Summary: At first glance, it might appear that this pitiful tale of the scoundrel Abimelech is unimportant. However, the events of this chapter came very near to being the end of the nation of Israel.
Abimelech King of Shechem [Judges 9.1-9.6]
1 And Abimelech the son of Jerubbaal went to Shechem unto his mother's brethren, and communed with them, and with all the family of the house of his mother's father, saying,
2 Speak, I pray you, in the ears of all the men of Shechem, Whether is better for you, either that all the sons of Jerubbaal, which are threescore and ten persons, reign over you, or that one reign over you? remember also that I am your bone and your flesh.
3 And his mother's brethren spake of him in the ears of all the men of Shechem all these words: and their hearts inclined to follow Abimelech; for they said, He is our brother.
4 And they gave him threescore and ten pieces of silver out of the house of Baalberith, wherewith Abimelech hired vain and light persons, which followed him.
5 And he went unto his father's house at Ophrah, and slew his brethren the sons of Jerubbaal, being threescore and ten persons, upon one stone: notwithstanding yet Jotham the youngest son of Jerubbaal was left; for he hid himself.
6 And all the men of Shechem gathered together, and all the house of Millo, and went, and made Abimelech king, by the plain of the pillar that was in Shechem.—Judges 9:1-6 (KJV)
INTRODUCTION TO Judges 9
This chapter contains an account of:
• The deviousness and cruelty of Abimelech, by which he got himself made king of the Shechemites.
• The parable of Jotham, the youngest son of Gideon, concerning the trees, in which he exposes their folly in making Abimelech king.
• The ruin of both Abimelech and Jotham.
• The contentions which arose between Abimelech, and the men of Shechem.
• The contentions increased by Gaal the son of Ebed, who was drawn into a battle with Abimelech, and beaten and forced to flee.
• The quarrel between Abimelech and the men of Shechem did not cease, but continued, which led to the total ruin of the city and the inhabitants of it’
• The death of Abimelech himself, which corresponded to Jotham's curse.
At first glance, it might appear that this pitiful tale of the scoundrel Abimelech is unimportant. However, the events of this chapter came very near to being the end of the nation of Israel. "Shechem, along with a scattering of Israelites, changed their government to rule by a monarch with absolute authority over all facets of life; it was nearly the end of Israel." If Abimelech had been successful in transforming their religion, all Israel might have renounced their covenant relationship with Jehovah. This reversion to Canaanite Baalism involved the official recognition of Baal as the covenant god.
Three other measures of the importance of this chapter may also be noted:
(1) "Here is revealed the doctrine that wickedness is never allowed to go unpunished."
(2) There is no clearer lesson in the history of mankind exhibiting the absolute wickedness of polygamy and concubinage than is found in this extended story of the descendants of Gideon. Hervey stated that "It was polygamy that produced family discord, destroyed filial affection, resulted in civil strife, wholesale murder, and produced an ignoble and contemptible herd of helpless princes."
(3) Also, there is a perfect example here of what government by "a king" would inevitably mean for Israel. Yes, David and a very few others were exceptions to the rule, but the long, wretched story of the kings of Israel followed perfectly the pattern of that type of government which God allowed His chosen people to see in the atrocious behavior of the scoundrel of Shechem, Abimelech.
1 And Abimelech the son of Jerubbaal went to Shechem unto his mother's brethren, and communed with them, and with all the family of the house of his mother's father, saying, (Judges 9.1; KJV)
1 Abimelech, son of Jerubbaal [Gideon], went to Shechem to see the uncles on his mother's side of the family. He spoke to them and his mother's whole family. (Judges 9.1; GW)
Having gone to Shechem, the home of his mother—“And his concubine who was in Shechem also bore him a son, whose name he called Abimelech” (Judges 8:31; NKJV), Abimelech made a request to his mother's brothers and the whole family (all the relatives) of his mother’s father. This is what he said: "Speak, I pray you, in the ears of all the lords of Shechem," that is, speak to all the citizens of Shechem publicly and seriously. The citizens of the town were chiefly Israelites, but according to Judges 9.28 there were some Canaanitish citizens living there. And what was it they were to say; "What is better for you, that seventy men rule over you, all the sons of Jerubbaal, or (only) one man (i.e., Abimelech)? and remember that I am your flesh and bone" (blood relation, Genesis 29:14). The name "sons of Jerubbaal," would remind the Canaanite citizens that it was Jerubbaal (Gideon) who had destroyed the altar of Baal, and that would not commend the sons of Gideon to the Shechemites, who were devoted to the worship of Baal; also, the same can be said about the remark that seventy men were to rule over them. No such rule ever existed, and there is not any evidence that the seventy sons of Gideon aspired to such a position. But Abimelech assumed that his brothers possessed the same thirst for ruling that he did; and that the citizens of Shechem might be ready to accept him as their ruler since the popularity which Gideon had enjoyed would certainly be extended to his sons and insure him of a prominent place in the nation.