Judges 9:45
And Abimelech fought against the city all that day; and he took the city, and slew the people that was therein, and beat down the city, and sowed it with salt.
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(45) Beat down the city.—Comp. 2Samuel 17:13; Micah 3:12.

Sowed it with salt.—Nothing can better show his deadly execration against the populace to whom he owed his elevation, and who had been the instrument of his crimes. By this symbolic act he devoted the city to barrenness and desolation. (See Psalm 107:34; Deuteronomy 29:23; Job 39:6, and marg.) “When Milan was taken, in A.D. 1162, it was sown with salt, and the house of Admiral Coligny, A.D. 1572, was sown with salt by the command of Charles IX., king of France” (Wordsworth).

Jdg 9:45. And sowed it with salt — In token of his desire of their utter and irrecoverable destruction. For places situated in a salt soil being barren by nature, the sowing of salt upon a place was a symbolical custom among the eastern people, at that time, to express great hatred and anger against any place, being as much as to express a desire that it should never be inhabited again, or produce its usual products, but become barren like a salt soil. For we cannot imagine that sowing of salt could render any soil barren ever after, but rather in some time more fruitful.9:30-49 Abimelech intended to punish the Schechemites for slighting him now, but God punished them for their serving him formerly in the murder of Gideon's sons. When God uses men as instruments in his hand to do his work, he means one thing, and they another. That, which they hoped would have been for their welfare, proved a snare and a trap, as those will certainly find, who run to idols for shelter; such will prove a refuge of lies.Sowed it with salt - Expressing by this action his hatred, and his wish, that when utterly destroyed as a city, it might not even be a fruitful field. Salt is the emblem of barrenness (see the marginal references). 28-45. would to God this people were under my hand—He seems to have been a boastful, impudent, and cowardly person, totally unfit to be a leader in a revolutionary crisis. The consequence was that he allowed himself to be drawn into an ambush, was defeated, the city of Shechem destroyed and strewn with salt. The people took refuge in the stronghold, which was set on fire, and all in it perished. Not to make the place barren, as salt will do, for then he would have sowed the fields, not the city; but in token of his detestation and desire of their utter and irrecoverable destruction; for salt is the symbol or sign of perpetuity: compare Numbers 18:19 Deu 29:23 2 Chronicles 13:5 Zephaniah 2:9. And Abimelech fought against the city all that day,.... By throwing stones or arrows into it:

and he took the city; it was surrendered to him, not being able to stand out against his forces:

and slew the people that was therein; all but those that were of his own family and his friends; all that had taken up arms against him, or had shown their dislike of his government, and were his enemies:

and beat down the city; the houses in it, and walls of it, though it was his native place:

and sowed it with salt; not to make it barren, for he would rather then have sowed the field, though this would not have had any effect of that kind, for any time at least; but to show his detestation of it, because of the ill usage he had met with, and as a token of its perpetual destruction, to which he devoted it, determining that if it was in his power it should never be rebuilt; but it was hereafter, and became again a very flourishing city in Jeroboam's time. Thus the Emperor Frederic Barbarossa, in the year 1162, when he took Milan, not only ploughed it up, but sowed it with salt; and in memory of it there is a street in it, now called "la contrada della Sala" (n): besides, Abimelech did this to deter other cities from rebelling against him; for if he so used his own city, more severely, if possible, would he use others.

(n) Sigonius de regn. Ital. l. 13, & 14.

And Abimelech fought against the city all that day; and he took the city, and slew the people that was therein, and beat down the city, and sowed it with {o} salt.

(o) That it should be unfruitful and never serve to any use.

45. sowed it with salt] Usually explained as a symbolic act shewing that A. had reduced the city to a salt, uninhabitable desert; cf. Deuteronomy 29:23, Jeremiah 17:6, Psalm 107:34, Job 39:6. More probably the strewing of salt had a religious significance (cf. Ezekiel 43:24) and denoted the sacrificial consecration of the city which, to judge from its utter destruction, had been put under the ban to Jehovah (see on Jdg 1:17); Rel. of Sem., p. 435 n. The custom is mentioned only here in the O.T.; but it is referred to in the great historical inscriptions of Tiglath-Pileser I (circ. 1100 b.c.) and Ashurbanipal (668–626 b.c.); Keilinschr. Biblioth. i. p. 37 and ii. p. 2071[42]. There is a tradition that Attila treated Padua, and Frederick Barbarossa treated Milan, in this way. Early in 1828 Ibrahim Pasha, after blowing up and burning Tripolitza, sprinkled salt over the ruins1[43].

[42] The transl. ‘stones’ and ‘dry sand’ given here is to be corrected to ‘salt’; Zimmern in Gunkel. Genesis, p. 193.

[43] K. Mendelssohn Bartholdy, Gesch. Griechenlands, ii. p. 99. This reference is due to Prof. J. E. B. Mayor.Verse 45. - Abimelech fought against the city, etc. When all the Shechemites in the field were smitten or dispersed, Abimelech stormed the city, weakened as it was by the previous loss of so many of its defenders. The city made an obstinate defence notwithstanding, but was taken before night, and all the inhabitants were put to the sword. The walls were then razed to the ground, and the site was sown with salt to express the wish that it might be barren and uninhabited for ever (cf. Psalm 107:34, marg.; Jeremiah 17:6). This action of sowing with salt is not elsewhere mentioned; but it is well known that salt destroys vegetation, and is used by gardeners for this very purpose. Pliny (quoted by Rosenmuller) says, Omnis locus in quo reperitur sal sterilis est. Then Gaal went out "before the citizens of Shechem;" i.e., not at their head as their leaders, which is the meaning of לפני in Genesis 33:3; Exodus 13:21; Numbers 10:35, etc., - for, according to Judges 9:33-35, Gaal had only gone out of the town with his own retinue, and, according to Judges 9:42, Judges 9:43, the people of Shechem did not go out till the next day, - but "in the sight of the lords of Shechem," so that they looked upon the battle. But the battle ended unfortunately for him. Abimelech put him to flight (רדף as in Leviticus 26:36), and there fell many slain up to the gate of the city, into which Gaal had fled with his followers.
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