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1. TT is a certain sign of a mean and proud spirit, for men
I to be displeased because they are not, as they think, sufficiently honoured and taken notice of. What a wretched figure the Ephraimites made ! They might have offered themselves willingly; they should have sought occasion to attack the enemies of their brethren ; but because they thought they were not treated suitably to their dignity, they chode sharply with their great deliverer. This is a very common case ; men stand upon ă point of honour when God and their country call for their aid ; and will do nothing, or even quarrel with those who do most, if they have not just such respect as they think they deserve. Only by pride cometh this contention. Our business is to act well the part which Providence allots us, and not complain because we have not an easier or a better.
2. Here is an additional proof, that a soft answer turneth away Rurath. Gideon never appeared so great, even when pursuing the Midianites, or when destroying kings, as now, when he ruled his own spirit ; treating insolent men with humility, and angry men with meekness. Had he returned their ill language, probably as bad consequences would have followed as in Jepthah's time ; but by calm language and humility he cooled their resentment, and sent them away satisfied. He that is slow to anger is better than
the mighty ; and no man is so truly great and honourable, as he · who keeps under his passions, and, by yielding, pacifieth great wrath.
3. Let us learn by Gideon's example, not to be discouraged from pursuing what is good, by any unkind or ill treatment we may meet with. The men of Succoth and Penuel derided and discouraged him ; but he went on, pursued the Midianites and completed the victory. Let us go on and serve God, even if those who should join and help us, banter and abuse us. Though ready to tire and faint in our spiritual warfare, still let us hold on and pursue the victory, and we shall prevail. Let nothing we meet with discourage us from christian duty ; but rather, let every thing disagreeable whet our zeal and increase our resolution.
4. Persons in eminent and conspicuous stations of life should be very watchful of their conduct, lest they be accessory to the guilt and ruin of others. Gideon made an ephod, most probably without any ill design ; but it proved the ruin of his family, and a snare to Israel : they thought it was no harm to worship it, when so eminent and holy a man made it. If magistrates and ministers, parents, or heads of families, make one false step, their example will do mischief to their inferiors : children and servants will look upon a doubtful conduct in their superiors as a
kind of license to do evil. A person may, for reasons that will satisfy his own conscience, stay away from divine worship, often omit it in his family, or travel on the sabbath ; which may lead his children and servants to do so when there is no good reason to be given, yea, to do it often, and grow worse and worse. Let all be peculiarly watchful of their conduct, lest they do that which may prove a snare to their families, and those that come after them. Once more, · 5. How detestable does ingratitude appear, ingratitude to man, and especially to God ! How scandalously did Israel behave, after all that God, and Gideon as his instrument, had done for them! This is too much the case of our own nation, both toward God, and those who have been instruments of our deliverance : but when men forget God, it is no wonder that they forget their human benefactors and friends.
CHAP. IX. v. 1-29. God being determined to punish the idolatry of Israel by the tyranny
of one of their own people, in this chapter is Abimelech's rise, reign, and ruin. He had no call from God, nor did Israel want a judge ; but he was resolved to be one if possible. 1 A ND Abimelech the son of Jerubbaal, by his concubine,
n went to Shechem unto his mother's brethren ; he left his father's house, his uncles and other relations, who were pera sons of rank, and went to his mother's relations, and communed
with them, and with all the family of the house of his moth2 er's father, saying, Speak, I pray you in the ears of all the
men of Shechem, to the elders and princes, Whether [is] better for you, either that all the sons of Jerubbaal, (which are] threescore and ten persons, reign over you, or that one reign over you? remember also that I [am] your bone and your flesh; suggesting that his brethren designed to reign, though his father declined it ; that horrid confusion would at. tend such a number of governors ; that they had better have only one ; that himself was of their tribe, and city, and family;
that thus they would have the honour of being allied to the king, 3 and would enjoy the government they desired. And his moth
er's brethren spake of him in the ears of all the men of Shechem all these words ; and their hearts inclined to follow Abimelech ; for they said, He [is] our brother. The plot took, and they chose him, without consulting God or the other Tribes, merely because he was their brother, hoping that theirs
would be a capital city, and that they should have, rich prefer4 ments. And they gave him threescore and ten [pieces,] or VOL. II.
pounds weight, of silver, out of the house of Baalberith ; thus the treasures of their idol god, were the means of stirring up sedition ; wherewith Abimelech hired vain and light persons which followed him, the scum of the country, idle, vagabond fel.
lows, of desperate fortunes, who were proper instruments of his 5 tyranny and cruelty. And he went unto his father's house at
Ophrah, and slew his brethren the sons of Jerubbaal, [being] threescore and ten persons, upon one stone ; perhaps under pretence of a plot and rebellion against the commonwealth, or to expiate the guilt of Gideon in destroying the altars of Baal ;
notwithstanding yet Jotham the youngest son of Jerubbaal 6 was left ; for he hid himself and escaped. And all the men
of Shechem gathered together, and all the house of Millo, the tower house, where the magistrates sat, and instead of revenging the murder, in a full house or senate, they went and made Abimelech king, and afterward proclaimed him by the plain of the pillar that (was] in Shechem, which Joshua set up under the oak, as a token of the covenant between God and them, after reading the curses and the blessings : thus the crime was
aggravated by being committed in such a sacred place. 7 And when they told [it] to Jotham, what the people had
done, had forsaken God, and lost all sense of justice and humanity, he went and stood in the top of mount Gerizim, and lifted up his voice, and cried, and said unto them, when they were gathered together in a valley below, on some festival, Hearken unto me, ye men of Shechem, that God may hearken unto you; calling their attention in a very serious manner, and addressing them in a very beautiful fable or parable ; an ancient
way of instruction, which engaged the attention, and adminis8 tered reproof with less offence. The trees went forth [on a
time] to anoint a king over them; and they said unto the olive tree, Reign thou over us. To represent the unreason. ableness and wickedness of making any king : the trees of the Lord which he planted and protected, being weary of God's gov. ernment, presumptuously attempted to alter it, and proposed it
to the olive tree, that is, to Gideon (ch. viii. 22.) to reign over 9 them. But the olive tree said unto them, Should I leave my
fatness, wherewith by me they honour God and man,* and go to be promoted over the trees ? or, as the margin, go up and
down for other trees ? Intimating the duty of a good prince, to 10 exert himself and take much pains to serve his people. And
the trees said to the fig tree, Come thou, [and] reign over 11 us. But the fig tree said unto them, Should I forsake my
sweetness, and my good fruit, and go to be promoted over the 12 trees? Then said the trees unto the vine, Come thou 13 [and] reign over us. And the vine said unto them, Should I leave my wine, which cheereth God and man, and go to be 14 promoted over the trees ?* Then said all the trees unto the
* God was honoured by the oil used in sacrifices, to feed the lamps and anoint the priests ; and it was useful to man in food and medicine.
bramble, Come thou [and] reign over us. The bramble, or thistle, was like Abimelech, a worthless, troublesome thing, fit
only to be burned ; but it accepted the proposal without hesita15 tion, and began to look big. And the bramble said unto the
trees, If in truth ye anoint me king over you, (then) come [and] put your trust in my shadow ; give up yourselves wholly to my conduct, and rely on my protection, and I will be sure to secure you. - A fine arbour truly ! more likely to tear and wound, than shelter them. And if not, if you will not submit to me, and do as I would have you, let fire come out of the bramble, and devour the cedars of Lebanon, that is, the greatest of those who oppose him ; hereby denoting the pride, folly, and
cruelty of Abimelech. Then follows the moral or application of 16 the fable. Now therefore, if ye have done truly and sincerely, • in that ye have made Abimelech king, and if ye have dealt
well with Jerubbaal and his house, and have done unto him
according to the deserving of his hands ; if ye have done right• eous acts, and behaved gratefully to Gideon and his house, 17 (For my father fought for you, and adventured his life far,
and delivered you out of the hand of Midian, when ye were 18 sorely oppressed, and could not help yourselves : And ye are
risen up against my father's house this day, and have slain his sons, threescore and ten persons, upon one stone, all except myself who escaped from you, but whose death you designed, and have made Abimelech, the son of his maid servant, king over the men of Shechem, not over all Israel, but only
over Shechem, though he has no good quality, only because he 19 [is] your brother ;) If ye then have dealt truly and sincerely
with Jerubbaal and with his house this day, [then] rejoice ye : in Abimelech, and let him also rejoice in you; much cause of
rejoicing and mutual satisfaction and delight may you have in each 20 other ! But if not, let fire come out from Abimelech, and de
vour the men of Shechem, and the house of Millo ; and let fire come out from the men of Shechem, and from the house of Millo, and devour Abimelech; may a spirit of dissensioni and revenge firevail : and you mutually destroy each other !
This is not a prediction, but an execration, called in v. 57, 21 his curse. And Jotham ran away, and fled, and went to Beer, • in the tribe of Judah, near Jerusalem, and dwelt there, for fear
of Abimelech his brother.t
• * Wine was used in sacrifices: it was part of the provisions of God's house and altar, with which he was delighted, and men were cheered. Thus all these noble trees, that is, Gideon and his sons, much better men than Abimelech, had refused the dignity of which he was so ambitious. . + If all Gideon's sons were like this, we cannot help lamenting the fall of such a num. ber of fine men, who inight have been public blessings; but such a spare was the ephod to Gideon's house. The Greeks claim the honour of being the inventors of fables and paraSles, but this, and Nathan's, and others, show them to be much more ancient.
22 When Abimelech had reigned three years over Israel,
over some part of Israel, who had come in afterward, but not
over Judah, or else Jotham would not have been safe there i 23 Then God sent an evil spirit, a spirit of discord and revenge,
jealousy and distrust, between Abimelech and the men of Shechem; and the men of Shechem dealt treacherously with
Abimelech ; he slighted them, and they rebelled against him : 24 That the cruelty [done] to the threescore and ten sons of
Jerubbaal might come, and their blood be laid upon Abimelech their brother which slew them; and upon the men of Shechem,' which aided him in the killing of his brethren ;
all was intended by Providence to make their punishment ree 25 markable. And the men of Shechem set liers in wait for him
in the top of the mountains, and they robbed all that came along that way by them, there were no open hostilities, but, on the dissension, he left the city and went to Arumah, (v. 41.) his country seat, and they lay in wait to seize his person as he re.
turned, and plundered all of his party and friends that they met . - with : and it was told Abimelech, their whole plot was discova 26 ered to him. And Gaal the son of Ebed came with his breth
ren, his allies and friends ; perhaps, being bold men, they were sent for to encourage and strengthen the conspiracy, and went
over to Shechem : and the men of Shechem put their con 27 fidence in him, put themselves under his protection. And they
went out into the fields, and gathered their vineyards, which they durst not do before, because of Abimelech's forces, and trode (the grapes,] and made merry, with songs, and went into the house of their god with their first fruits, and did eat and drink,
that is, feast on their sacrifice, and cursed Abimelech, prayed 28 their god to confound and destroy him. And Gaal the son of
Ebed, when he and the people were elevated with wine, began to insult Abimelech, and take measures to make himself their king ; and he said, Who [is] Abimelech, and who [is] Shechem, that we should serve him ? the son of a woman of your city, and she but a concubine and servant ; why should we submit to one so basely descended ? fis) not [he] the son of Jerubbaal ? and Zebul his officer ? who defied your gods and threw down - your altars ; if ye must be in subjection, restore your old, lords, and serve the men of Hamor the father of Shechem for why should we serve him ? this upstart, famous for nothing
but pride and cruelty ? Gaal was a Gentile, perhaps a descend 29 ant of Hamor, and therefore insists upon this, adding, And
would to God this people were under my hand ! then would I remove Abimelech, I would make him flee his country. And he said to Abimelech, Increase thine army, and come out ; he sent him a formal challenge to collect his forces and meet him in the field,