The Period Of The Judges

    
Chapter 42
Abimelech Appraised of Gaal’s Move [Judges 9.30-9.33]

 

Scripture: Judges 9:30-33 (KJV)

30 And when Zebul the ruler of the city heard the words of Gaal the son of Ebed, his anger was kindled.
31 And he sent messengers unto Abimelech privily, saying, Behold, Gaal the son of Ebed and his brethren be come to Shechem; and, behold, they fortify the city against thee.
32 Now therefore up by night, thou and the people that is with thee, and lie in wait in the field:
33 And it shall be, that in the morning, as soon as the sun is up, thou shalt rise early, and set upon the city: and, behold, when he and the people that is with him come out against thee, then mayest thou do to them as thou shalt find occasion.


Commentary


30 And when Zebul the ruler of the city heard the words of Gaal the son of Ebed, his anger was kindled.--Judges 9.30 (KJV) 
30 Zebul, Shechem's ruler, heard what Gaal (son of Ebed) had said, and he became angry.--Judges 9.30 (GW)

 

And when Zebul the ruler of the city…
When Zebul is first mentioned it isn’t certain who he really is.  But in this verse he is called the “ruler of the city,” that is sār, while earlier Gaal used the word “pāšaṭ.” When referring to him as pāšaṭ, Gaal didn’t use as respectful a word as sār. Abimelech had placed Zebul there in Shechem, under him, but in the position of “ruler of the city”: as such, he was his loyal confidant, or at least he was thought to be.

Heard the words of Gaal the son of Ebed, his anger was kindled;
Perhaps Zebul was inclined to be on the side of the Shechemites against Abimelech, before Gaal made his speech; but now, he is incensed at the words of Gaal and determined to take the side of Abimelech, and let him know how things were going against him. He may have deceived both Gaal and the Shechemites by quietly listening to the speech and appearing to be in agreement with it. Zebul’s anger would have been hot at Gaal’s words of rebellion and because he wanted to keep his position of “ruler of the city”; but also because of the disrespect shown to him; Gaal spoke disrespectfully of him when he referred to him as “pāšaṭ.”

31 And he sent messengers unto Abimelech privily, saying, Behold, Gaal the son of Ebed and his brethren be come to Shechem; and, behold, they fortify the city against thee.–Judges 9:31 (KJV)
31 He secretly sent messengers to Abimelech. “Watch out! Gaal (son of Ebed) and his brothers have come to Shechem. They have turned the city against you.–Judges 9:31 (GW)

And he sent messengers unto Abimelech privily…
This rebellious speech by Gaal was reported to Abimelech by the town-prefect Zebul, who sent messengers to him, either through deceit or secrecy or both, not allowing anyone to know that he sent them. At the time Abimelech was in Tormah (also called Arumah, which seems to have been his capital (see [1]Judges 9.41); or Ophrah, the birthplace of his father. Zebul would betray Gaal while feigning friendship for him and the men of Shechem.

saying, Gaal the son of Ebal, and his brethren, be come to Shechem;
The message they carried was “behold they stir up the city against thee.” Zebul, through these messengers let Abimelech know that Gaal the son of Ebal, and his brethren was in Shechem, campaigning against him. It was a family that Abimelech knew some things about; Gaal the son of Ebed and his brethren. And he knew they were of the race of the old Canaanites, so he would easily perceive their plan. Since Zebal fooled Gaal and Shechem’s leaders by pretending to support their cause, he betrayed them by informing Abemilech of what was happening within the city. Betrayers are often betrayed by some among them.

and, Behold, they fortify the city against thee;
Under the pretence of repairing the walls and towers, they were actually making the place ready to defend against attack by repairing its fortifications, or adding new works. They placed sentries at the gates, along the walls and in the towers, since they expected Abemilech would come with an army to besiege Shechem by surrounding it with his soldiers; no one would be able to leave the city. But Gaal planned to seize the government as soon as they knew Abemilech was preparing to attack them.

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[1]Judges 9.41; KJV) “And Abimelech dwelt at Arumah: and Zebul thrust out Gaal and his brethren, that they should not dwell in Shechem.”
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32 Now therefore up by night, thou and the people that is with thee, and lie in wait in the field:--Judges 9:30 (GW)
32 You and your men must start out tonight. Set an ambush {for them} in the fields {around Shechem}.--Judges 9:30 (GW)

Now therefore up by night…
Zebul prudently advises him not to waste time; to get up at night and march against the city immediately. He thinks the best strategy is to march his forces by night into the neighborhood, of Shechem. He not only shared the contents of Gaal’s speech with Abimelech; but, he also gave the king some strategies for dealing with this boastful intruder

thou and the people that is with thee;
The troops he had with him were not only those of his own guards, but he included the men he had been recruiting; having received intelligence before this of the revolt of the Shechemites from him.

and lie in wait in the fields;
We do not k now for sure where Abemilech was at, but he left with his troops at night and marched with the forces he had. Under the cover of darkness they marched to Shechem, undiscovered, and remained hidden in the fields until morning, and then they would attack the Shechemites before they were aware, and surprise them. By using the cover of the fields, Abimelech and his men were able to hide the true number of their forces, and to lie in wait in the fields, and prepare for an ambush.

33 And it shall be, that in the morning, as soon as the sun is up, thou shalt rise early, and set upon the city: and, behold, when he and the people that is with him come out against thee, then mayest thou do to them as thou shalt find occasion.--Judges 9.33 (KJV) 

33 In the morning, when the sun rises, get up quickly and raid the city. When Gaal and his men come out to attack you, do whatever you want to him.”--Judges 9:33 (GW)

And it shall be, that in the morning, as soon as the sun is up, thou shalt rise early, and set upon the city…
Abemilech and his forces made a forced march in the night. It was still dark when they arrived, so they hid in the fields until sunrise, and they attacked the city before the inhabitants were up to defend it, and so they were able to surprise them. Zebal, no doubt realized that the drinking and carousing of the night before, would probably result in Gaal's men being in poor shape to fight early that morning.

and, behold, when he and the people that is with him come out against thee;
The next morning Abemilech and his army was spread out against the town. Gaul, and the men with him; as many as he would be able to get together, after having been surprised, went out of the city to engage the enemy. How could the Shechemites hope to succeed in their attempt when the ruler of their city was in cahoots with their enemy? They knew it, and yet did not attempt to arrest him.

thou mayest do to them as thou shalt find occasion;
The situation would dictate the method and form of the attack [2](1 Sam 10:7; KJV);
Abemilech, in his wisdom, and according to his ability, and as opportunity presented itself, would determine the right course of action. Therefore, Zebul did not pretend to advise him further, but left the rest to his discretion. His last words were "thou mayest do to them as thou shalt find occasion." Zebul was quite sure that due to his tactics, Abimelech’s victory would be easy to achieve.

What was once a working alliance between the two sides has now fallen into full blown war.  The alliance which had been built upon murder now ends in further murder.  Instead of trusting Yahweh and doing what he wants, Abimelech and the people of Shechem choose to do things man’s way and thus have ended up in this sad state of affairs.  Though God’s way seems harder at times, it is often the best and wiser way of doing things.
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 [2](1 Sam 10:7; KJV) “And let it be, when these signs are come unto thee, that thou do as occasion serve thee; for God is with thee.” Thou do as occasion serve thee—After God has shown thee all these signs that thou art under his especial guidance, fear not to undertake any thing that belongs to thy office, for God is with thee.—Adam Clarke's Commentary
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