22 May. Judges 9:50-57

22 May. The death of Abimelech, the first King of Israel

“Then Abimelech went to the city of Thebez. He surrounded the city, attacked it and captured it.”

“But inside the city was a strong tower, so all the men, women and leaders of that city ran to the tower. When they got inside, they locked the door behind them. Then they climbed up to the roof of the tower.”

“Abimelech came to the tower to attack it. He approached the door of the tower to set it on fire, but as he came near, a woman dropped a grinding stone on his head, crushing his skull.”

“He quickly called to the officer who carried his armour and said, ‘Take out your sword and kill me. I don’t want people to say, “A woman killed Abimelech.”’ So the officer stabbed Abimelech and he died.”

“When the people of Israel saw Abimelech was dead, they all returned home. In that way God punished Abimelech for all the evil he had done to his father by killing his 70 brothers.”

“God also punished the men of Shechem for the evil they had done. So the curse spoken by Jotham, the youngest son of Gideon, came true.”

          (Judges 9:50-57)



One of the most unhappy chapters in Israel’s history came to an end with the death of their first king, Abimelech, in c.1170BC.

His father, Gideon, had warned the Israelites against appointing a king to rule over them. No doubt aware of the sycophantic kings in neighbouring areas, and the tendency of power to corrupt any individual, he urged them not to appoint a ruler who could easily become a tyrant and despot.

When approached to be king himself, he had declined the offer saying, ‘The LORD will be your ruler’ (Judges 8:23). But the Israelites would not listen, and the people of Shechem had appointed Abimelech – one of their own family clan – as their ruler.

They soon learnt their mistake, and turned to Gaal to mount a counter-insurgency. This, sadly, failed and resulted in the massacre not only of the workers in the fields, but the burning to death of a thousand men, women and children in the Tower of Shechem (the Temple of Baal Berith) (see Judges 9:22-49).

After the subjugation of Shechem, Abimelech marched off to Thebez to teach the inhabitants there a similar brutal lesson. Quickly capturing the city, he approached the Tower of Thebez - probably another pagan temple reaching towards the heavens - where the people of the town had sought shelter.

But one of the women of the town had taken her stone hand-grinding quern with her into the tower, and seeing Abimalech at the door of the tower directly beneath her, dropped the heavy grinding stone on his head, crushing his skull.

Unwilling to be called ‘the king who was killed by a woman’, Abimelech quickly called his personal armour-bearer and asked him to kill his master with his sword.

And so three years of brutal dictatorship came to a close, the end of Israel’s first experiment at kingship. One would have thought that the Israelites might learn from this experience; but as at so many times in their history right up to the present day, the ‘chosen people’ of God turned away from the LORD and repeatedly followed the wrong path.

Following this first disastrous experience of kingship, demands for a monarch made little headway over the next 150 years. The Israelites’ renewed request for a king was only eventually granted when Samuel, despite his serious reservations and his dire warnings, anointed Saul as the second King of Israel in c.1012BC (see 1 Samuel 8:1-21 & 10:1-27).

The photo (by TrickyH) shows the city wall and gate of Tell Balata (the site of ancient Shechem, at modern-day Nablus).

You can read more about Abimelech @ https://www.thebiblejourney.org/…/2…/abimelech-becomes-king/

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