And Abimelech the son of Jerubbaal went to Shechem to his mother's brothers, and communed with them…
Abimelech is the Oriental adventurer, and uses the methods of another age than ours; yet we have our examples, and if they are less scandalous in some ways, if they are apart from bloodshed and savagery, they are still sufficiently trying to those who cherish the faith of Divine justice and providence. How many have to see with amazement the adventurer triumph by means of seventy pieces of silver from the house of Baal or even from a holier treasury. He in a selfish and cruel game seems to have speedy and complete success denied to the best and purest cause. Fighting for his own hand in wicked or contemptuous hardness and arrogant conceit, he finds support, applause, an open way. Being no prophet, he has honour in his own town. He knows the art of the stealthy insinuation, the lying promise, and the flattering murmur; he has skill to make the favour of one leading person a step to securing another. When a few important people have been hoodwinked, he too becomes important, and "success" is assured. The Bible, most entirely honest of books, frankly sets before us this adventurer, Abimelech, in the midst of the judges of Israel, as low a specimen of "success" as need be looked for; and we trace the well-known means by which such a person is promoted. "His mother's brethren spake of him," etc. That there was little to say, that he was a man of no character, mattered not the least. The thing was to create an impression, so that Abimelech's scheme might be introduced and forced. So far he could intrigue and then, the first steps gained, he could mount. But there was in him none of the mental power that afterwards marked Jehu, none of the charm that survives with the name of Absalom. It was a jealousy, pride, ambition, he played, as the most jealous, proud, and ambitious; yet for three years the Hebrews of the league, blinded by the desire to have their nation like others, suffered him to bear the name of king. And by this sovereignty the Israelites who acknowledged it were doubly and trebly compromised. Not only did they accept a man without a record, they believed in one who was an enemy to his country's religion — one, therefore, quite ready to trample upon its liberty. This is really the beginning of a worse oppression than that of Jabin or of Midian. It shows on the part of Hebrews generally, as well as those who tamely submitted to Abimelech's lordship, a most abject state of mind.
(R. A. Watson, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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,