Chapter 40
The Shechemite’s Quarrel With Abimelech [Judges 9.22-9.25]


Scripture: Judges 9:22-25 (KJV)

22 When Abimelech had reigned three years over Israel,
23 Then God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the men of Shechem; and the men of Shechem dealt treacherously with Abimelech:
24 That the cruelty done to the threescore and ten sons of Jerubbaal might come, and their blood be laid upon Abimelech their brother, which slew them; and upon the men of Shechem, which aided him in the killing of his brethren.
25 And the men of Shechem set liers in wait for him in the top of the mountains, and they robbed all that came along that way by them: and it was told Abimelech.



God judges both the city of Shechem and Abimelech. Everything was fine for three years; after that, God sent a spirit of ill will between Abimelech and the men of Shechem. The men of Shechem begin to set ambushes on the mountain roads, hoping to disrupt the trade routes that profited Abimelech. The people in general accepted what the men of Shechem had done; murdering three score and ten of Gideon’s sons; at least they did not oppose it. They all desired a king, and therefore were willing to put up with a cruel person, rather than have none. It is amazing that they had not rose up as one man against Abimelech, and avenged the blood of the sons of Gideon, who had been so beneficial and helpful to them; it is said that he reigned over all Israel, and his reign, such as it was, was very short, as is often the case with wicked princes.



22 When Abimelech had reigned three years over Israel,–Judges 9:22 (KJV)

22 Abimelech ruled Israel for three years.–Judges 9:22 (GW)


When Abimelech had reigned three years over Israel...It does not say here that he was "king," or that he reigned over "all Israel." His `kingship' was a very limited affair. This in no way contradicts [1]Judges 8:23; because, as Barnes said, "The Shechemites alone made him king, and the rest of Israel submitted to his dominion, without allowing him the title of king."

Probably, at first, his reign did not extend beyond Shechem; but by stealthy and progressive encroachments he subjected some of the neighboring towns to his control. At the height of his power he held sway only over a portion of the nation, possibly the tribes of Ephraim and the half tribe of Manasseh. No one could "reign" in Israel, except by rebelliously seizing power; and that's why the reign of Abimelech is expressed in the original by a word signifying "dictatorship;" his administration was not the mild and divinely authorized rule of the judge.

Abimelech reigned, after a sort, for three years without any disturbance; he did not do any good for his country, but he was content as long he enjoyed the title and dignity of a king; and not only the Shechemites, but many other places, paid him respect. They must have been fond of having a king, if they could please themselves with such a one as this. But the success of the wicked is short lived; as it was with Moab, so shall it be with Abemilech: “But now the LORD hath spoken, saying, Within three years, as the years of an hireling, and the glory of Moab shall be [2]contemned, with all that great multitude; and the remnant shall be very small and feeble” (Isaiah 16:14; KJV).

_______________verse 22 notes__________________
[1]Judges 8.231--“Gideon replied, “I will not rule you nor will my son. The LORD will rule you.(GW)”
[2]Contemned:--Shall be esteemed of no value; shall be destroyed.


23 Then God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the men of Shechem; and the men of Shechem dealt treacherously with Abimelech:–Judges 9:23 (KJV) 

23 Then God sent an evil spirit to cause problems between Abimelech and citizens of Shechem. So citizens of Shechem turned against Abimelech.–Judges 9:23 (GW)


Then God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the men of Shechem…All unnatural and bizarre phenomena in the Sacred Scriptures are ascribed to Yahweh, whether they lead to happiness or sadness, yet never in such a way as to exonerate the guilty or to attribute moral evil to Yahweh." There are two schools of thought when it comes to this verse: Either God sent an evil spirit or He permitted the evil that resided within them to surface. We will have a brief look at both.

There is no dualism in the Bible. Satan does not share control of the universe with God. Nothing is capable of happening in the entire universe unless it is in harmony with the permissive will or the direct purpose of Almighty God. God commissioned the devil to work upon their minds. He permitted Satan, the evil spirit, to go among them to stir up suspicions, jealousies, hatred, and ill will toward one another, and to sow the seeds of discord and contention among them; or God gave them up to their own hearts' lusts, to think angrily of one another, grow jealous, and contemplate revenge.

and the men of Shechem dealt treacherously with Abimelech:...In the course of the divine intervention of God, jealousy, distrust, secret hostility, and repressed rebellion appeared among his subjects, who were disappointed and disgusted with his tyranny; and God permitted those disorders to fester and surface in open rebellion. The Shechemites began to disrespect Abimelech, perhaps they barely knew why they did it, but they began to change. They dealt treacherously with him. Those that set him up were the first that deserted him and endeavored to dethrone him. It is not out of the ordinary that those who were ungrateful to Gideon were unfaithful to Abimelech; for what will hold those that will not be held by the appreciation of the merits of Gideon and their debt to him? They did not openly declare what was on their minds, but secretly conspired against him, and privately consulted about ways to get rid of him, and shake off his regime.

Then God sent an evil spirit, but why did God do it? The pagan priests of Baal who ran Shechem, its tower, and the House of Millo were a covetous and greedy gang of criminals. This first became apparent when they made their measly donation of seventy pieces of silver to `finance' Abimelech's campaign for the kingship. Their contribution was used by Abimelech to hire cutthroats to murder the threescore and ten sons of Jerubbaal. The ruin of these partners in crime was from the righteous hand of the God to whom vengeance belongs. He permitted the devil, that great mischief-maker, to sow discord between them, and he is an evil spirit, whom God not only keeps in check, but sometimes uses to serve His own purposes.

The other possibility is that their own lusts became evil spirits; there are devils in men's own hearts; from them come wars and hostility. God gave them up to these evil spirits, and so it might be said that God sent the evil spirits between them. When men's sin is made their punishment, although God is not the author of the sin, yet the punishment is from Him


24 That the cruelty done to the threescore and ten sons of Jerubbaal might come, and their blood be laid upon Abimelech their brother, which slew them; and upon the men of Shechem, which aided him in the killing of his brethren.–Judges 9:24 (KJV)

24 God did this so that the bloody violence committed against Jerubbaal's 70 sons would happen to Abimelech and citizens of Shechem. Citizens of Shechem had helped Abimelech execute his brothers.–Judges 9:24 (GW)


That the cruelty done to the seventy sons of Jerubbaal might come…That is, God sent the evil spirit of verse 23 to punish the authors of the cruelty done to the seventy sons of Jerubbaal, and to fulfill Jotham’s curse by arousing distrust or Jealousy in the Shechemites. 

and their blood be laid upon Abimelech their brother, which slew them;...Their murders will be charged to his account, and he will suffer for shedding it.

and upon the men of Shechem which aided him in killing of his brethren;...The men of Shechem are also charged with the murders since they gave him money to hire men to go with him to do it, and perhaps they may have encouraged the assassins, who were possibly from the city of Shechem. Here is the earthly reason for God's permission for the evil spirit to enter the men of Shechem; it is clearly stated to be the execution of heavenly vengeance upon the murderer of the sons of Gideon and all of his accomplices.

There are three principles that can be taken from this passage:
1. Sooner or later God will take His vengeance on those involved in spilling blood, innocent blood; didn’t He say, “Vengeance is mine?” And He also said that we will reap what we have sown. An eye for an eye; blood for blood; there is only one glorious way to avoid the Lord’s righteous judgment; it is through faith in Jesus Christ.
2. Accessories will be reckoned with, as well as principals, in this atrocity and other sins. The Shechemites that tolerated Abimelech's selfishness, aided and abetted him in his bloody project, and showed their approval of it by making him king after he had done it; they must fall with him.
3. Those that combine together to do wicked acts are justly dashed in pieces one against another. Blood cannot be a lasting cement to any alliance.


25 And the men of Shechem set liers in wait for him in the top of the mountains, and they robbed all that came along that way by them: and it was told Abimelech.–Judges 9:25 (KJV)

25 So citizens of Shechem set ambushes for Abimelech on top of the mountains. They also robbed everyone who passed by them on the road. This was reported to Abimelech.–Judges 9:25 (GW)

And the men of Shechem set liers in wait for him in the top of the mountains…It pleased God to punish this bad man by the hand of the very persons who had contributed to his wicked rise to the rank of king. 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, nevertheless he frequently went to Ophrah, the city where his father had lived; he claimed it for his city, since there were none there to oppose him, because he had slain all his brethren. It was probably while he passed between those two places that the Shechemites had posted cut-throats (liers in wait), upon the tops of the mountains (Ebal and Gerizim, between which Shechem was situated), who plundered everyone who passed by them on the road, and by this organized system of robbery and plunder they aroused a spirit of discontent and rebellion among the people when they saw he could not or would not protect them from highway-men.

It was dangerous for Abimelech's to travel and this may have caused him to transfer his residence from Shechem to Arumah, which was his new “capital.” He appointed Zebul as his deputy governor of Shechem.  At one time, they aimed to seize him when he was at Arumah [3](Judges 9:41), his country-seat. Expecting him to come to town, they set liers in wait for him, who would take him prisoner.

In our comment above, we supposed that these cut-throats were placed there for the purpose of murdering Abimelech if the opportunity arose, but Boling offers another opinion and he might be correct in his view that their purpose was to prevent Abimelech's discovery of their campaign of highway robbery "These lookouts were to warn of the approach of Abimelech, but someone turned informer, thanks to that `evil spirit,'"

and they robbed all that came along that way by them;...They robbed everyone, but paid special attention to the caravans that moved over the strategic trade routes through Shechem. Such action would reduce travel and deprive Abimelech of tributes and tolls from travelers; it would show their contempt for Abimelech's government. And now that they were no longer under his rule, every man did what was right in his own eyes, as if they had no governor over them. They hoped to draw him out of his stronghold, so that they might have an opportunity to ambush him and assassinate him or to seize him and take him prisoner; such men had no moral principles; they robbed and plundered all who came that way.

Although, they claimed their objective was to protect his subjects from the abuse and violence of his henchmen, the end result was civil war.

and it was told Abimelech;...He was told that they lay in wait for him, and so he kept away from them. But before he had annihilated the bands of outlaws, the treachery broke out into open rebellion.

_______________verse 25 notes___________________

[3](Judges 9:41; KJV) “And Abimelech dwelt at Arumah: and Zebul thrust out Gaal and his brethren, that they should not dwell in Shechem.”