Judges – Lesson 11 

Judges Chapter 9:1-21 


In chapter 8, we saw Gideon’s wisdom in how he dealt with the tribes who complained about not being in his army that went down against Midianites.  He answered them well, and the people showed great respect to Gideon.  They offered him the opportunity to be the King of Israel.  Again, Gideon showed wisdom in refusing them and telling them that they had one king, and they should be led by God.   We begin this weeks study in Chapter 9 by looking at the conspiracy of Abimelech.


I.                    The Conspiracy of Abimelech 

Judg 9:1  And Abimelech the son of Jerubbaal went to Shechem unto his mother's brethren, and communed with them, and with all the family of the house of his mother's father, saying,

Judg 9:2  Speak, I pray you, in the ears of all the men of Shechem, Whether is better for you, either that all the sons of Jerubbaal, which are threescore and ten persons, reign over you, or that one reign over you? remember also that I am your bone and your flesh. 

Abimelech was not a judge and he did not deliver the country from any outside oppressor.  He was crowned as a king in Shechem and reigned for three years.  He died a humiliating death as punishment from God.  The kingship had been offered to the father of Abimelech and he refused it stating that God would rule over Israel.  For whatever reason, after Gideon’s death, he set out to become the king.  Not all of the nation agreed to make him king, just those in Shechem.  Abimelech went to his uncle there in Shechem and asked if it would not be better for him to be their ruler than to have all 70 of Gideon’s sons rule over them. 

Judg 9:3  And his mother's brethren spake of him in the ears of all the men of Shechem all these words: and their hearts inclined to follow Abimelech; for they said, He is our brother. 

Abimelech pours out a pretty convincing story, stating that he is of their own flesh and bone.  The uncles speak favorably for him there in verse 3. 

Judg 9:4  And they gave him threescore and ten pieces of silver out of the house of Baalberith, wherewith Abimelech hired vain and light persons, which followed him. 

It says in verse 4 that they gave Abimelech seventy pieces of silver out of the temple of Baal-berith.  With this money, Abimelech hires a bunch of bad characters to do his own bidding.  We are taught over in Proverbs that a good name is rather to be chosen than great riches. 

Prov 22:1  A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold.  

Judg 9:5  And he went unto his father's house at Ophrah, and slew his brethren the sons of Jerubbaal, being threescore and ten persons, upon one stone: notwithstanding yet Jotham the youngest son of Jerubbaal was left; for he hid himself. 

 He takes these men to Ophrah and there rounds up the sons of Gideon and slew them on one stone in cold blooded murder.   Power will make people do some really horrible things.  Baal-berith means “lord of the covenant”, and is a obvious blasphemy against the true God of the covenant. 

Judg 9:6  And all the men of Shechem gathered together, and all the house of Millo, and went, and made Abimelech king, by the plain of the pillar that was in Shechem. 

The men of Shechem proclaim Abimelech king in the plains of Shechem beside the altar Joshua had erected when the Israelites had pledged themselves to serve the Lord.  This was also a mockery of the covenant with the Lord. 

Jotham, the youngest son escaped by hiding himself. 

II.                 The Opposition of Jotham 

Judg 9:7  And when they told it to Jotham, he went and stood in the top of mount Gerizim, and lifted up his voice, and cried, and said unto them, Hearken unto me, ye men of Shechem, that God may hearken unto you. 

Jotham was the son of Gideon that had escaped when Abimelech slew the other sons of Gideon.  He set himself to oppose the murderer in any way that he could.  You and I have a responsibility to speak out against evil also.  Too many today stand by idly and never speak when people do things that are an affront to God.  If you are asked about abortion, you need to tell others that a child is precious in God’s sight.  A child formed in the image of God.  We need to stand up and speak against evil.  It has been said for evil to flourish, all it takes is for good men and women to stay silent.   Jotham speaks up when he sees the evil intentions of Abimelech in Shechem.  He came to warn the people.  Jotham did not enter the city, but took a position on the side of Mt. Gerizim. 

Judg 9:8  The trees went forth on a time to anoint a king over them; and they said unto the olive tree, Reign thou over us. 

Jotham speaks a parable to the people of Shechem.  We know that Jesus, the greatest teacher of all time, many times spoke in parables to make his points.  This parable was directed toward the men of Shechem to make them think again about accepting Abimelech as their king.  In verse 8, the parable spoke of a group of trees choosing one of their own number to rule them.  The kingship was first offered to the olive tree, but this tree refused by asking why it should leave its “fatness”, for which the people give honor to both God and man, simply to be promoted over the trees.  We remember what Gideon said when the people came and asked him and his sons to become king.  He knew who needed to be king, and it was not a man. 

Judg 8:23  And Gideon said unto them, I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you: the LORD shall rule over you. 

Then the position was offered to the fig tree, but this tree refused by asking why it should leave its “sweetness” and “good fruit” to be promoted.  I’ll add that this is our choice when we decide to follow after Satan and sin.  God has the perfect life laid our for His people, but when we go the way of the physical, earthly man, we turn away from the sweet life.  If we don’t control this physical body, it will control us.  God help us to take up our cross and crucify the flesh each day. 

Matthew Henry had some good comments about Jotham. 

We have here the only testimony that appears to have been borne against the wicked confederacy of Abimelech and the men of Shechem. It was a sign they had provoked God to depart from them that neither any prophet was sent nor any remarkable judgment, to awaken this stupid people, and to stop the progress of this threatening mischief. Only Jotham, the youngest son of Gideon, who by a special providence escaped the common ruin of his family (v. 5), dealt plainly with the Shechemites, and his speech, which is here recorded, shows him to have been a man of such great ingenuity and wisdom, and really such an accomplished gentleman, that we cannot but the more lament the fall of Gideon’s sons. Jotham did not go about to raise an army out of the other cities of Israel (in which, one would think, he might have made a good interest for his father’s sake), to avenge his brethren’s death, much less to set up himself in competition with Abimelech, so groundless was the usurper’s suggestion that the sons of Gideon aimed at dominion (v. 2); but he contents himself with giving a faithful reproof to the Shechemites, and fair warning of the fatal consequences.

His preface is very serious: "Hearken unto me, you men of Shechem, that God may hearken unto you, v. 7. As ever you hope to obtain God’s favour, and to be accepted of him, give me a patient and impartial hearing.’’ Note, Those who expect God to hear their prayers must be willing to hear reason, to hear a faithful reproof, and to hear the complaints and appeals of wronged innocency. If we turn away our ear from hearing the law, our prayer will be an abomination, Prov. 28:9.  [1] 

Judg 9:9  But the olive tree said unto them, Should I leave my fatness, wherewith by me they honour God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees?

Judg 9:10  And the trees said to the fig tree, Come thou, and reign over us.

Judg 9:11  But the fig tree said unto them, Should I forsake my sweetness, and my good fruit, and go to be promoted over the trees?

Judg 9:12  Then said the trees unto the vine, Come thou, and reign over us.

Judg 9:13  And the vine said unto them, Should I leave my wine, which cheereth God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees?

Judg 9:14  Then said all the trees unto the bramble, Come thou, and reign over us.

Judg 9:15  And the bramble said unto the trees, If in truth ye anoint me king over you, then come and put your trust in my shadow: and if not, let fire come out of the bramble, and devour the cedars of Lebanon. 

Each of these important, fruit-producers refused the kingship offered them, on the basis that they had more important functions to perform.  One of the greatest temptations our Lord had to face by Satan was when he offered to setup Christ as the one the people would truly follow.  Thank God Jesus refused that temptation. 

Luke 4:5  And the devil, taking him up into an high mountain, showed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time.

Luke 4:6  And the devil said unto him, All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it.

Luke 4:7  If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine.

Luke 4:8  And Jesus answered and said unto him, Get thee behind me, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. 

After all the worthy plants and parts of the vine refuse the offer, at last the lowly bramble accepted the position.  I think this speaks of how low that Abimelech was viewed in God’s sight.  Not only did he accept the position, but said “Put your trust in my shadow” and if not let fire come out of the bramble and devour the cedars of Lebanon. 

Judg 9:16  Now therefore, if ye have done truly and sincerely, in that ye have made Abimelech king, and if ye have dealt well with Jerubbaal and his house, and have done unto him according to the deserving of his hands; 

After speaking in a parable, Jotham now explains the meaning of the parable.

The Shechemites, in crowning Abimelech as king, had chosen one who was like the bramble, in comparison to the olive tree, the fig tree, and the grape vine.  The bramble was basically worthless, hardly good enough for burning as fuel, while the others all produced fine fruit.   

Judg 9:17  (For my father fought for you, and adventured his life far, and delivered you out of the hand of Midian: 

Jotham reminded the people of the fine character of Gideon in contrast to his son, speaking in particular about the great Midianite victory. 

Judg 9:18  And ye are risen up against my father's house this day, and have slain his sons, threescore and ten persons, upon one stone, and have made Abimelech, the son of his maidservant, king over the men of Shechem, because he is your brother;)

Judg 9:19  If ye then have dealt truly and sincerely with Jerubbaal and with his house this day, then rejoice ye in Abimelech, and let him also rejoice in you:

Judg 9:20  But if not, let fire come out from Abimelech, and devour the men of Shechem, and the house of Millo; and let fire come out from the men of Shechem, and from the house of Millo, and devour Abimelech.

Judg 9:21  And Jotham ran away, and fled, and went to Beer, and dwelt there, for fear of Abimelech his brother

Jotham closes in declaring that they had displayed terrible ingratitude toward Gideon by now crowning the one who had done the awful act, and he announces a curse on them as a result.  He called for destroying fire to go forth from Abimelech to devour the Shechemites and for the same to go forth and devour Abimelech.  After this, it says he fled to Beer.   This parable was the first one used in the bible.  Later, in II Samuel, Nathan used a parable in confronting David with his sin concerning Bathsheba. 

2 Sam 12:1  And the LORD sent Nathan unto David. And he came unto him, and said unto him, There were two men in one city; the one rich, and the other poor.

2 Sam 12:2  The rich man had exceeding many flocks and herds:

2 Sam 12:3  But the poor man had nothing, save one little ewe lamb, which he had bought and nourished up: and it grew up together with him, and with his children; it did eat of his own meat, and drank of his own cup, and lay in his bosom, and was unto him as a daughter.

2 Sam 12:4  And there came a traveller unto the rich man, and he spared to take of his own flock and of his own herd, to dress for the wayfaring man that was come unto him; but took the poor man's lamb, and dressed it for the man that was come to him.

2 Sam 12:5  And David's anger was greatly kindled against the man; and he said to Nathan, As the LORD liveth, the man that hath done this thing shall surely die:

2 Sam 12:6  And he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.

2 Sam 12:7  And Nathan said to David, Thou art the man. Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, I anointed thee king over Israel, and I delivered thee out of the hand of Saul;


J. Vernon McGee said this about Abimelech. 

Obviously, Abimelech is a wicked and brutal man. He does a horrible thing here.

Some Bible expositors rate Abimelech as a judge. He may have been a judge, at least it is said that he “reigned three years over Israel.” He brutally murdered the seventy sons of Gideon and set himself up as king. His abortive reign reveals, I feel, the truth of the statement in Daniel: “… the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men” (Dan. 4:17). Even today when a good ruler comes into office, many folk say, “God raised him up.” What about the wicked ruler? God permits him to come to the throne also. Do you know why? Because the principle is “like priest, like people.” That is, people get the ruler they deserve. The people of Israel wanted this boy Abimelech to rule over them; and they got the caliber of man they deserved. Friend, when we look around our world today, we find this principle is still true. 

Now we find that God judges Abimelech for the awful thing he did, and He also judges the men of Shechem for making him king and starting him out on such a course. Civil war ensued because there were many people who did not want Abimelech, of course.  [2] 

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Prov 4:18  But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day. 




Practice Random Acts of Kindness.  Each act spreads, and many will be blessed.


[1]Henry, Matthew, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Bible, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers) 1997.

[2]J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible commentary [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1981 by J. Vernon McGee.