Judges 9:42-49

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, October 17, 2016 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

“The next day the people of Shechem went out to the fields, and this was reported to Abimelech. So he took his men, divided them into three companies and set an ambush in the fields. When he saw the people coming out of the city, he rose to attack them. Abimelech and the companies with him rushed forward to a position at the entrance of the city gate. Then two companies attacked those in the fields and struck them down. All that day Abimelech pressed his attack against the city until he had captured it and killed its people. Then he destroyed the city and scattered salt over it.
On hearing this, the citizens in the tower of Shechem went into the stronghold of the temple of El-Berith. When Abimelech heard that they had assembled there, he and all his men went up Mount Zalmon. He took an ax and cut off some branches, which he lifted to his shoulders. He ordered the men with him, 'Quick! Do what you have seen me do!' So all the men cut branches and followed Abimelech. They piled them against the stronghold and set it on fire with the people still inside. So all the people in the tower of Shechem, about a thousand men and women, also died.” (Judges 9:42-49)

I encourage you to go read my last two blog posts (here and here) to get the full context of this story. Abimelech and his army have come to Shechem to stop a plot to overthrow him as leader, which they successfully did, running Gaal the Canaanite out of town. So what are they doing still staying in Shechem?

Abimelech decided that he needed to punish the citizens of Shechem for their lack of loyalty to him. If he hadn’t immediately intervened, it’s likely that Gaal would have rallied the people and even more of them would have been fighting against Abimelech. Abimelech decides that one more good ambush should do the trick.

This was all going on during their harvest season. The city of Shechem had walls around it, and only the city proper was inside the walls. The fields where they grew their crops were outside the walls. To harvest their crops, the people had to leave the protection of the city’s walls. After Abimelech ran Gaal out of town, the people would not have expected any further military action, and they had to get back to the work of harvesting.

So what does Abimelech do? He ambushes the unsuspecting civilians of Shechem! While the men were all out working in the fields, Abimelech’s army got between them and the city so they were unable to retreat to safety, and he killed them all.

After the ambush of the workers in the fields, Abimelech wasn’t done yet. He and his army went to the tower, which was 68 feet wide and 84 feet high. It was located inside the city, and its purpose was for people to take shelter in and defend the city. However, the tower didn’t provide enough protection this time; Abimelech and his army set it on fire, which only furthered the mass slaughter and Abimelech’s total capture of the city.

It says in verse 45 that “he destroyed the city and scattered salt over it.” Scattering salt over it symbolizes the utter destruction of Shechem and its perpetual infertility. There are other references to this in Deuteronomy 29:23 and Psalm 107:33-34. If salt is scattered on plants, that plant will die, and Shechem died. The city wasn’t rebuilt until almost 200 years later (1 Kings 12:25).

What can we take away from this story? Abimelech was a ruthless leader. He may have looked good to begin with (for those who weren’t paying attention to how he came into power - by killing 68 of his half brothers), but as time goes on his true character was revealed. In this election season, take note of the true character of the candidates. Look at their past actions to see how they handle certain situations. Will he or she be a person who follows God’s will for this country? Or will he or she say that up front, but then show their true character and not lead well? Only time will tell, but make sure you look for clues and thoroughly investigate each candidate before placing your vote. Pray that God would guide your heart in this process, and the hearts of the candidates as well.

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