Bible study 219 – Judges 9

After Gideon’s death, Abimelech convinces the populace of Shechem that he should be their leader, and goes to kill 68 of his 69 brothers. Jotham, the only survivor, recites a poem about the time the trees went out searching for someone to be their tree-king. It doesn’t really seem to fit the current narrative at all (nobody asked Abimelech to be king; he asked for it himself), so I would guess that it was an already known, independent poem that the author chose to incorporate into this chapter (although the imagery of fire coming out from the final tree, is reflected in fire coming out of Abimelech later).

However, God doesn’t like Abimelech, so he has the populace of Shechem dislike him. When they are about to rebel, Abimelech meets them in battle and defeats them. The next day he slaughters the populace when they are working in the fields, razes Shechem, and sows it with salt.

Apparently not content with just having destroyed his own capital and murdered most of his subjects there, Abimelech then starts travelling around his little kingdom to destroy everything he can find. Luckily, he doesn’t get very far; while setting fire to a tower full of civilians, a woman drops a millstone on his head from above. Since he doesn’t want to be killed by a woman, Abimelech has one of his soldiers finish the job. His death makes his warriors realize the insanity and pointlessness of the civil war they are currently fighting, and…

Judges 9:55
When the Israelites saw that Abimelech was dead, they all went home.

Full text.


Gustave Doré, The Death of Abimelech. Notice the tower, the millstone, and the soldier who is about to pierce Abimelech. From Wikipedia.


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