GOD’S WORD Translation
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Abimelech Kills His Brothers

Abimelech, son of Jerubbaal [Gideon], went to Shechem to see the uncles on his mother’s side of the family. He spoke to them and his mother’s whole family. He said, “Please ask all citizens of Shechem, ‘What seems best to you? Do you really want all of Jerubbaal’s 70 sons to rule you or just one man? Remember, I’m your own flesh and blood.’ ” 

His uncles repeated everything he said to all citizens of Shechem. They were persuaded to follow Abimelech because he was their relative. So they gave him 70 pieces of silver from the temple of Baal Berith. With the silver, Abimelech hired worthless and reckless men to follow him. Then he went to his father’s home in Ophrah. There he executed his 70 brothers, Jerubbaal’s sons. But Jotham, Jerubbaal’s youngest son, survived because he hid. All the citizens from Shechem and Beth Millo united. They went to the oak tree that was still standing in Shechem and proclaimed Abimelech king. 

Jotham’s Story

When Jotham was told about this, he went to a high spot on Mount Gerizim. He shouted to them, “Listen to me, you citizens of Shechem, so that God might listen to you. 

“The trees went to anoint someone to be king over them. 

They said to the olive tree, 

‘Be our king!’ 

But the olive tree responded, 

‘Should I stop producing oil, 

which people use to honor gods and humans, 

in order to rule the trees?’ 

10  Then the trees said to the fig tree, 

‘You come and be our king!’ 

11  But the fig tree responded, 

‘Should I stop producing my good, sweet fruit 

in order to rule the trees?’ 

12  Then the trees said to the grapevine, 

‘You come and be our king!’ 

13  But the grapevine responded, 

‘Should I stop producing my wine, 

which makes gods and humans happy, 

in order to rule the trees?’ 

14  Then all the trees said to the thornbush, 

‘You come and be our king!’ 

15  But the thornbush responded to the trees, 

‘If you really want to anoint me to be your king, 

then come and take shelter in my shade. 

But if not, fire will come out of the thornbush 

and burn up the cedars of Lebanon.’ 

16 “If you acted with sincerity and integrity when you made Abimelech king, ⸤be happy.⸥ If you treated Jerubbaal and his family well, if you treated him as he deserved, be happy. 17 My father fought for you. He risked his life and rescued you from Midian. 18 But today you have attacked my father’s family. You have executed his 70 sons. You have made Abimelech, who is the son of my father’s slave girl, king over the citizens of Shechem just because he’s your brother. 19 So if you are now acting with sincerity and integrity toward Jerubbaal and his family, then be happy with Abimelech and let Abimelech be happy with you. 20 But if that’s not the case, let fire come out of Abimelech and burn up citizens of Shechem and Beth Millo. Also let fire come out of citizens of Shechem and Beth Millo and burn up Abimelech.” 

21 Then Jotham ran away quickly. He went to Beerah and lived there ⸤to avoid⸥ his brother Abimelech. 

Abimelech’s Battles

22 Abimelech ruled Israel for three years. 23 Then God sent an evil spirit to cause problems between Abimelech and citizens of Shechem. So citizens of Shechem turned against Abimelech. 24 God did this so that the bloody violence committed against Jerubbaal’s 70 sons would happen to Abimelech and citizens of Shechem. Citizens of Shechem had helped Abimelech execute his brothers. 

25 So citizens of Shechem set ambushes for Abimelech on top of the mountains. They also robbed everyone who passed by them on the road. This was reported to Abimelech. 

26 Then Gaal (son of Ebed) and his brothers moved into Shechem. Citizens of Shechem trusted him. 27 They went into the country and harvested grapes in the vineyards to make wine. Then they made an offering of praise in the temple of their gods. They ate, drank, and cursed Abimelech. 28 Gaal (son of Ebed) said, “Who’s Abimelech, and who are we, the people of Shechem, that we should serve him? Isn’t he Jerubbaal’s son, and isn’t Zebul his officer? Serve the descendants of Hamor, Shechem’s father! Why should we serve Abimelech? 29 How I wish I controlled these people! Then I’d get rid of Abimelech. I would tell him,a ‘Get yourself a big army and come out.’ ” 

30 Zebul, Shechem’s ruler, heard what Gaal (son of Ebed) had said, and he became angry. 31 He secretly sent messengers to Abimelech. “Watch out! Gaal (son of Ebed) and his brothers have come to Shechem. They have turned the city against you. 32 You and your men must start out tonight. Set an ambush ⸤for them⸥ in the fields ⸤around Shechem⸥. 33 In the morning, when the sun rises, get up quickly and raid the city. When Gaal and his men come out to attack you, do whatever you want to him.” 

34 Abimelech and all his troops started out at night. He used four companies to set ambushes around Shechem. 35 Gaal (son of Ebed) went out and stood at the entrance to the city. Then Abimelech and his troops rose from their ambush. 36 When Gaal saw the troops, he said to Zebul, “Look, troops are coming down from the mountaintops!” 

Zebul replied, “The shadows of the mountains look like men to you.” 

37 Gaal spoke again, “No, there are troops coming down from Tabbur Haares. One company is coming along the road by the Fortunetellers’ Tree.” 

38 Then Zebul said to him, “Where is your big mouth now? You were the one who said, ‘Who’s Abimelech that we should serve him?’ Aren’t these the troops ⸤whose ruler⸥ you despised? Now go out and fight him.” 

39 Then Gaal led citizens of Shechem out to fight Abimelech. 40 Abimelech chased Gaal so that he ran away from him. Many were killed at the entrance of the city. 41 Abimelech continued to live at Arumah. Zebul threw Gaal and his brothers out and would not let them live in Shechem. 

42 The next day the people ⸤of Shechem⸥ went into the fields. Abimelech was told about it. 43 So he took his troops, divided them into three companies, and set an ambush in the fields. He watched and saw the people coming out of the city. Then he began to attack them. 44 Abimelech and his company charged the city and captured its entrance. The other two companies charged at everyone in the fields and attacked them. 45 Abimelech attacked the city all day long. He captured the city and killed the people in it. He also tore down the city and scattered salt all over the land. 

46 All the citizens of Shechem’s Tower heard about it and went into the basement of the temple of El Berith. 47 When Abimelech was told that they had gathered there, 48 he and all his men went to Mount Zalmon. Abimelech took an ax, cut some brushwood, and carried it on his shoulder. He told his men, “Hurry and do what you’ve seen me do!” 49 So all his troops also cut brushwood and followed Abimelech. They piled the brushwood on top of the basement and set it on fire with the people inside. So all the people in Shechem’s Tower died too. There were about a thousand men and women. 

50 Then Abimelech went to Thebez, camped there, and captured it. 51 Now, there was a strong tower inside the town. All the men, women, and leaders of the town fled to it. They locked the door behind them and went up on the roof of the tower. 52 Abimelech came to the tower. He began to fight against it and went near the entrance of the tower to burn it down. 53 Then a woman threw a small millstone that hit Abimelech on the head and cracked his skull. 54 He quickly called his armorbearer. He told him, “Take your sword and kill me! I don’t want anyone to say, ‘A woman killed Abimelech.’ ” His armorbearer did as he said, so Abimelech died. 55 When the people of Israel saw that Abimelech was dead, they all went home. 

56 So God paid back Abimelech for the evil he had done to his father when he killed his 70 brothers. 57 God also paid back the men of Shechem for all their evil. So the curse of Jotham, son of Jerubbaal, came true. 


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