The Period Of The Judges

   
Chapter 45
Tower of Shechem Burned [Judges 9.46-9.49]

 

Scripture: Judges 9:46-49 (KJV)

46 And when all the men of the tower of Shechem heard that, they entered into an hold of the house of the god Berith.
47 And it was told Abimelech, that all the men of the tower of Shechem were gathered together. 48 And Abimelech gat him up to mount Zalmon, he and all the people that were with him; and Abimelech took an axe in his hand, and cut down a bough from the trees, and took it, and laid it on his shoulder, and said unto the people that were with him, What ye have seen me do, make haste, and do as I have done.
49 And all the people likewise cut down every man his bough, and followed Abimelech, and put them to the hold, and set the hold on fire upon them; so that all the men of the tower of Shechem died also, about a thousand men and women.


 

Commentary


46 And when all the men of the tower of Shechem heard that, they entered into an hold of the house of the god Berith.
46 All the citizens of Shechem's Tower heard about it and went into the basement of the temple of El Berith.—Judges 9:46 (GW)

And when all the men of the tower of Shechem heard that...

The men of the tower of Shechem (probably the same as Beth Millo of verse [1](6) were the leaders of Shechem, except for those who were loyal to Abemilech and supported Zebul; friends and family of Abimelech and Zebul. It appears that the tower of Shechem was not within the city, because it says that they heard about it; if it was inside the city, they would have seen it first-hand. What they heard was this: “…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 9:45; KJV). That was definitely bad news for these prominent men, and reasons enough for them to flee to the strong-hold of their idol-temple, which was probably close by.
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Article 9.3: TOWER OF SHECHEM

Historical
The tower of Shechem is where the elite of Shechem lived. It was part of the Temple of Baal-berith, and though we don’t know its location relative to the city, we do know that it served as the fortress to which the leaders of Shechem fled from the onslaught of Abimelech. They sought refuge in the inner chamber of the temple called “the hold.” It is the one place they thought they would be safe; partly due to the strength of the place, and partly because it was where the Shechemites worshipped their idol-god. They thought that either their god would protect them there, or that Abimelech would spare them out of pity for that god. Abimelech, however, set the upper parts of the inner chamber on fire, killing all the men and women housed within.

Excavation
The remnants of the tower of Shechem have been found within the ancient town of Shechem at Tell Bala’ta, a short distance northeast of modern Nablus in central Palestine. Modern excavations show that the tower of Shechem was used as a temple and a fortress.

Modern Shechem
The modern town contains about 20,000 inhabitants, the great body of them being Moslems. There are some 700 or 800 Christians, chiefly belonging to the Greek Orthodox church. The Samaritans do not total more than 200. The place is still the market for a wide district, both East and West of Jordan. A considerable trade is done in cotton and wool. Soap is manufactured in large quantities; oil for this purpose being plentifully supplied by the olive groves. Tanning and the manufacture of leather goods are also carried on. In old times the slopes of Ebal were covered with vineyards; but these formed a source of temptation to the "faithful." They were therefore removed by the authority incharge at that time, and their place taken by prickly pears.
W. Ewing
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they entered into an hold of the house of the god Berith;...

Since they didn’t think they were safe enough in the tower, they went into the temple of Baalberith, their god, which was a strong fortified place, as temples often were. But this particular temple had the added benefit of a hold (strong-hold), which appears to have been a vault-like structure beneath the temple of Baal-berith. More than a thousand men and women sought refuge on the temple grounds, within the temple and in the hold. They reasoned they would be safe, either because of the great strength of the place, or because of the sacredness of it, and they imagined Abimelech would not destroy it, because this was the same temple that donated silver to support his rise to power: “So they gave him seventy shekels of silver from the temple of Baal-Berith, with which Abimelech hired worthless and reckless men; and they followed him” (Judges 9:4; NKJV). Baal-Berith was the god that Israel began to openly worship after Gideon died: “So it was, as soon as Gideon was dead, that the children of Israel again played the harlot with the Baals, and made Baal-Berith their god” (Judges 8:33; NKJV).

Notice what the men of the tower of Shechem have done; they put themselves under the protection of their idol-god; likewise, all people will walk in the name of their god, and as Christ’s Christians, we will choose to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of our life? For in the time of trouble he shall hide us in his pavilion, Proverbs 27:5. The name of the Lord is a strong tower, Proverbs 18:10. But that strong-hold, which they hoped would be for their welfare, proved to be a snare and a trap; all those that run to idols for shelter will certainly find it will prove to be a refuge of lies.

___________________verse 46 notes___________________________
[1](Judges 9.6; NKJV) “And all the men of Shechem gathered together, all of Beth Millo, and they went and made Abimelech king beside the terebinth tree at the pillar that was in Shechem.”

 

47 And it was told Abimelech, that all the men of the tower of Shechem were gathered together.
47 When Abimelech was told that they had gathered there,--Judges 9:47 (GW)

And it was told Abimelech…

He had his spies among the people, and they mainly were there to observe the activity of the men in this tower:

that all the men of the tower of Shechem were gathered together;

When Abimelech had the leaders of the revolt all together and penned up in the hold (stronghold), he had them right where he wanted them. And then it came into his mind to set fire to the strong-hold, and, you might say, burn all the birds together in the nest.

48 And Abimelech gat him up to mount Zalmon, he and all the people that were with him; and Abimelech took an axe in his hand, and cut down a bough from the trees, and took it, and laid it on his shoulder, and said unto the people that were with him, What ye have seen me do, make haste, and do as I have done.
48 he and all his men went to Mount Zalmon. Abimelech took an ax, cut some brushwood, and carried it on his shoulder. He told his men, “Hurry and do what you've seen me do!”–Judges 9:48 (GW)

And Abimelech got him up to Mount Zalmon…

The exact location of this mount is unknown, but it was probably a mountain near Shechem, and thought to be the same as the Salmon in [2]Psalms 68:14 which seems to have acquired its name from the shade of the trees which grew upon it.

he and all the people that were with him;

He took his whole army with him.
 
and Abimelech took an axe in his hand, and cut down a bough from the trees;

He used an ax to cut-off a limb from one of the trees that grew upon Mount Zalmon:

and took it, and laid it on his shoulders;

He picked up the limb, placed it on his shoulder and carried it along with him.

and said unto the people that were with him, what ye have seen me do, make haste, and do as I have done

He kept his plans to himself, but in-order to expedite the project he put all his men to work on it. He ordered them to follow him, and do what he did: reminiscent of what his father had said to his men [3](Judges 7:17), Look on me, and do likewise. The best generals will give both the clearest instructions and the highest encouragement that he can to his soldiers: What you have seen me do, you do the same thing; quickly. The officers in Christ's army should also teach by their example. Paul gave this advice in Philippians 4:9: “The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you” (NKJV).
 
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[2](Psalms 68:14; NKJV) “When the Almighty scattered kings in it, It was white as snow in Zalmon.”
[3](Judges 7:17;NKJV) “And he said to them, "Look at me and do likewise; watch, and when I come to the edge of the camp you shall do as I do.”

 

49 And all the people likewise cut down every man his bough, and followed Abimelech, and put them to the hold, and set the hold on fire upon them; so that all the men of the tower of Shechem died also, about a thousand men and women
49 So all his troops also cut brushwood and followed Abimelech. They piled the brushwood on top of the basement and set it on fire with the people inside. So all the people in Shechem's Tower died too. There were about a thousand men and women.—Judges 9:49 (GW)

The only survivors in the city of Shechem take refuge in a tower; Abimelech burns them out and kills them all, about a thousand men and women. EVEN A SECURE TOWER COULD NOT PROTECT THEM.

And all the people likewise cut down every man his bough, and followed Abimelech…

They did the same thing they saw Abimelech do; they cut down trees and removed the limbs, and then, with the limbs on their shoulders, they followed him down the road to the temple, which was not too far off.

and put them to the hold, and set the hold on fire upon them;

Somehow they were able to force about a thousand men and women into the stronghold and temple, and they sealed them in with the limbs they brought with them. Limbs were placed over the hold and under the temple wall. It is probably the case that both the stronghold and walls was made of wood, and so it could very easily be set on fire. The fire was applied immediately to the limbs and brush, so now; another atrocity can be credited to Abimelech. It is ironic that the words of Jotham's fable and the threat of fire coming out of the bramble (Abimelech) [4](9.15 and 9.20) and devouring the Shechemites should have had such a literal fulfillment as that which is depicted here. Some think that the men of the tower of Shechem were the same as the house of Millo, mentioned in [4](9.20).

so that all the men of the tower of Shechem died also;

They died in one of the most horrible ways possible; they were burnt up in the fire, but many died from the smoke they inhaled, since the wood they used consisted of green limbs which would produce a great deal of smoke. The Vulgate Latin version adds, “with fire and smoke; for they being boughs of trees just cut down, with which they set fire to the hold, they would not burn easily and clearly, but make a prodigious smoke, with which many might be suffocated, as others burnt with fire; and it is unaccountable that Josephus should say that faggots of dry wood were taken, and with them fire set to the hold, when the text is so express for it that they were boughs of green trees just cut off.”

All the men and women died in the fire and smoke, and perhaps there were even some children present.  In contrast to the horrific acts of Abimelech, the Holy Spirit offers these insightful words about our protective Tower:  “The name of the LORD is a strong tower; The righteous run to it and are safe (Proverbs 18:10); For You have been a shelter for me, A strong tower from the enemy.” (Psalm 61:3)

about a thousand men and women;

The historian Josephus believes there were many more; he says the men were about 1500, and the rest a great multitude; this literally fulfilled Jotham's curse. The mention of women here is significant. They were most likely the wives of the lords of Shechem, and the women attending the priests of Baal.

What efficient inventions men have developed to destroy one another! And where do these cruel wars and hostility come from, if not from their lusts? About 1000 men and women perished in those flames, many of whom, it is probable, were in no way concerned with the quarrel between Abimelech and the Shechemites, and they did not interfere with either side, yet, in this civil war, they came to this miserable end; for men of rebellious, turbulent spirits perish not alone in their iniquity, but involve many more, that follow them blindly, and hence, they fall to the same calamity.
 
Destruction of Shechem by Abimelech. (Painting by Gore will be added later)

_____________________verse 49 notes________________________
[4](Judges 9.15 and 9.20) “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!'” (Judges 9:15; 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!" (Judges 9:20; NKJV)

 

 

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