Abimelech Becomes King of Shechem
1Abimelech was the son of Jerub-Baal. He went to his mother's brothers in Shechem. He spoke to them and to all of the members of his mother's family group. He said, 2"Speak to all of the citizens of Shechem. Tell them, 'You can have all 70 of Jerub-Baal's sons rule over you. Or you can have just one man rule over you. Which would you rather have?' Remember, I'm your own flesh and blood."
3The brothers told all of that to the citizens of Shechem. Then the people decided to follow Abimelech. They said, "He's related to us."
4They gave him 28 ounces of silver. They had taken it from the temple of the god Baal-Berith. Abimelech used it to hire some men. They were wild. They weren't good for anything. They became his followers.
5Abimelech went to his father's home in Ophrah. There on a big rock he murdered his 70 brothers. All of them were the sons of Jerub-Baal. But Jotham escaped by hiding. He was Jerub-Baal's youngest son.
6All of the citizens of Shechem and Beth Millo came together. They gathered at the stone pillar that was beside the large tree in Shechem. They wanted to crown Abimelech as their king.
7Jotham was told about it. So he climbed up on top of Mount Gerizim. He shouted down to them, "Citizens of Shechem! Listen to me! Then God will listen to you. 8One day the trees went out to anoint a king for themselves. They said to an olive tree, 'Be our king.'
9"But the olive tree answered, 'Should I give up my olive oil? It's used to honor gods and people alike. Should I give that up just to rule over the trees?'
10"Next, the trees spoke to a fig tree. They said, 'Come and be our king.'
11"But the fig tree replied, 'Should I give up my fruit? It's so good and sweet. Should I give that up just to rule over the trees?'
12"Then the trees spoke to a vine. They said, 'Come and be our king.'
13"But the vine answered, 'Should I give up my wine? It cheers up gods and people alike. Should I give that up just to rule over the trees?'
14"Finally, all of the trees spoke to a bush that had thorns. They said, 'Come and be our king.'
15"The bush spoke to the trees. It said, 'Do you really want to anoint me as king over you? If you do, come and rest in my shade. But if you don't, I will destroy you! Fire will come out of me and burn up the cedar trees of Lebanon!'
16"Did you act in an honest way when you made Abimelech your king? Did you really do the right thing? Have you been fair to Jerub-Baal and his family? Have you given him the honor he's worthy of?
17"Remember that my father fought for you. He put his life in danger for you. He saved you from the power of Midian. 18But today you have turned against my father's family. You have murdered his 70 sons on a big rock. Abimelech is only the son of my father's female slave. But you have made him king over the citizens of Shechem. You have done that because he's related to you.
19"Have you citizens of Shechem and Beth Millo acted in an honest way toward Jerub-Baal? Have you done the right thing to his family today? If you have, may you be happy with Abimelech! And may he be happy with you! 20But if you haven't, let fire come out from Abimelech and burn you up! And let fire come out from you and burn Abimelech up!"
21Then Jotham ran away. He escaped to Beer. He lived there because he was afraid of his brother Abimelech.
22Abimelech ruled over Israel for three years. 23Then God sent an evil spirit to cause trouble between Abimelech and the citizens of Shechem. They turned against Abimelech. They decided not to follow him anymore.
24God made that happen because of what Abimelech had done to Jerub-Baal's 70 sons. He had spilled their blood. God wanted to pay back their brother Abimelech for doing that. He also wanted to pay back the citizens of Shechem. They had helped Abimelech murder his brothers.
25The citizens of Shechem opposed Abimelech. So they hid some men on top of the hills. They wanted them to attack and rob everyone who passed by. Abimelech was told about it.
26Gaal and his relatives moved into Shechem. He was the son of Ebed. The citizens of Shechem put their trust in Gaal.
27The people of Shechem went out into the fields. They gathered the grapes. They pressed the juice out of them by stomping on them. Then they held a feast in the temple of their god. While they were eating and drinking, they called down curses on Abimelech.
28Then Gaal, the son of Ebed, spoke up. "Who is Abimelech?" he said. "And who is Shechem? Why should we be under Abimelech's rule? Isn't he Jerub-Baal's son? Isn't Zebul his helper? It would be better to serve the men of Hamor. He was the father of Shechem. So why should we serve Abimelech? 29I wish these people were under my command. Then I would get rid of him. I would say to him, 'Call out your whole army!' "
30Zebul was the governor of Shechem. He heard about what Gaal, the son of Ebed, had said. So he burned with anger.
31Zebul sent messengers to Abimelech secretly. They said, "Gaal, the son of Ebed, has come to Shechem. His relatives have come with him. They are stirring up the city against you. 32So come with your men during the night. Hide in the fields and wait. 33In the morning at sunrise, attack the city. Gaal and his men will come out against you. Then do what you can."
34So Abimelech and all of his troops started out at night. They went into their hiding places near Shechem. Abimelech had separated them into four companies.
35Gaal, the son of Ebed, had already gone out. He was standing at the entrance of the city gate. He had arrived there just as Abimelech and his troops came out of their hiding places.
36Gaal saw them. He said to Zebul, "Look! People are coming down from the tops of the mountains!"
Zebul replied, "You are wrong. Those aren't people. They are just the shadows of the mountains."
37But Gaal spoke up again. He said, "Look! People are coming down from the center of the land. Another company is coming from the direction of the fortune tellers' tree."
38Then Zebul said to Gaal, "Where is your big talk now? You said, 'Who is Abimelech? Why should we be under his rule?' Aren't these the people you looked down on? Go out and fight against them!"
39So Gaal led the citizens out of Shechem. They fought against Abimelech. 40He chased Gaal from the field of battle. Many men were wounded as they ran away. Abimelech chased them all the way to the entrance of the city gate. 41He stayed in Arumah. Zebul drove Gaal and his relatives out of Shechem.
42The next day the people of Shechem went out to work in the fields. Abimelech was told about it. 43So he gathered his men together. He separated them into three companies. Then he hid them in the fields and told them to wait. When he saw the people coming out of the city, he got up to attack them.
44Abimelech and the men who were with him ran forward. They placed themselves at the entrance of the city gate. Then the other two companies rushed over to the people who were in the fields. There they struck them down. 45Abimelech kept up his attack against the city all day long. He didn't stop until he had captured it. Then he killed its people. He destroyed the city. He scattered salt on it to make sure that nothing would be able to grow there.
46The citizens who were in the tower of Shechem heard about what was happening. So they went to the safest place in the temple of the god El-Berith.
47Abimelech heard that they had gathered together there. 48He and all of his men went up Mount Zalmon. He got an ax and cut off some branches. He carried them on his shoulders. He ordered the men who were with him to do the same thing. "Quick!" he said. "Do what you have seen me do!"
49So all of the men cut branches and followed Abimelech. They piled them against the place where the people had gone for safety. Then they set the place on fire with the people inside. There were about 1,000 men and women in the tower of Shechem. All of them died.
50Next, Abimelech went to Thebez. He surrounded it. Then he attacked it and captured it.
51But inside the city there was a strong tower. All of the people in the city ran to it for safety. All of the men and women went into it. They locked themselves in. They climbed up on the roof of the tower. 52Abimelech went to the tower and attacked it. He approached the entrance to the tower to set it on fire. 53But a woman dropped a large millstone on him. It broke his head open.
54He quickly called out to the man who was carrying his armor. He said, "Pull out your sword and kill me. Then people can't say, 'A woman killed him.' " So his servant stuck his sword through him. And Abimelech died. 55When the people of Israel saw he was dead, they went home.
56That's how God paid Abimelech back for the evil thing he had done to his father. He had murdered his 70 brothers. 57God also made the men of Shechem pay for all of the evil things they had done. The curse of Jotham came down on them. He was the son of Jerub-Baal.