Judges 9:22-24: Shechem's Conspiracy against Abimelech

[circa 1206 BC] Verse 22:[1] When Abimelech had reigned three years over Israel…


[He reigned over Israel, וַיָּשַׂר] And he held the principate over Israel, that is, over part of Israel (Vatablus). The Shechemites alone constituted him King; but afterwards all Israel consented, or at least did not oppose him. Or he is said to have reigned over Israel, because at that time there was no other Judge or King (Tostatus). It does not say, he judged Israel, but, he held the principate, because his principate was not legitimate (Drusius). He forced himself upon them tyrannically, and acted the part of a tyrant over his subjects (Munster).


Over Israel: For though the men of Shechem were the first authors of Abimelech’s advancement, it is more than probable that the rest of the people easily consented to that form of government which they so much desired; or, at least, made no resistance against it.


Verse 23:[2] Then (1 Sam. 16:14; 18:9, 10; see 1 Kings 12:15; 22:22; 2 Chron. 10:15; 18:19, etc.; Is. 19:2, 14) God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the men of Shechem; and the men of Shechem (Is. 33:1) dealt treacherously with Abimelech…


[And He sent a very evil spirit] A spirit of dissension, and of discord, and of hatred (Vatablus, Drusius, Lapide): a malignant spirit, or a very Devil (Augustine and others in Menochius, Montanus). He was here the author and inciter of discord (Menochius). God did this, not only permissively, but also positively (Lapide, Bonfrerius, Tirinus), and imperatively (Tirinus). God instilled a scruple in the Shechemites concerning the parricides of Abimelech, etc., and thence the arisen hatred. He disturbed their peace and conscience with the recollection of the crime: He sent the Demon as tormenter to vex them (Lapide).


[Who began to detest him, וַיִּבְגְּדוּ] They dealt treacherously (Pagnine). They defected from their King (Vatablus, Drusius). There is nothing less stable than a people’s wealth gathered by evil arts; but then the sins by which they profited are also visited (Grotius).


God sent an evil spirit, etc.: God gave the devil commission to enter into or work upon their minds and hearts; knowing that he of himself, and by his own inclination, would fill them with mistakes, and jealousies, and dissensions, and heart-burnings, which would end in civil wars and mutual ruin.


Verse 24:[3] (1 Kings 2:32; Esth. 9:25; Ps. 7:16; Matt. 23:35, 36) That the cruelty done to the threescore and ten sons of Jerubbaal might come, and their blood be laid upon Abimelech their brother, which slew them; and upon the men of Shechem, which aided him in the killing (Heb. strengthened his hands to kill[4]) of his brethren.


[The crime, etc., לָב֕וֹא חֲמַ֖ס שִׁבְעִ֣ים בְּנֵֽי־יְרֻבָּ֑עַל] So that might come (that is, that might come [Syriac, Munster], so that might return [Junius and Tremellius], namely, upon Abimelech and the Shechemites: which words by ὑπόζευγμα/ hypozeugma are to be repeated out of the following member [Piscator]) the injury of the seventy sons of Jerubbaal (Munster, Pagnine, Montanus, Piscator). A Genitive of a receiving subject. The injury, that is, the punishment of the injury (Piscator). The injury inflicted on the seventy sons (Syriac, Piscator out of Junius and Tremellius). The violence of the sons, that is, inflicted upon the sons. Thus, the violence of Jacob, inflicted on Jacob[5] (Drusius). [The Arabic thus; And God did indeed permit it, so that the impiety, etc., might be avenged: Osiander thus; For they were lying in wait for his life, as it will next be said, so that might come the violence, etc.]


The cruelty, that is, the punishment of the cruelty.


[And the shedding of their blood, etc., וְדָמָ֗ם לָשׂ֞וּם עַל־אֲבִימֶ֤לֶךְ] [They conjoin it with what precedes in this manner:] That might come the injury…and their blood, that God might return it upon Abimelech (Syriac). That the impiety…and their blood He might avenge, etc. (Arabic). That the injury might return, that is, their slaughter might be requited, etc. (Junius and Tremellius). He says the same thing twice in different words (Vatablus). That the injury might come…and that their blood He might devolve, etc. (Tigurinus). Hebrew: and their blood, to set; that is, and as far as their blood is concerned, that He might set it upon Abimelech. It is epexegetical, whereby the genus is explained by a species. Blood in the place of slaughter, by metonymy of subject, because slaughter is occupied with blood (namely, its effusion). But slaughter in the place of the punishment of slaughter, by metonymy of the efficient (Piscator). To put blood upon him is to seek the punishments of blood. Thus, His blood be upon us and upon our children[6] (Drusius).

[1] Hebrew: וַיָּ֧שַׂר אֲבִימֶ֛לֶךְ עַל־יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל שָׁלֹ֥שׁ שָׁנִֽים׃


[2] Hebrew: וַיִּשְׁלַ֤ח אֱלֹהִים֙ ר֣וּחַ רָעָ֔ה בֵּ֣ין אֲבִימֶ֔לֶךְ וּבֵ֖ין בַּעֲלֵ֣י שְׁכֶ֑ם וַיִּבְגְּד֥וּ בַעֲלֵי־שְׁכֶ֖ם בַּאֲבִימֶֽלֶךְ׃


[3] Hebrew: לָב֕וֹא חֲמַ֖ס שִׁבְעִ֣ים בְּנֵֽי־יְרֻבָּ֑עַל וְדָמָ֗ם לָשׂ֞וּם עַל־אֲבִימֶ֤לֶךְ אֲחִיהֶם֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר הָרַ֣ג אוֹתָ֔ם וְעַל֙ בַּעֲלֵ֣י שְׁכֶ֔ם אֲשֶׁר־חִזְּק֥וּ אֶת־יָדָ֖יו לַהֲרֹ֥ג אֶת־אֶחָֽיו׃


[4] Hebrew: חִזְּק֥וּ אֶת־יָדָ֖יו לַהֲרֹ֥ג.


[5] Obadiah 10: “For thy violence against thy brother Jacob (מֵחֲמַ֛ס אָחִ֥יךָ יַעֲקֹ֖ב) shame shall cover thee, and thou shalt be cut off for ever.”


[6] Matthew 27:25.

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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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