Then God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the men of Shechem; and the men of Shechem dealt treacherously with Abimelech:
It is not said that he was judge over Israel, for they were raised up by God, but he ruled and usurped, as tyrants use to do. And to begin first with his prosperity in that God gave him this short time to enjoy his desire, and to domineer as he did, it is to teach us that He doth for some little time give wicked men their longed-for desires; and yet not for that He applaudeth them therein, but that they may have time to repent, and to bethink themselves what they have done, and how they have gone to work, and how many ways they have provoked God. But to go forward: this evil spirit that was sent betwixt them, being the first occasion of their overthrow, was the devil, by whose malice and subtlety ill-will and hatred were kindled betwixt them, and this, with the breaking their promise, doth show us clearly that the league and friendship of the wicked is soon broken off. For why? It hath no good ground. The use whereof is that we make no such wicked and cursed leagues. Secondly, that we account no otherwise of them where they be made, but as of the spider's web, soon swept down; and thirdly, praise God highly when we see them broken. And in that it is said that the Lord sent an evil spirit betwixt them, we may note, that though God be not the author of evil, yet that sin which is in the wicked, hidden in their hearts, and never so secret, He bringeth forth at His pleasure, and lets it break out at His commandment, ruling and overruling the same. And they that nourish it in themselves, and do not give it a vent by repentance, may ever justly fear, and do sometime too truly find, that as water pent in breaks out violently in some place or other, even so the sin that is entertained in men's hearts shall one time or other break out to their shame in their lives. But as the stink of the dunghill riseth not from the sun, no more doth sin proceed from God. Also, by this division betwixt them we may note, that when God suffers division among the wicked, or an evil spirit any way to lead them, it is to punish their lewd fellowship, and to revenge the sin of both parts, and to make each the other's executioner. And yet, oh what a sweet liberty it is thought to be, to enjoy fellowship with such? And first, grudges secretly being conceived, they are nourished by jealousies and suspicions exasperated by daily injuries, till they break out into hatred, and end in extremity. These things are commonly seen, but who beholdeth God's justice therein? or is thereby prevented from having anything to do with such? or made wise to lay a better foundation of their amity and friendship. Furthermore, by this, that God would have the blood of the innocent sons of Gideon revenged upon Abimelech and the men of Shechem, He teacheth us that He will revenge the innocents' cause. The Lord will bless them that bless His, and curse them that curse His.
Parallel VersesKJV: Then God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the men of Shechem; and the men of Shechem dealt treacherously with Abimelech: