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Judges: Abimelech

Abimelech and his conflict with people of Shechem.
Contributed by Wong Chim Yuen
One day Gideon’s son Abimelech went to Shechem to visit his uncles—his mother’s brothers. He said to them and to the rest of his mother’s family, ‘Ask the leading citizens of Shechem whether they want to be ruled by all seventy of Gideon’s sons or by one man. And remember that I am your own flesh and blood!’ So Abimelech’s uncles gave his message to all the citizens of Shechem on his behalf. And the people of Shechem decided they wanted to be ruled by Abimelech because he was their relative. – Slide 1
They gave him seventy silver coins from the temple of Baal-berith, which he used to hire some reckless troublemakers who agreed to follow him. He went to his father’s home at Ophrah, and there, on one stone, they killed all seventy of his half brothers, the sons of Gideon. But the youngest brother, Jotham, escaped and hid. <br/>Then all the leading citizens of Shechem and Beth-millo called a meeting under the oak beside the pillar at Shechem and made Abimelech their king. – Slide 2
When Jotham heard about this, he climbed to the top of Mount Gerizim and shouted, ‘Listen to me, citizens of Shechem!’ Then he told them a parable about an olive tree, a fig tree, a grapevine and a thorn bush (Judges 9:8-15). <br/>Jotham continued, ‘Now make sure you have acted honourably by making Abimelech your king. Today you have revolted against my father and his descendants, killing his seventy sons. And you have chosen his slave woman’s son, Abimelech, to be your king just because he is your relative. If you have not acted in good faith, then may fire come out from Abimelech and devour the leading citizens of Shechem and Beth-millo; and may fire come out from the citizens of Shechem and Beth-millo and devour Abimelech!’ – Slide 3
After Abimelech had ruled over Israel for three years, God sent a spirit that stirred up trouble between Abimelech and the leading citizens of Shechem, and they revolted. The citizens of Shechem set an ambush for Abimelech on the hilltops and robbed everyone who passed that way. But someone warned Abimelech about their plot. – Slide 4
One day Gaal son of Ebed moved to Shechem with his brothers and gained the confidence of the leading citizens of Shechem. During the annual harvest festival at Shechem, held in the temple of the local god, the wine flowed freely, and everyone began cursing Abimelech. <br/>Gaal started plotting to kill Abimelech. <br/>Zebul, the leader of the city, sent messengers to Abimelech telling him, ‘Gaal son of Ebed and his brothers are inciting the city to rebel against you. Come by night with an army and hide out in the fields. In the morning, as soon as it is daylight, attack the city. When Gaal and those who are with him come out against you, you can do with them as you wish.’ – Slide 5
So Abimelech and all his men went by night and split into four groups, stationing themselves around Shechem. Gaal led the leading citizens of Shechem into battle against Abimelech. But Abimelech chased him, and many of Shechem’s men were wounded and fell along the road as they retreated to the city gate. Abimelech returned to Arumah, and Zebul drove Gaal and his brothers out of Shechem. – Slide 6
The next day the people of Shechem went out into the fields to battle. When Abimelech heard about it, he set an ambush in the fields. The battle went on all day before the city was captured and destroyed.  <br/>Some citizens hid in the temple of Baal-berith. Abimelech took an axe and chopped some branches from a tree. His men did the same. After placing the branches around the tower the wood was set on fire. About a thousand people died in the blaze. – Slide 7
Abimelech attacked the town of Thebez and captured it. There was a strong tower and the entire population fled to it. They barricaded themselves in and climbed up to the roof of the tower. As Abimelech prepared to set fire to the entrance, a woman on the roof dropped a millstone that landed on Abimelech’s head and crushed his skull. <br/>Injured Abimelech, not wanting to be killed by a woman, ordered his armour bearer to kill him. When Abimelech’s men saw that he was dead, they disbanded and returned to their homes. <br/>In this way, God punished Abimelech for the evil he had done and the men of Shechem for all their evil. So the curse of Jotham son of Gideon was fulfilled. – Slide 8
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