Abimelech's Bad Start

After Gideon's death the question arose as to his successor. One of his sons, Abimelech, the son of a Shechemite woman, remembered the offer the people had made to his father. Going to the people of Shechem, he persuaded them to select him to succeed his father in preference to his seventy brothers. To rid himself of any opposition, Abimelech had all his brothers murdered. The youngest brother Jotham escaped.

As the men of Shechem gathered to proclaim Abimelech king, Jotham went up to mount Gerizim overlooking the city of Shechem in the valley below, and addressed them in the following parable; "Once the trees went forth to anoint a king over them, and they said to the Olive-tree, 'Reign thou over us.' But the Olive-tree replied, 'Should I leave my fatness wherewith G‑d and men are honored and go to wave over the trees?' Then the trees said unto the Fig-tree, 'Come thou and reign over us.' But the Fig-tree said unto them, 'Should I forsake my sweetness and my choice fruit, and go to wave over the trees?' Then the trees said unto the Vine, 'Come thou and reign over us/ And the Vine replied, 'Should I leave my wine, which cheers G‑d and man, and go to wave over the trees?' Then all the trees said to the Bramble, 'Come thou and reign over us.' And the Bramble said to the trees, 'If in truth you anoint me king over you, then come and put your trust in my shadow; and if not, let fire come out of the Bramble and devour the cedars of Lebanon'."

Thus Jotham severely rebuked the Shechemites for having chosen Abimelech, the lowliest of all the sons of the great Jerubbaal. He predicted that a rift would come between Abimelech and Shechem, and that they would both rue the day they had decided to join forces.

Ignoble End

Jotham's warning found its mark. After three years' reign Abimelech lost favor in the eyes of the Shechemites, and they were soon plotting to get rid of him. However, Zebul, the governor of Shechem, secretly sided with Abimelech. Through messengers he informed him of the conspiracy and advised him to march against Shechem with his army. At Zebul's cunning instigation, Gaal, the leader of the rebels, led his followers out of the city against Abimelech, and in the ensuing battle the rebels were completely crushed. Abimelech then wreaked his anger on the city, putting everyone to the sword and converting the city into a heap of rubble. The Tower of Shechem, which sheltered 1,000 people, he sent up in flames. Soon, however, Abimelech met his death at the hands of a woman. It happened when he was besieging the tower of a neighboring city, where the people had sought refuge. A woman dropped a heavy stone from the top of the tower, crushing his skull. Abimelech was still able to command his armor-bearer to put an end to his suffering, lest people say he died by the hand of a woman.

Tola and Jair

After Abimelech, there lived the judges Tola, son of Pua, of the tribe of Issachar, who ruled for twenty-three years, and Jair, the Gileadite, who was judge for twenty-two years.