Judges 9 – “Abimelech Rules Shechem with an Iron Fist”

Hebrew-English Text
I. Summary
Abimelech takes control of Shechem and kills his seventy brothers. When a rebellion led by Gaal precipitates, Abimelech kills the entire city. He also attacks Thebaz, but a woman kills him by dropping a millstone on his head.

II. Photo
Gaal is tricked by a friend of Abimelech: “Gaal saw the army and said to Zebul, ‘That’s an army marching down from the hilltops!’ But Zebul said to him, ‘The shadows of the hills look to you like men.’” (v 36)

III. Important Verses
vv 1-2: Abimelech son of Jerubbaal went to his mother’s brothers in Shechem and spoke to them and to the whole clan of his mother’s family. He said,  “Put this question to all the citizens of Shechem: Which is better for you, to be ruled by seventy men — by all the sons of Jerubbaal — or to be ruled by one man? And remember, I am your own flesh and blood.”
vv 26-27: Then Gaal son of Ebed and his companions came passing through Shechem, and the citizens of Shechem gave him their confidence. They went out into the fields, gathered and trod out the vintage of their vineyards, and made a festival. They entered the temple of their god, and as they ate and drank they reviled Abimelech.
vv 36-39: Gaal saw the army and said to Zebul, “That’s an army marching down from the hilltops!” But Zebul said to him, “The shadows of the hills look to you like men.” Gaal spoke up again, “Look, an army is marching down from Tabbur-erez, and another column is coming from the direction of Elon-meonenim.” “Well,” replied Zebul, “where is your boast, ‘Who is Abimelech that we should serve him’? There is the army you sneered at; now go out and fight it!” So Gaal went out at the head of the citizens of Shechem and gave battle to Abimelech.
vv 48-49: Abimelech and all the troops he had with him went up on Mount Zalmon. Taking an ax in his hand, Abimelech lopped off a tree limb and lifted it onto his shoulder. Then he said to the troops that accompanied him, “What you saw me do — quick, do the same!” So each of the troops also lopped off a bough; then they marched behind Abimelech and laid them against the tunnel, and set fire to the tunnel over their heads. Thus all the people of the Tower of Shechem also perished, about a thousand men and women.
vv 53-54: But a woman dropped an upper millstone on Abimelech’s head and cracked his skull. He immediately cried out to his attendant, his arms-bearer, “Draw your dagger and finish me off, that they may not say of me, ‘A woman killed him!’” So his attendant stabbed him, and he died.

IV. Outline
1-4a. Abimelech becomes ruler of Shechem
4b-6. Abimelech kills all of Jerubbaal’s sons except Jotham
7-21. Jotham’s parable and rebuke of the Shechemites
22-29. The beginnings of rebellion
30-41. Abimelech takes first strike
42-49. Abimelech kills the Shechemites
50-52. Abimelech lights fire to the tower of Thebez
53-54. A woman drops a millstone on Abimelech and he dies
55. The troops return home
56-57. Postscript about divine retribution

V. Comment
No comment today. Stay tuned.

VI. Works Used
(see “Commentaries” page)
Trent C. Butler, “Judges” (Word Biblical Commentary vol. 8; Nashville: Nelson, 2009).
Collins, John J. “Introduction to the Hebrew Bible,” Word Biblical Commentary vol. 15 (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2004).
Photo taken from