (cf. Jdgs. 8:33; 9:4) and surely is the same as "the house of El-berith" in Jdgs. 9:46.

▣ "ate and drank and cursed Abimelech" This was a drunken pagan feast. The term "curse" is literally "to be slight" (BDB 886, KB 1103, Piel IMPERFECT with waw). The connotation of "despise" is from the Assyrian cognate root. BDB calls it a "Canaanism." It is translated by NASB as "curse" in Gen. 8:21; 12:3; Exod. 21:17; Lev. 19:14; Jos. 24:9; 2 Sam. 16:9; 1 Kgs. 2:8; Jer. 15:10.

9:28 "Who is Abimelech, and who is Shechem" Because of 1 Sam. 25:10; 1 Kgs. 12:16, these two phrases are parallel. Abimelech was not present, he lived in Arumah.

▣ "Zebal" The name (BDB 259 II) means "prince" or "high one." He is mentioned only in this chapter.

▣ "lieutenant" This (BDB 824) is possibly an administrative overseer of Abimelech, who lived at Shechem.

▣ "Hamor" This is the ancient ancestor and founder of Shechem (cf. Gen. 33:19; 34). His name means "Ass" (BDB 331 III), which was considered a noble animal, often ridden by the rich and powerful.

9:29 Gaal (BDB 172) publically challenges Abimelech for control of Shechem. Apparently Abimelech was not present (cf. Jdgs. 9:30-33).

The name (BDB 172) is found only in this chapter. It is very similar to the Hebrew word "abhor," "loathe" (BDB 171). It is surely possible this was a nickname by the author, "the loathed one, son of a slave."

30When Zebul the ruler of the city heard the words of Gaal the son of Ebed, his anger burned. 31He sent messengers to Abimelech deceitfully, saying, "Behold, Gaal the son of Ebed and his relatives have come to Shechem; and behold, they are stirring up the city against you. 32Now therefore, arise by night, you and the people who are with you, and lie in wait in the field. 33In the morning, as soon as the sun is up, you shall rise early and rush upon the city; and behold, when he and the people who are with him come out against you, you shall do to them whatever you can."

9:31 "deceitfully" There are several theories as to the exact meaning of this word (BDB 941, NIDOTTE, vol. 3, p. 1123, 3, c):

  1. secretly (LXXB, NJB)
  2. under false pretenses (Peshitta, REB)
  3. in code
  4. NRSV, TEV, have "Arumah" (BDB 371, i.e., a place name, cf. Jdgs. 9:41 BDB 72)
NASB, NRSV, NJB  "stirring up"
NKJV, Peshitta  "are fortifying"
TEV  "not going to let you into the city"
JPSOA  "inciting"
REB  "turning the city against you"
LXXA  "besieging the city against you"

The MT has the VERB (BDB 848 II, KB 1015, Qal ACTIVE PARTICIPLE) meaning "to besiege," "to confine," "to shut in" (see TEV, LXXA, NKJV, Peshitta), but others see the root as BDB 849 III, which means "to show hostility towards" (cf. Deut. 2:9, 19; Esther 8:11).

34So Abimelech and all the people who were with him arose by night and lay in wait against Shechem in four companies. 35Now Gaal the son of Ebed went out and stood in the entrance of the city gate; and Abimelech and the people who were with him arose from the ambush. 36When 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 are seeing the shadow of the mountains as if they were men." 37Gaal spoke again and said, "Behold, people are coming down from the highest part of the land, and one company comes by the way of the diviners' oak." 38Then Zebul said to him, "Where is your boasting now with which you said, 'Who is Abimelech that we should serve him?' Is this not the people whom you despised? Go out now and fight with them!" 39So Gaal went out before the leaders of Shechem and fought with Abimelech. 40Abimelech chased him, and he fled before him; and many fell wounded up to the entrance of the gate. 41Then Abimelech remained at Arumah, but Zebul drove out Gaal and his relatives so that they could not remain in Shechem.

9:37 "the highest part of the land" This is literally "the navel" (BDB 371), a mythological link between heaven and earth (cf. Ezek. 38:12), but here it is parallel to Jdgs. 9:36, "the tops of the mountains," so it has no mythological connotations. See NIDOTTE, vol. 2, pp. 333-334.

NASB  "the diviners' oak"
NKJV  "the Diviners' Terebinth tree"
NRSV, JPSOA, LXXB  "the director of Elon-meonenim"
TEV  "from the oak tree of fortune tellers"
NJB  "the Diviners' oak"
REB  "along the road of the soothsayers' Terebinth"
LXXA  "the direction of Watchers' oak"
Peshitta  "the house of the oak of Meaonin"

All these translations came from a PARTICIPLE (BDB 778, KB 857, Poel) meaning "practice soothsaying." This is not like Deborah, a true judge of Israel. This is related to Ba'al worship. This is condemned in Deut. 18:10-11. It shows the Canaanite nature of Shechem in this period. Here, the false priest/prophet is associated with a divine tree.

42Now it came about the next day, that the people went out to the field, and it was told to Abimelech. 43So he took his people and divided them into three companies, and lay in wait in the field; when he looked and saw the people coming out from the city, he arose against them and slew them. 44Then Abimelech and the company who was with him dashed forward and stood in the entrance of the city gate; the other two companies then dashed against all who were in the field and slew them. 45Abimelech fought against the city all that day, and he captured the city and killed the people who were in it; then he razed the city and sowed it with salt.

9:42 "the people went out to the field" This refers to (1) supporters of Gaal in Shechem or surrounding cities or (2) those men mentioned in Jdgs. 9:25.

9:45 "sowed it with salt" This was a curse symbol of cultic cleansing. This may also be why he burns the temple in Jdgs. 9:52.

It is also possible to see this salt-sowing as a curse. It made the land infertile. See IVP Bible Background Commentary, p. 260; and NIDOTTE, vol. 2, pp. 947-948, 949.

46When all the leaders of the tower of Shechem heard of it, they entered the inner chamber of the temple of El-berith. 47It was told Abimelech that all the leaders of the tower of Shechem were gathered together. 48So Abimelech went up to Mount Zalmon, he and all the people who were with him; and Abimelech took an axe in his hand and cut down a branch from the trees, and lifted it and laid it on his shoulder. Then he said to the people who were with him, "What you have seen me do, hurry and do likewise." 49All the people also cut down each one his branch and followed Abimelech, and put them on the inner chamber and set the inner chamber on fire over those inside, so that all the men of the tower of Shechem also died, about a thousand men and women.

NASB  "the inner chamber"
NKJV, NRSV, TEV, LXX  "stronghold"
NJB, REB  "the crypt"
JPSOA  "the tunnel"

The MT has a term (BDB 863, see NIDOTTE, vol. 3, p. 845), which means an underground chamber. The NOUN is used only here and 1 Sam. 13:6. There are several words used to describe structures at Shechem, some above ground, some below. See note at Jdgs. 9:49.

▣ "El-berith" The names means "God of the covenant." It is probably the same as Baal-berith of Jdgs. 8:37; 9:4.

9:48 "Mount Zalmon" It means "dark one" (BDB 854 I, i.e., forested hill).

9:49 "the tower of Shechem" This refers to a fortified position.

  1. a raised hill (Jdgs. 9:6)
  2. special manmade earth-work (Jdgs. 9:6)
  3. a citadel (Jdgs. 9:51)
  4. a special central watchtower (i.e., "the pillar at Shechem," Jdgs. 9:6)
  5. a worship structure (Jdgs. 9:6,46)

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

9:50 "Thebez" This town "Thebez" (BDB 1062) is mentioned only here and 2 Sam. 11:21. The ABD, p. 443, locates this site as a fertile region 13 miles northeast of Shechem, modern "Tubas" (so Eusebius).

Modern scholarship thinks it should read "Tirzah" (BDB 953), which is about 7 miles northeast of Shechem (cf. Jos. 12:24).

9:53 "upper millstone" Its size would be 2" or 3" by 18" round (cf. 2 Sam. 11:21).

9:54 "kill me" There are different words and stems used in this verse for "kill/die."

  1. kill me ‒ BDB 559, KB 562, Polel IMPERATIVE, which means "put to death," cf. 1 Sam. 14:13; 17:51; 2 Sam. 1:9, 10, 16
  2. slew ‒ BDB 246, KB 255, Qal PERFECT, which means "kill violently," cf Jdgs. 9:5, 18, 24, 56; 16:2; 20:5; 1 Sam. 16:2; 22:21; 24:11, 18, etc.
  3. died ‒ same as #1 but Qal IMPERFECT with waw It was a "shame" to be killed by a woman (cf. Jdgs. 4:9, 17-23; 5:24-27).

9:57 This shows God is ethical and just! See note at Jdgs. 9:23.


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

  1. Why is Abimelech not a true judge?
  2. Is the population of Shechem in this period Canaanite or Israelite?
  3. Is "Baal-berith" a corruption of YHWH's covenant?
  4. Explain the fable of Jdgs. 9:7-15.
  5. Does YHWH direct "evil spirits"?
  6. Who is Gaal?
  7. What does it mean "to sow a city with salt"? (Jdgs. 9:45)
  8. Is "the temple (lit. house) of El-berith" in Jdgs. 9:46 the same as Baal-berith in Jdgs. 8:33; 9:4, 27?
  9. Why does Abimelech destroy Thebez?
  10. Explain Jdgs. 9:57 in your own words.

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