according to all the goodness which he had showed unto Israel; in exposing his life to danger for their sake, in delivering them out of the hands of their oppressors, in administering justice to them, in protecting them in their civil and religious liberties, and leaving them in the quiet and peaceable possession of them.
INTRODUCTION TO Judges 9
This chapter contains an account of the craft and cruelty of Abimelech, by which he got himself made king of the Shechemites, Judges 9:1 of the parable of Jotham, the youngest son of Gideon, concerning the trees, in which he exposes their folly in making Abimelech king, and foretells the ruin of them both, Judges 9:7 of the contentions which arose between Abimelech, and the men of Shechem, increased by Gaal the son of Ebed, Judges 9:22 who was drawn into a battle with Abimelech, and beaten and forced to fly, Judges 9:30 but the quarrel between Abimelech and the men of Shechem ceased not, but still continued, which issued in the entire ruin of the city and the inhabitants of it, Judges 9:42 and in the death of Abimelech himself, according to Jotham's curse, Judges 9:50.
and communed with them; about the death of his father, the state of his family, and the government of Israel:
and with all the family of the house of his mother's father; that descended from his grandfather, the several branches of them, and of the family, the heads of them at least:
saying, as follows.
whether is better for you, either that all the sons of Jerubbaal, which are seventy persons, reign over you, or that one reign over you? intimating thereby, that though Gideon his father had refused the regal government when offered him, it was but reasonable that his sons, or some one of them, should be tried, whether it would be acceptable to them; nay, he would insinuate, that the sons of Gideon, who were seventy in number, were either contending with one another about it, or contriving to divide the government among them, and therefore desired it might be moved to consideration, whether it would not be more eligible to fix upon some one person to be their ruler, than to be under the government of seventy; or, in other words, whether it was not better to have one king than seventy kings; but in reality there was no necessity for any consultation about this matter, the sons of judges never succeeded their fathers in government; nor does it appear that any of Gideon's sons had any thought about it, nor any desire to be made kings, as appears from Jotham's parable; and this was only a wicked insinuation of this man's, with an ambitious view of getting the kingdom to himself, as follows:
remember also that I am your bone and your flesh; was of the same tribe and city with them, born among them, his mother always living with them, and he having now many near relations by his mother's side that dwelt there; and therefore while they had this affair of government under consideration, he would have them think of him to be their king, which would be to their honour, and to their advantage, to have one so nearly related to them on the throne, from whom they might expect many favours.
and their hearts inclined to follow Abimelech, for they said, he is our brother; being fond of kingly government, as the Israelites generally were, it seemed most agreeable to them to have one king over them, and none more acceptable than one so nearly related to them, who they doubted not, from his alliance to them, would be ready to oblige them on all occasions.
wherewith Abimelech hired vain and light persons, which followed him; perhaps seventy of them, giving to each a piece or pound of silver; these were a base scoundrel sort of people, that lived in an idle scandalous manner, a sort of freebooters, that lived upon what they could lay hold on in a way of force and rapine; men of light heads and empty brains, and whose pockets were as light and empty as their heads, and fit to engage in any enterprise, though ever so barbarous, for the sake of a little money.
and slew his brethren the sons of Jerubbaal, being seventy persons, upon one stone: in which he was assisted by the ruffians he had hired with seventy pieces of silver; these were laid one after another upon one and the same stone, as being convenient for the execution of them; or as serving as an altar on which they were sacrificed to Baal, out of whose temple the money was taken to hire the executioners with. They are said to be seventy that were slain, though one escaped, the round number being given, as in many other instances, as in Genesis 46:27,
notwithstanding, yet Jotham the youngest son of Jerubbaal was left; or remained alive, not out of compassion to his youth, but because he could not be found:
for he hid himself; for no doubt Abimelech, and his crew, were most forward to lay hold of the eldest, and sacrifice them first, as being most in his way; this gave Jotham the youngest not only notice of their design, but an opportunity of providing for his safety, or however his friends; for it may be rendered, as in some versions, "he was hidden" (b), that is, by others.
(a) Travels of the Patriarchs, &c. p. 111. (b) Sept. "absconditus est", V. L. "qui absconditus fuit", Tigurine version; so the Targum.
and all the house of Millo; which was either the men of a place near to Shechem, or of his brother's family, or of some grand leading family in Shechem; or it may mean the town hall, where the principal inhabitants met in full house, as Millo signifies, on this occasion:
and went and made Abimelech king; which was a most bold and daring action; being done without asking counsel of God, without which no king was to be set over Israel, and by a single city, without the knowledge, advice, and consent of the body of the people of Israel: by the plain of the pillar that was in Shechem; the place where they met together, and did this business in voting Abimelech to be king, was near a place where a pillar was set in Shechem; or by the oak of the pillar in Shechem, and so may mean the stone under an oak, which Joshua placed there as a testimony between God and the people, Joshua 24:25 and here, in the same place where Joshua convened the people of Israel, and made his last speech to them, was this business done.
he went and stood in the top of Mount Gerizim; a mount near Shechem; it hung over the city, as Josephus says (c), and so a very proper place to stand on and deliver a speech from it to the inhabitants of it; who, as the same writer says, were now keeping a festival, on what account he says not, perhaps to Baalberith their idol: over against this mountain was another, called Ebal, and between them a valley; and very likely they were assembled in this valley, where the children of Israel stood when the blessings were delivered from Gerizim, and the curses from Ebal; and if so, Jotham might be heard very well by the Shechemites:
and he lifted up his voice, and cried; that he might be heard by them:
and said unto them, hearken unto me, ye men of Shechem, that God may hearken unto you; which was a very solemn manner of address to them, tending to excite attention, as having somewhat of importance to say to them, and suggesting, that if they did not hearken to him, God would not hearken to them when they cried to him, and therefore it behoved them to attend: it is an adjuration of them to hearken to him, or a wish that God would not hearken to them if they were inattentive to him.
(c) Antiqu. l. 5. c. 7. sect. 2.
and they said unto the olive tree, reign thou over us; a fit emblem of a good man, endowed with excellent virtues and qualifications for good, as David king of Israel, who is compared to such a tree, Psalm 52:8, Jarchi applies this to Othniel the first judge; but it may be better applied to Gideon, an excellent good man, full of fruits of righteousness, and eminently useful, and to whom kingly government was offered, and was refused by him; and the men of Shechem could scarcely fail of thinking of him, and applying it to him, as Jotham was delivering his fable.
should I leave my fatness, wherewith by me they honour God and man; by "fatness" oil is meant, pressed out of the fruit of the olive tree, and which was much made use of both in the burning of the lamps in the tabernacle, and in many sacrifices, as the meat offerings and others, whereby God was honoured; and it was also made use of in the investiture of the greatest personages with the highest offices among men, as kings, priests, and prophets, as well as eaten with pleasure and delight by all sorts of men, and even by the greatest, and so men are honoured by it:
and go to be promoted over the trees; desert so useful a station, in which it was planted and fixed, to move to and fro, as the word signifies, and reign over trees; suggesting that it was unreasonable, at least not eligible to a good man to desert a private station in life, to which he was called of God, and in which he acted with honour and usefulness to others, and take upon him a public office, attended with much care and trouble, and with neglect of private affairs, and with the loss of much personal peace and comfort.
come thou, and reign over us: which Jarchi applies to Deborah, but may be better applied to one of Gideon's sons, who, though they had not a personal offer of kingly government themselves, yet it was made to them through their father, and refused, as for himself, so for them; and had it been offered to them, they would have rejected it, as Jotham seems to intimate by this parable.
should I forsake my sweetness and my good fruit; for such the fruit of the fig tree is, sweet and good: so Julian (d) the emperor shows from various authors, Aristophanes, Herodotus, and Homer, that nothing is sweeter than figs, excepting honey, and that no kind of fruit is better, and, where they are, no good is wanting:
and go to be promoted over the trees? the same is designed by this as the former.
(d) Opera, par. 2. ep. 24. Sarapioni, p. 142.
come thou, and reign over us; this Jarchi applies to Gideon; but since there are three sorts of trees brought into the fable, and when the kingdom was offered to Gideon, it was proposed to him, and to his son, and his son's son, and refused, some reference may be had unto it in this apologue. Abarbinel thinks three sorts of men are intended as proper persons for rule and government, as honourable ones, such as are wealthy and rich, and also of good behaviour to God and man, as Gideon's sons were; but Abimelech was all the reverse.
shall I leave my wine, which cheereth God and man; which being used in the drink offerings was acceptable to God, and of a sweet savour to him, Numbers 15:7 and being drank by than, revives, refreshes, and makes glad, when before sorrowful, drooping, faint, and weary, Psalm 104:15 though some by Elohim, rendered God, understand great personages, as men of quality, magistrates, &c. and by man the common people, and so in Judges 9:9.
and go to be promoted over the trees? all speak the same language, being of the same sentiment.
come thou, and reign over us; this respects Abimelech, and describes him as a mean person, the son of a concubine, as having no goodness in him, not any good qualifications to recommend him to government, but all the reverse, cruel, tyrannical, and oppressive; and this exposes the folly of the Shechemites, and their eagerness to have a king at any rate, though ever so mean and despicable, useless and pernicious.
if ye in trust anoint me king over you; suspecting they were not hearty and cordial in their choice and call to the kingly authority over them:
then come and put your trust in my shadow; promising protection to them as his subjects, requiring their confidence in him, and boasting of the good they should receive from him, as is common with wicked princes at their first entering on their office; but, alas! what shadow or protection can there be in a bramble? if a man attempts: to put himself under it for shelter, he will find it will be of no use to him, but harmful, since, the nearer and closer he comes to it, the more he will be scratched and torn by it:
and if not, let fire come out of the bramble, and devour the cedars of Lebanon; signifying, that if they did not heartily submit to his government, and put confidence in him, and prove faithful to him, they should smart for it, and feel his wrath and vengeance, even the greatest men among them, comparable to the cedars of Lebanon; for thorns and brambles catching fire, as they easily do, or fire being put to them, as weak as they are, and placed under the tallest and strongest cedars, will soon fetch them down to the ground; and the words of the bramble, or Abimelech, proved true to the Shechemites, he is made to speak in this parable.
if ye have dealt well with Jerubbaal, and his house; if they could think so, which surely they could not, when they reflected upon the murder of his family they had consented to:
and have done unto him according to the deserving of his hands; to his memory, and to his family, according to the merit of his works which he had performed on their account, next mentioned.
and adventured his life far: which, according to our version, may seem to have respect to his going over Jordan, and following the Midianites, fleeing into their country, and fighting them at Karkor, at a great distance from his native place; but the phrase in the original text is, "he cast away his life afar" (e), made no account of it, exposed it to the greatest danger; or, as the Targum,"he delivered his life as it were to destruction:"
and delivered you out of the hand of Midian; from the oppression and bondage of the Midianites, under which they had laboured seven years.
(e) "et projecit animam suam a louge", Pagninus; "vel eminus", Montanus; so Junius & Tremellius, Piscator.
and have slain his sons, seventy persons on one stone; excepting one, himself, and he was intentionally slain, their design was to cut off everyone; and all being slain but one, the round number is given, and this being so large, is the rather observed; and though Abimelech committed the fact, the men of Shechem were accessory to it, they gave him money, with which he hired men to assist him in it, see Judges 9:20 and it is very probable they were privy to his intention, and encouraged him to it; and certain it is they showed their approbation of it, by making Abimelech king after it, and therefore they are justly charged with it:
and have made Abimelech, the son of his handmaid, king over the men of Shechem; which was both to the disgrace of Gideon, and his family, and of themselves too, that a base son of his should be made their king; when it would have been more to the credit of Gideon, and his family, that he had lived in obscurity, and had not been known as a son of his; and this was to the reproach of the men of Shechem, and especially to the princes thereof; for, by the men of Shechem are meant the lords, and great men thereof, as Kimchi observes; and great contempt is cast on Abimelech himself, who is here represented as making a very poor figure, being by extraction the son of an handmaid, and king only over the men of Shechem; and who made him so for no other reason but this:
because he is your brother; not because he had any right to the kingdom, or had any qualification for it, but because his mother lived among them, and her family belonged to them, and so he was related to many of them, and they hoped on that account to have preferment and favours from him.
then rejoice ye in Abimelech, and let him also rejoice in you; may you be happy in him as a king, and he be happy in you as his subjects, and live peaceably and comfortably together; and this he suggests as a test of their former conduct, that should this alliance between Abimelech and them be attended with happiness, which he could not believe would be the case, then it would seem that they had done a right part by Gideon and his family; but if they should be unhappy together, as he supposed they would, then it would be clear that they had acted a base and disingenuous part by his father's family.
let fire come out of Abimelech, and devour the men of Shechem, and the house of Millo; let wrath, rage, and fury, break out from Abimelech like fire, and issue in the destruction of those that made him king, both those of Shechem and of Millo:
and let fire come out from the men of Shechem, and from the house of Millo, and devour Abimelech; let them be incensed against Abimelech, and seek his ruin, and procure it: the sense is, that he wishes that strife, contention, and quarrels, might arise among them, and they mutually destroy each other; the words are imprecative of evil upon them both, and which had its exact fulfilment.
and went to Beer; which some take to be the same with Baalathbeer in the tribe of Simeon, Joshua 19:8 Jerom (f) says, the village Bera, whither Jotham fled, is eight miles from Eleutheropolis to the north; but Mr. Maundrell (g), who was in those parts in 1697, gives us a better account of it; and, according to him, it is about two hours and a half's travel from Bethel to it, and three hours and one third from it to Jerusalem; Beer, he says, enjoys a very pleasant situation, on an easy declivity, fronting southward; at the bottom of the hill it has a plentiful fountain of excellent water, from which it had its name:
and dwelt there for fear of Abimelech his brother; how long he dwelt there is not certain, and we hear no more of him after this, Josephus says (h) he lay hid in the mountains three years for fear of Abimelech, which perhaps he concluded from Abimelech's reigning three years, as follows.
(f) De loc. Heb. fol. 89. I((g) Journey from Aleppo, &c. p. 64, 66. (h) Antiqu. l. 5. c. 7. sect. 2.
and the men of Shechem dealt treacherously with Abimelech; did not openly declare their minds, but secretly conspired against him, and privately consulted ways to find means to get rid of him, and shake off his government.
and their blood be laid upon Abimelech their brother, which slew them; be charged to his account, and he suffer for shedding it:
and upon the men of Shechem which aided him in killing of his brethren; by giving him money to hire men to go with him to do it, and perhaps by words encouraging the assassins, and who might be of the city of Shechem.
and they robbed all that came along that way by them; that belonged to Abimelech and others also; and this they did to show their contempt of his government, and that they were no longer under it, and every man did what was right in his own eyes, as if they had no governor over them; though some think this was done to draw him thither to secure his subjects from such rapine and violence, that they might have an opportunity to lay hold upon him, or this they did on purpose to begin a civil war:
and it was told Abimelech; that they lay in wait for him, and so he kept himself from them.
and the men of Shechem put their confidence in him; freely told him their mind, the ill opinion they had of Abimelech, and what was their design against him; and he assuring them he would take their part, and defend them to the uttermost, they depended on him, and therefore very securely went about their business in the fields, as follows.
and trode the grapes, and made merry: sung songs and danced, as was usual at the ingathering of the fruits of the earth, and treading the winepress, Isaiah 16:10 though Abendana thinks this joy and merriment were made to their idol, to whom they gave the praise of their vintage, they should have done to the true God, and what follows may seem to confirm it:
and they went into the house of their god; the temple of Baalberith, Judges 9:5.
and did eat and drink; in their idol temple, as was the manner of idolaters to do, bringing their firstfruits to rejoice, and make glad with:
and cursed Abimelech; wished they had never seen him and known him, hoped they should be rid of him in a little time, and that he would meet with his deserved disgrace and punishment; and this they did in that very temple from whence they had taken money to assist him in making way for his government of them; so fickle and changeable were they.
who is Abimelech, and who is Shechem, that we should serve him? who is this Abimelech the Shechemite? or who is he more than Shechem, the old prince of this place, long ago dispossessed of it? the one is no better than the other, nor has a better title to rule and government than the other, that we should serve him; nay, of the two, the descendants of the old Shechem have the best title:
is not he the son of Jerubbaal? that pleaded against Baal, and threw down his altar, the god you now serve:
and Zebul his officer? has he not set him over you? not content to rule you himself, he has set up another as an officer over you under him, and thus you are like to be governed in a tyrannical manner, and oppressed:
serve the men of Hamor--for why should we serve him? that is, rather serve them than him; which was speaking very contemptuously of his government, preferring the descendants of Hamor, the old Canaanitish prince, that ruled in this place, to Abimelech; and if Gaal was a descendant of his, he spoke in good earnest, and thought this a proper opportunity to get the government of the city restored to him and his family, since their old religion and idolatry were established among them; and if they had received the one, why not the other?
then would I remove Abimelech; from his kingly office, and rid Shechem of him, and all the country round about, and indeed remove him out of the world:
and he said to Abimelech; as if he was present, in a hectoring and blustering manner; or he said what follows to his officer under him, that represented him; or he sent a messenger to him, saying:
increase thine army, and come out; bidding him defiance, challenging him to come into the open field and fight him, and bring as many forces along with him as he could or would, not doubting but he should be a match for him; and the men of Shechem would see they had nothing to fear from him, having such a man as Gaal at the head of them; this he said to engage the Shechemites to make him their ruler.
the words of Gaal the son of Ebed, his anger was kindled; because he spoke slightly of him, and wished to have his place; perhaps before Zebul was inclined to be on the side of the Shechemites against Abimelech, or at least dissembled that he was; but now, being incensed at the words of Gaal, determined to take the side of Abimelech, and let him know how things were carrying on against him.
saying, Gaal the son of Ebal, and his brethren, be come to Shechem; a family that Abimelech well knew, and if they were of the race of the old Canaanites, he would easily perceive their design:
and, behold, they fortify the city against thee; by repairing its fortifications, or adding new works; or "besiege" (i) it, which, as that is done by placing an army around it without, that none can come out of it, so by setting a watch within, and upon the walls, and at the gates of it, that none can come in, which is here meant; though some interpret it of their design to besiege the city Thormah, where Abimelech was, of which he gives him notice; or rather they set the city against thee, make the inhabitants thine enemies.
(i) "obsident", Pagninus, Munster, Drusius; "obsidere cogitant", Piscator.
and the people that is with thee; the troops he had with him; not only such he had for his own guards, but what he had been raising, having intelligence before this of the revolt of the Shechemites from him:
and lie in wait in the fields; he thought it most advisable for him to march with the forces he had, from the place where he was in the night, and less liable to be discovered, and remain in the fields of Shechem till morning, and then come upon Shechemites before they were aware, and surprise them.
and, behold, when he and the people that is with him come out against thee; that is, Gaul, and the men with him, as many as he upon a surprise can get together:
thou mayest do to them as thou shalt find occasion; as the situation of things would direct him, and he, in his wisdom, and according to his ability, and as opportunity offered, would see plainly what was fit and right to be done; Zebul did not pretend to advise him further, but left the rest to his discretion, as things should appear to him.
and they laid wait against Shechem in four companies; he divided his army into four parts, which he placed on the four sides of the city, at some distance from it, to act as they should have opportunity, to find ways and means of getting into it on either quarter.
and stood in the entering of the gate of the city; to see whether the guards were on their duty within, and whether he could observe any thing without, any approaching danger:
and Abimelech rose up, and the people that were with him, from lying in wait; came out of their ambush, and appeared just as Gaul was at the gate.
behold, there come people down from the tops of the mountains; the mountains of Ebal and Gerizim, which were near to Shechem:
and Zebul said unto him, thou seest the shadow of the mountains, as if they were men; either deriding him, as being just out of his bed, and his eyes scarce open, that he could not discern shadows from men; or rather as being of such a timorous spirit, that he was afraid of shadows; or else he said this, putting on an air of seriousness, as if he really believed this to be the case, on purpose to deceive him, and keep him from talking about them, while Abimelech and his men made further advances before Gaul could make any preparation to meet them.
see, there come people down by the middle of the land; either in the valley between the two mountains; or rather those he first saw on the top of the mountains were now come down about the middle of them, called in the Hebrew text the navel, from the prominence of the mountains thereabout, or because the navel is in the middle of the body, as this part of them was the middle on which he saw them. R. Isaiah interprets it, between the two cities:
and another company come along by the plain of Meonenim; of which we read nowhere else. Montanus renders it, "the oak of Meonenim"; or of the soothsayers; oaks being had in great esteem with idolaters for their oracles and divinations; and perhaps this was a place, whether an oak or, a plain, where such persons used to meet to make their divinations.
where is now thy mouth, wherewith thou saidst, who is Abimelech, that we should serve him? darest thou say the same thou hast done, and utter the contemptuous language concerning Abimelech, asking who he was, that he should be served? Here he is, speak to his face; what are become of those boasts and brags, and great swelling words, what thou wouldest do if thou hadst the command of this city?
is not this the people thou hast despised? as small and insignificant, bidding Abimelech increase his army, and come out and fight:
go out, I pray thee, now, and fight with them; and show thyself to be a man of courage, and not a mere blusterer, a man that can use his sword as well as his tongue.
and fought with Abimelech; without the city.
and many were overthrown and wounded, even unto the entering of the gate; or, "they fell many wounded" (k), or slain, as the Targum; that is, many were killed and wounded, as in the battle, so in the pursuit, and lay all the way to the entrance into the gate of the city, to which Gaal, and the men of Shechem, made for their safety, and got in.
(k) "et ceciderant vulnerati multi", Pagninus, Montanus.
and Zebul thrust out Gaal and his brethren, that they should not dwell in Shechem; there seems to have been two parties in Shechem before, one that hated Abimelech, and another more friendly to his interest; by which means Zebul his officer kept his post, and Gaal could not get the government into his hand; and now by the loss in the late battle, who were Abimelech's sworn enemies, and the disgrace Gaal fell into by being beaten, Zebul was able, so far able to carry his point, as to drive Gaul and his brethren out of the city; though he had not strength to put him to death, or to seize him and deliver him into the hands of Abimelech.
(l) De loc. Heb. fol. 94. B.
that the people went out into the field; some think to fight, and try the event of another battle, in order to be freed from Abimelech, but that seems not so likely: rather to finish their vintage, as Josephus (l), or to till their ground, to plough and sow, which quickly came on after the vintage was ended; find this they might do the more securely, since Abimelech had withdrawn himself and his forces to his place of habitation, and so concluded he would not soon at least return to them; and the rather they might think he would be more easy, with then, since Gaal was thrust out from among them:
and they told Abimelech; or it was told Abimelech, that the people came out into the field, and so an opportunity offered to him to come and cut them off, as they were at their business unarmed.
(l) Antiqu. l. 5. c. 7. sect. 4.
and divided them into three companies: each having a separate leader, and the command of one of them he had himself:
and laid wait in the field; in the field of Shechem, one company in one part, and one in another part of the field:
and looked, and, behold, the people were come forth out of the city; he watched them when they did:
and he rose up against them, and smote them; the companies rose up out of their ambush, in different parts, and killed them.
rushed forward, and stood in the entering of the gate of the city; to prevent the people that were in the field getting into it, and any from coming out of it to their relief:
and the two other companies ran upon all the people that were in the fields, and slew them; so that by this means none escaped.
(m) "et capita", Pagninus, Montanus, Drusius; "et principes", Vatablus.
and he took the city; it was surrendered to him, not being able to stand out against his forces:
and slew the people that was therein; all but those that were of his own family and his friends; all that had taken up arms against him, or had shown their dislike of his government, and were his enemies:
and beat down the city; the houses in it, and walls of it, though it was his native place:
and sowed it with salt; not to make it barren, for he would rather then have sowed the field, though this would not have had any effect of that kind, for any time at least; but to show his detestation of it, because of the ill usage he had met with, and as a token of its perpetual destruction, to which he devoted it, determining that if it was in his power it should never be rebuilt; but it was hereafter, and became again a very flourishing city in Jeroboam's time. Thus the Emperor Frederic Barbarossa, in the year 1162, when he took Milan, not only ploughed it up, but sowed it with salt; and in memory of it there is a street in it, now called "la contrada della Sala" (n): besides, Abimelech did this to deter other cities from rebelling against him; for if he so used his own city, more severely, if possible, would he use others.
(n) Sigonius de regn. Ital. l. 13, & 14.
they entered into an hold of the house of the god Berith; not thinking themselves safe enough in the tower, they betook themselves to the temple of Baalberith their god, see Judges 9:4 which was a strong fortified place, as temples often were; or however had a strong hold belonging to it, and hither they fled, either because of the greater strength of the place, or because of the sanctity of it, and imagining Abimelech would not destroy it on that account; and the rather, because of the supply he had from it, which enabled him to raise himself to the government of Israel.
that all the men of the tower of Shechem were gathered together; in the hold of the temple of Baalberith.
he and all the people that were with him; his whole army:
and Abimelech took an axe in his hand, and cut down a bough from the trees; which grew upon Mount Zalmon:
and took it, and laid it on his shoulders; and carried it along with him:
and said unto the people that were with him, what ye have seen me do, make haste, and do as I have done; take an axe, and every man cut down a bough with all possible haste, and lay it on his shoulder.
and put them to the hold, and set the hold on fire upon them; upon the men in it, or with them, the boughs of trees; it is probable the hold was made of wood, and so could the more easily be set on fire. Jarchi says it was a wood or forest, where they bent the trees, and divided them round about, and made a fence of them; but they would scarcely have left the tower for such a shelter:
so that all the men of the tower of Shechem died also; fire being put to the hold, and they burnt in it; the Vulgate Latin version adds, with fire and smoke; for they being boughs of trees just cut down, with which they set fire to the hold, they would not burn easily and clearly, but make a prodigious smoke, with which many might be suffocated, as others burnt with fire; and it is unaccountable that Josephus (o) should say that faggots of dry wood were taken, and with them fire set to the hold, when the text is so express for it that they were boughs of green trees just cut off:
about a thousand men and women; but the above historian makes them to be many more; he says the men were about 1500, and the rest a great multitude; this literally fulfilled Jotham's curse.
(o) Antiqu. l. 5. c. 7. sect. 4.
and encamped against Thebez, and took it: it seems not to have held out long, being deserted by its inhabitants, who fled to the tower, as follows.
(p) Theatrum Terrae Sanct. p. 70. (q) De loc. Hebrews 95. D.
and hither fled all the men and women, and all they of the city; men, women, and children, man and maid servants, all the inhabitants of the city; the tower being a large place, having not only many rooms in it, but perhaps a large area in the midst of it, as well as it had battlements on the top of it:
and shut it to them; the gates of it, and which no doubt they strongly barred and bolted, to keep out the enemy:
and gat them up to the top of the tower; to observe the motions of Abimelech, and annoy him as much as they could with what they carried with them, as stones, and the like.
and fought against it; using all the methods he could to oblige those in it to surrender:
and went hard unto the door of the tower to burn it with fire; in order to get entrance into it; and perhaps the tower was built of stone, so that no other part could be set fire to; and to do this he drew near to the door himself, for nothing more is meant by the phrase, "went hard", than drawing near in his own person to the door; hazarding his life in the enterprise, being so bent upon it, thinking to do by this tower what he had done to the hold of the temple of Baalberith.
upon Abimelech's head, and all to break his skull; she did it with that view, though it may as well be rendered, or "she", or "it broke his skull" (r); it made a fracture in it, which was mortal. Abendana observes, and so others, that that was measure for measure, a righteous retaliation, that as he had slain seventy of his brethren on one stone, he should die by means of a stone.
(r) "et confregit cranium ejus", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator; so Tigurine version.
and said unto him, draw thy sword and slay me, that men say not of me, a woman slew him; it being reckoned very ignominious and reproachful to die by the hand of a woman, and especially any great personage, as a king or general of an army (s); to avoid this, he chose rather to be guilty of suicide, or of what cannot well be excused from it, and so died by suicide; which, added to all his other sins, he seemed to have no sense of, or repentance for; and the method he took to conceal the shame of his death served the more to spread it; for this circumstance of his death could not be given without the reason of it, and which was remembered and related punctually near two hundred years afterwards, 2 Samuel 11:21.
(s) "O turpe fatum! foemina Herculeae, necis Auctor feretur ----" Seneca Oetaeo.
they departed every man to his place; disbanded themselves, and went everyone to their own home, and so the inhabitants of Thebez escaped the vengeance of Abimelech.
in slaying his seventy brethren; excepting one, which was a piece of unheard of wickedness, attended with most sad aggravations; the shedding such blood required blood to be shed again, and it was righteous judgment God rendered to him; this, and the following verse contain the remarks made upon this history by the writer of it, who, as we have seen, in all probability, was the Prophet Samuel.