The Period Of The Judges

   
Chapter 44
Destruction of Shechem [Judges 9.42-9.45]

 

Scripture: Judges 9:42-45 (KJV)

42 And it came to pass on the morrow, that the people went out into the field; and they told Abimelech.
43 And he took the people, and divided them into three companies, and laid wait in the field, and looked, and, behold, the people were come forth out of the city; and he rose up against them, and smote them.
44 And Abimelech, and the company that was with him, rushed forward, and stood in the entering of the gate of the city: and the two other companies ran upon all the people that were in the fields, and slew them.
45 And Abimelech fought against the city all that day; and he took the city, and slew the people that was therein, and beat down the city, and sowed it with salt.


Commentary


42 And it came to pass on the morrow, that the people went out into the field; and they told Abimelech.--Judges 9.42 (KJV) 
42 The next day the people {of Shechem} went into the fields. Abimelech was told about it.--Judges 9.42 (GW)

The mention in [1]Judges 9:41 that Gaal and his brethren were forbidden to live in Shechem is probably an indication that they were not involved in the slaughter of the whole city mentioned in this passage. It appears likely that if Gaal indeed had been killed, that some mention of it would have been found here. Therefore, we should assume that at this point, he and his followers had already left Shechem.

And it came to pass on the morrow…
On the morrow in the present text refers to the day following the expulsion of Gaal; however there are those who say that the story fits together better after [2]verse 25, in which case it refers to the day after Abemilech had been informed of the treacherous behavior of the Shechemites. On this day, Abimelech was back in his town of [3]Arumah. But he was not yet done with Shechem, because he wanted to do them even greater harm for their treacherous dealings with him, and because they had not laid down their arms. Perhaps Abimelech had been notified of their expelling Gaal, who had headed the faction that wanted to wrest control of the city from him; which they thought would have satisfied him. But it wasn’t enough to atone for their crime, and he resented them too much to be pacified by so small an instance of submission; besides expelling Gaal was more Zebul's act than theirs. Their hands were weakened without Gaal, and therefore he resolved to follow yesterday’s victory with another blow, and essentially to chastise them for their treachery

that the people went out into the field...
Some think they went outside the city to fight another battle in order to be freed from Abimelech, but that doesn’t seem very likely. I would rather think they wanted to finish the grape harvest, which would agree with Josephus. Or perhaps they planned to till their ground, to plough and sow wheat, barley or some such crop; which always quickly followed the harvesting of grapes. They could have felt safe and secure, since Abimelech had withdrawn himself and his forces to his place of habitation. They may have concluded that he would not return to them for awhile; and that when he did return he would be easy on them, since Gaal was forced to leave the city.

and they told Abimelech;...Abimelech had intelligence from Zebul and his party brought to him that said the people of Shechem had come out into the field, and so he saw an opportunity to return and cut them off from the city gates while they were unarmed and busy with the harvest.

__________________verse 42 notes_____________________ 

[1] (Judges 9:41; NCV) “While Abimelech stayed at Arumah, Zebul forced Gaal and his brothers to leave Shechem.”
[2](Judges 9:25; NKJV) “And the men of Shechem set men in ambush against him on the tops of the mountains, and they robbed all who passed by them along that way; and it was told Abimelech.” The men of Shechem set men in ambush —it pleased God to punish this bad man by the very persons who had contributed to his iniquitous elevation. So God often makes the instruments of men's sins the means of their punishment. It is likely that although Abimelech had his chief residence at Shechem, yet he frequently went to Ophrah, the city of his father; his claim to which there was none to oppose, as he had slain all his brethren. It was probably in his passage between those two places that the Shechemites had posted cut-throats, in order to assassinate him; as such men had no moral principle, they robbed and plundered all who came that way.—Adam Clarke's Commentary
[3]Arumah:
(height), a place apparently in the neighborhood of Shechem, at which Abimelech resided. (Judges 9:41)

 


43 And he took the people, and divided them into three companies, and laid wait in the field, and looked, and, behold, the people were come forth out of the city; and he rose up against them, and smote them.–Judges 9:43 (KJV)
43 So he took his troops, divided them into three companies, and set an ambush in the fields. He watched and saw the people coming out of the city. Then he began to attack them.–Judges 9:43 (GW)

And he took the people…
That is, the forces he had with him at Arumah:

and divided them into three companies:
He divided his force into three companies or groups; he would lead one company and the other two would have a separate leader.

and laid wait in the field;
Details of how the three companies were arranged, as they hid in the field are not given, except to say that they were hidden from view in anticipation of executing an ambush on those citizens that came out of Shechem. It must have been a huge field with a great deal of cover that could conceal such a large force. They waited there and watched the city gate.

and looked, and, behold, the people were come forth out of the city;
The citizens of Shechem, believing that the insurrection was over, were apparently in their fields for the purpose of tending their crops, and very probably without weapons of any kind. People could be seen going in and out of the city gate to support those harvesting the grapes.

and he rose up against them, and smote them;
The companies rose up out of their ambush, from different parts of the field, and killed them all. Abimelech's brutal slaughter of those helpless people is a reminder of his brutality toward his half-brothers in Ophrah. The Sacred Scriptures leave no doubt of the diabolical wickedness of this evil offspring of Gideon's concubine. He was one of the most detestable creatures who ever disgraced the earth.

 

 

44 And Abimelech, and the company that was with him, rushed forward, and stood in the entering of the gate of the city: and the two other companies ran upon all the people that were in the fields, and slew them.–Judges 9:44 (KJV)
44 Abimelech and his company charged the city and captured its entrance. The other two companies charged at everyone in the fields and attacked them.–Judges 9:44 (GW)

And Abimelech, and the company that was with him…
Abimelech commanded one of the companies personally; Kimchi observes that there were great men there; and the Septuagint renders it, “the princes that were with him.”

rushed forward, and stood in the entering of the gate of the city...

Now we see the battle plan unfold: Abimelech, and the company that was with him, rushed forward, and stood in the entering of the gate of the city. They spread themselves out and took their station by the city gate to cut off the retreat of the Shechemites into the city. He stopped the communication between those outside of the city and those trapped inside. The city was sealed up so tight that they could neither make their retreat into the city nor receive any assistance from the city. The other two companies surrounded the Shechemites; they were defenseless and their fate was sealed.

and the two other companies ran upon all the people that were in the fields, and slew them...

No one escaped, all were killed: the two other companies ran upon all the people that were in the fields, and slew them. Note: When we go about our daily business we are not sure if we will return home; there are deaths both in the city and in the field.

 

45 And Abimelech fought against the city all that day; and he took the city, and slew the people that was therein, and beat down the city, and sowed it with salt. --Judges 9:37 (KJV)
45 Abimelech attacked the city all day long. He captured the city and killed the people in it. He also tore down the city and scattered salt all over the land.--Judges 9:37 (GW)

And Abimelech fought against the city all that day…
He attacked the city with a rage reaching up to heaven by throwing stones or arrows into it. This is the problem of appointing a man to a high position who comes to power through violence; it is only a matter of time until that violence is turned against you.


and he took the city...
The citizens surrendered to him, when it became clear that they could not prevail against his forces.

and slew the people that was therein;...

Only his family members and his friends were safe; all those that had taken up arms against him, or had shown their dislike of his government, and were his enemies were put to the sword. Thus, the Lord avenged the blood of Gideon’s sons. Indeed, the fire did “come out of the bramble, and devour the cedars of Lebanon” [6](v. 15). The phrase “cedars of Lebanon” represents the leading citizens of the city who had supported Abimelech’s rule [7](v. 20).

and beat down the city;
Although it was the place where he was born and grew up, he made it a ruins, he tore down the houses and walls and thoroughly destroyed it.

and sowed it with salt;
He intended to make the destruction of this city a perpetual memorial of his achievements, and to deter other cities from rebelling against him; for if he would destroy the city of his birth, how much more severely would he wreck havoc on other cities that rebelled.
The salt was not calculated to render it barren, as some have imagined; seeing that no one would think of cultivating a city? But as salt was an emblem of incorruption and perpetuity, it was no doubt designed to perpetuate the memorial of his victory, and as an indication that he wished this desolation to be eternal. Salt in small quantities renders land extremely fertile; but too much of it destroys vegetation. Every place, says Pliny, in which salt is found is barren, and produces nothing. Hence, sowing a place with salt [4](Deut. 29.23) [5](Jer. 17.6), was a custom in different nations to express permanent desolation and loathing.
• Sigonius observes that when the city of Milan was taken, in A.D. 1162, the walls were demolished, and it was sown with salt.
• And Brantome informs us that it was an ancient custom in France to sow the house of a man with salt, who had been declared a traitor to his king.
• Charles IX., king of France, the most dishonorable and treacherous of human beings, caused the house of Admiral Coligni, whom he and the Duke of Guise caused to be murdered, along with thousands of other Protestants, to be sown with salt!

Abemilech was determined that if it was in his power, Shechem should never be rebuilt; but it was rebuilt, and it again became a very flourishing city in Jeroboam's time [8](1 Kings 12.25). It became such a principal city that all Israel went there to make Rehoboam king; “And Rehoboam went to Shechem, for all Israel had gone to Shechem to make him king” (1 Kings 12:1; NKJV). However, the place proved to be a bad omen. Abimelech intended to punish the Shechemites for them not serving him in the murder of Gideon's sons.  The problem with that is that, when God makes use of men as instruments in his hand to do his work, he means one thing and they another: “I will send him against an ungodly nation, And against the people of My wrath I will give him charge, To seize the spoil, to take the prey, And to tread them down like the mire of the streets. Yet he does not mean so, Nor does his heart think so; But it is in his heart to destroy, And cut off not a few nations.” (Isaiah 10:6-7; NKJV). They planned to maintain their honor, but God maintained His.

________________________verse 45 notes__________________________

[4]Deut 29:23 (NKJV): “The whole land is brimstone, salt, and burning; it is not sown, nor does it bear, nor does any grass grow there, like the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboim, which the LORD overthrew in His anger and His wrath.” The picture of a once rich and flourishing region, blasted and doomed in consequence of the sins of its inhabitants, is very striking, and calculated to awaken awe in every reflecting mind. Such is, and long has been, the desolate state of Palestine; and, in looking at its ruined cities, its blasted coast, its naked mountains, its sterile and parched soil -- all the sad and unmistakable evidences of a land lying under a curse -- numbers of travelers from Europe, America, and the Indies ("strangers from a far country,") in the present day see that the Lord has executed His threatening. Who can resist the conclusion that it has been inflicted "because the inhabitants had forsaken the covenant of the Lord God of their fathers....and the anger of the Lord was kindled against this land, to bring upon it all the curses that are written in this book"?—Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
[5](Jer 17:6; NKJV) “For he shall be like a shrub in the desert, And shall not see when good comes, But shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, In a salt land which is not inhabited.” A salt land—Barren; and therefore unfit to be inhabited.—Adam Clarke's Commentary
[6](Judges 9:15; NKJV) “And the bramble said to the trees, 'If in truth you anoint me as king over you, Then come and take shelter in my shade; But if not, let fire come out of the bramble And devour the cedars of Lebanon!'”
[7] (Judges 9:20; NKJV) “But if not, let fire come from Abimelech and devour the men of Shechem and Beth Millo; and let fire come from the men of Shechem and from Beth Millo and devour Abimelech!”
[8](1 Kings 12:25; NKJV) “Then Jeroboam built Shechem in the mountains of Ephraim, and dwelt there. Also he went out from there and built Penuel.”

 

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