Judges 9:46: Retreat to the House of Baal-Berith

Verse 46:[1] And when all the men of the tower of Shechem heard that, they entered into an hold of the house (Judg. 8:33) of the god Berith.


[When those that were dwelling in the tower of Shechem had heard this] Question: What then was this tower? Response 1: I do not doubt that it was the citadel of the city (Malvenda). It was a tower within the walls of Shechem (Munster). This does not satisfy others. For, 1. then they would not have been said to have heard those things, but to have seen them (Serarius, Bonfrerius). 2. It is not likely that the sowing of the salt was applied before that tower was overturned (Bonfrerius). Response 2: This tower was the town of Millo (Serarius, Lapide). For Jothan cursed that as well, verse 20, which is noted to have had its effect, verse 57 (Serarius, Bonfrerius). Therefore, it is likely that the overthrowing of this town is not passed over in silence; but, if it is not related here, it was related nowhere else (Bonfrerius). This town is called a tower, because in it was a lofty and fortified citadel, after the likeness of a tower (Lapide); and because it was not large (Bonfrerius). It is not a new thing, that a town would be called a tower. Cæsarea was called Strato’s Tower.[2] Moreover, it was called the Tower of Shechem, either, 1. it was raised to watch and to keep the dangerous way that extended to Shechem; or, 2. after the man Shechem, whose memory his posterity wanted to preserve (Serarius); or, 3. Because Millo was a colony of Shechem (Lapide).


The tower of Shechem; a strong place belonging to the city of Shechem, and made for its defence or security, but without the city. It is thought this was that Millo which was confederate with Shechem in their design for Abimelech, verse 6, which also Jotham cursed with Shechem, verse 20, and that curse is noted to have its effect, verse 57. And this place may be called the tower of Shechem, either because those who possessed and defended it were sent from Shechem, or because it was built and kept for the safeguard of Shechem.


[They entered the sanctuary of their god Berith, אֶל־צְרִ֔יחַ בֵּ֖ית אֵ֥ל בְּרִֽית׃] To the stronghold of Bethel-Berith (Pagnine, Montanus); into the tower of the house (sanctuary [Tigurinus]) of the god Berith (Dieu); the bulwark, the sanctuary of the god Berith (Junius and Tremellius). They retreated into the stronghold of Bethel for a covenant (Jonathan in Tigurinus notes), that is, so that they might enter into a covenant with those that were in the stronghold (Vatablus); or, so that they might make a treaty for their lives with Abimelech (Malvenda). They assembled to enter into a covenant in Bethel (Syriac). They came together at Bethel, so that there they might make swear together and conspire there (Arabic). צְרִיחַ/vault Kimchi and Levi translate as מִגְדַּל/tower, as if an elevated place, from which a watchman cries out, from צָרַח, to cry out. It is able to be translated, to an upper room (that is, a chamber in a higher part of the house, which צרח signifies in Æthiopic, Mark 14:14, 15) of the house of the god Berith. Evidently the men of the tower of Shechem are said to have fled together there, because they were shut off from their on tower on account of the capture of the city (Piscator). Berith is the same as Baal-berith (Junius, Bonfrerius, Drusius). They entered there, so that they might protect themselves, either, 1. by the religion of the place (Menochius): so that there they might be safe as in a sacred Asylum (Dieu). They were foolishly believing that Baal was going to aid them, and was going to defend his temple (Martyr). Or, 2. by the memory of the benefit that Abimelech had received from his (the God’s) sacred treasury (Menochius, Bonfrerius). Or, 3. by fortification of the place (Malvenda). And certainly the locations of temples are wont to be the most heavily fortified, as if they were stongholds (Malvenda). Thus the Capitoline Hill in Rome (which remained intact after the capture of the city),[3] and the Temple at Jerusalem (Martyr). But also, since there was a public treasury in this place, the place ought to have been most heavily fortified (Bonfrerius).


The house of the god Berith; or, Baal-berith, verse 4. Hither they fled out of the town belonging to it, fearing the same event with Shechem; and here they thought to be secure; partly by the strength of the place, as the temples of idols were ofttimes built in the highest and strongest places, as the capitol at Rome, and the temple at Jerusalem; and such this place seems to have been, because they laid their treasure here, verse 4, partly by the religion of it, thinking that either their god would protect them there, or that Abimelech would spare them there, if not out of piety to that god, yet out of thankfulness for the benefit which he received thence, verse 4.

[1] Hebrew: וַֽיִּשְׁמְע֔וּ כָּֽל־בַּעֲלֵ֖י מִֽגְדַּל־שְׁכֶ֑ם וַיָּבֹ֣אוּ אֶל־צְרִ֔יחַ בֵּ֖ית אֵ֥ל בְּרִֽית׃


[2] Cæsarea was a town on coast of the Mediterranean, on the plain of Sharon. It was built by Herod the Great in the first century BC near a Phœnician naval station known as Strato’s Tower.


[3] The Capitoline Hill was one of the Seven Hills of Rome. Upon it was built a temple to Jupiter, and the hill was regarded as indestructible and as a symbol of eternity.

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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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