James Gray - Concise Bible Commentary
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 9:1-10:5
GIDEON TO JAIR
ABIMELECH’S USURPATION (Jdg 9:1-6)
The close of the last lesson shows idolatry creeping into Israel, the fruit of which is reaped in the years following. God is forgotten and Gideon also (Jdg 8:34-35), the meaning of the last verse being interpreted by the story of Abimelech.
This Abimelech fraternized with his nearest of kin, the relatives of his mother’s side (Jdg 9:1-3), a striking instance, as one says, of the evils of polygamy, where one son of a father has connections and interests totally alien to his brethren. Contrast the verses just alluded to with Jdg 8:22-23 and observe the difference in spirit and motive between father and son.
What is meant by the allusion to the “one stone” in Jdg 9:5 on which Abimelech slew his brothers, it is difficult to say. Some think he dashed them from one rock, and others that the stone was the pagan altar on which their lives were sacrificed.
JOTHAM’S PARABLE (Jdg 9:7-21)
The reason Jotham, the youngest son of Gideon, was spared from the general slaughter is given in Jdg 9:5. The spot chosen for his proclamation was the public place of Shechem, and “the parable drawn from the rivalry of the various trees was appropriate to the foliage in the valley below.” With a little exertion of voice it is said he could easily be heard in the city.
Someone may ask an explanation of Jdg 9:13, and in what sense wine could be said to “cheer” God? Jotham not being present to explain the expression, we are at a loss, for it is not God who is here speaking, but man, whose word God is causing to be recorded. Wine was sometimes used in sacrifices as was oil. The latter is said to “honor” God (Jdg 9:9), and perhaps in the same sense it is meant that wine cheered Him.
Note the malediction Jotham pronounces on Abimelech and Shechem (Jdg 9:20), and the fulfillment we reach at the close of chapter 9. Thus would it appear that Jotham was in this case a prophet and minister of God.
GAUL’S CONSPIRACY (Jdg 9:22-49)
The combination of Abimelech’s usurpation and Shechem’s idolatry did not work well, for by and by God sent a judgment upon them (Jdg 9:22-25). Gaal, who, some think, represented the original Canaanites of the locality, took advantage of the feeling against Abimelech and raised an insurrection (Jdg 9:26-29). Zebul, the ruler of the city, is loyal, and informs on him (Jdg 9:30-33) with the result following (Jdg 9:34-40). Subsequently Shechem itself is destroyed (Jdg 9:41-45), and the people who took refuge in the stronghold consumed with fire (Jdg 9:46-49).
ABIMELECH’S DEATH (Jdg 9:50-57)
A subsequent campaign against Thebez, now called Tubas, was not so successful (Jdg 9:50-55), and Abimelech like Sisera, came to his end at the hand of a woman. Thus his evil deeds met their reward (Jdg 9:56-57).
THE JUDGESHIPS OF TOLA AND JAIR (Jdg 10:1-5)
Not much is said about these two judges, and yet together they ruled forty- five years. As foreign aggression is not spoken of, the probability is that the “defense” or saving of Israel referred to was from internal dissension of usurpation like that of Abimelech. For this cause they have sometimes been called “civil” judges.
Something of the magnificence of the second of the two may be gathered from verse 4. To ride on an ass is characteristic of royalty in those times, and if each of these sons did that, and each had his own city to rule, Jair’s possessions were extensive. Havoth-jair, interpreted into English, means “the towns of Jair.”
It will be interesting to compare Numbers 32:41, Deuteronomy 3:14 and 1 Chronicles 2:22 for the story of an earlier Jair. Although the two have points of unusual similarity they were evidently different persons.
1. What is the spiritual condition of Israel following Gideon’s death?
2. Give the history of Abimelech’s rise to power.
3. Recite Jotham’s parable and give its application.
4. What shows Jotham to have been a prophet?
5. Give the history of Shechem’s destruction.
6. With what earlier military captain may Abimelech be compared in his death?
7. What characteristic has sometimes been given the judgeships of Tola and Jair, and why?
8. What is the meaning of Havoth-jair?
9. Have you compared the histories of the two Jairs?