The Holy Bible – Knox Translation
The Book of Judges
This Abimelech, son of Jerobaal, now betook himself to Sichem, and there conspired with his mother’s brethren, and the whole clan from which his mother was descended.
They were to send the word round in Sichem, Which is best, to have seventy masters over you, all Jerobaal’s sons, or one? He was, after all, their own flesh and blood.
So his mother’s brethren, by raising these whispers among the citizens of Sichem, won Abimelech their good-will; they remembered that he was their own kin,
and gave him seventy silver pieces, from the temple treasure of Baal-berith. With these, he hired a bodyguard of penniless rogues;
then went back to his father’s house at Ephra and his own brothers, the sons of Jerobaal. He murdered these at one blow,✻ all seventy of them except Joatham, the youngest, who hid away and escaped.
And with that all the citizens of Sichem and all those who dwelt at Mello met together, and there, by the oak at Sichem, they made Abimelech their king.
When this came to Joatham’s ears, he went and stood at the top of mount Garizim, and raised his voice there in a loud cry. Listen to me, he said, men of Sichem, as you would have God himself listen to you.
There was a time when the trees went about to anoint a king who should rule over them, and said to the olive-tree, Come and be our king.
What, said the olive, would you have me forgo this rich influence of mine, for the service of God and man, to win promotion among the trees?
So they asked the fig-tree to be their ruler,
but the fig-tree answered, What, should I cease to yield this pleasant fruit of mine, and win promotion among the trees instead?
Then the trees would have the vine reign over them,
but the vine said, What, would you have me cease to yield wine, wine that both God and man delight in, to be the foremost of the trees?
So at last all the trees went to the bramble, and would have the bramble reign over them.
And the bramble said, If you have chosen me for your king in all honesty, why then, come and rest in my shadow. If your hearts are false, then burn bramble, and set light to all the cedars on Lebanon!
And you, have you kept faith and honour in making Abimelech your king? Have you dealt kindly with Jerobaal and his race, shewn gratitude for the good service he did you? Here was a man that fought in your cause,
that put his life in peril, to deliver you from the power of Madian.
And now you have risen in arms against my father’s house, you have murdered at one blow seventy men that were his sons, and you have made Abimelech, the son of his serving-wench, king of all Sichem; one that is your own kin.
Was this honourably done? Have you kept faith with the race of Jerobaal? Why then, I wish you joy of your king, and Abimelech of his subjects.
But if it was done amiss, then burn Abimelech, and set light to Sichem and Mello; burn Sichem and Mello, and set light to Abimelech!
And with that Joatham fled, and took refuge in Bara, where he could dwell safe from his brother Abimelech’s vengeance.
So, for three years, Abimelech was king in Israel;
but now the Lord stirred up ill-will between Abimelech and the men of Sichem, who came to hold him in abhorrence;
the foul deed done when the seventy sons of Jerobaal were slain, the guilt of the blood so spilt, was held now against Abimelech, their brother, and against the chief men of Sichem, that had been in league with him.
So they laid an ambush to catch him at the head of the mountain-pass, and spent their time, while they awaited his coming, in open robbery, plundering all that went by; but Abimelech had warning of it.
It was now that Gaal son of Obed appeared, and led his clansmen into Sichem. All that dwelt in Sichem were elated at his coming;
out they went into the country-side, to strip the vineyards and tread the grapes. Amid the chanting of choirs, they went into the temple of their god to feast and drink deep, and curse the name of Abimelech.
What, cried Gaal son of Obed, should Sichem, being the city she is, obey such a man as Abimelech? Shall this son of Jerobaal send his servant Zebul to rule over men that come down from Hamor, the father of Sichem? And must we all be his slaves?
Ah, if I had but command of a people like this, I would soon clear Abimelech out of my path.
Hereupon, Abimelech was bidden muster a great force, and come with all speed.
Hereupon, Abimelech was bidden muster a great force, and come with all speed.
Gaal’s words had come to the ears of Zebul, who was in command of the city, and in high displeasure
he sent Abimelech a secret message: Here is Gaal, son of Obed, come to Sichem with his clan, and means to wrest the city from thee.
March out under cover of night with all the following thou hast, and lie hidden in the country round about;
then, when tomorrow’s sun rises, fall upon the city, and when he and his men come out to meet thee, engage them as best thou canst.
So Abimelech set out on a night march with all his forces, and posted men in ambush about Sichem in four several places.
Gaal, son of Obed, had gone out to take up his stand before the entrance of the city, when suddenly Abimelech and his men rose from their ambush.
And when he caught sight of them, Gaal said to Zebul, Why, what is this throng of folk coming down from the hill-top? It is the shadows on the mountain-side, said he, thou art mistaking for human forms.
But Gaal repeated, There is a throng of men coming down from the uplands, and another body is moving down the road that leads to the oak-tree.
And at that Zebul said, Now we shall see what becomes of that boasting of thine, Shall we obey such a man as Abimelech? See, here are the men thou didst hold in such contempt; go out and fight with them.
So Gaal must needs take the field against Abimelech, with all the citizens of Sichem to watch him;
whereupon Abimelech routed him, and drove him back into the city, and not a few of his clansmen fell before they could reach the city gate.
So Abimelech encamped at Ruma, while Zebul drove Gaal and his clan out of the city, saying he would harbour them no more.
Next day, the citizens themselves went out on a foray;✻ when this news reached Abimelech,
he led his men to the attack. He had divided them into three companies, hiding them in ambush in the country round about; and finding that the men of Sichem were at a distance from the city, he moved swiftly against them.
He, with his own company, surrounded and attacked the city, while the other two companies fell on the enemy as they straggled across the plain.
All that day Abimelech assaulted the city; and when he took it he slaughtered the inhabitants and destroyed it utterly, and strewed salt over the ground to put a ban on it.
When this news reached the men who dwelt in Sichem Watch-tower, they took refuge in the temple of their god, whom they called Berith because they had made a covenant with him there. It gave its name to the ground on which it stood, which was strongly fortified.
And Abimelech, when he was told that all the inhabitants of Sichem Watch-tower were so cooped up together,
led his whole force to mount Selmon. Here, with an axe, he cut down a branch from a tree and threw it across his shoulder, bidding all that were with him straightway do the like.
So, eagerly enough, they followed their leader’s example, and when they reached the stronghold they surrounded it and set fire to it. Thus smoke and fire brought death to a thousand souls, all the men and women that dwelt in Sichem Watch-tower.
From there, Abimelech went on to the town of Thebes, and made an assault on it.
There was a high tower in the middle of the city, in which men and women alike had taken refuge, all the chief magistrates of the city among them. Its doors were stoutly barred, and there were battlements on its roof behind which the defenders stood.
Abimelech came up and assailed it vigorously, and was standing there close by the door trying to set fire to it,
when a woman threw down from the roof part of a mill-stone, which struck him on the head and pierced to the brain.
Quickly he called out to his armour-bearer; Draw thy sword, he said, and make an end of me; it must not be said that Abimelech died by a woman’s hand. So the armour-bearer obeyed, and made an end of him;
and, once he was dead, all the Israelites who marched with him went back to their homes.
Thus God punished Abimelech for the wrong he did to his father’s name by slaughtering those seventy brethren of his,
and punished the men of Sichem, too, for their misdeeds; and the curse of Joatham, son of Jerobaal, came upon them all.
The Holy Bible