Judges – Lesson 12


Judges Chapter 9:21-57




In first half of chapter 9, we saw Gideon’s son, Abimelech decide that he wanted to be the earthly king of the nation of Israel after his father had clearly stated that neither he nor his sons should be their king.  Only the town of Shechem agreed to have him as their king, but even this was very wrong in God’s sight.  He put to death his brothers, and went on to find a very hard life ahead of him.  We will soon learn from Abimelech’s life that seeking worldly power and fame may lead to heartache and sometimes an early death.


III.  Opposition of Shechemites


Judg 9:22  When Abimelech had reigned three years over Israel,

Judg 9:23  Then God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the men of Shechem; and the men of Shechem dealt treacherously with Abimelech:


For three years the Shechemites continued to follow Abimelech as he desired, in spite of Jotham’s warning.   At this time, Abimelech did not live in their town, but lived in Arumak which was about five miles southeast of Shechem. (Jud 9:41)  God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the men of Shechem.


Judg 9:24  That the cruelty done to the threescore and ten sons of Jerubbaal might come, and their blood be laid upon Abimelech their brother, which slew them; and upon the men of Shechem, which aided him in the killing of his brethren.

Judg 9:25  And the men of Shechem set liers in wait for him in the top of the mountains, and they robbed all that came along that way by them: and it was told Abimelech.


The leaders of Shechem began to place “liers in wait” for Abimelech in the “top of the mountains.”  Most likely these were in Mt. Gerizim and Mt. Ebal.  This was done to observe Abimelech’s activities more closely.  Those caravans that came through the area were plundered which would bring discredit to Abimelech.  It was not long until it was known that there was going to be a showdown.


Judg 9:26  And Gaal the son of Ebed came with his brethren, and went over to Shechem: and the men of Shechem put their confidence in him.


Gaal arrives in Shechem, most assuredly under God’s providential guidance, and the leaders turn to him as a friend in need.  Gaal saw the trouble and when the opportunity arrived, he challenged the people to revolt fully against Abimelech and make him the head.  Always be sure, there is some other person standing on the outside, hoping to take over when power is involved.


Matthew Henry pointed out that God turned the Shechemites against Abimelech.


Three years Abimelech reigned, after a sort, without any disturbance; it is not said, He judged Israel, or did any service at all to his country, but so long he enjoyed the title and dignity of a king; and not only the Shechemites, but many other places, paid him respect. They must have been fond of a king that could please themselves with such a one as this. But the triumphing of the wicked is short. Within three years, as the years of a hireling, all this glory shall be contemned, and laid in the dust, Isa. 16:14. The ruin of these confederates in wickedness was from the righteous hand of the God to whom vengeance belongs. He sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the Shechemites (v. 23), that is, they grew jealous one of another and ill-affected one to another. He slighted those that set him up, and perhaps countenanced other cities which now began to come into his interests more than he did theirs; and then they grew uneasy at his government, blamed his conduct, and quarreled at his impositions. This was from God. He permitted the devil, that great mischief-maker, to sow discord between them, and he is an evil spirit, whom God not only keeps under his check, but sometimes serves his own purposes by. Their own lusts were evil spirits; they are devils in men’s own hearts; from them come wars and fightings. These God gave them up to, and so might be said to send the evil spirits between them. When men’s sin is made their punishment, though God is not the author of the sin, yet the punishment is from him. The quarrel God had with Abimelech and the Shechemites was for the murder of the sons of Gideon (v. 24): That the cruelty done to them might come and their blood be laid as a burden upon Abimelech that slew them, and the men of Shechem that helped him. Note, 1. Sooner or later God will make inquisition for blood, innocent blood, and will return it on the heads of those that shed it, who shall have blood given them to drink, for they are worthy. 2. Accessaries shall be reckoned with, as well as principals, in that and other sins. The Shechemites that countenanced Abimelech’s pretensions, aided and abetted him in his bloody project, and avowed the fact by making him king after he had done it, must fall with him, fall by him, and fall first.   [1]



Judg 9:27  And they went out into the fields, and gathered their vineyards, and trode the grapes, and made merry, and went into the house of their god, and did eat and drink, and cursed Abimelech.

Judg 9:28  And Gaal the son of Ebed said, Who is Abimelech, and who is Shechem, that we should serve him? is not he the son of Jerubbaal? and Zebul his officer? serve the men of Hamor the father of Shechem: for why should we serve him?

Judg 9:29  And would to God this people were under my hand! then would I remove Abimelech. And he said to Abimelech, Increase thine army, and come out.


Gaal asks that he be permitted to release Zebul who was Abimelech’s representative in the city.  No indication was given regarding the response of the people at this time.  But at least Gaal raised questions in their minds in respect to Zebul’s true loyalties.  He seems also to have tried to unite the loyalties of the Shechemites with his statement “serve the men of Hamor the father of Shechem.   Gaal also uses the term to sway the people in verse 29 of “Would to God this people were under my hand.”  He states that if he was the leader, he would remove Abimelech, and pretty much challenges Abimelech to come out to war.  I can’t think of a person seeking a high office who does not think they can do a better job than the man or woman in the position currently.


IV.               Battle with Abimelech


Judg 9:30  And when Zebul the ruler of the city heard the words of Gaal the son of Ebed, his anger was kindled.

Judg 9:31  And he sent messengers unto Abimelech privily, saying, Behold, Gaal the son of Ebed and his brethren be come to Shechem; and, behold, they fortify the city against thee.

Judg 9:32  Now therefore up by night, thou and the people that is with thee, and lie in wait in the field:

Judg 9:33  And it shall be, that in the morning, as soon as the sun is up, thou shalt rise early, and set upon the city: and, behold, when he and the people that is with him come out against thee, then mayest thou do to them as thou shalt find occasion.

Judg 9:34  And Abimelech rose up, and all the people that were with him, by night, and they laid wait against Shechem in four companies.


Zebul sent word to Abimelech regarding the developing opposition in Shechem and urges Abimelech to come quickly and attack the city.  He acts in accordance to the advice given.  He could not attack the city directly because it was walled and had a gate.  He had to wait until the people came out of the city to attack them.


Judg 9:35  And Gaal the son of Ebed went out, and stood in the entering of the gate of the city: and Abimelech rose up, and the people that were with him, from lying in wait.

Judg 9:36  And when Gaal saw the people, he said to Zebul, Behold, there come people down from the top of the mountains. And Zebul said unto him, Thou seest the shadow of the mountains as if they were men.


Gaal saw the army of Abimelech moving on the mountainside.  Zebul tried to make Gaal believe he was just seeing a shadow rather than real men.  When Gaal was certain of what he saw, Zebul openly challenged him to go out and fight with Abimelech and make good on his words.


Judg 9:37  And Gaal spake again and said, See there come people down by the middle of the land, and another company come along by the plain of Meonenim.

Judg 9:38  Then said Zebul unto him, Where is now thy mouth, wherewith thou saidst, Who is Abimelech, that we should serve him? is not this the people that thou hast despised? go out, I pray now, and fight with them.

Judg 9:39  And Gaal went out before the men of Shechem, and fought with Abimelech.

Judg 9:40  And Abimelech chased him, and he fled before him, and many were overthrown and wounded, even unto the entering of the gate.

Judg 9:41  And Abimelech dwelt at Arumah: and Zebul thrust out Gaal and his brethren, that they should not dwell in Shechem.


Gaal moved out with his men and they were defeated.  Many of Gaal’s troops were killed, but, worst of all, both for himself and Shechem, Zebul was now able to discredit Gaal before the Shechemites and have him expelled from the city.  Without a doubt, Gaal’s pride played an important part in his defeat.


Prov 16:18  Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.

Prov 16:19  Better it is to be of an humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud.

Prov 16:20  He that handleth a matter wisely shall find good: and whoso trusteth in the LORD, happy is he.



VI.  Abimelech Destroys Shechem


Judg 9:42  And it came to pass on the morrow, that the people went out into the field; and they told Abimelech.


With Gaal now driven from the city, Abimelech could do almost as he pleased in bringing full destruction on the city.  He waited to do this after the expulsion of Gaal.


Judg 9:43  And he took the people, and divided them into three companies, and laid wait in the field, and looked, and, behold, the people were come forth out of the city; and he rose up against them, and smote them.

Judg 9:44  And Abimelech, and the company that was with him, rushed forward, and stood in the entering of the gate of the city: and the two other companies ran upon all the people that were in the fields, and slew them.


Abimelech took his troops and divided them and when the time was right, he gave the signal and his men attacked the Shechemites.  After the attack in the field, they moved to the gates and cut off the way into the city.  Abimelech then moves into the city and fights from within. 


Judg 9:45  And Abimelech fought against the city all that day; and he took the city, and slew the people that was therein, and beat down the city, and sowed it with salt.

Judg 9:46  And when all the men of the tower of Shechem heard that, they entered into an hold of the house of the god Berith.

Judg 9:47  And it was told Abimelech, that all the men of the tower of Shechem were gathered together.

Judg 9:48  And Abimelech gat him up to mount Zalmon, he and all the people that were with him; and Abimelech took an ax in his hand, and cut down a bough from the trees, and took it, and laid it on his shoulder, and said unto the people that were with him, What ye have seen me do, make haste, and do as I have done.

Judg 9:49  And all the people likewise cut down every man his bough, and followed Abimelech, and put them to the hold, and set the hold on fire upon them; so that all the men of the tower of Shechem died also, about a thousand men and women.


The Lord of Shechem fled as well as those that lived in the tower of Shechem.  The fled from the house of Millo to the temple of their god, which was called “El-berith.”  Abimelech and his men bring branches from the trees and set them on fire against the wall of the temple.    This fire brought about the death of 1,000 men and women.  This really showed his true character, and how horrible a mistake it was for the people to make him their king.


VII.            The Death of Abimelech at Thebez


Judg 9:50  Then went Abimelech to Thebez, and encamped against Thebez, and took it.

Judg 9:51  But there was a strong tower within the city, and thither fled all the men and women, and all they of the city, and shut it to them, and gat them up to the top of the tower.

Judg 9:52  And Abimelech came unto the tower, and fought against it, and went hard unto the door of the tower to burn it with fire.

Judg 9:53  And a certain woman cast a piece of a millstone upon Abimelech's head, and all to brake his skull.

Judg 9:54  Then he called hastily unto the young man his armourbearer, and said unto him, Draw thy sword, and slay me, that men say not of me, A woman slew him. And his young man thrust him through, and he died.


When the central city of Shechem was destroyed, Abimelech moved against the neighboring city, Thebez.  Apparently, a distrust of him had developed in this city also.  Abimelech desired to bring vengeance of the same kind on Thebez.  The main part of the city was easily taken, and many of the people fled for refuge to a “strong tower” located there.  We see a similar pattern as he sets fire at the door to burn it down with the intentions of destroying the people.    While Abimelech was near the wall a certain woman cast a piece of millstone upon Abimelech’s head.  He called for one of his soldiers to draw a word and slay him so he would not be remembered as being killed by a woman.  It did not stop the truth.


Judg 9:55  And when the men of Israel saw that Abimelech was dead, they departed every man unto his place.

Judg 9:56  Thus God rendered the wickedness of Abimelech, which he did unto his father, in slaying his seventy brethren:

Judg 9:57  And all the evil of the men of Shechem did God render upon their heads: and upon them came the curse of Jotham the son of Jerubbaal.



When the men of Israel saw that Abimelech was dead, they departed every man to his own place.  Jotham pronounced a serious curse on both Abimelech and the people of Shechem.  Evil does befall them.



J. Vernon McGee pointed out the sadness of this death and its reflection upon Gideon.


This is a sad ending for the life of Gideon who fathered this illegitimate son, Abimelech. God lifted Gideon from a very humble position to be the deliverer and judge of His people. How sad that a man who accomplished so much good should allow this in his life of which God did not approve and which resulted in civil war in Israel.   [2]


Gal 6:7  Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.

Gal 6:8  For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.



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[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.