The Bible – Old Testament
Abimelech, son of Jerubbaal, went to his mother’s kinsmen in Shechem, and said to them and to the whole clan to which his mother’s family belonged,
“Put this question to all the citizens of Shechem: ‘Which is better for you: that seventy men, or all Jerubbaal’s sons, rule over you, or that one man rule over you?’ You must remember that I am your own flesh and bone.”
When his mother’s kin repeated these words to them on his behalf, all the citizens of Shechem sympathized with Abimelech, thinking, “He is our kinsman.”
They also gave him seventy silver shekels from the temple of Baal of Berith, with which Abimelech hired shiftless men and ruffians as his followers.
He then went to his ancestral house in Ophrah, and slew his brothers, the seventy sons of Jerubbaal, on one stone. Only the youngest son of Jerubbaal, Jotham, escaped, for he was hidden.
Then all the citizens of Shechem and all Beth-millo came together and proceeded to make Abimelech king by the terebinth at the memorial pillar in Shechem.
When this was reported to him, Jotham went to the top of Mount Gerizim, and standing there, cried out to them in a loud voice: “Hear me, citizens of Shechem, that God may then hear you!
Once the trees went to anoint a king over themselves. So they said to the olive tree, ‘Reign over us.’
1 But the olive tree answered them, ‘Must I give up my rich oil, whereby men and gods are honored, and go to wave over the trees?’
Then the trees said to the fig tree, ‘Come; you reign over us!’
But the fig tree answered them, ‘Must I give up my sweetness and my good fruit, and go to wave over the trees?’
Then the trees said to the vine, ‘Come you, and reign over us.’
2 But the vine answered them, ‘Must I give up my wine that cheers gods and men, and go to wave over the trees?’
Then all the trees said to the buckthorn, ‘Come; you reign over us!’
But the buckthorn replied to the trees, ‘If you wish to anoint me king over you in good faith, come and take refuge in my shadow. Otherwise, let fire come from the buckthorn and devour the cedars of Lebanon.’
3 “Now then, if you have acted in good faith and honorably in appointing Abimelech your king, if you have dealt well with Jerubbaal and with his family, and if you have treated him as he deserved –
for my father fought for you at the risk of his life when he saved you from the power of Midian;
but you have risen against his family this day and have killed his seventy sons upon one stone, and have made Abimelech, the son of his handmaid, king over the citizens of Shechem, because he is your kinsman –
if, then, you have acted in good faith and with honor toward Jerubbaal and his family this day, rejoice in Abimelech and may he in turn rejoice in you.
But if not, let fire come forth from Abimelech to devour the citizens of Shechem and Beth-millo, and let fire come forth from the citizens and from Beth-millo to devour Abimelech.”
Then Jotham went in flight to Beer, where he remained for fear of his brother Abimelech.
When Abimelech had ruled Israel for three years,
God put bad feelings between Abimelech and the citizens of Shechem, who rebelled against Abimelech.
This was to repay the violence done to the seventy sons of Jerubbaal and to avenge their blood upon their brother Abimelech, who killed them, and upon the citizens of Shechem, who encouraged him to kill his brothers.
The citizens of Shechem then set men in ambush for him on the mountaintops, and these robbed all who passed them on the road. But it was reported to Abimelech.
Now Gaal, son of Ebed, came over to Shechem with his kinsmen. The citizens of Shechem put their trust in him,
and went out into the fields, harvested their grapes and trod them out. Then they held a festival and went to the temple of their god, where they ate and drank and cursed Abimelech.
Gaal, son of Ebed, said, “Who is Abimelech? And why should we of Shechem serve him? Were not the son of Jerubbaal and his lieutenant Zebul once subject to the men of Hamor, father of Shechem? Why should we serve him?
Would that this people were entrusted to my command! I would depose Abimelech. I would say to Abimelech, ‘Get a larger army and come out!'”
At the news of what Gaal, son of Ebed, had said, Zebul, the ruler of the city, was angry
and sent messengers to Abimelech in Arumah with the information: “Gaal, son of Ebed, and his kinsmen have come to Shechem and are stirring up the city against you.
Now rouse yourself; set an ambush tonight in the fields, you and the men who are with you.
Promptly at sunrise tomorrow morning, make a raid on the city. When he and his followers come out against you, deal with him as best you can.”
During the night Abimelech advanced with all his soldiers and set up an ambush for Shechem in four companies.
Gaal, son of Ebed, went out and stood at the entrance of the city gate. When Abimelech and his soldiers rose from their place of ambush,
Gaal saw them and said to Zebul, “There are men coming down from the hilltops!” But Zebul answered him, “You see the shadow of the hills as men.”
But Gaal went on to say, “Men are coming down from the region of Tabbur-Haares, and one company is coming by way of Elon-Meonenim.”
Zebul said to him, “Where now is the boast you uttered, ‘Who is Abimelech that we should serve him?’ Are these not the men for whom you expressed contempt? Go out now and fight with them.”
So Gaal went out at the head of the citizens of Shechem and fought against Abimelech.
But Abimelech routed him, and he fled before him; and many fell slain right up to the entrance of the gate.
Abimelech returned to Arumah, but Zebul drove Gaal and his kinsmen from Shechem, which they had occupied.
The next day, when the people were taking the field, it was reported to Abimelech,
who divided the men he had into three companies, and set up an ambush in the fields. He watched till he saw the people leave the city, and then rose against them for the attack.
Abimelech and the company with him dashed in and stood by the entrance of the city gate, while the other two companies rushed upon all who were in the field and attacked them.
4 That entire day Abimelech fought against the city, and captured it. He then killed its inhabitants and demolished the city, sowing the site with salt.
When they heard of this, all the citizens of Migdal-shechem went into the crypt of the temple of El-berith.
It was reported to Abimelech that all the citizens of Migdal-shechem were gathered together.
So he went up Mount Zalmon with all his soldiers, took his axe in his hand, and cut down some brushwood. This he lifted to his shoulder, then said to the men with him, “Hurry! Do just as you have seen me do.”
So all the men likewise cut down brushwood, and following Abimelech, placed it against the crypt. Then they set the crypt on fire over their heads, so that every one of the citizens of Migdal-shechem, about a thousand men and women, perished.
Abimelech proceeded to Thebez, which he invested and captured.
Now there was a strong tower in the middle of the city, and all the men and women, in a word all the citizens of the city, fled there, shutting themselves in and going up to the roof of the tower.
Abimelech came up to the tower and fought against it, advancing to the very entrance of the tower to set it on fire.
But a certain woman cast the upper part of a millstone down on Abimelech’s head, and it fractured his skull.
He immediately called his armor-bearer and said to him, “Draw your sword and dispatch me, lest they say of me that a woman killed me.” So his attendant ran him through and he died.
When the Israelites saw that Abimelech was dead, they all left for their homes.
Thus did God requite the evil Abimelech had done to his father in killing his seventy brothers.
God also brought all their wickedness home to the Shechemites, for the curse of Jotham, son of Jerubbaal, overtook them.
1  Whereby men and gods are honored: oil was used in the worship both of the true God and of false gods; it was prescribed in the worship of Yahweh (⇒ Lev 2:1, 6, ⇒ 15; ⇒ 24:2). It was also used to consecrate prophets, priests and kings (⇒ Exodus 30:25, ⇒ 30; ⇒ 1 Sam 10:1; ⇒ 16:13).
2  Cheers gods: wine was used in the libations both of the Temple of Jerusalem and of pagan temples.
3  Just as the noble trees refused the honor of royalty and were made subject to a mean plant, so did Abimelech of less noble birth than the seventy sons of Gideon now tyrannize over the people.
4  Sowing the site with salt: a severe measure, which was a symbol of desolation, and even more, since it actually rendered the ground barren and useless.