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Judges 9:27: The Trust of the People in the Pretender, Gaal

Verse 27:[1] And they went out into the fields, and gathered their vineyards, and trode the grapes, and made (see Is. 16:9, 10; Jer. 25:30) merry (or, songs[2]), and went into (Judg. 9:4) the house of their god, and did eat and drink, and cursed Abimelech.

[They went out into the fields] He says this, because before this they kept themselves in the city for fear of Abimelech (Vatablus, Drusius, Malvenda), [not now they go out,] made bold by the presence and power of Gaal (Malvenda).

They went out into the fields, which, till his coming, they durst not do, for fear of Abimelech; but now took confidence to do so, in contempt of him.

[Wasting the vineyards] That is, doing the grape-gathering. Grape-gathering has a certain appearance of laying waste, namely, in that the vines are spoiled of their clusters: just as, on the other hand, grape-gathering is put in the place of laying waste more than once, as in Lamentations 1:12,[3] 22;[4] 2:20.[5] Nevertheless, there are those that refer this to vineyards of Abimelech (Bonfrerius).

[וַיִּבְצְר֤וּ אֶת־כַּרְמֵיהֶם֙[6]] And they harvested (they cut off [Arabic]) the vineyards of them (Montanus, Arabic), their vineyards (Septuagint, Jonathan, Syriac, Munster, Pagnine, Tigurinus, Junius and Tremellius). Having been made bold by the coming of Gaal, what they were not daring to do previously, they set about to do in gathering grapes, and pressing wine (Menochius). Others otherwise: These were the vines of the Princes of Shechem, who had exalted Abimelech unto Kingship: perhaps they were even the vines of Abimelech (Lapide out of Tostatus).

[And treading the grapes, וַיִּדְרְכוּ] And they trampled (Pagnine, Montanus, Vatablus), understanding, the grapes (Vatablus, Junius and Tremellius, Drusius); they pressed wine (Arabic). Others: they trod, or they travelled; that is, trusting in the protection of Gaal, they audaciously marched through paths and roads (certain interpreters in Malvenda).

[And with the choruses of singers performed, וַֽיַּעֲשׂ֖וּ הִלּוּלִ֑ים[7]] And they made rejoicings (Munster), hymns (Tigurinus), praisings, or exaltations (Malvenda), praises (Montanus). Choruses, understanding, of those singing and dancing, as it is wont to be done in the time of the grape harvest (Vatablus, Junius in Munster). Laudatory songs (Junius and Tremellius). By their singing and praises of Gaal they declared themselves to be free from all fear of Abimelech, and to ascribe this to Gaal (Junius). They made merry (Pagnine, Castalio, English), as men are wont to do after the grape-gathering, or the harvest, is complete; whence, the joy in harvest is put in the place of great joy.[8] See Psalm 4:7, than in the time of corn: Psalm 78:63, the virgins were not praised, that is, celebrated with nuptial songs,[9] as was customary: בית הלולא is the same as a house of marriage (Drusius). [But the Syriac translates it, with a feast made; and the Arabic, with a table prepared.]

Made merry; partly from the custom of rejoicing and singing songs in vintage time, Leviticus 19:24; Isaiah 16:10; Jeremiah 25:30; and partly for the hopes of their redemption from Abimelech’s tyranny.

[They entered the sanctuary of their God] That is, of Baal-berith, verse 4 (Lapide): either, so that they might praise him; so that they might give thanks to him concerning Abimelech’s cast off yoke, and offer sacrifices (Menochius out of Serarius, Osiander): or, so that they might give thanks to their god for the first-fruits (Martyr). For, just as, with the grape-gathering finished, they Jews were flocking together unto the Tabernacle at the feast of Tabernacles, to give thanks to God for the success of the grape harvest; so these were turning the act of thanksgiving to their idol (Bonfrerius).

[And in the midst of their courses] Hebrew: and they ate and they drank,[10] namely, before their god (Vatablus). Hence it is proven that of old worshippers of idols were feasted in the sanctuaries of their gods (Drusius). Which he also teaches us in Judges 16, in which they engage in feasts in the temple of Dagon (Bonfrerius).

The house of their god, Baal-berith, Judges 9:4; either to beg his help against Abimelech, or to give him thanks, either for the fruits of the earth now received, or for the hopes of recovering their former and lost liberty. Did eat and drink, to the honour of their idols, and out of the oblations made to them, as they used to do to the honour of Jehovah, and out of his sacrifices.

[They were cursing Abimelech] That is, by a solemn rite they pronounced terrible curses upon him in the temple (Malvenda). They cast abuses upon him, as is the custom at drinking-parties (Serarius). They flayed him with reproaches, and that in the same sanctuary in which they had previously taken counsel concerning placing Abimelech in charge of themselves (Martyr).

Cursed Abimelech; either by reviling and reproaching him after their manner; or rather in a more solemn and religious manner, cursing him by their god, as Goliath did David, 1 Samuel 17:43; or calling upon their god to ratify their curses pronounced against him.

[1] Hebrew: וַיֵּצְא֙וּ הַשָּׂדֶ֜ה וַֽיִּבְצְר֤וּ אֶת־כַּרְמֵיהֶם֙ וַֽיִּדְרְכ֔וּ וַֽיַּעֲשׂ֖וּ הִלּוּלִ֑ים וַיָּבֹ֙אוּ֙ בֵּ֣ית אֱֽלֹֽהֵיהֶ֔ם וַיֹּֽאכְלוּ֙ וַיִּשְׁתּ֔וּ וַֽיְקַלְל֖וּ אֶת־אֲבִימֶֽלֶךְ׃

[2] Hebrew: הִלּוּלִים.

[3] Lamentations 1:12: “Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by? behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow, which is done unto me (quoniam vindemiavit me, for He hath made a vintage of me, in the Vulgate), wherewith the Lord hath afflicted me in the day of his fierce anger.”

[4] Lamentations 1:22: “Let all their wickedness come before thee; and do unto them, as thou hast done unto me (et vindemia eos, sicut vindemiasti me, and make vintage of them, as thou hast made vintage of me, in the Vulgate) for all my transgressions: for my sighs are many, and my heart is faint.”

[5] Lamentations 2:20: “Behold, O Lord, and consider to whom thou hast done this (quem vindemiaveris ita, of whom thou hast thus made vintage, in the Vulgate). Shall the women eat their fruit, and children of a span long? shall the priest and the prophet be slain in the sanctuary of the Lord?”

[6] בָּצַר signifies to cut off, and thus to gather grapes.

[7] הִלּוּלִים signifies rejoicings or praises, from the Piel of הָלַל, to praise.

[8] See Isaiah 9:3.

[9] Psalm 78:63: “The fire consumed their young men; and their maidens were not given to marriage (וּ֜בְתוּלֹתָ֗יו לֹ֣א הוּלָּֽלוּ׃).”

[10] Hebrew: וַיֹּֽאכְלוּ֙ וַיִּשְׁתּ֔וּ.

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Dr. Dilday
Dr. Dilday

Matthew Henry: 'They did all the despite they could to Abimelech's name, Judges 9:27. They made themselves very merry in his absence, as those who were glad he was out of the way, and who, now that they had another to head them, were in hopes to get clear of him; nay, they went into the house of their god, to solemnize their feast of ingathering, and there they did eat, and drink, and cursed Abimelech, not only said all the ill they could of him in their table-talk and the song of their drunkards, but wished all the ill they could to him over their sacrifices, praying to their idol to destroy him. They drank healths to his confusion…

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