Judges 9 Commentary


Judges 9-12 Integrity, Conviction, Courage - Kay Arthur

Judges 9 Bible for Home and School

Judges 9 Biblical Illustrator

Judges 9 - Jim Bomkamp

Judges 9 - Cambridge Bible Commentary

Judges 9 - Iain Campbell

Judges 7-9 - Rich Cathers

Judges 9 - Adam Clarke

Judges Commentary Notes - Thomas Constable

Judges 9 The Cruel Bramble King - W A Criswell

Judges 9 Abimelech - Ron Daniel

Judges - 25 Mp3's from Believers Chapel, Dallas - Dan Duncan

Commentary on Judges - A C Gaebelein

Judges 9 - John Gill Commentary

Comments on the Book of Judges - L M Grant

Judges 9-12 - Joe Guglielmo

Judges 9 - Dave Guzik Commentary

Judges 8:33 - 9:7 - Dave Hatcher

Judges 9 - Matthew Henry Commentary

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Judges 9 - Jamieson, Fausset, Brown Commentary

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Judges 9 Keil & Delitzsch Commentary

Judges - Lectures on the book of Judges - William Kelley

Judges 9 - Pictorial Bible - John Kitto - Interesting!

Judges 9 - Daily Bible Illustrations - A King - John Kitto

Judges 9:8-16 - Daily Bible Illustrations - A Parable - John Kitto

Judges 8:33-35: Web of Conspiracy - Woodrow Kroll

Judges 9 Lange's Commentary

Judges 9:1-57 - Mp3's - J Vernon McGee

Judges 9:3 Our Daily Homily - F B Meyer

Judges 9 Abimelech the Usurper - F B Meyer

Judges 9 Commentary - Net Bible Notes

Judges 8:29-9:57 The Fruit of Unfaithfulness - Phil Newton

Judges 9:1-6 Exposition - Pulpit Commentary

Judges 9:1-6 Homiletics

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Judges 9:7-21 Exposition - Pulpit Commentary

Judges 9:7-21 Homiletics

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Judges 9:22-57 Exposition - Pulpit Commentary

Judges 9:22-57 Homiletics

Judges 9:22-57 Homilies

Judges 9 All We Are Meant to Be - Ron Ritchie

Judges 9:1-57 - Abimelech, or the Usurpation of Authority - Henri Rossi

Judges 8:22 - 9 - Rob Salvato

Judges 9:7-15 Jotham's Parable - Sermon by Charles Simeon

Judges 8-14 - Transcripts; Judges 8-14 - Mp3's - Chuck Smith

Judges 9 Commentary - Speaker's Commentary

Judges 9:8, 9 The Faithful Olive Tree - C H Spurgeon

Judges 9:9 The Faithful Olive Tree - Sermon Notes - C H Spurgeon

Judges 9:1-25 Devotional - Today in the Word

Judges 8:29-9:57 Expositor's Bible Commentary -Abimelech and Jotham - R A Watson

Judges 8,9 From Triumph To Tragedy - Steve Zeisler

Judges 9 Commentary

Judges 9:1 And Abimelech the son of Jerubbaal went to Shechem to his mother's relatives, and spoke to them and to the whole clan of the household of his mother's father, saying,

Abimelech (KJV): Jdg 8:31

Shechem (KJV): Ge 33:18 34:2 1Ki 12:1

communed (KJV): 2Sa 15:6 1Ki 12:3,20 Ps 83:2-4 Jer 18:18)


This story takes place in the CENTRAL part of Israel and portrays the spiritual condition in that area. This is in fact the only story in Judges which depicts the central region.

Deborah & Gideon took place in north, Ehud & Othniel in SE & S, Jephthah E of the Jordan, and Samson in SW. In this chapter we see that the apostasy of Israel after the death of Gideon is punished, not as the former apostasies by a foreign invasion, or the oppressions of any neighboring power, but by conflict within. Interestingly in after Judges 8 Gideon's name per se is never mentioned again. In Judges 9 he is always called Jerubbaal!

One major theme of this sequel to the Gideon episode is divine retribution as is made clear by Jdg 9:23, 24 and Jdg 9:56, 57]. It is an account of how God allowed the evil that Abimelech and the men of Shechem sowed to be reaped and to rebound upon their own heads.

Abimelech's going to Shechem to incite its leaders to conspire with him against the sons of Jerub-Baal (i.e. of Gideon) (Jdg 9:1,2) was answered by Gaal's arrival in Shechem to incite its leaders to conspire with him against Abimelech (Jdg 9:26, 27, 28, 29). The ambush set by the men of Shechem (Jdg 9:25) was answered by the ambush set against them by Abimelech (Jdg 9:34). Finally, Abimelech himself, who killed his brothers on a stone (Jdg 9:5, 18) was killed beside a stone which was dropped on his head by an unnamed woman at Thebez (Jdg 9:53,54). So in the unfolding story, under God's overruling providence, act answers to act and evil to evil, until the chief instigator of the evil, Abimelech, is himself struck down. Thereupon his followers, as if waking from a bad dream, down their weapons and go home without completing their assault on Thebez (Jdg 9:55).

SHECHEM was the main city of the central region, located in a fertile valley between Mt Ebal & Gerizim, on a strategic crossroad of the route from the coastal highway in the west to the Jordan Valley in the E and the ridge route from Jerusalem in the S to the northern sites in the Jezreel Valley. It had a hallowed place in Israel's history & had been a religious center since the time of Abraham: Yahweh first revealed Himself to Abraham at oak of Moreh in Shechem on his arrival from Haran (Ge12:6,7), Jacob lived at Shechem (Ge33:18, 19, 20), & Joshua led the Israelites to Shechem during the time of the conquest for a recitation of the blessings (on Mt Gerizim) & cursings (on Mt Ebal) of the Law (Jos8:30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35) and finally it was also the site of the further covenant renewal ceremony before Joshua’s death (Jos24:1-28). Under Joshua Shechem was both a Levitical city and a city of refuge. What a tragic blot the tale of Abimelech leaves on such a notable city in Israel's history.

Shechem was about 30 miles from Ophrah where Gideon's concubine (Abimelech's mother) lived with her famility.


In the ancient East since CONCUBINES usually remained with their own clan the son of a concubine had a closer relationship to his mother’s family than to his father’s.

Judges 9:2 "Speak, now, in the hearing of all the leaders of Shechem, 'Which is better for you, that seventy men, all the sons of Jerubbaal, rule over you, or that one man rule over you?' Also, remember that I am your bone and your flesh."

(Whether (KJV): etc. Heb. What is good whether (KJV): etc

threescore (KJV): Jdg 8:30

your bone (KJV): Ge 29:14 2Sa 19:13 1Ch 11:1 Eph 5:30 Heb 2:14 )


Abimelech may have been shunned by his half-brothers

ALL THE SONS OF JERUBBAAL RULE OVER YOU ("nor shall my son rule over you" Jug 8:23, 35) OR THAT ONE MAN RULE OVER YOU:

“You shall not covet” is the last of the Ten Commandments (Ex20:17), but breaking it is the first step toward breaking the other nine. Of itself, ambition isn’t an evil thing, provided it’s mixed with genuine humility and is controlled by the will of God. If it’s God’s wind that lifts you and you’re soaring on wings that He’s given you, then fly as high as He takes you. But if you manufacture both the wind and the wings, you’re heading for a terrible fall. Selfish ambition destroys. “I will ascend into heaven!” turned an angel into the devil (Isa14:13), and “Is not this great Babylon, that I have built” turned a king into an animal (Da 4:28-37). If we exalt ourselves, God has many ways of bringing us down (Mt23:12).


Hebrew idiom is actually "flesh and bone" so NIV is incorrect here ("flesh & blood")

Abimelech had 2 reasons he should be "elected" king - one would be better than 70 and after all he was part "Shechemite". The implication is that he would thus give special attention to the local interests of the people in Shechem, a common campaign promise in most every political effort. But every political campaign faces obstacles and he had 3 - what to do with 70 other candidates for office? Where to secure his campaign funds? Where would he find support personnel to carry out the evil mission taking shape in his mind?

Judges 9:3 And his mother's relatives spoke all these words on his behalf in the hearing of all the leaders of Shechem; and they were inclined to follow Abimelech, for they said, "He is our relative."

spake (KJV): Ps 10:3 Pr 1:11-14

to follow (KJV): Heb. after our brother (KJV): Ge 29:15

AND HIS MOTHER'S: That is Gideon's concubine

AND THEY WERE INCLINED (KJV more literal = "hearts inclined") TO FOLLOW ABIMELECH:

Abimelech was not a God appointed judge of Israel. Neither did he deliver the nation from outside invaders as did the other rulers who preceded him. He was a self-appointed opportunist who had an inordinate lust for power and who committed a terrible atrocity in connection with his consuming desire to be king.


The men of Shechem chose Abimelech "king". God was not consulted whether they should have any king, much less who it should be. If parents could see what their children would do, and what they are to suffer, their joy in them often would be turned into sorrow: we may be thankful that we cannot know what shall happen. Above all, we should fear and watch against sin; for our evil conduct may produce fatal effects upon our families, after we are in our graves.

William Penn wrote

"If we are not willing to be governed by God, we shall be ruled by tyrants."

British historian Thomas Macaulay, made the following comment about America:

"Your republic will be fearfully plundered and laid waste by barbarians in the 20th century, with this difference: The Huns and the Vandals who ransacked Rome were from without, and your huns and vandals will come from within your own country and be engendered from within by your own institutions."

During the Judges the Israelites repeatedly refused to be governed by God & the consequences in this chapter is that they ended up being ruled by a tyrant. It was a judgment from God for their unfaithful, wayward hearts. But this time the chastisement was from within and not from without.

Jeremiah warned faithless Jerusalem that…

"Your own wickedness will correct you, and your apostasies will reprove you. Know therefore and see that it is evil and bitter for you to forsake the LORD your God, and the dread of Me is not in you," declares the Lord GOD of hosts.

(Jer 2:19).

Judges 9:3
F B Meyer
Our Daily Homily

Their hearts inclined to follow Abimelech; for they said, He is our brother.

Is not this the reason why God has set us in families? Had He so chosen, each of us might have been created alone as Adam was, and sent out with no special connection with others of our race. But instead, we are closely connected. It is very rarely that a man is so utterly bereaved as to be destitute of some relative.

Between a man and his brother there is a special tie. It may be truly said, in the case of brothers, that a doorway has been made through the walls which ordinarily part men, which may be bricked up or filled with debris; but the wall there will always be thinner than anywhere else, and some day the doorway may be opened for the passage of the messenger of peace. Men are always more inclined to follow the man of whom they can say, “He is our brother.” Brotherhood, sisterhood, relationship of any kind, is therefore a very precious talent; and it becomes us solemnly to ask ourselves whether it has been put to use. Have you ever spoken or written to your brother or sister about Christ?

As soon as Andrew had found Jesus, he started off to find his own brother Simon; and Simon was glad to follow him because he was his brother. Had another tried, it is as likely as not that he would have repelled him. But what could he say to the man who had shared his childhood’s sports, and had helped him haul in a net of fish many a time after a night of hard work?

This is the reason that Jesus has so strong a hold on human hearts. He is our brother, bone of our bone; not ashamed to call us brethren; and this constitutes a moving argument why we should be inclined to follow Him.

Judges 9:4 And they gave him seventy pieces of silver from the house of Baal-berith with which Abimelech hired worthless and reckless fellows, and they followed him.

house (KJV): Jdg 9:46-49 8:33,

worthless - Jdg 11:3 1Sa 22:2 2Ch 13:7 Job 30:8 Pr 12:11 Ac 17:5


"House" equates with a temple of idolatrous worship. Ancient temples were often the source of great amounts of wealth and temple treasures were often used for military and political ends.

Baal-berith: The previous account of Gideon reveals that Baal worship was prevalent in the Plain of Esdraelon, an area ruled by Canaanites until the victory of Barak. Shechem however was to the South of the Esdraelon Plain in the Hill Country less than 12 miles N of Shiloh (Jdg 18:31), which at that time was actually the home of God's tabernacle! How tragic that here was an outpost of Baal worship so close to the holy place of Jehovah and that it even had a deceptive name "Lord of the Covenant", a title that alone belonged to Yahweh as clearly demonstrated by the renewal of the covenant in Shechem in Joshua's time (Jos 8:30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35).

“You shall have no other gods before Me” and “You shall not make for yourself any carved image” are the first and second of the Ten Commandments (Ex20:3–4, NKJV), and Abimelech broke them both. It’s obvious that he was his own god and that he had no interest in God’s will for the nation. His accepting money from the Baal worshipers to finance his crusade was a public announcement that he had renounced the God of Israel and was on the side of Baal.


Worthless (req) literally means empty or vain and indicates something that has nothing in it. Here it is used figuratively to describe the moral character of these men as "empty", as are all who are still in Adam.

The Septuagint translates "worthless" with the Greek word "kenos" which conveys the idea that these men were without usefulness or success (our modern day slang term might be "losers"). They were men in whom there was nothing of truth, who could not be depended upon, whose deeds did not correspond to their words, who were boasters and imposters. These hired scoundrels were willing to do anything for silver, even murder.

"Reckless" (pahaz) means to be undisciplined, wild, insolent. "Reckless" and its derivatives are used elsewhere of turbulent water (Gen. 49:4) and prophets who abused their office (Jer. 23:32; Zeph. 3:4)

Abigail Adams to John Adams on November 27, 1775 that…

“Power, whether vested in many or few, is ever grasping, and like the grave, cries ‘Give, give.”

T. S. Eliot somewhat scornfully concluded that

“most of the troubles in the world are caused by people wanting to be important.”

The Greek philosopher Plato said,

“Might is right”

Three centuries later, the Roman philosopher Seneca wrote,

“Might makes right.”

The French novelist Joseph Joubert wrote seventeen centuries later,

“Might and right govern everything in the world; might till right is ready.”

But when might is in the hands of selfish dictators, right rarely has a chance to get ready or to take over. Might seizes control and will hold it unless a stronger power overcomes and brings freedom. The Prophet Habakkuk described these people as

“guilty men, whose own strength is their god” (Hab. 1:11).

Judges 9:5 Then he went to his father's house at Ophrah, and killed his brothers the sons of Jerubbaal, seventy men, on one stone. But Jotham the youngest son of Jerubbaal was left, for he hid himself.

at Ophrah (KJV): Jdg 6:24

killed: 2Ki 10:17 11:1,2 2Ch 21:4 Mt 2:16,20


This description implies either that the execution was public &/or it may refer to a stone for sacrifices indicating ritualistic execution. What a tragic end for the family of a man so mightily used of God, to have his family destroyed in such a vicious manner.

Thus Abimelech proceeds to break the sixth commandment, “You shall not murder” (Ex20:13, NKJV) with the slaughter of seventy half brothers.

Preacher's Commentary draws some poignant applications writing that…

We do not have to look far for contemporary illustrative material of the same sad mechanism. The stories coming out of Romania, for example, following the fall of Ceausescu, demonstrate the paranoia of the dictator who can never be 100 percent sure that he is in total control, or that he has quashed every opponent. The lust for power can and does lead to the most outrageous actions in the business world, in family struggles, and even in the church of Jesus Christ. People will do terrible things when they are consumed by the desire to come out on the top. Such arrogance destroys relationship, because it kills trust and silences dialogue.

Church history has provided us with examples of what can happen when anyone—even well-motivated and apparently godly men—moves beyond personal accountability to anyone else. None of us is immune from the corrupting influence of power and position. We can all too easily lose our perspective on ourselves, and with it our moral and spiritual balance. As pastors, we need faithful friends who will pastor us and bring us down to earth from some of our wilder flights of fancy. It is not for nothing that the pulpit is sometimes caricatured as “six feet above contradiction,” or “cowards’ castle.” In a chapter full of irony, we must be careful to see that we do not succumb to the supreme idolatry of worshiping at the shrine of our own infallibility, or power, or pride. The more “successful” a ministry is perceived to be, the greater will be the danger that we start to believe our own press releases! Many a pastor has allowed himself to be “made king” in his little corner of God’s world-wide field, by an enthusiastic band of supporters, and those people have lived to rue the day. (Jackman, D., & Ogilvie, L. J. The Preacher's Commentary Series: Judges, Ruth. Formerly Page 147). Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson)

Why didn’t somebody stop these murderers and defend Gideon’s family? Because the people of Israel had forgotten both the goodness of the Lord and the kindness of Gideon (Jdg. 8:33-35). They had neither the conviction to be concerned nor the courage to intervene. It doesn’t take long for society to change yesterday’s hero into today’s scoundrel. What the Irish poet William Butler Yeats described in his famous poem “The Second Coming” was true in the nation of Israel:

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity.

The prophet Habakkuk could easily have been speaking to Abimelech when he warned…

“Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed and establishes a town by crime!” (Hab2:12)

Revelation 21:8,22:15 make it clear that murderers go to hell. Of course, a murderer can call on the Lord and be saved just as any other sinner can, but there’s no evidence that Abimelech and his crowd ever repented of their sins. Their feet were “swift to shed blood” (Ro3:15; Isa59:7), and the blood that they shed eventually came back on their own heads. Murder is bad enough, but when brother kills brother, the sin is even more heinous.


Judges 9:6 And all the men of Shechem and all Beth-millo assembled together, and they went and made Abimelech king, by the oak of the pillar which was in Shechem.

the house (KJV): 2Sa 5:9 2Ki 12:20;
plain (KJV): or, oak, Jos 24:26 1Ki 12:1,20,25


"Beth Millo" may have been a dwelling for soldiers.

Abimelech became the first person ever to be crowned as king in Israel. His abortive 3 year rule, ran roughshod over the divine requirements for that office (cf. Dt17:14 , 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20) and the people get the ruler they deserve. His coronation ironically took place near the tree in Shechem where Joshua had solemnly placed the "Book of the Law" (Jos24:26). Earlier we saw the heart of these people was not to have God rule over them but to have Gideon (Judges 8:22). Finally God gives them what they desire and they got the caliber of man they deserved. When we look around our world today, we find this principle is still true.

Notice that they selected a king of their choosing not God's as Deuteronomy had specified…

"When you enter the land which the LORD your God gives you, and you possess it and live in it, and you say, 'I will set a king over me like all the nations who are around me, 'you shall surely set a king over you whom the LORD your God chooses, one from among your countrymen you shall set as king over yourselves; you may not put a foreigner over yourselves who is not your countryman." (Dt 17:14-20)

Abimelech not God decided who to set over "Israel" which is counter to God's instructions for establishing an earthly monarch (one rule).


Jacob had buried the idols of his family under an oak at Shechem (Ge35:4). Here Joshua (Jos24:24, 25, 26, 27) called to Israel to commit wholeheartedly to Yahweh. Here Joseph's bones were eventually buried (Josh. 24:32).

The oak of the pillar may have later become associated with pagan worship of the Shechemites.

Solomon's son, Rehoboam, went to Shechem, following the death of Solomon, to secure the acclamation of the Israelites, though the city itself was in ruins at that time (see 1Ki12:1)

Abimelech did not necessarily reign over the entire nation of Israel for there was not that kind of national solidarity during the days of the Judges. Abimelech was in control of Shechem and Beth-Millo, Arumah (Jdg 9:41), and Thebez (Jdg 9:50), which suggests that he had direct rule over the western part of Manasseh.

Judges 9:22 in the KJV ("When Abimelech had reigned three years over Israel") implies that Abimelech actually reigned over all of Israel and that all Israel submitted to him for three years. The Hebrew “reigned” better translated “governed” or "act as a ruler".

Judges 9:7 Now when they told Jotham, he went and stood on the top of Mount Gerizim, and lifted his voice and called out. Thus he said to them, "Listen to me, O men of Shechem, that God may listen to you.

mount Gerizim (KJV): Dt 11:29 27:12 Jos 8:33 Jn 4:20

upon them (KJV): Jdg 9:20,45 Jos 6:26 1Ki 16:34

Hearken (KJV): Ps 18:40,41 50:15-21 Pr 1:28,29 21:13 28:9 Isa 1:15 58:6-10 Mt 18:26-34 Jas 2:13


Here is another illustration from Judges of a godly individual who acted alone but who acted courageously. He could have reasoned that because he was alone he would be totally ineffective or that any interference by a "lone ranger" would be foolish and put his life at risk. But instead he chose to take a stand for righteousness in the midst of this crooked and perverse generation. And thus he acted alone to do what he could to rebuke evil and shine forth the light of God's truth that He is a just God Who will repay evil (Ro 12:17-note, Ro 12:18, 19, 20, 21-note).

Edmund Burke said that

"All that is essential for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."


"Mount Gerizim" is the site on which half the tribes of Israel stood for the recital of the covenantal blessings following the invasion of the Promised Land (Josh. 8:33). Since that time the mountain would have been associated with divine blessing, but now it would be the site of a curse that would ignite a bloody civil war.

Jotham traveled to Shechem and climbed Mount Gerizim's 800 foot slope south of the city. Jotham then proceeds to speak a parable could be heard by the all those in Shechem. Jotham may have stood on the triangular rock platform that projects from the side of Gerizim, which forms a natural pulpit overlooking Shechem from which one can be heard as far away as Mount Ebal across the valley!!! God wanted this message to be heard clearly!


Jotham's point is the foolishness of the trees in choosing for a king Abimelech the bramble or thistle, a worthless plant whose end was burning. It is tragic that not one time in Judges 9 do the men of Israel (except for Jotham) refer to the God of Israel! He is calling them to accountability for their actions much like (Nu 32:23 "be sure your sin will find you out.").

Presented in allegorical form, this story of the trees effectively lays bare Abimelech's true character and the utter disregard of the people of Shechem for Gideon's memory.

Judges 9.7
G Campbell Morgan

Thus did Jotham introduce his parable. He saw that the action which the men of Shechem were contemplating was one which could only result in their cutting off from the right of approach to God. God can only hearken to men when they walk in the way of His commandments. If they rebel against His rule, and break His laws, He cannot receive them, or attend to their prayers. Gideon had refused to be made king; but when he passed on, Abimelech, his natural son—a man un­principled and brutal, but of great personal force—secured to himself the allegiance of the men of Shechem, and practically usurped the position of king. In order to make his position secure, he encompassed the massacre of all the sons of Gideon, except Jotham. He, escaping, uttered a parabolic prophecy from the height of Mount Gerizim. It was full of a fine scorn for Abimelech, whom he compared to the bramble accepting a position declined by the olive, the fig-tree, and the vine. It is noticeable that these were the three symbols of the national life of Israel. In the course of his parable, he indicated the line along which judgment would fall upon them, if they committed this wrong. Abimelech would be the destruction of the men of Shechem, and the men of Shechem would be the destruction of Abimelech. That prophecy was literally fulfilled. The nation was chosen to reign over nations, under the rule of God. It lost its power to reign, when it ceased to yield its allegiance to its one and only King. Had it then hearkened to Jotham, it would have been possible for God to hearken to it. (Morgan, G. C. Life Applications from Every Chapter of the Bible).

Judges 9:8 "Once the trees went forth to anoint a king over them, and they said to the olive tree, 'Reign over us!'

The trees (KJV): This is the most ancient fable or apologue extant; and is extremely beautiful, apposite, and intelligible. 2Ki 14:9 Eze 17:3-10 Da 4:10-18; olive tree (KJV): The {zayith,} or olive tree, in the Linnean system, is a genus of the {diandra monogynia} class of plants. It is of a moderate height, and grows best in sunny places. Its trunk is knotty; bark smooth, of an ash colour: wood solid and yellowish; leaves oblong, almost like those of the willow, of a dark green colour on the upper side, and whitish below. In June it puts forth white flowers, growing in bunches, each of one piece, widening towards the top, and dividing into four parts. After this succeeds the fruit, which is oblong and plump; first green, then pale, and when quite ripe, black. Within it is enclosed a hard stone, filled with oblong seeds. It was the most useful of all trees in the forest; as the bramble was the meanest and most worthless. Reign (KJV): Jdg 8:22,23


Jotham's words are like a parable which is from a Greek word that signifies a placing of two or more objects together, usually for the purpose of a comparison and is a short, simple story designed to communicate a spiritual truth, religious principle, or moral lesson.

In Ezekiel 31 and Daniel 4 trees represent leaders or nations. The point of the parable is that the most worthless of all trees becomes the king of trees!


Olive groves are plentiful around the area of Shechem. This parable of the trees is the first parable in the Bible. The olive tree was considered the most fruitful of all the trees of the land, the bramble the most painful. Yet it has often been true--just as in the ancient reign of Abimelech--that national leadership is assumed by the most ruthless of men rather than the best of men.

Judges 9:9 "But the olive tree said to them, 'Shall I leave my fatness with which God and men are honored, and go to wave over the trees?'

wherewith (KJV): Ex 29:2,7 35:14 Lev 2:1 1Ki 19:15,16 Ps 89:20 104:15 Ac 4:27 Ac 10:38 1Jn 2:20

God (KJV): {Elohim,} rather gods; the parable being adapted to the idolatrous Shechemites.

to be promoted over the trees (KJV): Heb. up and down for other trees, Job 1:7 2:2 )


Judges 9:10 "Then the trees said to the fig tree, 'You come, reign over us!'

REIGN OVER US: In Israel God was always to be their King. ""The LORD shall reign forever and ever." (Ex15:18)

Judges 9:11 "But the fig tree said to them, 'Shall I leave my sweetness and my good fruit, and go to wave over the trees?'

Lk 13:6,7


Judges 9:12 "Then the trees said to the vine, 'You come, reign over us!'


Judges 9:13 "But the vine said to them, 'Shall I leave my new wine, which cheers God and men, and go to wave over the trees?'

cheereth (KJV): Nu 15:5,7,10 Ps 104:15 Pr 31:6 Ec 10:19

Wine was used as a libation offering to God (Nu15:7, 28:7)

Judges 9:14 "Finally all the trees said to the bramble, 'You come, reign over us!'

bramble (KJV): or, thistle, 2Ki 14:9


The bramble not only produced nothing of value and was quite worthless as timber but was a positive menace to the farmer who had to wage continual war against its encroachments. Its carpet-like growth was especially a menace in the heat of the summer when scrub fires, fanned by the wind could travel at incredible speeds along the tinder of dried branches.


Jotham's point in this fable or parable which in fact was really a prophetic curse is that only worthless individuals seek to lord it over others. Worthy people are too involved in useful tasks to seek such rulership over others.

Judges 9:15 "And the bramble said to the trees, 'If in truth you are anointing me as king over you, come and take refuge in my shade; but if not, may fire come out from the bramble and consume the cedars of Lebanon.'

shadow (KJV): Isa 30:2 Da 4:12 Ho 14:7 Mt 13:32

let fire (KJV): Jdg 9:20,49 Nu 21:28 Isa 1:31 Eze 19:14

the cedars (KJV): 2Ki 14:9 Ps 104:16 Isa 2:13 37:24 Eze 31:3


Take refuge conveys the idea of confiding in another or putting your trust in them… in this case a bramble! What a biting sarcastic and satirical goad this must have been to Jotham's listeners! Come take refuge in a thorny bramble bush that is only good to be burned up! Abimelech, like a bramble, could offer no real security to the people of Shechem & in fact he would be both the cause and the means of their destruction (Jdg 9:42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 57).

The statement reflects the thornbush's arrogance, for it could not provide significant shade. "Shade" is a metaphor in the Hebrew Bible and in ancient Near Eastern literature for a ruler's sovereign authority and protection.


Often in the summer, fires would break out in the bramble bushes and spread quickly through the dried tinder of these thorn bushes. Furthermore, these fires would spread and threaten the safety of the trees.

The phrase “cedars of Lebanon” could represent the leading citizens of the city, who had supported Abimelech’s rule (Jdg 9:20).

Judges 9:16 "Now therefore, if you have dealt in truth and integrity in making Abimelech king, and if you have dealt well with Jerubbaal and his house, and have dealt with him as he deserved--

according (KJV): Jdg 8:35

NOW THEREFORE: note that Jotham doesn't even address the worthless Abimelech here but speaks directly to the people (Jdg 9:16, 17, 18, 19, 20).


Jotham began the rebuke with three conditional clauses. After a parenthesis (Jdg 9:17,18) describing the good deeds of Gideon and the bad deeds of Abimelech, Jotham restated the rebuke: If then you have acted honorably and in good faith toward Jerub-Baal (i.e., Gideon), “then may you and Abimelech enjoy your relationship!” (Jdg 9:19) But if the opposite was true (which was Jotham’s obvious assumption), let fire … consume both Shechemites and Abimelech, which is specifically designated a “curse” (Jdg 9:57).

Ralph Davis writes that Jotham's prophetic proclamation in the form of a parable…

does not stress the worthlessness of kingship but the worthlessness of Abimelech; the concern is not that the worthy candidates depreciate the offer of kingship but that a bramble accepts it. The problem is not kingship but the character of the king and his cronies, as Jotham makes clear in verses 16–20.6 Jotham’s theme is the foolishness and peril of accepting clearly unqualified leadership. Brambles make good fuel but poor kings; they burn better than they reign. People have a strange tendency to accept bramble–leadership, a fact which continues to baffle us. (Ralph Davis, D. Focus on the Bible: Judges)

William L. Shirer saw this bramble-like tendency in an evil man name Hitler in September 1934, at the Nazi Party celebration in Nuremberg.

The words he uttered, the thoughts he expressed, often seemed to me ridiculous, but that week in Nuremberg I began to comprehend that it did not matter so much what he said but how he said it. Hitler’s communication with his audiences was uncanny. He established a rapport almost immediately and deepened and intensified it as he went on speaking, holding them completely in his spell. In such a state, it seemed to me, they easily believed anything he said, even the most foolish nonsense. Over the years as I listened to scores of Hitler’s major speeches I would pause in my own mind to exclaim: “What utter rubbish! What brazen lies!” Then I would look around at the audience. His German listeners were lapping up every word as the utter truth.

Judges 9:17 for my father fought for you and risked his life and delivered you from the hand of Midian;

fought (KJV): Jdg 7:1-25 8:4-10

adventured his life (KJV): Heb. cast his life, Es 4:16 Ro 5:8 16:4 Rev 12:11


Judges 9:18 but you have risen against my father's house today and have killed his sons, seventy men, on one stone, and have made Abimelech, the son of his maidservant, king over the men of Shechem, because he is your relative--

are risen (KJV): Jdg 9:5,6 8:35 Ps 109:4

Abimelech (KJV): Jdg 9:6,14 8:31


Twice we’re told that Abimelech killed seventy men (v18, 56), but if Jotham escaped, only sixty-nine were killed. But this is no more an error than are Jn20:24 and 1Co15:5, both of which call the band of disciples “the Twelve” at a time when there were only eleven apostles.


Note that Jotham does not say Abimelech is king over ISRAEL! More support that his reign was very limited.

Judges 9:19 if then you have dealt in truth and integrity with Jerubbaal and his house this day, rejoice in Abimelech, and let him also rejoice in you.

rejoice (KJV): Isa 8:6 Php 3:3 Jas 4:16


Jotham ends his speech with biting sarcasm -- wishing them well if they acted honorably and in good faith (which obviously they had not done). He went on to prophetically predict mutual destruction if they have acted otherwise, which of course they had.


If the Shechemites' actions were honorable, then their relationship with Abimelech would be mutually cordial; if not, then they could expect mutual destruction.

Judges 9:20 "But if not, let fire come out from Abimelech and consume the men of Shechem and Beth-millo; and let fire come out from the men of Shechem and from Beth-millo, and consume Abimelech."

let fire come out (KJV): Jdg 9:15,23,56,57 7:22 2Ch 20:22,23 Ps 21:9,10 28:4 52:1-5 Ps 120:3,4 140:10

What is described is total ruin of two enemies, as if both fired their atomic arsenal at the opposite party in the same instant & both were right on target.

Judges 9:21 Then Jotham escaped and fled, and went to Beer and remained there because of Abimelech his brother.

Nu 21:16 Jos 19:8 2Sa 20:14

"Escaped" and "fled" indicate that the Shechemites responded negatively to Jotham’s rebuke.

Judges 9:22 Now Abimelech ruled over Israel three years.


As stated earlier "over Israel" almost assuredly equates with a limited rule since his power does not seem to extend beyond the central areas of Ephraim and Manasseh.

Treachery begets treachery, and it was not long until there were problems between Abimelech and the Shechemites.

So for 3 years it seemed as though evil had triumphed but God's justice would soon be invoked upon this wicked usurper. Longfellow once described the justice of God writing that…

“Though the mills of God grind slowly,

Yet they grind exceeding small”

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

A.M. 2771, B.C. 1233

God (KJV): That is, God permitted the evil spirit of jealousy, treachery, and discord, to break out between Abimelech and the Shechemites. Jdg 9:15,20 1Sa 16:14-16 18:9,10 1Ki 12:15 22:22,23 2Ch 10:15 2Ch 18:19-22 Isa 19:2,14 2Th 2:11,12

An (KJV): Ex, Is, 258

dealt (KJV): Jdg 9:16 Isa 33:1 Mt 7:2


In earlier stories God sent his Spirit to empower His chosen deliverers (see Jdg. 3:10; 6:34). Here He sends an "evil spirit" to destroy a man who threatens Israel's welfare. On several occasions God uses an "evil spirit" to judge sinners (1Sa 16:14; 18:10; 19:10; 1Chr 21:1). In the course of God’s providence, there appeared jealousy, distrust, and hate. God allowed it to work as punishment for the idolatry and mass murder.

Is God unfair? Is God responsible for sin? Clearly He is not not for as James records

God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. (James 1:13, 14-; note)

In this unusual passage God is letting us see into the supernatural realm for a moment and instead of upsetting us it should encourage us that He is sovereign over every creature and every event. No, obviously God is not the Author of evil, but on the other hand God does allow evil, and because He is sovereign and omnipotent will use evil to accomplish His purposes. We know God is just, and therefore can affirm that His actions in this incident were just. He never acts in a morally dubious manner to accomplish His purposes. God may use other people's evil to accomplish His righteous purposes, but He does not cause their evil actions. In the course of God’s providence, there appeared jealousy, distrust, hate and bloodshed. God allowed this as divine retribution for the idolatry and mass murder. That God would send an evil spirit or a demonic being, shows that He sovereignly rules over all the universe. Even Satan could not attack Job without God’s permission (Job1:12; Job 2:6).

Abimelech as well as those in Shechem were only reaping what they had sown (Galatians 6:8) A parallel passage is found in 1st Kings, where we read that…

"So the king (Rehoboam) did not listen to the people; for it was a turn of events from the LORD ("This turn of events was the will of the LORD" NLT), that He might establish His word, which the LORD spoke through Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam the son of Nebat." (1Kings 12:15)

In this verse (in context) we discover that God sovereignly used the foolishness of Rehoboam to fulfill Ahijah’s prophecy (who informed King Solomon’s official, Jeroboam, of the approaching revolt of the 10 northern tribes).

Here in Judges 9 God's Word had been spoken prophetically by Gideon's son Jotham and God was now seeing that Jotham's word would be fulfilled.

As someone has written

"When God sends evil it is always an intervening force of moral and righteous judgment, corresponding to the wickedness of the situation."


"Dealt treacherously" (bagad) means to act unfaithfully, to violate a trust, to break an agreement or to be a traitor. The Shechemites made Abimelech their king and agreed to recognize his authority, but now they rebelled against him. We are not told exactly how they did this,

Why did they deal treacherously? The writer has just explained that an evil spirit was sent by God to fulfill Jotham’s curse by arousing distrust or jealousy in the Shechemites. What goes around comes around! God caused the treachery that Abimelech and the men of Shechem had committed against Gideon (v16) to return upon their own head! (Jdg 9:56, 57).

Judges 9:24 in order that the violence done to the seventy sons of Jerubbaal might come, and their blood might be laid on Abimelech their brother, who killed them, and on the men of Shechem, who strengthened his hands to kill his brothers.

That the (KJV): 1Sa 15:33 1Ki 2:32 Es 9:25 Ps 7:16 Mt 23:34-36

aided him in the killing of (KJV): Heb. strengthened his hands to kill, Sooner or later, God will make inquisition for blood, and will return it on the heads of those that shed it. Accessaries will be reckoned with, as well as principals, in that and other sins. The Shechemites, who 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. Those that combine together to do wickedly, are justly dashed in pieces one against another. Blood cannot be a lasting cement to any interest.

This verse suggests that Abimelech personally took each of the 70 brothers lives! When lust for power corrupts one's heart, it knows no limit of evil.

"Strengthened… hands" is translated by the NIV as they helped him. Abimelech and his men actually committed the murder (Jdg 9:5), but the Shechemites had paid Abimelech the money he needed to hire the men and after the deed was committed, they made him king in place of his brothers. God agreed with Jotham (cf. v. 18); from his perspective the Shechemites aided and abetted Abimelech and were guilty of murder as well.

Judges 9:25 And the men of Shechem set men in ambush against him on the tops of the mountains, and they robbed all who might pass by them along the road; and it was told to Abimelech.

Jos 8:4,12,13 Pr 1:11,12

AND THE MEN OF SHECHEM SET MEN IN AMBUSH AGAINST HIM ON THE TOPS OF THE MOUNTAINS, AND THEY ROBBED ALL WHO MIGHT PASS BY THEM ALONG THE ROAD: This would have brought discredit to Abimelech who could no longer guarantee safety for travelers in his territory.

Judges 9:26 Now Gaal the son of Ebed came with his relatives, and crossed over into Shechem; and the men of Shechem put their trust in him.

brethren (KJV): Ge 13:8 19:7 brethren (KJV): Ge 13:8 19:7


"cross over" implies from the East he "crossed over" the Jordan River

Now think for a moment… did Gaal just come out of nowhere? Why now and not 3 years earlier? What do we see here about the providence of God and in this case possibly the workings of the evil spirit?

AND THE MEN OF SHECHEM PUT THEIR TRUST (took refuge ~ same idea Jdg 9:15) IN HIM: they placed their confidence in Gaal.

Judges 9:27 And they went out into the field and gathered the grapes of their vineyards and trod them, and held a festival; and they went into the house of their god, and ate and drank and cursed Abimelech.

merry (KJV): or, songs, Isa 16:9,10 24:7-9 Jer 25:30 Am 6:3-6

the house (KJV): Jdg 9:4 16:23 Ex 32:6,19 Da 5:1-4,23

did eat (KJV): Isa 22:12-14 Lk 12:19,20 17:26-29

cursed (KJV): Lev 24:11 1Sa 17:43 Ps 109:17


The reference to the gathering of grapes and merry-making in the house of their god where they cursed Abimelech is almost certainly a reference to the new year’s festival, the chief religious ceremony in the Canaanite cult-religion. It was associated with the collection of the summer fruits and was held at the end of the summer harvest. This pagan festival was comparable to but earlier than the Israelite Feast of Ingathering or Tabernacles, which was in September-October (cf. Dt16:13, 14, 15).


So once again we see the predictable consequences of not having destroyed the Canaanites in the land… the Israelites lived among them and apparently tolerated and then got involved in worship of their god Baal-Berith. The message is clear all through Judges… drive out the enemy.

"Cursed" does not refer to name-calling or profanity in this context, but rather to a formal appeal to a god or gods to judge Abimelech for perceived offenses. Ironically, the Shechemites, who initially supported Abimelech, now seek the same fate for their former leader as did Jotham, whose curse against Abimelech will become reality by the end of the chapter.

Judges 9:28 Then Gaal the son of Ebed said, "Who is Abimelech, and who is Shechem, that we should serve him? Is he not the son of Jerubbaal, and is Zebul not his lieutenant? Serve the men of Hamor the father of Shechem; but why should we serve him?

Who is Abimelech (KJV): 1Sa 25:10 2Sa 20:1 1Ki 12:16

Hamor (KJV): Ge 34:2,6


Gaal appealed to the people to restore the ancient Shechemite aristocracy, hinting that he himself would be a good man to lead them!

Taking advantage of Abimelech’s absence, Gaal challenged the people to remember the parentage of Abimelech through his father Jerubbaal, rather than referring to his mother, the Shechemite. All of this action took place in the temple of Baal-berith,


This would mean turning from Israelite rule to Canaanite rule.

Judges 9:29 "Would, therefore, that this people were under my authority! Then I would remove Abimelech." And he said to Abimelech, "Increase your army, and come out."

would to God (KJV): The very words and conduct of a sly, hypocritical demagogue. 2Sa 15:4 1Ki 20:11 Ps 10:3 Ro 1:30,31

And he said (KJV): Rather, "and I would say to Abimelech," as the LXX. renders; for as Dr. Wall observes, this was probably not said in the presence of Abimelech; but at an intemperate feast, in his absence, when he boasted he would challenge him.

Increase thine army (KJV): 2Sa 2:14-17 2Ki 14:8 18:23 Isa 36:8,9


Gaal was living in Shechem while Abimelech was living in Arumah, which may have been a sore point with the Shechemites who would have desired to be the site of the "king's" residence. The people could tell Gaal their problems, and he could give them the help they needed, but how could they go to Arubah for help? Years later, Absalom would use this same approach and steal the hearts of Israel (2Sa 15:1,2,3,4,56).

Here Gaal taunts Abimelech (having already cursed him in [Jdg 9:27]) telling him to INCREASE HIS ARMY NUMERICALLY, implying my army can handle anything you bring against us.

Judges 9:30 And when Zebul the ruler of the city heard the words of Gaal the son of Ebed, his anger burned.

kindled (KJV): or, hot, Jdg 9:30

HIS ANGER BURNED: Literally "His nose became hot"

Judges 9:31 And he sent messengers to Abimelech deceitfully, saying, "Behold, Gaal the son of Ebed and his relatives have come to Shechem; and behold, they are stirring up the city against you.

privily (KJV): Heb. craftily, or, to Tormah

they fortify (KJV): Under pretence of repairing the walls and towers, they were actually putting the place in a state of defence, intending to seize on the government as soon as they found Abimelech coming against them. Jdg 9:31

AND HE SENT MESSENGERS TO ABIMELECH DECEITFULLY: Again we see Abimelech reaping the same evil he had sown.

Judges 9:32 "Now therefore, arise by night, you and the people who are with you, and lie in wait in the field.

by night (KJV): Job 24:14-17 Ps 36:4 Pr 1:11-16 4:16 Ro 3:15


Zebul advised Abimelech to come that night and set an ambush for the city, which would be inactive the next morning.

Judges 9:33 "And it shall come about in the morning, as soon as the sun is up, that you shall rise early and rush upon the city; and behold, when he and the people who are with him come out against you, you shall do to them whatever you can."

as thou shalt find (KJV): Heb. as thine hand shall find, Lev 25:26: 1Sa 10:7 25:8 Ec 9:10


Judges 9:34 So Abimelech and all the people who were with him arose by night and lay in wait against Shechem in four companies.

This describes the first of 3 phases of Abimelech's bloody revenge against Gaal, Shechem & the leaders of Shechem.

Judges 9:35 Now Gaal the son of Ebed went out and stood in the entrance of the city gate; and Abimelech and the people who were with him arose from the ambush.

Gaal (KJV): Of this person we know no more than is here recorded. He was probably one of the descendants of the Canaanites, who hoped, from the state of the public mind and their disaffection to Abimelech, to cause a revolution, and thus to restore the ancient government as it was under Hamor, the father of Shechem. Josephus says he was a man of authority, who sojourned with them, with his armed men and kinsmen; and that the Shechemites desired that he would allow them a guard during the vintage.

the people (KJV): Jdg 9:44


Judges 9:36 And when Gaal saw the people, he said to Zebul, "Look, people are coming down from the tops of the mountains." But Zebul said to him, "You are seeing the shadow of the mountains as if they were men."

seest the shadow (KJV): Doubdan states, that in some parts of the Holy Land there are many detached rocks scattered up and down, some growing out of the ground, and others fragments broken off from rocky precipices, the shadow of which, it appears, Josephus thought might be most naturally imagined to look like troops of men at a distance, rather than that of the mountains; for he represents Zebul as saying to Gaal, that he mistook the shadow of the rocks for men. Eze 7:7 Mk 8:24


Judges 9:37 And Gaal spoke again and said, "Behold, people are coming down from the highest part of the land, and one company comes by the way of the diviners' oak."

middle (KJV): Heb. navel

Meonenim (KJV): or, the regarders of the times, Dt 18:14

FROM THE HIGHEST PART OF THE LAND: lit., “the navel of the land,” apparently a reference to Gerizim located centrally in the central highlands).

Judges 9:38 Then Zebul said to him, "Where is your boasting now with which you said, 'Who is Abimelech that we should serve him?' Is this not the people whom you despised? Go out now and fight with them!"

Jdg 9:28,29 2Sa 2:26,27 2Ki 14:8-14 Jer 2:28

The taunt was intended to force Gaal into a direct conflict with Abimelech. When he could deceive Gaal no longer, Zebul goaded him into leading his forces outside the protective walls of the city to fight against Abimelech’s troops. After all his bragging, Gaal had no other choice but to engage in the encounter, and his Shechemite followers were soundly defeated by Abimelech. To save face Gaal had to fight. Had Gaal stayed within the walled city he may have been safe. But Gaal responded out of pride to save face illustrating the truth of Solomon's wise saying that…

Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before stumbling. (Pr 16:18).

Judges 9:39 So Gaal went out before the leaders of Shechem and fought with Abimelech.


Judges 9:40 And Abimelech chased him, and he fled before him; and many fell wounded up to the entrance of the gate.

he fled before (KJV): 1Ki 20:18-21,30


Judges 9:41 Then Abimelech remained at Arumah, but Zebul drove out Gaal and his relatives so that they could not remain in Shechem.

Arumah (KJV): This place appears from the next verse to have been near Shechem; and is perhaps the same as Ruma, a village of Galilee, mentioned by Josephus, Bell. 1. iii. c. 9.

Zebul (KJV): Jdg 9:28,30


Judges 9:42 Now it came about the next day, that the people went out to the field, and it was told to Abimelech.

NOW: (Jdg 9:42,43,44,45) describes the 2nd phase of Abimelech's bloody revenge on the rebellious Shechemites.


Abimelech had one more score to settle, and that was with the citizens of Shechem who had cursed him (Jdg 9:27) and were attacking the caravans and robbing him of both money and reputation

Judges 9:43 So he took his people and divided them into three companies, and lay in wait in the field; when he looked and saw the people coming out from the city, he arose against them and slew them.


Judges 9:44 Then Abimelech and the company who was with him dashed forward and stood in the entrance of the city gate; the other two companies then dashed against all who were in the field and slew them.

rushed forward (KJV): Jdg 9:15,20 Ga 5:15

These would most likely have been weaponless workers… Abimelech had paid for his KINGSHIP with 70 brother's lives so a few more lives to ensure that there would be no further Shechemite uprising was worth the price. This ruthless, godless tyrant would stop at nothing to achieve his selfish ends

Judges 9:45 And Abimelech fought against the city all that day, and he captured the city and killed the people who were in it; then he razed the city and sowed it with salt.

he took (KJV): Jdg 9:20

beat (KJV): Dt 29:23 1Ki 12:25 2Ki 3:25 Ps 107:34 *marg: Eze 47:11 Zep 2:9 Jas 2:13

sowed (KJV): Salt in small quantities renders land extremely fertile; but too much of it destroys vegetation. Every place, says Pliny, in which salt is found is barren, and produces nothing. Hence the sowing of a place with salt was a custom in different nations to express permanent desolation. Sigonius observes, that when Milan was taken, A.D. 1162, the walls were razed, and it was sown with salt. And Brantome informs us, that it was an ancient custom in France, to sow the house of a man with salt, who had been declared a traitor to his king. Charles IX., king of France, the most base and perfidious of human beings, caused the house of Admiral Coligni (whom he and the Duke of Guise caused to be murdered, with thousands more of Protestants, on the eve of St. Bartholomew, 1572,) to be sown with salt!


Abimelech’s power and authority must have been substantial since he was able, within 3 years of his becoming king, to amass a force able to destroy rebellious Shechem—the base for his rise to power—and was about to complete his conquest of Thebez.


A symbolic ritual, with obvious direct effects, that condemned the destroyed city to perpetual desolation. Salt was scattered over the site of a city for destruction and seems elsewhere in Scripture to be be the symbol of barrenness and desolation (cp Dt29:23; Job39:6, Ps 107:34, Je17:6, Zeph 2:9). Shechem was rebuilt about 200 years later by Jeroboam (1Ki12:25).

Salt in small quantities renders land extremely fertile; but too much of it destroys vegetation. Every place, says Pliny, in which salt is found is barren, and produces nothing. Hence the sowing of a place with salt was a custom in different nations to express permanent desolation. Sigonius observes, that when Milan was taken, A.D. 1162, the walls were razed, and it was sown with salt. And Brantome informs us, that it was an ancient custom in France, to sow the house of a man with salt, who had been declared a traitor to his king. Charles IX., king of France, the most base and perfidious of human beings, caused the house of Admiral Coligni (whom he and the Duke of Guise caused to be murdered, with thousands more of Protestants, on the eve of St. Bartholomew, 1572,) to be sown with salt!

Judges 9:46 When all the leaders of the tower of Shechem heard of it, they entered the inner chamber of the temple of El-berith.

an hold (KJV): Jdg 9:4,27 8:33 1Ki 8:26 2Ki 1:2-4 Ps 115:8 Isa 28:15-18 37:38

(v46-49) describes the 3rd phase of Abimelech's revenge against Shechem. The Bramble bush was blazing! Result = 1000 people roasted alive in the pagan temple.


These verses probably explain an incident within the city, included in the destruction previously recorded in [Jdg 9:45], rather than a subsequent event outside the destroyed city. On hearing of either the slaughter in the fields (Jdg 9:43,44) or the capture of the city gate (Jdg 9:44), the Shechemites who had retreated into the tower of Shechem (probably the same as the Beth Millo of [Jdg 9:6]), secured themselves in the stronghold of the temple of El-Berith (an alternate title for Baal-Berith, [Jdg 9:4]), probably a part of the tower of Shechem.


Their purpose in so doing was evidently not to defend themselves, but to seek "safety" at the sanctuary of their god from the vengeance of Abimelech.

Judges 9:47 And it was told Abimelech that all the leaders of the tower of Shechem were gathered together.


Judges 9:48 So Abimelech went up to Mount Zalmon, he and all the people who were with him; and Abimelech took an axe in his hand and cut down a branch from the trees, and lifted it and laid it on his shoulder. Then he said to the people who were with him, "What you have seen me do, hurry and do likewise."

Zalmon (KJV): Ps 68:14

What ye (KJV): Jdg 7:17,18 Pr 1:11,12

me do (KJV): Heb. I have done


Judges 9:49 And all the people also cut down each one his branch and followed Abimelech, and put them on the inner chamber and set the inner chamber on fire over those inside, so that all the men of the tower of Shechem also died, about a thousand men and women.

put them (KJV): Jdg 9:15,20 Ga 5:15 Jas 3:16


Thus another Canaanite enclave was obliterated. Unfortunately not for long as it again became an important center during the days of the Israelite kingdom (1Ki12:1), and was rebuilt by Jeroboam I (1Ki12:25).

Preacher's Commentary writes that…

In application, we must draw the unpalatable but salutary lesson of the “exceeding sinfulness of sin.” Once the tide of evil builds, nothing can contain it in the end. This was the unlearned lesson of the 1930s as the evil Nazi power base in Germany grew stronger and stronger, almost unchallenged, until the whole world was caught up in its cataclysmic outcome. We think that sin can be contained; but it cannot. We talk of “little” sins and “white” lies, to persuade ourselves that we can stop whenever we wish, but it is not like that. One of Dr. Paul White’s famous “Jungle Doctor” stories tells of the African family who took pity on an orphaned leopard cub, took it into their home, nurtured and cared for it, and treated it as a pet. Frequently they were warned to return it to the wild before it became too powerful for them to handle. But the warnings were disregarded; they knew the animal so well—it was one of the family. Then, one day, it showed its true nature and the “domesticated” beast of prey became a killer. The jungle doctor’s message was clear and plain: “Little leopards become big leopards, and big leopards kill!” The characteristic nature of sin is contempt for anything of value (contrast Philippians 4:8). “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy” (John 10:l0a). That is why he is no friend of the shepherd or the sheep… In a culture like ours, where the very concept of sin is an endangered species, under threat of extinction, we need to hear this lesson over and over again. It is common to view individual sins as nothing more than a nuisance or an irritation, rather like minor traffic offenses. They will only cause us difficulties if we are foolish or unfortunate enough to accumulate too many, we tell ourselves. This chapter is a powerful corrective to that sort of self-indulgent weakness which all too often infects our thinking, even as Christians. (Jackman, D., & Ogilvie, L. J. Vol. 7: The Preacher's Commentary Series: Judges, Ruth. Page 154. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson)

An article in a newspaper several years ago was entitled "Biblical Revolution Account Verified":

"American archaeologists have confirmed the Bible's account of a revolution which followed Abimelech's attempt to become the first king of Israel, Harvard university has announced. Evidence fixing the truth of the event was uncovered in the 4000 year old remains of Shechem… Abimelech's brief reign was dated at about 1150BC on the basis of Shechem discoveries, Harvard reported. The archaeologists also discovered that the 3 buildings mentioned in the Bible [the "House of Baal-Berith," the "House of Millo," and the "Tower of Shechem"] were one and the same and that Shechem's great temple-fortress was the largest in Palestine."

Judges 9:50 Then Abimelech went to Thebez, and he camped against Thebez and captured it.

Thebez (KJV): According to Eusebius, thirteen miles from Shechem, towards Scythopolis. Jdg 9:50


Thebez has been identified by most biblical scholars with modern Tubas about 10 miles NE of Shechem on the road to Beth Shan. This city apparently was a dependency of Shechem which, under Abimelech’s control, had joined in the revolt.

Judges 9:51 But there was a strong tower in the center of the city, and all the men and women with all the leaders of the city fled there and shut themselves in; and they went up on the roof of the tower.


Judges 9:52 So Abimelech came to the tower and fought against it, and approached the entrance of the tower to burn it with fire.

Jdg 9:48,49 2Ki 14:10 15:16


Judges 9:53 But a certain woman threw an upper millstone on Abimelech's head, crushing his skull.

woman (KJV): Jdg 9:15,20 2Sa 11:21 20:21 Job 31:3 Jer 49:20 50:45

and all to (KJV): An antiquated expression, meaning "full intention" to complete an object. "All to," observes Dr. Johnson, "is a particle of mere enforcement." The original is {wattaritz eth gulgalto,} which is simply as the LXX. render [kai eklase to kranion autou,] "and she brake his skull." Plutarch relates, that Pyrrhus was killed at the siege of Thebes, by a piece of a tile, which a woman threw upon his head.

The KJV says "a piece of a millstone" and the Septuagint translation agrees rendering it as "a fragment of upper millstone". A hand mill was made from two circular stones between one and two feet in diameter and two to four inches thick, that were particularly hard and heavy.

An unidentified woman dropped (literally, "threw") a (piece of a) millstone down from the tower and cracked open Abimelech's skull. The text emphasizes her singularity (literally, "one woman") and by using the verb "threw" suggests a heroic act of strength like that of a warrior.

Davis comments that…

The writer describes even the last blow in almost laconic terms: “and a certain woman threw an upper millstone upon Abimelech’s head” (v. 53 RSV). So unconstrued. Simply a matter of course — apparently. God’s judgment works so gradually here; there is no smell of fire and brimstone; Sinai is not shaking with smoke and thunder. (Ralph Davis, D. Focus on the Bible: Judges)

Judges 9:54 Then he called quickly to the young man, his armor bearer, and said to him, "Draw your sword and kill me, lest it be said of me, 'A woman slew him.'" So the young man pierced him through, and he died.

Draw thy (KJV): 1Sa 31:4,5

And his young man (KJV): It was a disgrace to be killed by a woman.

Dying at the hand of a woman was considered a disgrace (cf. Jdg 4:17-24),

The fact that his armor-bearer finished the job with a sword didn’t change anything; for centuries later, Abimelech’s shameful death was remembered as being accomplished by a woman (2Sa 11:21). It is interesting to note that a century later, Israel’s other questionable first king, Saul, also died in a disgraceful manner at Mount Gilboa just a few miles away! (1Sa 31:4)

Judges 9:55 And when the men of Israel saw that Abimelech was dead, each departed to his home.

2Sa 18:16 20:21,22 1Ki 22:35,36 Pr 22:10

Abimelech's followers, as if waking from a bad dream, down their weapons and go home without completing their assault on Thebez..

Judges 9:56 Thus God repaid the wickedness of Abimelech, which he had done to his father, in killing his seventy brothers.

God rendered (KJV): Both the fratricide Abimelech and the unprincipled men of Shechem had the iniquity visited upon them of which they had been guilty. Man's judgment may be avoided; but there is no escape from that of God. How many houses have been sown with salt in France, by the just judgment of God, for the massacre of the Protestants on the eve of St. Bartholomew! See Note on ver. 45. Jdg 9:24 Job 31:3 Ps 9:12 11:6 58:10,11 94:23 Pr 5:22 Mt 7:2 Ac 28:4 Ga 6:7 Rev 19:20,21

THUS GOD REPAID THE WICKEDNESS OF ABIMELECH: "He came in like a fox, reigned like a lion & died as a dog."

The shedding of innocent blood is something that God takes very seriously and eventually avenges (Dt 19:10, 13; 21:9; 1Ki2:31; Pr 6:17; Isa 59:7; Je7:6; 22:3, 17; Joel 3:19).

The year 1990 was a record year for murders in the United States, with 23,438 persons being killed, an average of nearly three an hour all year long. When you add to this the thousands of innocent babies killed in their mother’s wombs, it’s easy to see that “the land of the free” is stained with innocent blood; and one day we will pay for it.


One might question such detail of such incredible wickedness in Scripture. It was vital however to demonstrate for future generations that God does judge evil. This Scripture contains a solemn warning for America.

In 1980 Carl Henry wrote that:

"Our nation has all but tripped the worst ratings on God's Richter scale of fully-deserved moral judgment."

Judges 9:57 Also God returned all the wickedness of the men of Shechem on their heads, and the curse of Jotham the son of Jerubbaal came upon them.

upon them (KJV): Jdg 9:20,45 Jos 6:26 1Ki 16:34


"brought back on their head" is an idiom also used to describe the death of wicked fool Nabal in 1Sa 25:39 and of Joab in 1Kings 2:32, 33 who had needlessly killed Abner and Amasa.

This chapter is a depressing record of human depravity. The book of Judges unfortunately does not end here but gets even worse! Irregardless, this chapter clearly demonstrates the controlling hand of God even in the face of such blatant evil. He does permit the evil to thrive, but He also limits its extent. He cut Abimelech short in the midst of his "monarchy". He extinguished the flames of evil men like Hitler when they seem certain to spread and overwhelm the whole land. In short, the forest fire is not out of God’s control. Nothing ever is, in this world or the next because as the chorus proclaims "Our God Reigns" and He is supremely able to use the adverse circumstances of life to teach His people the fundamental truth that He is in control.

These final two verses explain the reason for the lengthy description of what might appear to be a less important event in the history of Israel. It was vital, especially in the period of the Judges when evil was rampant, to demonstrate for that generation and those to follow that God judges evil!

A. Cohen comments

"Like a golden thread there runs through the whole scriptural narrative the doctrine that wickedness is neer allowed to go unpunished."


Jotham's curse is recorded in v. 20. It is a formalized prayer appealing to God to judge the perpetrators of the crime against Gideon's sons. Such an appeal was the only recourse the weak and vulnerable had against powerful oppressors. By responding favorably to Jotham's prayer, God demonstrated his justice and his concern for the powerless. For other references to curses of this type see Gen. 27:12; 2Sa 16:5-14; Ps. 109:17, 18; Jer 29:22.

The theological significance of chapter 9 is to teach the doctrine of divine retribution, which is in essence the reality of just punishment, a fair deal.

Abimelech lost his life and lost his kingdom. The curse pronounced by his half-brother Jotham was fulfilled on both Abimelech and the people of Shechem (Jdg 9:20).

“Evil shall slay the wicked; And those who hate the righteous will be condemned” (Ps 34:21).

“The righteous one considers the house of the wicked, Turning the wicked to ruin.” (Pr 21:12).

Matthew Henry writes:

"The Shechemites were ruined by Abimelech; now he is reckoned with, who was their leader in villany. Evil pursues sinners, and sometimes overtakes them, when not only at ease, but triumphant. Though wickedness may prosper a while, it will not prosper always. The history of mankind, if truly told, would greatly resemble that of this chapter. The records of what are called splendid events present to us such contests for power. Such scenes, though praised of men, fully explain the Scripture doctrine of the deceitfulness and desperate wickedness of the human heart, the force of men's lust, and the effect of Satan's influence. Lord, thou has given us thy word of truth and righteousness, O pour upon us thy spirit of purity, peace, and love, and write thy holy law in our hearts."

F B Meyer…


This record of anarchy and blood is a photograph of the unrest of the world for want of a true Leader and Prince. As all these incidents were leading towards the days of David and Solomon, so the great agony and sorrow of our times must portend the advent of the true King. It is when the kingdoms of the world are rent by tribulation and war that we may expect to see the reign of the Son of Man. "Lift up your heads, and rejoice, for your redemption draweth nigh:'

Judges 9:1-6 Abimelech's conspiracy. -- Disregarding his father's express declaration (Jdg 8:23), Abimelech desired the chieftainship of the people. How strong is the lust of power which will make men do the most abominable crimes to gain their ends; wading through seas of blood. The men of Sechern aided and abetted Abimelech, and then made him king.

Judges 9:7-21 Jotham's parable. -- Government over men costs a great deal, and many a man has had to buy it by renouncing ease and comfort and many other delights. The vilest are sometimes exalted (Ps. 12:8-note). What a contrast between trusting in the shade of a bramble and in the shade of the great rock (Isa. 32:2).

Judges 9:22-29 The intrusion of discord. -- For only three short years did the usurper enjoy his ill-gotten place. Trouble soon broke out between him and his new subjects. Having combined to do wrong, they now divided against each other to their mutual destruction. Gaal was the son of Ebed, which means a slave, and was perhaps descended from Hamor (Ge 34).

Judges 9:30-49 The destruction of Shechem. -- How much evil one traitor, or rebel, may work in any fortress! The power of Satan against us is immensely increased by a traitorous heart within. The people trusted in the protection of their god, and were miserably disappointed. How different to our lot (Ps.27:5-note; Pr 18:10-note).

Judges 9:50-57 The fate of Abimelech. -- Abimelech thought much less of his character with God before whose presence he was soon to appear than he did of his credit with man (Jdg 9:54). This fact which he was so anxious to conceal is the one thing remembered of him (2Sa 11:21). Though wickedness may prosper for a time, yet is its end sure and terrible (Ps. 37-note). (F. B. Meyer. CHOICE NOTES ON JOSHUA THROUGH 2 KINGS)

Charles Simeon…

Jotham's Parable
Jdg 9:7-15

THE method of instructing by parables is of great antiquity: it obtained among the Jews from the earliest period of their history: but the first that is recorded, and indeed the first extant in the world, is that which we have just read. The peculiar excellence of that mode of instruction is, that it arrests the attention more forcibly, and conveys knowledge more easily, than a train of reasoning could do; and convinces the judgment, before that prejudice has had time to bar the entrance of truth into the mind. The parable before us is exceeding beautiful, and admirably adapted to the occasion on which it was spoken. That we may open it fully, we shall consider,

I. The occasion of it—

Gideon had refused the promotion which all Israel had offered him—

[After the expulsion of the Midianites, “the men of Israel proposed to make Gideon their king, and to perpetuate that honour in his family: but Gideon, having no reason to think that this invitation was from God, and being desirous that God alone should be the king of his people, declined the honour, saying, “The Lord shall rule over you.” (Jdg. 9:22, 23) At the same time, wishing to preserve the remembrance of those astonishing victories which God had wrought for them by him, he requested his victorious soldiers to give him the golden earrings which they had taken from the Midianites, together with the chains which were about the necks of their camels: and with them he made a very splendid ephod, which was consecrated unto God. Whether he intended to make use of this ephod in the place of that which had been made for Aaron (Ex 28:6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12), we cannot say; but we have no doubt of his having sincerely intended to honour God by it; though, alas! through the proneness of the heart to superstition and idolatry, “it became a snare to him, and to his house.” (Jdg. 8:27) In a word, he affected not honour for himself and his family, but desired only that God should be glorified.]

After his death however, Abimelech aspired to, and gained, the throne of Israel—

[Gideon had seventy sons by many different wives; and, by a concubine, one, whom he called Abimelech. This bastard son, being of an ambitious mind, made use of his mother’s relations to impress the minds of the Shechemites with an idea, that all the seventy sons of Gideon would be so many petty tyrants among them; and that it would be better for them to have one king over them, than so many; and that, if they were of that opinion, they would do better to choose Abimelech, who was related to them, than any of the others, who had no particular interest in their welfare. Having thus insinuated himself into the favour of the Shechemites, he prevailed upon them to supply him with money out of the treasury of Baal-berith, their idol: and with that “he hired vain and light persons” to go with him and murder all his seventy brethren. What an awful proof is this, of the cruel nature of ambition, which could instigate him to such an inhuman act; and of the ease with which instruments may be procured to perpetrate any evil that the human heart can conceive! The deliberation with which this bloody man executed his project, was truly astonishing: one would have supposed, at least, that he would murder them all hastily in their beds; but, as though he delighted in that accursed work, he brought them all forth, and “slew them all on one stone.” (Jdg 9:5, 18) Jotham alone, the youngest of them all, escaped: and, when he was informed that Abimelech had been made king, he availed himself of an opportunity which some public meeting of the Shechemites afforded him, to stand on Mount Gerizim, and address the principal inhabitants. His address was short, as one would naturally expect: but it was much to the purpose; and it was contained in the parable which we have read, together with a brief application of it to their own conduct.]

Such was the occasion of the parable: we proceed to explain,

II. The import—

Two leading truths are contained in it;

1. That worthless men affect the honours which the wise and good decline—

[The character of the wise and good is fitly represented by those valuable trees, the olive, the fig, and the vine. The olive-tree was useful for the honouring of God in the sacrifices, and man in his attainment of royal or priestly honours: the fig-tree was productive of most delicious fruit: and the vine, by its generous juices, cheered the heart of man, at the same time that it afforded acceptable libations unto God. What more beautiful images could have been found, whereby to portray the character of a man who lives only to honour God, and to benefit his fellow-creatures? Such a man was Gideon; who, sensible of the snares and difficulties of royalty, was desirous rather to do good in the station in which God had placed him, than, by an elevation to a higher sphere, to encumber himself with anxious and unproductive cares. (The marginal reading is, “To go up and down for other trees;” which is strongly expressive of this idea.)

On the other hand, the bramble fitly represented a worthless person, who, grasping at power, is ready to obtain it by any means; and, whilst he is extravagant in his demands of confidence, is cruel and oppressive to all who are not subservient to his will. Such exactly was Abimelech: he promised great things to Shechem, whilst he gave them, in the first moment of his advancement, an evidence of his atrocity, and a sure pledge of his future tyranny.

What was primarily intended to mark the characters of Gideon and Abimelech, is applicable to man in every age. The wise and good are unambitious. If clearly called of God to any office, they undertake it, as Gideon did, for the Lord’s sake: but they do not seek advancement for themselves: they do not affect situations of dignity and power: they cultivate an humble and contented mind; and study rather to be good than great. Not so the noisy demagogue, who depreciates and defames others, only the more effectually to exalt himself.]

2. That they who unduly affect honour, and they who unjustly confer it, will prove sources of misery to each other—

[This was intimated in the parable, but more fully explained in the subsequent application of it. Jotham appealed to the consciences of the men of Shechem, whether they had acted as they ought to have done towards Gideon and his family: if they could say they had, he wished them every benefit from Abimelech’s administration, which they themselves could desire: but, if not, then he warned them that they would prove a curse to each other. (Jdg 9:16, 17, 18, 19, 20)

And this also is a general truth, that usurpers seldom fail of being a curse to the people whom they govern, and that those who aided them in their usurpation rarely continue faithful to them in a day of adversity. Were an instance wanted to confirm this truth, we need only look at all the powers of Europe who have been successively cajoled and injured by the great oppressor of the continent; who, having waded to his throne through seas of blood, stops not at any measures that may consolidate or extend his ill-gotten authority. And what returns he will receive from those who have contributed to his exaltation, time will shew: but, as he is even now regarded by them as a plague to the earth, it will be a miracle if they do not, when a fit opportunity occurs, prove also a plague to him.] (How abundantly has this been verified, since the Tyrant’s Retreat from Moscow! Many of his Allies in the invasion of Russia contributed afterwards to his downfall, and to his present humiliation at St. Helena. - Written in 1825.)

This parable was in the nature of a prophecy; of which we now proceed to consider,

III. The accomplishment—

[Never was a prophecy more exactly fulfilled. “The triumph of the wicked is short.” For three years Abimelech enjoyed the fruit of his wickedness: but then God “sent an evil spirit between him and the Shechemites,” and stirred them up to “deal treacherously with him.” (Jdg 9:23) What the cause of their disaffection was, we know not: but they so hated him, as to set assassins to lie in wait for him, and destroy him (Jdg 9:25). Their disloyalty appearing, one soon rose up to foment the division, and to head the conspiracy. Turbulent persons are never wanting to fan the flames of discord, and to seek their own elevation on the ruin of others. Such an one was Gaal, who, though probably a Canaanite, proposed himself as the fitter person to govern the state, and encouraged them at a drunken revel to curse and execrate Abimelech. Zebul however, a chief officer in the city, retained, though covertly, his allegiance to Abimelech; and sent him word of all that passed, together with directions for crushing the conspiracy. At the same time he endeavoured to lull asleep the fears of Gaal, so that he might be taken by surprise; and, when Gaal could no longer be deceived, he urged him, in the same derisive strain, to go forth and meet his adversary in the field of battle: but no sooner had Gaal gone forth, than Zebul interposed to cut off his retreat to the city. (Jdg 9:26-38, 41) The plan of Zebul succeeded: Abimelech speedily overthrew Gaal and his adherents; then he proceeded to fight against the other conspirators in the city; and, having taken the city, he slew all its inhabitants. Some indeed took refuge in a tower; which however, by cutting down branches of trees from an adjacent wood, and setting them on fire, he instantly destroyed, together with a thousand people that were in it. Having desolated thus the whole place, he beat down the city, and sowed it with salt, in token that its destruction should be perpetual. (Jdg 9:39-49)

The revenge of Abimelech, one might have supposed, would by this time have been satisfied: but it was not so: for, as there were many dissatisfied persons at Thebez also, a neighbouring city, he went and slew them also: and, when some of them also took refuge in a tower, he proceeded to use the same stratagem against them: but being grown incautious from success, he went too near the tower, so that a woman threw a piece of a millstone upon his head, and brake his skull: and he, indignant at the thought of being killed by a woman, “ordered his armour-bearer to slay him, that it might not be said, A woman slew him.” (Jdg 9:50, 51, 52, 53, 54)

Behold now how exactly the parable was verified! “God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and his subjects,” on purpose that their ingratitude to Gideon and his family might be punished (Jdg 9:23, 24); and the issue of the contest, as’ the historian remarks, was a literal accomplishment of Jotham’s prediction; Abimelech and the Shechemites mutually proving a scourge and a curse to each other. (Jdg 9:56, 57)]

From this history then we may learn,

1. To be unambitious in prosperity—

[Never had man a better opportunity to gratify ambition than Gideon: yet he forbore to do it, and preferred the station which God in his providence had assigned him. In this he was truly wise. The acquisition of power is, in fact, the dereliction of ease. The increase of comforts by means of it bears no proportion to the increase of cares. Solomon in all his grandeur found nothing but “vanity and vexation of spirit.” Jeremiah’s advice to Baruch is worthy the attention of all: “Seekest thou great things unto thyself? seek them not.”]

2. To be patient in adversity—

[Great indeed was the cause of complaint which Jotham had both against Abimelech and the Shechemites: yet behold, here were no invectives against them: he contented himself with simply declaring in God’s name his testimony against them. Had he been an uninterested person, he could not have borne his testimony in milder terms. This is a pattern which we shall do well to follow. Let us therefore “not render evil for evil, or railing for railing,” but “commit ourselves to Him who judgeth righteously.”]

3. To look forward to a future time of retribution—

[We may appear for a season to succeed, and to reap a pleasant fruit from the iniquities we have sown. But what did Abimelech’s success avail him at the end of three years? and what thinks he of all his murders at this hour? So we may appear to succeed in the acquisition of unlawful pleasures or dishonest gains: but what shall we reap from such practices in a little time? and what comfort will our confederates in iniquity afford us at the last day? Now the vile seducer or the base adulterer may rejoice in, and with, his guilty companions: but what execrations will they mutually vent against each other, when God’s time is come! Know ye, Beloved, that “evil pursueth sinners;” and “though hand join in hand, the wicked shall not be unpunished.”] (Simeon, C. 1832-63. Horae Homileticae)