Judges 9:1-3: Abimelech's Seduction of Shechem

Verse 1:[1] And Abimelech the son of Jerubbaal went to Shechem unto (Judg. 8:31) his mother’s brethren, and communed with them, and with all the family of the house of his mother’s father, saying…


[To Shechem] It was a city situated on mount Ephraim; one of the cities of refuge, Joshua 20:7 (Piscator).


[Unto his mother’s brethren] That is, maternal uncles. These are distinguished from the rest of the family (Bonfrerius).


Verse 2:[2] Speak, I pray you, in the ears of all the men of Shechem, Whether is better for you, either (Heb. What is good? whether, etc.[3]) that all the sons of Jerubbaal, which are (Judg. 8:30) threescore and ten persons, reign over you, or that one reign over you? remember also that I am (Gen. 29:14) your bone and your flesh.


[Unto all the men of Shechem, בְּאָזְנֵ֙י כָל־בַּעֲלֵ֣י שְׁכֶם֮] In the ears of all the lords of Shechem, that is, of the Princes (Vatablus, Menochius, Montanus’ Commentary, Bonfrerius). Thus above, אַנְשֵׁי סֻכּוֹת, the princes of Succoth[4] (Drusius). To others: the lords, that is, possessors, or inhabitants, of Shechem (Drusius, Piscator, Glassius). The title בַּעַל/baal/lord has an equally wide application with אִישׁ/ man. Thus in Numbers 21:28, בַּעֲלֵ֖י בָּמ֥וֹת אַרְנֹֽן׃, the lords of the high places of Arnon, that is, the inhabitants (Glassius’ “Sacred Grammar” 129).

[Which to you is better, etc.?] The tyrant feigns all seventy of his brethren to be seeking the kingdom, and to contend over it (Lapide). He takes his argument from the excellence of the Monarchichal government (Estius, Menochius, Bonfrerius): that is to say, Even if ye should make one of them Judge, the rest, because they are of the same descent, will also claim the principate among you, and will be grievous to you (Estius). The Shechemites could believe, either, that they might rule with the land divided among themselves; or, by succession and with the offices interchanged; or rather, that he that alone might rule might permit to his brethren to take command among the people, so that he might maintain them in great state, make exactions, etc. (Tostatus). But in many ways this argument is faulty. 1. The sons of the Judges were not succeeding their fathers. 2. If anyone succeed his father, it would have been only name, namely, the firstborn (Lapide). 3. The sons of Gideon were not advancing themselves, indeed, it is to be believed that they took after their father[5] (Martyr, similarly Bonfrerius). 4. It was to be left to the Lord, whether He desired one or many to rule (Serarius). He [Abimelech here] sinned, 1. in that which we said, Judges 8:23; 2. in idolatry; 3. because he took the role of the people from the people (Grotius).


[That seventy men reign] As princes of the city, πρωτοπολίται (Grotius).


[The sons of Jerubbaal] He makes use of this name so as to produce ill will. For that old offense, which Gideon, having cast down the altar of Baal, had previously endured, was yet remaining in the minds of those surviving. That is to say, there will be seventy sons of Gideon, who that invidious name of Jerubbaal both will add in titles, and will furnish in substance (Montanus’ Commentary).


He supposeth that the sons of Jerubbaal would take that government which their father modestly refused, and that the multitude of his sons would occasion horrible divisions, and confusions, and contests about the sovereign power; all which they might avoid by choosing him king; and so they might enjoy the monarchy which they had long and oft desired.


[Your bone and flesh] That is, your kinsman. Perhaps he had regard to Genesis 2:23. Thus 2 Samuel 19:13; 1 Chronicles 11:1; Ephesians 5:30 (Drusius). This is his second argument; which is easily refuted. For in the midst of that people regard is to be had, not so much to flesh and blood, as to prudence and virtue (Serarius). And, if regard is to be to relatives, yet that is to be done without diminishment of the Republic and of the Divine precepts. In commissioning magistrates the advantage, not of their own interest, but of the common good, is to be regarded (Martyr).


Your bone and your flesh; your kinsman, of the same tribe and city with you; which will be no small honour and advantage to you.


Verse 3:[6] And his mother’s brethren spake of him in the ears of all the men of Shechem all these words: and their hearts inclined to follow (Heb. after[7]) Abimelech; for they said, He is our (Gen. 29:15) brother.


[His mother’s brethren] That is, kinsmen. Thus, the brothers of the Lord, Acts 1:14, the four of the other Mary, Matthew 13:55; Mark 15:40. Abram was Lot’s brother, Genesis 14:16; Jacob was Laban’s, Genesis 29:12 (Drusius).


His mother’s brethren, that is, kinsmen, as that word is oft used, as Genesis 14:16; 29:12.


[They inclined their heart] That is, their mind and affections (Vatablus).


[Our brother] Carnal affections; from which Moses was free (Grotius).


He is our brother; they were easily persuaded to believe and follow what served their own interest.

[1] Hebrew: וַיֵּ֙לֶךְ אֲבִימֶ֤לֶךְ בֶּן־יְרֻבַּ֙עַל֙ שְׁכֶ֔מָה אֶל־אֲחֵ֖י אִמּ֑וֹ וַיְדַבֵּ֣ר אֲלֵיהֶ֔ם וְאֶל־כָּל־מִשְׁפַּ֛חַת בֵּית־אֲבִ֥י אִמּ֖וֹ לֵאמֹֽר׃


[2] Hebrew: דַּבְּרוּ־נָ֞א בְּאָזְנֵ֙י כָל־בַּעֲלֵ֣י שְׁכֶם֮ מַה־טּ֣וֹב לָכֶם֒ הַמְשֹׁ֙ל בָּכֶ֜ם שִׁבְעִ֣ים אִ֗ישׁ כֹּ֚ל בְּנֵ֣י יְרֻבַּ֔עַל אִם־מְשֹׁ֥ל בָּכֶ֖ם אִ֣ישׁ אֶחָ֑ד וּזְכַרְתֶּ֕ם כִּֽי־עַצְמֵכֶ֥ם וּבְשַׂרְכֶ֖ם אָנִֽי׃


[3] Hebrew: מַה־טּ֣וֹב לָכֶם֒ הַמְשֹׁ֙ל.


[4] Judges 8:5, 6: “And he said unto the men of Succoth (לְאַנְשֵׁ֣י סֻכּ֔וֹת), Give, I pray you, loaves of bread unto the people that follow me; for they be faint, and I am pursuing after Zebah and Zalmunna, kings of Midian. And the princes of Succoth (שָׂרֵ֣י סֻכּ֔וֹת) said, Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna now in thine hand, that we should give bread unto thine army?”


[5] Judges 8:22, 23.


[6] Hebrew: וַיְדַבְּר֙וּ אֲחֵֽי־אִמּ֜וֹ עָלָ֗יו בְּאָזְנֵי֙ כָּל־בַּעֲלֵ֣י שְׁכֶ֔ם אֵ֥ת כָּל־הַדְּבָרִ֖ים הָאֵ֑לֶּה וַיֵּ֤ט לִבָּם֙ אַחֲרֵ֣י אֲבִימֶ֔לֶךְ כִּ֥י אָמְר֖וּ אָחִ֥ינוּ הֽוּא׃


[7] Hebrew: אַחֲרֵי.

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Dr. Steven Dilday holds a BA in Religion and Philosophy from Campbell University, a Master of Arts in Religion from Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia), and both a Master of Divinity and a  Ph.D. in Puritan History and Literature from Whitefield Theological Seminary.  He is also the translator of Matthew Poole's Synopsis of Biblical Interpreters and Bernardinus De Moor’s Didactico-Elenctic Theology.

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