The Period Of The Judges

    
   
Chapter 43
Gaal Driven Out [Judges 9.34-9.41]

 

Scripture: Judges 9:34-41 (KJV)

34 And Abimelech rose up, and all the people that were with him, by night, and they laid wait against Shechem in four companies.
35 And Gaal the son of Ebed went out, and stood in the entering of the gate of the city: and Abimelech rose up, and the people that were with him, from lying in wait.
36 And when Gaal saw the people, he said to Zebul, Behold, there come people down from the top of the mountains. And Zebul said unto him, Thou seest the shadow of the mountains as if they were men.
37 And Gaal spake again and said, See there come people down by the middle of the land, and another company come along by the plain of Meonenim.
38 Then said Zebul unto him, Where is now thy mouth, wherewith thou saidst, Who is Abimelech, that we should serve him? is not this the people that thou hast despised? go out, I pray now, and fight with them.
39 And Gaal went out before the men of Shechem, and fought with Abimelech.
40 And Abimelech chased him, and he fled before him, and many were overthrown and wounded, even unto the entering of the gate.
41 And Abimelech dwelt at Arumah: and Zebul thrust out Gaal and his brethren, that they should not dwell in Shechem.


Commentary


34 And Abimelech rose up, and all the people that were with him, by night, and they laid wait against Shechem in four companies.—Judges 9.34 (KJV) 
34 Abimelech and all his troops started out at night. He used four companies to set ambushes around Shechem.—Judges 9.34 (GW)

 

And Abimelech rose up, and all the people that were with him, by night…
Abimelech, acting upon Zebul's advice and intelligence, brought all his forces—that is, those that were with him at the time—down upon Shechem by night.

and they laid wait against Shechem in four companies;
He divided his army into four parts, and that night he moved them forward so that they occupied all the heights around Shechem. There they waited in ambush on the four sides of the city.

35 And Gaal the son of Ebed went out, and stood in the entering of the gate of the city: and Abimelech rose up, and the people that were with him, from lying in wait.–Judges 9:35 (KJV) 
35 Gaal (son of Ebed) went out and stood at the entrance to the city. Then Abimelech and his troops rose from their ambush.–Judges 9:35 (GW)

This would be a good time to reflect upon this man Gaul the son or Ebed. We don’t know any more about him than what is recorded in this passage. He was probably one of the descendants of the Canaanites, who hoped to take advantage of the public’s dissatisfaction with Abimelech, by causing a revolution, and thereby to restore the ancient government as it existed under Hamor, the founder of Shechem. Josephus says he was a man of authority, who lived with them for a short time, along with his armed mercenaries and kinsmen; and that the Shechemites asked him to guard them from an attack by Abemilech while they were harvesting their vineyards.

And went out…
He rose up early that morning, being a vigilant man, and perhaps he had received some intelligence concerning the preparations Abimelech was making, and that he intended to attack the city, although he did not expect he was so close by.

and stood in the entering of the gate of the city;
In the morning, Gaal stood at the main gate to the city; there he met with Zebal, the ruler of the city, who pretended to be a friend. He asked if there was any news. He may have got some intimation of the plans of Zebul and Abimelech. There, just inside the gate, he got his forces in order and made preparations to lead them against Abimelech, whom he supposed was still a great distance from Shechem. He has the same spirit of boastfulness as he exhibited at the festival of the previous night.

According to Bible Commentary; F.F. Bruce: “At the time of Shechem’s destruction (1200-1150 BC) only the eastern gate would have been in use. Gall would have been facing away from the mountains.”

and Abimelech rose up, and the people that were with him, from lying in wait;
Abimelech and his forces came out of their ambush positions and began to move towards the city, and appeared just as Gaul was at the gate.

36 And when Gaal saw the people, he said to Zebul, Behold, there come people down from the top of the mountains. And Zebul said unto him, Thou seest the shadow of the mountains as if they were men.—Judges 9:36 (KJV)
36 When Gaal saw the troops, he said to Zebul, “Look, troops are coming down from the mountaintops!” Zebul replied, “The shadows of the mountains look like men to you.”–Judges 9:36

And when Gaal saw the people, he said to Zebul…
Gaal was up early, and came to the city gate, to see how things were going, and if there was any word of Abimelech and his forces; and it seems that Zebul was there and appeared friendly with him. He had sent for Abimelech and was expecting his army to be positioned nearby.

behold, there come people down from the tops of the mountains;
The mountains of Ebal and Gerizim were located near Shechem. Gall said to Zebul (who may have come out of the city with him): "Look, don’t I see a body of men coming down from the mountain towards us? There they are," pointing to the place.

and Zebul said unto him, thou seest the shadow of the mountains, as [if they were] men;
"No, no," says Zebul; "thy eye-sight deceives thee; it is but the shadow of the mountains which thou takest to be an army." What he intends by this statement is:
(1.) To ridicule him; to make him out to be a man lacking common sense and courage, and therefore very unfit for what he said he would do.
(2.) To make it appear that his eyes are still clouded with sleep, as if he had just jumped out of bed, that he could not tell the difference between shadows and men; or rather that he had a cowardly spirit and was afraid of shadows;
(3.) To make him out to be a man that might be easily imposed upon and made to believe anything, and that he was so silly and so cowardly that he saw danger where there was none, and was ready to fight with a shadow.
(4.) To detain him with conversation, while the forces of Abimelech were coming closer; this would give them an advantage by keeping Gaal and his men from making preparations to meet them.

Zebul, by pretending friendship concealed his anger from Gaal: “When Zebul, the ruler of the city, heard the words of Gaal the son of Ebed, his anger was aroused”—Judges 9:30 (NKJV). By pretending support for him, he hoped to draw Gall outside the city where Abimelech would have the opportunity to fight him and overthrow him.

The shadow
Doubdan states, that in some parts of the Holy Land there are many detached rocks scattered up and down, some growing out of the ground, and others fragments broken off from rocky precipices, the shadow of which, it appears, Josephus thought might be most naturally imagined to look like troops of men at a distance, rather than that of the mountains; for he represents Zebul as saying to Gaal, that he mistook the shadow of the rocks for men. It should be noted that in the morning (which it was) and the evening, the shadows are the longest and move the fastest.

37 And Gaal spake again and said, See there come people down by the middle of the land, and another company come along by the plain of Meonenim.—Judges 9:37 (KJV)
37 Gaal spoke again, “No, there are troops coming down from Tabbur Haares. One company is coming along the road by the Fortunetellers' Tree.”—Judges 9:37 (GW)

And Gaal spake again, and said…
Perhaps, as he continues to look towards the mountains, he has a better view of what he saw before.

see, there come people down by the middle of the land;
The forces of Abemilech were advancing on Shechem, and now Gaal can see them. They were either in the valley between the two mountains; or those he first saw on the top of the mountains had come down to about the middle of them, called in the Hebrew text the navel, because the navel is in the middle of the body, and this group of attackers was midway down the mountain.

According to Bible Commentary; F.F. Bruce: “The middle (center) of the land; central ridge; Lit. “navel”; probably Mt Gerizim, the mountain south of the city. The slope of Gerizim is today uneven, rocky and wooded, affording a plausible explanation for Zebul’s “shadow” ruse.”

and another company come along by the plain of Meonenim;
But when Gaal was deceived by Zebul into believing that what he thought were men was only the shadows made by the mountains, (perhaps the mountains of Ebal and Gerizim, which lay close by the city), was undeceived by the discovery of two other companies that marched swiftly towards the city. And Gaal spake again and said, See there come people down by the middle of the land, and another company come along by the plain of Meonenim.

The plain of Meonenim— Translated "the oak of the soothsayers". It may have been some well-known oak landmark, but it is not mentioned anywhere else in the Bible. Montanus renders it, "the oak of Meonenim"; or of the soothsayers; oaks were greatly esteemed by idolaters for their oracles and divinations; and perhaps this was a place, whether an oak or, a plain, where idolaters used to meet to make their divinations. “These nations you are forcing out listen to fortunetellers and to those who practice black magic. But the LORD your God won't let you do anything like that” (Deut 18:14; GW). And now they are appearing in all directions—from the mountains, "from the heights of the land," and one company "from the way of the terebinth of the magicians."

According to Adam Clarke's Commentary, “Some translate [The plain of Meonenim], by the way of the oaks, or oaken groves; others, by the way of the magicians, or regarders of the times. Probably it was a place in which fortunetellers and mystics dwelt.

According to Bible Commentary; F.F. Bruce: “This forth column had apparently crossed Gerizim and was coming from the west, down the pass


38 Then said Zebul unto him, Where is now thy mouth, wherewith thou saidst, Who is Abimelech, that we should serve him? is not this the people that thou hast despised? go out, I pray now, and fight with them.—Judges 9:38 (KJV)
38 Then Zebul said to him, “Where is your big mouth now? You were the one who said, ‘Who's Abimelech that we should serve him?' Aren't these the troops {whose ruler} you despised? Now go out and fight him.”—Judges 9:38 (GW)

Then said Zebul unto him…
Zebal couldn’t put him off any longer; therefore, he took this opportunity to denigrate him over what he had said. He spoke openly against Gaal, and chided him for his foolhardy speech, while Abimelech was drawing nearer with his troops: "Where is thy mouth now with which thou saidst, Who is Abimelech? Is not this the people that thou hast despised? Go out now and fight with him!"

where is now thy mouth, [wherewith] thou saidst, who is Abimelech, that we should serve him?
Zebul reminded him that only a day or two before he had dared to utter the contemptuous language concerning Abimelech, asking who he thought he was, that he should be served? And then he says: “Here he is, speak to his face; what has become of those boasts and brags, and great swelling words—what you would do if you had the command of this city? Where is now thy mouth, that foul mouth of yours, wherewith thou saidst, Who is Abimelech?

is not this the people thou hast despised?
Now you can see those, who you said were small and insignificant, and soon you will see Abimelech, whom you challenged to increase his army, and come out and fight. Note, proud and conceited people are often made to hastily change their tune, and to dread those whom they had first and foremost despised.

go out, I pray thee, now, and fight with them;
Gaal, when he had ingested liquid courage the night before, challenged Abimelech to increase his army and come out; but now Zebul, in Abimelech's name, challenges him to Go out, and fight with them, if he dares. The insolent, as a consequence, are rightly insulted themselves. He tells Gaal, “Go now and show yourself to be a man of courage, and fight valiantly for yourself and the people, and cease being a measly blowhard, but instead act like a man that can use his sword as well as his tongue.”

39 And Gaal went out before the men of Shechem, and fought with Abimelech.—Judges 9:39 (KJV)
39 Then Gaal led citizens of Shechem out to fight Abimelech.—Judges 9:39 (GW)

And Gaal went out before the men of Shechem…
Gall, their Captain, at the head of his solders, went outside Shechem to meet Abimelech, having gathered together as many as he could of disgruntled Shechemites and his men, with the time he had left, but first he had put them in order and inform his officers of the battle plan. Then Gaal went outside the city with the "citizens of Shechem watching." After all, he was not at their head as their leaders would have been, and the reason for that was that they did not totally trust him and did not believe his small force would be able to defeat Abimelech’s large force. Gaal had only gone out of the town with his own followers, and, according to Judges 9:42 and 43, the people of Shechem, who remained loyal to Zebul, did not go out till the next day, - but "in the sight of the lords of Shechem:" “The next day the people {of Shechem} went into the fields. Abimelech was told about it. 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 9:42-43; GW).

and fought with Abimelech;
The fight was without (outside) the city, while the citizens of Shechem looked on; but unfortunately for Gaal, Abimelech put him to flight (as in [1]Leviticus 26:36), and there fell many slain all the way up to the gate of the city, into which Gaal had fled with his followers.

The Bible Exposition Commentary
When it was obvious that an army was attacking Shechem, Gall had to act. In the decisive language of American slang he had to “Put up or shut up.” If he hid in the city, he would have lost his following, been disgraced, and eventually caught and killed. If he tried to run away, Abimelech’s men would have caught him and killed him. All he could do was gather his men and go out to face Abimelech. His army was routed and he and his cohorts were driven out of the city.

 

___________________verse 39 notes_______________________
[1](Leviticus 26:36) “And as for those of you who are left, I will send faintness into their hearts in the lands of their enemies; the sound of a shaken leaf shall cause them to flee; they shall flee as though fleeing from a sword, and they shall fall when no one pursues.”

40 And Abimelech chased him, and he fled before him, and many were overthrown and wounded, even unto the entering of the gate.--Judges 9:40 (KJV)
40 Abimelech chased Gaal so that he ran away from him. Many were killed at the entrance of the city.--Judges 9:40 (GW)

And Abimelech chased him, and he fled before him…
Abimelech routed Gaal and his Shechemite followers that ventured out of the town. Gaal was dejected no doubt by Zebul's badgering him, and perceiving his importance and power weaker than he thought it was, though he marched out against Abimelech with what little force he had, was soon facing destruction and he was obliged to retire into the city with great fear and trepidation. In this battle, the Shechemites' loss was considerable: Many were overthrown and wounded; this is often the common effect of a melee, in which the bystanders are often drawn into a fatal snare by those that promise them glorious success. In short; Abimelech got the better of him in the battle, and obliged him to give up, and he pursued him closely as he was fleeing:

He fled—Why? He was surprised by the unexpected coming of Abimelech, and probably not fully prepared for the encounter. We don’t know what part God had in this overwhelming victory; but you as well as I could cite many times that God intervened in human activity in order to create the outcome He wanted. One example that comes to mind is this incident from 1 Kings: “And he said, Whether they be come out for peace, take them alive; or whether they be come out for war, take them alive. So these young men of the princes of the provinces came out of the city, and the army which followed them. And they slew every one his man: and the Syrians fled; and Israel pursued them: and Benhadad the king of Syria escaped on an horse with the horsemen. And the king of Israel went out, and smote the horses and chariots, and slew the Syrians with a great slaughter…But the rest fled to Aphek, into the city; and there a wall fell upon twenty and seven thousand of the men that were left. And Benhadad fled, and came into the city, into an inner chamber.” (1 Kings 20:18-21, 30; KJV)

and many were overthrown and wounded, even unto the entering of the gate;
Or you could say, "they fell and many were wounded", or slain, as the Targum put it; that is, many were killed and wounded, in the battle, and in the pursuit, and lay both dead and wounded all the way to the gate of the city, through which Gaal, and what was left of his forces, made a bid for their safety, and got in.

There is nothing surprising about what is related here. The drunken celebration of the previous night had left Gaal and his men both mentally and physically unprepared for any kind of effective military activity; and Abimelech and his army easily defeated them. Nothing further is said about Gaal who fled, presumably with all of his relatives; and, as nothing is said of his being captured or killed, we may suppose that he and his company went to some other city, still seeking their personal fortunes like other mercenaries.

41 And Abimelech dwelt at Arumah: and Zebul thrust out Gaal and his brethren, that they should not dwell in Shechem.--Judges 9:41 (KJV)
41 Abimelech continued to live at Arumah. Zebul threw Gaal and his brothers out and would not let them live in Shechem.--Judges 9:41 (GW)

And Abimelech dwelt at Arumah…
Also called Aarima according to Jerom, and in his time it was called Remphtis; it seems from 9.42 to be a short ways from Shechem and is perhaps the same as Ruma, a village of Galilee, mentioned by Josephus: “And it came about on the next day that the people went out into the field, and they told Abimelech” (Judges 9:42; NKJV) He returned to the place where he was before: “And he sent messengers to Abimelech secretly, saying, "Take note! Gaal the son of Ebed and his brothers have come to Shechem; and here they are, fortifying the city against you” (Judges 9:31; NKJV). He returned to Arumeh and then the next day he was back in Shechem laying another ambush. He was pleased with the advantage he had over Gall, and so he waited for another opportunity to present itself, when he could take revenge on the Shechemites; which occurred rather quickly.

Dwelt at Arumah—He did not follow through with his victory, but instead, he retreated to Arumah, to see if the Shechemites would return to his government on their own volition, or if they felt secure, he would seek out some advantage over them.

and Zebul thrust out Gaal and his brethren, that they should not dwell in Shechem;
There seems to have been two parties in Shechem at present, one that hated Abimelech, and another friendlier to his interest. It was through this last party that Zebul, Abimelech’s officer, was able to keep his position {mayor}. Gaal could not get the government away from Zebul; and now that he lost the recent battle, he became one of Abimelech's sworn enemies, and he felt disgraced by losing the fight, after boasting so frequently and loudly that He would defeat Abimelech.  Zebul could see the fear in the faces of Gall and his men and that encouraged him; but he lacked the strength to put him to death, or to grab him and deliver him into the hands of Abimelech. But that night he expelled Gaal and the party he had brought with him, out of Shechem, sending him back where he came from. Although, the majority of the citizenry of the city continued to loath Abimelech, yet they were willing to part with Gaal, and did not oppose his expulsion, because, though he had talked big, about both his skill and courage, he had failed them when he had the opportunity.

Thrust out—it seems to be the night after the battle. Probably the multitude, which is usually easily worked up and unstable, was now enraged against Gaal, suspecting him of cowardice or bad conduct. Zebul's standing with the people did not amount to much; He knew that he could not, at this time, persuade them either to kill Gaal and his brethren, or to yield themselves to Abimelech; and therefore he still complies with the people’s wishes, and waits for a better opportunity.

Abimelech did not force his way into the city, but remained (lit. sat down) with his army in Arumah, a place not mentioned again, which was situated, according to Judges 9:42, somewhere in the neighborhood of Shechem.

Well, Gaal's interest in Shechem is now at an end, and he that had talked of removing Abimelech is himself removed, nor do we ever hear any more about him. Exit Gaal--Gaal retires. No doubt he was made the scapegoat for the revolt against Abimelech.

 

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