Abimelech’s Conspiracy

Now Abimelech the son of Jerubbaal (Gideon) went to Shechem to his mother’s relatives, and said to them and to the whole clan of the household of his mother’s father, “Speak now in the hearing of all the leaders of Shechem, ‘Which is better for you, that seventy men, all of the sons of Jerubbaal rule over you, or that one man rule over you?’ Also, remember that I am your own bone and flesh.” So his mother’s relatives spoke all these words concerning him so that all the leaders of Shechem could hear; and their hearts were inclined to follow Abimelech, for they said, “He is our relative.” And they gave him seventy pieces of silver from the house of Baal-berith, with which Abimelech hired worthless and undisciplined men, and they followed (supported) him. Then he went to his father’s house at Ophrah and murdered his brothers the sons of Jerubbaal, seventy men, [in a public execution] on one stone. But Jotham the youngest son of Jerubbaal was left alive, because he had hidden himself. All the men of Shechem and all of [a]Beth-millo assembled together, and they went and made Abimelech king, by the oak (terebinth) of the pillar (memorial stone) at Shechem.

When they told Jotham, he went and stood at the top of Mount Gerizim and shouted to them, “Hear me, O men of Shechem, so that God may hear you. [b]Once the trees went forth to anoint a king over them, and they said to the olive tree, ‘Reign over us!’ But the olive tree said to them, ‘Should I give up my fatness by which God and men are honored, and go to wave over the trees?’ 10 Then the trees said to the fig tree, ‘You come and reign over us!’ 11 But the fig tree said to them, ‘Should I give up my sweetness and my good fruit, and go to wave over the trees?’ 12 Then the trees said to the vine, ‘You come and reign over us.’ 13 And the vine replied, ‘Should I give up my new wine, which makes God and men happy, and go to wave over the trees?’ 14 Then all the trees said to the bramble, ‘You come and reign over us.’ 15 So the bramble said to the trees, ‘If in truth you are anointing me king over you, then come and take refuge in my shade; but if not, let fire come out of the bramble and devour the cedars of Lebanon.’

16 “Now then, if you acted in truth and integrity when you made Abimelech king, and if you have dealt well with Jerubbaal and his house, and have dealt with him as he deserved— 17 for my father fought for you and risked his life and rescued you from the hand of Midian; 18 but you have risen against my father’s house today and have murdered his sons, seventy men, on one stone, and have made Abimelech, son of his maidservant, king over the people of Shechem, because he is your relative— 19 if then you have acted in truth and integrity with Jerubbaal and his house this day, then rejoice in Abimelech, and let him also rejoice in you. 20 But if not, may fire come out from Abimelech and devour the people of Shechem and Beth-millo; and may fire come out from the people of Shechem and Beth-millo, and devour Abimelech.” 21 Then Jotham escaped and fled, and went to Beer and lived there because of Abimelech his brother.

Shechem and Abimelech Fall

22 Abimelech ruled over Israel for three years. 23 Then God sent an [c]evil spirit between Abimelech and the leaders of Shechem; and the leaders of Shechem acted treacherously against Abimelech, 24 so that the violence done to the seventy sons of Jerubbaal (Gideon) might come [on the guilty], and that their [innocent] blood might be laid on Abimelech their brother, who had killed them, and on the leaders of Shechem, who strengthened his hands (encouraged him) to kill his brothers. 25 The leaders of Shechem set men in ambush against Abimelech on the mountaintops, and they robbed all who passed by them along the road; and it was reported to Abimelech.

26 Now Gaal the son of Ebed came with his relatives, and moved into Shechem; and the leaders of Shechem trusted him. 27 They went out into the field, gathered the grapes of their vineyard and trod them, and held a festival; and they entered the house of their god, and they ate and drank, and cursed Abimelech. 28 Gaal the son of Ebed said, “Who is Abimelech, and who is Shechem, that we should serve him? Is he not [merely] the son of Jerubbaal and is Zebul not his lieutenant? Serve the men of Hamor the father (founder) of Shechem. Why then should we serve Abimelech? 29 If only this people were under my authority! Then I would remove Abimelech and say to him, ‘Increase [the size of] your army and come out [to fight].’”

30 When Zebul the ruler of the city heard the words of Gaal the son of Ebed, his anger burned. 31 He sent messengers to Abimelech secretly, saying, “Behold, Gaal the son of Ebed and his relatives have come to Shechem; and they are stirring up the city against you. 32 Now then, get up during the night, you and the people who are with you, and set up an ambush in the field. 33 Then in the morning, at sunrise, you will get up early and rush upon and attack the city; and when Gaal and the people who are with him come out against you, you shall do to them [d]whatever you can.”

34 So Abimelech and all the people who were with him got up during the night, and set up an ambush against Shechem, in four companies. 35 Now Gaal the son of Ebed came out and stood in the entrance of the city gate; then Abimelech and the people who were with him got up from the ambush. 36 When Gaal saw the people, he said to Zebul, “Look, people are coming down from the mountaintops.” But Zebul said to him, “You are only seeing the shadow of the mountains as if they were men.” 37 Gaal spoke again and said, “Look! People are coming down from the highest part of the land, and one company is coming by way of the sorcerers’ oak tree.” 38 Then Zebul said to Gaal, “Where is your [boasting] mouth now, you who said, ‘Who is Abimelech that we should serve him?’ Is this not the people whom you despised? Go out now and fight with them!” 39 So Gaal went out ahead of the leaders of Shechem and fought with Abimelech. 40 Abimelech chased him, and he fled before him; and many fell wounded as far as the entrance of the gate. 41 Then Abimelech stayed at Arumah, and Zebul drove out Gaal and his relatives so that they could not remain in Shechem.

42 The next day the people went out to the field, and it was reported to Abimelech. 43 So he took his people and divided them into three companies, and set an ambush in the field; and he looked and saw the people coming out of the city. And he rose up against them and struck them down. 44 Then Abimelech and the company with him advanced forward and stood in the entrance of the city gate; the two other companies attacked all who were in the field and killed them. 45 Abimelech fought against the city that entire day. He took the city and killed the people who were in it; he demolished the city and [e]sowed it with salt.

46 When all the leaders of the Tower of Shechem heard about it, they entered the inner chamber (stronghold) of the [f]temple of El-berith (the god of a covenant). 47 Abimelech was told that all the leaders of the Tower of Shechem were assembled together. 48 So Abimelech went up to Mount Zalmon, he and all the people with him; and Abimelech took an axe in his hand and cut down a branch from the trees, picked it up, and laid it on his shoulder. And he said to the people with him, “What you have seen me do, hurry and do just as I have done.” 49 So everyone of the people also cut down his branch and followed Abimelech, and they put the branches on top of the inner chamber and set it on fire over those inside, so that all the people in the Tower of Shechem also died, about a thousand men and women.

50 Then Abimelech went to Thebez, and camped against Thebez and took it. 51 But there was a strong (fortified) tower in the center of the city, and all the men and women with all the leaders of the city fled to it and shut themselves in; and they went up on the roof of the tower. 52 So Abimelech came to the tower and fought against it, and approached the entrance of the tower to burn it down with fire. 53 But a certain woman threw an upper millstone [down] on Abimelech’s head and crushed his skull. 54 Then he called quickly to the young man who was his armor bearer, and said to him, “Draw your sword and kill me, so that it will not be said of me, ‘A woman killed him.’” So the young man pierced him through, and he died. 55 When the men of Israel saw that Abimelech was dead, each departed to his home. 56 In this way God repaid the wickedness of Abimelech, which he had done to his father [Jerubbaal] by killing his seventy brothers. 57 Also God repaid all the wickedness of the men of Shechem on their heads, and the curse of Jotham the son of Jerubbaal (Gideon) came upon them.(A)


  1. Judges 9:6 Or the house of Millo.
  2. Judges 9:8 This riveting speech in which inanimate objects (trees, a vine, a bush) are personified is the first of only a few fables recorded in the Bible. It ends with a curse (v 20) which is fulfilled at the end of the chapter.
  3. Judges 9:23 I.e. a disruptive, hateful attitude.
  4. Judges 9:33 Lit as your hand finds.
  5. Judges 9:45 Even if Abimelech had been able to supply enough salt, spreading it over Shechem was not intended to actually make the ground unproductive; it was a symbol of perpetual desolation, and a warning that Shechem should never be rebuilt. However, Shechem was later rebuilt (1 Kin 12:25).
  6. Judges 9:46 Lit house.

Cross references

  1. Judges 9:57 : Judg 9:19, 20