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Judges 9:53-57: The Death of Abimelech: A Cautionary Tale

Verse 53:[1] And a certain woman (2 Sam. 11:21) cast a piece of a millstone upon Abimelech’s head, and all to brake his skull.

[A piece of a millstone, that is, of a lapidis molaris[2] (Lapide): רֶכֶב] Of a chariot (Montanus); of a lapidis molaris (Arabic); of a millstone (Jonathan, Syriac, Pagnine), namely, an upper millstone[3] (Syriac, Vatablus). It is thus named from its position (Vatablus); because it is carried and rides upon the lower, as it were (Drusius). It is likely that they carried stones into the highest parts of temples, so that they might have them in readiness to repel enemies (Martyr). Behold the judgment of God! He who had killed his brethren upon one stone, now is now crushed by a stone. He who had stirred up such tumults because of the country and family of his Shechemite mother, is put to death by a woman (Serarius). With a like death, Pyrrhus was destroyed by a woman;[4] Plutarch’s Life of Pyrrhus. Plutarch, in the Life of Sulla, says the same thing, therefore, that τειχομαχίας, battles with walls, were disapproved of by the Spartins, because in them even the most might man might be killed by a woman (Grotius).

A piece of a millstone: Such great stones no doubt they carried up with them, whereby they might defend themselves, or offend those who assaulted them. Here the justice of God is remarkable in suiting the punishment to his sin. He slew his brethren upon a stone, verse 5, and he loseth his own life by a stone.

Verse 54:[5] Then (so 1 Sam. 31:4) he called hastily unto the young man his armour-bearer, and said unto him, Draw thy sword, and slay me, that men say not of me, A woman slew him. And his young man thrust him through, and he died.

[That it might not be said that I have been slain by a woman] Which was always held as the most dishonorable (Bonfrerius). Seneca in Oetæus,[6] A disgraceful fate! that a woman shall be considered the author of the death of Hercules (Grotius). On the other hand, it was a matter of comfort, that you fall by the right hand of the great Æneas.[7] He that had sought the glory of the kingdom his whole life, was justly punished with an inglorious death (Lapide). Not because he was fleeing was he able to make his escape (Bonfrerius). For this is said, and in addition it shall always be said, etc., 2 Samuel 11:21 (Menochius). That was true of Abimelech, He entered like a fox, reigned like a lion, died like a dog (Lapide).

A woman slew him; which was esteemed a matter of disgrace.

Verse 55:[8] And when the men of Israel saw that Abimelech was dead, they departed every man unto his place.

Verse 56:[9] (Judg. 9:24; Job 31:3; Ps. 94:23; Prov. 5:22) Thus God rendered the wickedness of Abimelech, which he did unto his father, in slaying his seventy brethren…

The wickedness which he did unto his father, in rooting out, as far as he could, the name, and memory, and remainders of his father.

Verse 57:[10] And all the evil of the men of Shechem did God render upon their heads: and upon them came (Judg. 9:20) the curse of Jotham the son of Jerubbaal.

[1] Hebrew: וַתַּשְׁלֵ֞ךְ אִשָּׁ֥ה אַחַ֛ת פֶּ֥לַח רֶ֖כֶב עַל־רֹ֣אשׁ אֲבִימֶ֑לֶךְ וַתָּ֖רִץ אֶת־גֻּלְגָּלְתּֽוֹ׃

[2] That is, a kind of volcanic rock used as a millstone.

[3] רֶכֶב can signify a chariot, or an upper millstone (riding upon the lower).

[4] Pyrrhus (c. 319-272 BC) was a Greek general and statesman, eventual king of Epirus, and an opponent of Rome. Pyrrhus was killed during a battle in the city of Argos; as he engaged an Argive soldier, the enemy soldier’s mother threw a tile from a roof, killing Pyrrhus.

[5] Hebrew: וַיִּקְרָ֙א מְהֵרָ֜ה אֶל־הַנַּ֣עַר׀ נֹשֵׂ֣א כֵלָ֗יו וַיֹּ֤אמֶר לוֹ֙ שְׁלֹ֤ף חַרְבְּךָ֙ וּמ֣וֹתְתֵ֔נִי פֶּן־יֹ֥אמְרוּ לִ֖י אִשָּׁ֣ה הֲרָגָ֑תְהוּ וַיִּדְקְרֵ֥הוּ נַעֲר֖וֹ וַיָּמֹֽת׃

[6] It seems unlikely that Oetæus is by Seneca.

[7] Virgil’s Æneid 10:1175.

[8] Hebrew: וַיִּרְא֥וּ אִֽישׁ־יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל כִּ֣י מֵ֣ת אֲבִימֶ֑לֶךְ וַיֵּלְכ֖וּ אִ֥ישׁ לִמְקֹמֽוֹ׃

[9] Hebrew: וַיָּ֣שֶׁב אֱלֹהִ֔ים אֵ֖ת רָעַ֣ת אֲבִימֶ֑לֶךְ אֲשֶׁ֤ר עָשָׂה֙ לְאָבִ֔יו לַהֲרֹ֖ג אֶת־שִׁבְעִ֥ים אֶחָֽיו׃

[10] Hebrew: וְאֵ֗ת כָּל־רָעַת֙ אַנְשֵׁ֣י שְׁכֶ֔ם הֵשִׁ֥יב אֱלֹהִ֖ים בְּרֹאשָׁ֑ם וַתָּבֹ֣א אֲלֵיהֶ֔ם קִֽלֲלַ֖ת יוֹתָ֥ם בֶּן־יְרֻבָּֽעַל׃

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Dr. Dilday
Dr. Dilday
Aug 27, 2018

Matthew Henry: 'In the attempt he was himself destroyed, having his brains knocked out with a piece of a millstone, Judges 9:57. No doubt this man was a murderer, whom, though he had escaped the dangers of the war with Shechem, yet vengeance suffered not to live, Acts 28:4. Evil pursues sinners, and sometimes overtakes them when they are not only secure, but triumphant. Thebez, we may suppose, was a weak inconsiderable place, compared with Shechem. Abimelech, having conquered the greater, makes no doubt of being master of the less without any difficulty, especially when he had taken the city, and had only the tower to deal with; yet he lays his bones by that, and there is all hi…

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