The Book of Judges, Chapter 9

We ended Chapter 8 noting that as soon as Gideon was dead, the people fell into syncretism (the act of blending paganism with their religion).  They forgot about Gideon and his family, and they forgot about God.

We also noted that Gideon may have brought some of this trouble down upon his own household by creating an ephod of gold, which became an idol.  Gideon, while he refused to be called a king, “had many wives”, a concubine and 70 sons.

This next story is one about the lust for power.  People can hide ambition in all sorts of ways.  Similar to money, power can be an influence for good, but it can also be something that people lust after.  Jesus said that the greatest should become slaves.  Jesus turned the whole idea of government upside down.

If you think the story of Abimelech has nothing to do with the Church, perhaps you should rethink that.

 And Abimelech the son of Jerubbaal went to Shechem unto his mother’s brethren, and communed with them, and with all the family of the house of his mother’s father, saying,

~ Jdg 9:1

Shechem has a history of violence in the Bible.  Levi and Simeon took revenge upon the men of Shechem after their sister was raped (Ge 33:18 – 34:30).  Did some of the descendants still remember this?

Joshua set up a stone memorial there as a witness after his famous speech ending with, “but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (Jos 24:1, 26-27).

So, Abimelech, the son of a concubine of Gideon in Shechem (8:31), undoubtedly was the outcast of the family.  His mother would have been “only a concubine” (my paraphrase).  He would have probably been an outcast as well due to his name.  Abimelech means “my father, the king”.

And, so he now addresses his family as only a true politician would:

 Speak, I pray you, in the ears of all the men of Shechem, Whether is better for you, either that all the sons of Jerubbaal, which are threescore and ten persons, reign over you, or that one reign over you? remember also that I am your bone and your flesh.

~ Jdg 9:2

This type of rhetoric happens all the time in religious circles.  Note the false dichotomy.  It assumes that either you must submit to one or to all the sons of Gideon.  Is there any indication that the other sons of Jerubbaal (aka Gideon) even wanted to rule?  Surely if they did, one of them would have risen up and done so by now.  Furthermore, the ending of chapter 8 is a strong indicator that they did not.

However, Abimelech’s relatives, who very likely saw a chance at power themselves (and as the story goes on, that becomes evident as well), decide to go along with Abimelech.  They even finance his scheme, and Abimelech hires some thugs to go with him and kill his brothers.  Afterwards, they declare Abimelech as king, something his father refused to do.

However, one of his brothers, Jotham, hides himself and is able to escape the slaughter.  When Jotham finds out about Abimelech being declared king, he hightails it up to Mount Gerizim.

Now, Shechem is situated between Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal.  You might recall the ceremony that the Children of Israel did where the blessings were written upon Mount Gerizim and the curses were written upon Mount Ebal (Jos 8:30-35).  For that ceremony to take place, the acoustics must have been pretty good.  So, there is a practical and symbolic reason for Jotham to go up to Gerizim to make his address.

Notice that all the good trees declined to become king.  Once more, we see a strong indication that the legal sons of Gideon were not seeking the kingship.  He starts with the olive tree, which is one of the most prized trees (“goodness”) in that region.  He then moves to the fig tree, which is also highly esteemed because of its sweet fruit.  Now, the grapevine, which really isn’t a tree at all, but it is still highly valued.  In fact, Jesus even compared Himself to the vine.

Last, we come to the bramble, which is good for nothing except perhaps to start a fire with.  In fact, you wouldn’t want to use it to keep the fire going, as it would snap and crackle and possibly get out of control.  And, in fact, Jotham even says, “Let fire come out of the bramble and devour the cedars of Lebanon.”  Now, the cedars of Lebanon were not only highly prized, but they were expensive.  However, the bramble doesn’t care about the value of what it destroys as long as it gets its way.

How much less does the lust for power destroy?  As this story illustrates, the lust for power is even more destructive than a forest fire.  In essence, that fire, that lust for power, will destroy Abimelech and his relatives before it’s all said and done.

After only three years, strife comes up between them (vv 22 – 23).  The men of Shechem begin to show their true colors and some of them form a band of highway robbers.  A man named Gaal becomes their ringleader.  They make some wine and then start having a wild party and begin speaking badly about Abimelech and boasting against him.

 28 And Gaal the son of Ebed said, Who is Abimelech, and who is Shechem, that we should serve him? is not he the son of Jerubbaal? and Zebul his officer? serve the men of Hamor the father of Shechem: for why should we serve him?

~ Jdg 9:28

Notice the lineage.  It indeed seems that some did survive the swords of Levi and Simeon and remember their lineage.  Gaal decides that being a descendant of Hamor and Shechem is superior to being a descendant of Gideon.  Possibly, he even felt that Abimelech was “mixed blood” and therefore not really fit to be king.  When people drink, such notions come out into the open when more sober men wouldn’t contemplate such things.  It is also likely that drinking only emboldened his already growing ambition.

 29 And would to God this people were under my hand! then would I remove Abimelech. And he said to Abimelech, Increase thine army, and come out.

~ Jdg 9:29

As the saying goes, “Be careful what you ask for.”  Apparently Zebul, the city mayor, was an ally of Abimelech.  So, he decides its time to put Gaal’s words to the test.  He sends messengers to Abimelech to wait up in the mountains so he can bring this braggart out to him in the wee hours of the morning.

Now, as Gaal and Zebul come out of the city and travel the road, Gaal says he thought he saw movement.  Zebul tells him they are just the shadows in the mountains.  At first, this may seem like a preposterous tale, but remember Gaal had a lot to drink the night before.  However, even Gaal eventually comes out of his fog enough to realize there really are people moving down the mountain.

 38 Then said Zebul unto him, Where is now thy mouth, wherewith thou saidst, Who is Abimelech, that we should serve him? is not this the people that thou hast despised? go out, I pray now, and fight with them.

~ Jdg 9:38

And so, the battle begins.  Some of them flee back into the city, but on the following day, Zebul kicks Gaal out of the city into the hands of Abimelech, who is waiting for them in the fields.  However, it appears that they still had a stronghold in Berith, the house of their god, which was likely in the outer part of the city (outside the walls).  So, Abimelech comes against them and against the tower located there.

Towers seem to be bad news in the Book of Judges.  Abimelech and his army cut down trees, put them around the tower and set fire to the trees.  Thus, he overtakes the Tower of Shechem.

He then pursues others to Thebez, which also has a tower.  He tries the same trick there, but a woman throws a millstone down, and it crushes Abimelech’s skull.

Certain themes crop up time to time in the OT, and this is one of those times.

 15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.

~ Ge 3:15

The woman’s seed crushes the head of the serpent.  Here, that which proceeds from a woman crushes the enemy’s head, thus rendering the enemy ineffective.

Why did a woman have a millstone up in a tower during a siege?  Perhaps she might have thought it would be a long siege, and so people would have to eat during the siege.  However, in a siege, it would have been common to throw objects from a tower to deter the enemy, and so maybe it was the one thing she had that could be thrown over.

Abimelech doesn’t want to be known as someone who was killed by a woman.  Again, we see that as a soldier, dying by the hand of a woman would have been considered less than honorable.  So, he asks his armor bearer to kill him so “that men say not of me, A women slew him.”  Well, the armor bearer did kill him, but what did people say even years later?

 21 Who smote Abimelech the son of Jerubbesheth? did not a woman cast a piece of a millstone upon him from the wall, that he died in Thebez? why went ye nigh the wall? then say thou, Thy servant Uriah the Hittite is dead also.

~ 2Sa 11:21

There comes a point in time when you cannot influence your epithet any longer.  And, such was the case here.  God brought the wickedness of wicked people back upon themselves.

There is another theme we see throughout the Bible: That which you sow, you shall reap.

All the lust for power of Abimelech and Gaal came to a violent ending.

The New Testament warns of such things as well.  Jesus warned of false preachers and false messiahs.  Paul warned of ravenous wolves from within the Church.

Whenever a leader stands up and declares himself a “prophet”, “apostle”, or some other glorified title, ask yourself if that is the attitude of a little child that Jesus spoke of.

Go on to Chapter 10.


  1. It is always interesting how your synopsis of these things turn out–but not everyone would see them as true. John, once again you astonish me with Your "anti top down government" Statement: "Jesus turned the whole idea of government upside down". sometimes you ask the question of others –"is this Christian"–"is this necsesary"? what about it? This is totally inacurate because it supposes the same mindset as protestants–Christ came to do away with His Fathers Law–which is what God's government is based on and it comes from God–the top! by saying this you make it seem that it is now Christ's way to govern from the bottom up by voting of the people–which is UCG's position.
    Christ never turned the "whole idea of God's government upside down" –rather he supported it and that is what is in place in the true COG–like it or not! Those who keep rejecting this truth will get turned upside down in the lake of fire!

  2. John D Carmack

    So, let me get this straight: Because I reject something that is not found in the Bible, and I believe Jesus' statement that the last shall be first and the first, I'll be thrown into the Lake of Fire?

    What kind of cruel "god" do you worship, anyhow?

  3. Either we take the Bible literally or we don't. Your blog on Judges 9 was very similar to what I came away from it with. I have had a whole new appreciation for Judges (I got caught up in it beyond the daily Bible reading) this time and realize how much of it relates to us today.

    Lake of Fire for you, John? I think not. Unless I'm going to be there as well. And, as I prepare for Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread, even though I'm still way short of the goal and aware of my everpresent need of Christ's sacrifice to reconcile me completely and without exception to God so that repentance is a constant in my life, I am further convinced that God doesn't have the Lake of Fire in mind for me…or for you.

    He gives us His Spirit to discern. He gave us a mind, like His, to think and reason. He gives us His Word to learn and apply. He gives us wisdom and understanding, as we ask for it (James 1:5), to see how He views things – His perspective. Anything from our own perspective is suspect.

    Shoot me, Anonymous, if you believe that John is biased. I've been reading this blog a long time and John sticks to God's word – not adding to it nor subtracting from it. God expects us to draw conclusions from His word. God's conclusions don't always mesh with ours. That's the lesson.


  4. Christ did away with the Levitcal priesthood and or a need for a priesthood they were given no land but tithes from the other 11 tribes for a living. They made atonement for the people for their sins with bulls, goats, lambs, rams etc. Christ became that atonement. Once and for all. He then became our intercessor which elimated the need for a priesthood or hiearchy or need to pay them tithes. We are to give offerings as we see or feel able no longer tithes. Yes the priesthood hiearchey ended with Christ being our one and ONLY high priest and intercessor. Paul was and remained a tent maker, Peter, John, Etc remained fishermen if you think not read again they fished even as diciples, they were businessmen and had fishing crews, probably foremen and superviors they could leave the business in capable hands and travel and do other things. Levite priests were no longer needed. That is why they hated Christ they KNEW if he were the Messiah their day and time was at an end to rob the people and collect the tithes they lived off of which over the years became quite corrupt. Christ was also the passover and he made NEW symbols and said to remember to take that in rememberance of him until he again could take it with us in his Kingdom. There was no longer a need to keep the OLD passover that some keep still today. The ONLY days shown we keep in Revelations is. The Lord's Supper, What he took with his disciples after supper was ended. The Sabbath, The Feast of Tabernacles and the year of Jubilee I see no others we are to keep not any of the holy days of spring some still keep and they don't even keep those right nor have I seen anyone celebrate the feast of first fruits which is NOT Pentecost. Most barely is usually not harvested until late April or early May and you counted penticost from the day the first ripe barley was cut from the field. NOT from passover. Go read it. That is all I have to say. We keep the fall holy days not the spring. I Cor 14 shows how to hold a church service.

  5. John from Australia

    If you read the book of Hebrews and conclude that there has been a change in the priesthood and a change in the law (Hebrews 7:12) I would suggest that you have not followed the author’s line of reasoning and you are not reading the Bible Hebraically.

    There has been no change in the priesthood. In chapter 8 the author of Hebrews points out that “If he [Christ] were on earth, he would not be a priest, for there are already men who offer the gifts prescribed by the law” (8:4).

    This chapter also contains a quote from Jeremiah 31 – God’s promise of a new/renewed covenant with Israel – the longest quote from the OT. In chapter 33 of Jeremiah God has another promise for “those days” – the Millennium.

    God declared that during this time that the Levitical priests will not want for a man to stand before Him to offer burnt offerings, and to kindle meat offerings, and to do sacrifice continually. The only way this covenant could be broken is if the covenant with the day and night could be broken.

    The sons of Zadok served in Solomon’s temple and they will serve in Ezekiel’s temple. Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the priest in Zerubbabel’s Temple, after the neo-Babylon captivity provides the type for after the future end-time Babylonian captivity.

    Ezekiel’s focus on animal sacrifices in the Millennium concerns public worship.

    Eze 45:15 Also one sheep is to be taken from every flock of two hundred from the well-watered pastures of Israel. These will be used for the grain offerings, burnt offerings and fellowship offerings to make atonement for the people, declares the Sovereign LORD

    The blood of animal sacrifices will be required for atonement in the Kingdom of God as the following scriptures foretell:

    Eze 43:20 You are to take some of its blood and put it on the four horns of the altar and on the four corners of the upper ledge and all around the rim, and so purify the altar and make atonement for it.

    Eze 45:19 The priest is to take some of the blood of the sin offering and put it on the doorposts of the temple, on the four corners of the upper ledge of the altar and on the gateposts of the inner court.

    Eze 45:20 You are to do the same on the seventh day of the month for anyone who sins unintentionally or through ignorance; so you are to make atonement for the temple.

    As Walter Zimmerli notes: “In vv 15 and 17 [of chapter 45] the expiatory significance of the sacrifice is emphatically expressed. In 43:20 and 45:19f it can be seen that the expiatory power is especially attributed to the blood” (Ezekiel 2 – A Commentary on the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel Chapters 25-48, p.479).

    The ‘subjective’ efficacy of Old and New Covenant sacrifices is effected (retro-prospectively) by the ‘objective’ efficacy of Christ’s sacrifice. When the author of Hebrews points out that “there is no more offering for sin” (10:18) it is only on the ‘objective’ level, not the ‘subjective’. Refer also to the use of the Hebraic principle of “relative negation” in the author of Hebrews’ argument.

    In the Millennium the sacrificial animal for the Passover is a bull, which is a “sin”, or better, “purification” offering – a change in the focus of the celebration.

    The Priests and Levites are each allotted land measuring 25,000 by 10,000 in the teruma (Ezekiel 45:1). There is debate whether the ellipsis should be cubits or rods.

    It is interesting that these allotments have the same designation as the inner and outer compartments of the Temple – “Holy of Holies” (Ezekiel 48:12) and ‘Holy” (48:14).

    One other note on the Millennium – the tribe of Reuben has a higher status or social position than the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh.

  6. Government from the top down
    Q: Where in the Bible does it (say) I must believe in “God’s form of government” in the church in order to be saved?
    A: Anyone who does not submit to or believe God’s government is not a Christian and cannot receive the Holy Spirit, which is Christ living in them! (Gal.2:20) The Father has not opened his mind to this truth and he cannot see it. (John 6:44) John 10:30 "I and My Father are one." John 14:28— for My Father is greater than I.” (Christ is governed by the Father and totally submissive.)
    Luke 10:16 "He who hears you hears Me, he who rejects you rejects Me, and he who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me." (Christ is head of and governor of the Church -apostles and disciples.)
    John 12:48 “He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him– the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day.” (Christ governs man through His word for those who believe and obey. 1 Pet 4:17 “For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?”)
    John 13:16 “Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him.” (The Master governs the servant—but is also governed by higher authority—a chain of command.)
    John 14:24 "He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father's who sent Me.” John 20:21 “So Jesus said to them again, "Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you." Rom 10:15 “And how shall they preach unless they are sent?” (The one sent is by the authority of the sender—this is government.)
    1 Cor 4:17 “For this reason I (Paul) have sent Timothy to you,”— 2 Tim 2:2-3 And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit (assign) these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” 3 You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.”
    Titus 1:5 “For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you”–
    Government in the Church—Christ to Paul-apostle-Paul to Timothy-evangelist-Tim. To elders-overseers of congregations with deacons. If one cannot see the chain of command/government in this, his/her eyes are closed to truth the word of God reveals. All the reasoning around this is just that, plus a rejection of Christ and God to rule over them.
    1 Sam 8:7— “for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them.”
    The God i worship rules the universe by His government.

  7. John D Carmack

    Anonymous wrote: "The God i worship rules the universe by His government."

    No, the God I worship governs the universe. You have made an idol out of government. Furthermore, the Scriptures above that you have twisted only prove what I've been saying all along. We are to worship God, the Creator and Supreme Ruler.

    However, you are obviously too blind to see that you have made an idol out of this pet "doctrine". Therefore, you do not even understand that you did not answer the question. Why? Because you are so focused on government that you cannot see that the above does not address government. You would rather reinterpret the word to mean what you think it should mean.

    Who are the leaders? How are they selected? Where is God's mandate for choosing leaders? What are the responsibilities, duties and assignments of each of the roles? Who is in charge of whom? Where is the org chart? Seriously! Show me the org chart!

    No, God did not spell these things out. Do you want to know why? Because He is interested in how you will govern yourself! Will you submit to Him voluntarily or will you be self-willed and disobey His clear commands?

    Obviously, people would rather focus on men rather than God. Like the serpent on a pole that Moses made, people would rather worship what they can see and create.

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