Abimelech Becomes King
1Abimelech son of Gideon went to his uncles in the city of Shechem. He said to his uncles and all of his mother’s family group, 2“Ask the leaders of Shechem, ‘Is it better for the seventy sons of Gideon to rule over you or for one man to rule?’ Remember, I am your relative.”
3Abimelech’s uncles spoke to all the leaders of Shechem about this. And they decided to follow Abimelech, because they said, “He is our relative.” 4So the leaders of Shechem gave Abimelech about one and three-quarter pounds of silver from the temple of the god Baal-Berith. Abimelech used the silver to hire some worthless, reckless men, who followed him wherever he went. 5He went to Ophrah, the hometown of his father, and murdered his seventy brothers, the sons of Gideon. He killed them all on one stone. But Gideon’s youngest son, Jotham, hid from Abimelech and escaped. 6Then all of the leaders of Shechem and Beth Millo gathered beside the great tree standing in Shechem. There they made Abimelech their king.
7When Jotham heard this, he went and stood on the top of Mount Gerizim. He shouted to the people: “Listen to me, you leaders of Shechem, so that God will listen to you! 8One day the trees decided to appoint a king to rule over them. They said to the olive tree, ‘You be king over us!’
9“But the olive tree said, ‘Men and gods are honored by my oil. Should I stop making it and go and sway over the other trees?’
10“Then the trees said to the fig tree, ‘Come and be king over us!’
11“But the fig tree answered, ‘Should I stop making my sweet and good fruit and go and sway over the other trees?’
12“Then the trees said to the vine, ‘Come and be king over us!’
13“But the vine answered, ‘My new wine makes men and gods happy. Should I stop making it and go and sway over the trees?’
14“Then all the trees said to the thornbush, ‘Come and be king over us.’
15“But the thornbush said to the trees, ‘If you really want to appoint me king over you, come and find shelter in my shade! But if not, let fire come out of the thornbush and burn up the cedars of Lebanon!’
16“Now, were you completely honest and sincere when you made Abimelech king? Have you been fair to Gideon and his family? Have you treated Gideon as you should? 17Remember, my father fought for you and risked his life to save you from the power of the Midianites. 18But now you have turned against my father’s family and have killed his seventy sons on one stone. You have made Abimelech, the son of my father’s slave girl, king over the leaders of Shechem just because he is your relative! 19So then, if you have been honest and sincere to Gideon and his family today, be happy with Abimelech as your king. And may he be happy with you! 20But if not, may fire come out of Abimelech and completely burn you leaders of Shechem and Beth Millo! Also may fire come out of the leaders of Shechem and Beth Millo and burn up Abimelech!”
21Then Jotham ran away and escaped to the city of Beer. He lived there because he was afraid of his brother Abimelech.
Abimelech Fights Against Shechem
22Abimelech ruled Israel for three years. 23Then God sent an evil spirit to make trouble between Abimelech and the leaders of Shechem so that the leaders of Shechem turned against him. 24Abimelech had killed Gideon’s seventy sons, his own brothers, and the leaders of Shechem had helped him. So God sent the evil spirit to punish them. 25The leaders of Shechem were against Abimelech then. They put men on the hilltops in ambush who robbed everyone going by. And Abimelech was told.
26A man named Gaal son of Ebed and his brothers moved into Shechem, and the leaders of Shechem trusted him. 27They went out to the vineyards to pick grapes, and they squeezed the grapes. Then they had a feast in the temple of their god, where they ate and drank and cursed Abimelech. 28Gaal son of Ebed said, “We are the men of Shechem. Who is Abimelech that we should serve him? Isn’t he one of Gideon’s sons, and isn’t Zebul his officer? We should serve the men of Hamor, Shechem’s father. Why should we serve Abimelech? 29If you made me commander of these people, I would get rid of Abimelech. I would say to him, ‘Get your army ready and come out to battle.’ ”
30Now when Zebul, the ruler of Shechem, heard what Gaal son of Ebed said, he was very angry. 31He sent secret messengers to Abimelech, saying, “Gaal son of Ebed and Gaal’s brothers have come to Shechem, and they are turning the city against you! 32You and your men should get up during the night and hide in the fields outside the city. 33As soon as the sun comes up in the morning, attack the city. When Gaal and his men come out to fight you, do what you can to them.”
34So Abimelech and all his soldiers got up during the night and hid near Shechem in four groups. 35Gaal son of Ebed went out and was standing at the entrance to the city gate. As he was standing there, Abimelech and his soldiers came out of their hiding places.
36When Gaal saw the soldiers, he said to Zebul, “Look! There are people coming down from the mountains!”
But Zebul said, “You are seeing the shadows of the mountains. The shadows just look like people.”
37But again Gaal said, “Look, there are people coming down from the center of the land, and there is a group coming from the fortune-tellers’ tree!”
38Zebul said to Gaal, “Where is your bragging now? You said, ‘Who is Abimelech that we should serve him?’ You made fun of these men. Now go out and fight them.”
39So Gaal led the men of Shechem out to fight Abimelech. 40Abimelech and his men chased them, and many of Gaal’s men were killed before they could get back to the city gate. 41While Abimelech stayed at Arumah, Zebul forced Gaal and his brothers to leave Shechem.
42The next day the people of Shechem went out to the fields. When Abimelech was told about it, 43he separated his men into three groups and hid them in the fields. When he saw the people coming out of the city, he jumped up and attacked them. 44Abimelech and his group ran to the entrance gate to the city. The other two groups ran out to the people in the fields and struck them down. 45Abimelech and his men fought the city of Shechem all day until they captured it and killed its people. Then he tore it down and threw salt over the ruins.
The Tower of Shechem Burns
46When the leaders who were in the Tower of Shechem heard what had happened to Shechem, they gathered in the safest room of the temple of El Berith. 47Abimelech heard that all the leaders of the Tower of Shechem had gathered there. 48So he and all his men went up Mount Zalmon, near Shechem. Abimelech took an ax and cut some branches and put them on his shoulders. He said to all those with him, “Hurry! Do what I have done!” 49So all those men cut branches and followed Abimelech and piled them against the safest room of the temple. Then they set them on fire and burned the people inside. So all the people who were at the Tower of Shechem also died—about a thousand men and women.
50Then Abimelech went to the city of Thebez. He surrounded the city, attacked it, and captured it. 51But inside the city was a strong tower, so all the men, women, and leaders of that city ran to the tower. When they got inside, they locked the door behind them. Then they climbed up to the roof of the tower. 52Abimelech came to the tower to attack it. He approached the door of the tower to set it on fire, 53but as he came near, a woman dropped a grinding stone on his head, crushing his skull.
54He quickly called to the officer who carried his armor and said, “Take out your sword and kill me. I don’t want people to say, ‘A woman killed Abimelech.’ ” So the officer stabbed Abimelech, and he died. 55When the people of Israel saw Abimelech was dead, they all returned home.
56In that way God punished Abimelech for all the evil he had done to his father by killing his seventy brothers. 57God also punished the men of Shechem for the evil they had done. So the curse spoken by Jotham, the youngest son of Gideon, came true.
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