21 May. Judges 9:22-49

21 May. Abimelech crushes Gaal’s rebellion and destroys Shechem

“Abimelech ruled Israel for three years. Then God sent an evil spirit to make trouble between Abimelech and the leaders of Shechem so that the leaders of Shechem turned against him…”

“A man named Gaal son of Ebed and his brothers moved into Shechem, and the leaders of Shechem trusted him. They went out to the vineyards to pick grapes, and they squeezed the grapes. Then they had a feast in the temple of their god [Baal Berith] where they ate and drank and cursed Abimelech.”

“Gaal 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? If 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.”’”

“Now when Zebul, the ruler of Shechem, heard what Gaal son of Ehud said, he was very angry. He sent messengers to Abimelech, saying, ‘Gaal son of Ebed and Gaal’s brothers have come to Shechem, and they are turning the city against you. You and your men should get up during the night and hide in the fields outside the city. As 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.’”

“So Abimelech and all his soldiers got up during the night and hid near Shechem in four groups. Gaal 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… So Gaal led the men of Shechem out to fight Abimelech. Abimelech and his men chased them, and many of Gaal’s men were killed before they could get back to the city gate…”

“While Abimelech stayed at Arumah, Zebel forced Gaal and his brothers to leave Shechem. The next day the people of Shechem went out to the fields. When Abimelech was told about it, he 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.”

“Abimelech 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. Abimelech 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 [to stop the crops growing] over the ruins.”

“When the leaders who were in the Tower of Shechem heard what had happened to Shechem, they gathered in the safest room in the temple of El Berith [the Temple of Baal Berith]. Abimelech heard that all the leaders of the Tower of Shechem had gathered there.”

“So he and all his men went up Mount Zalmon, near Shechem. Abimelech took an axe and cut some branches and put them on his shoulders. He said to all those with him, ‘Hurry! Do what I have done!’ So all those men cut branches and followed Abimelech and piled them against the safest room in 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 1,000 men and women.”

          (Judges 9:22-49)



In today’s passage from the Book of Judges, we follow the disastrous reign of Abimelech –the first King of Israel.

After three years of misrule by Abimelech (Gideon’s son by his slave girl), another Israelite leader - Gaal – persuaded the majority of the citizens of Shechem to rise in rebellion against their ‘chosen’ king.

But not everyone joined the rebellion, and Zebel (whom Abimelech had installed as the town’s ruler), mounted a counter-offensive. After Zebel and Abimelech’s followers had decimated Gaal’s army and driven Gaal and his brothers out of the city, Abimelech launched a surprise attack and killed the working people of Shechem while they were tending their fields outside the city gate.

After this appalling and merciless bloodbath, the terrified rebel leaders and their families took shelter in the most secure building in town - the Temple of Baal-Berith.

Abimelech, not to be outmanoeuvred, demolished the whole town, and attacked the Temple of Baal-Berith (also known as ‘Migdol Shechem’ – the Tower of Shechem) where a thousand wealthier inhabitants of Shechem had sought shelter by barricading themselves inside.

Unable to gain entrance to the room where the rebels were hiding, Abimelech set fire to the whole temple building and burnt a thousand men, women and children alive.

The photo (by עדירל ) shows Tel Shechem (at middle left), the site of the ‘Tower of Shechem’ (the Temple of Baal-Berith), in the centre of modern-day Nablus.

You can read more about the reign of Abimelech @ https://www.thebiblejourney.org/biblejourney2/28-the-israelites-face-continuing-opposition/abimelech-becomes-king/

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