An evil spirit came down against Abimelech

Let’s try this again. I did this in the beginning of the week and lost it all. It took a few days to get used to that, including finding out that my backup (via Aoemei Backup) did not backup that folder, now that was waste. There is a reason that they tell you to do a test backup and recovery first, and like most people, I did not until it was too late. Oh well.

Judges  ix.22

Abimelech had ruled over Shechem for 3 years when God sent an evil spirit to divide him from the men of the town & now they were distrustful of their ruler and became highway robbers lying wait for Abimelech himself, but as he knew he stayed away and others got waylaid.  Obviously this implies that Abimelech did not live in Shechem but it seems in Arumah (ix.41).

And then in the midst of this bushwhacking, Gaal, the son of E-bed, comes with his family to Shechem.  That is not unusual as Shechem traditionally was one of the sanctuary cities for all of Western Israel, honored as well with the bones of the great patriarch himself, Joseph.

{If you have forgotten, sanctuary cities were where people who “unwittingly” killed someone, see Joshua xx.3, could flee for safety from “avengers of blood”.  This came up with Gideon, who was the avenger-of-blood of  his Canaanite step-brothers against the Midianite Kings, Zebah and Zalmunna.

  That the slayer that killeth any person unawares and unwittingly may flee thither to these cities of refuge: and they shall be your refuge from the avenger of blood. 4 And when he flees unto one of those cities, he  shall stand at the entry  of the city’s gate  and  declare his cause to the elders, and they shall take him into the city  and give him a place, so that he may dwell among them… .6 And he shall dwell in that city, until he stand before the congregation for judgment, or until the death of the high priest and then shall the slayer return to his own city,… from whence he fled.}



Now, we do not know why Gaal came to Shechem. His name means “loathing” and is the son of Ebed “servant”, which does not give us much of a clue – we have to remember that the Hebrews had been slaves in Egypt and that may have been a common enough name; nevertheless it is an interesting inference. Still the men of Shechem like him and invite him out to the grape harvest where a lot of gossip and innuendo is naturally strewn about.

Gaal is easy-going enough and fits in well, but is surprised to hear that his new neighbors speak contemptuously of their overlord Abimelech. He thought that Shechem belong to the clan of Gideon, and so of course they tell that tale…This enrages Gaal as he cries out that then Abimelech is “Not a true descendant of Shechem!… He’s just some bastard of Gideon” and agrees with them about ridding the town of him swearing, 29 And would to God this people were under my hand! then would I remove Abimelech. 

Filled with wine everyone is in full agreement but there is a snake in their midst, Zebul, who unknowing to all, is a spy. { Zebul’s  name oddly enough means exalted and highly honoured, probably more from Genesis xxx.20 and Leah’s exclamation on her sixth son than anything about this dude} Zebul  “ruler of the city” is all ears and sends word to Abimelech warning him of the impending insurrection.


Abimelech rouses his men so now they were the ambushers and Gaal and the city dwellers are the prey. In the meantime Zebul decides to play up to Gaal, and act his confidant while Gaal is on watch at the city gate, so that he would be the first to fall in the ambush (v.35).

Gaal though is not that dimwitted and when he notices the shadows that Zebul pooh-poohs away as clouds in the midst, he does not lighten up his watch, but continues looking for clues. Finally spying some human movement, he points this out as proof that he was right, Zebul comes clean and taunts him throwing back Gaal’s own words from the grape harvest, so that he knows he was betrayed.

Fighting is fierce, but after many of his men had fallen and defeat is obvious, Gaal runs for safety.  Zebul rises up and takes the city in triumph (v.40) tossing out the rest of the insurrectionists as well.

Abimelech hides in Arumah {or Rumah, latitude 32 14’ N / 35.32 E or what is thought to be modern day el-Omreh, though no map I checked had that town.  Still see the map below for Wyld’s suggestions}. Others say that Arumah is not a place but implies that Abimelech was staying in a “secret” place.


The blue spot is where Wyld says Arumah lies, or somewhere west of Tel-Aviv deep in the desert, while Shechem, traditionally associated with Nablus,  is now identified with the site of Tell Balata in Balata al-Balad in the West Bank.




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