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Judges 9:30-45

Context

9:30 When Zebul, the city commissioner, heard the words of Gaal son of Ebed, he was furious. 1  9:31 He sent messengers to Abimelech, who was in Arumah, 2  reporting, “Beware! 3  Gaal son of Ebed and his brothers are coming 4  to Shechem and inciting the city to rebel against you. 5  9:32 Now, come up 6  at night with your men 7  and set an ambush in the field outside the city. 8  9:33 In the morning at sunrise quickly attack the city. When he and his men come out to fight you, do what you can to him.” 9 

9:34 So Abimelech and all his men came up 10  at night and set an ambush outside Shechem – they divided into 11  four units. 9:35 When Gaal son of Ebed came out and stood at the entrance to the city’s gate, Abimelech and his men got up from their hiding places. 9:36 Gaal saw the men 12  and said to Zebul, “Look, men are coming down from the tops of the hills.” But Zebul said to him, “You are seeing the shadows on the hills – it just looks like men.” 13  9:37 Gaal again said, “Look, men are coming down from the very center 14  of the land. A unit 15  is coming by way of the Oak Tree of the Diviners.” 16  9:38 Zebul said to him, “Where now are your bragging words, 17  ‘Who is Abimelech that we should serve him?’ Are these not the men 18  you insulted? 19  Go out now and fight them!” 9:39 So Gaal led the leaders of Shechem out 20  and fought Abimelech. 9:40 Abimelech chased him, and Gaal 21  ran from him. Many Shechemites 22  fell wounded at the entrance of the gate. 9:41 Abimelech went back 23  to Arumah; Zebul drove Gaal and his brothers out of Shechem. 24 

9:42 The next day the Shechemites 25  came out to the field. When Abimelech heard about it, 26  9:43 he took his men 27  and divided them into three units and set an ambush in the field. When he saw the people coming out of the city, 28  he attacked and struck them down. 29  9:44 Abimelech and his units 30  attacked and blocked 31  the entrance to the city’s gate. Two units then attacked all the people in the field and struck them down. 9:45 Abimelech fought against the city all that day. He captured the city and killed all the people in it. Then he leveled 32  the city and spread salt over it. 33 

1 tn Heb “his anger burned.”

2 tn The form בְּתָרְמָה (bÿtarmah) in the Hebrew text, which occurs only here, has traditionally been understood to mean “secretly” or “with deception.” If this is correct, it is derived from II רָמָה (ramah, “to deceive”). Some interpreters object, pointing out that this would imply Zebul was trying to deceive Abimelech, which is clearly not the case in this context. But this objection is unwarranted. If retained, the phrase would refer instead to deceptive measures used by Zebul to avoid the suspicion of Gaal when he dispatched the messengers from Shechem. The present translation assumes an emendation to “in Arumah” (בָּארוּמָה, barumah), a site mentioned in v. 41 as the headquarters of Abimelech. Confusion of alef and tav in archaic Hebrew script, while uncommon, is certainly not unimaginable.

3 tn Heb “Look!”

4 tn The participle, as used here, suggests Gaal and his brothers are in the process of arriving, but the preceding verses imply they have already settled in. Perhaps Zebul uses understatement to avoid the appearance of negligence on his part. After all, if he made the situation sound too bad, Abimelech, when he was informed, might ask why he had allowed this rebellion to reach such a stage.

5 tn The words “to rebel” are interpretive. The precise meaning of the Hebrew verb צוּר (tsur) is unclear here. It is best to take it in the sense of “to instigate; to incite; to provoke” (see Deut 2:9, 19 and R. G. Boling, Judges [AB], 178).

6 tn Heb “arise.”

7 tn Heb “you and the people who are with you.”

8 tn The words “outside the city” are supplied in the translation for clarification.

9 tn Heb “Look! He and the people who are with him will come out to you, and you will do to him what your hand finds [to do].”

10 tn Heb “and all the people who were with him arose.”

11 tn Heb “four heads.” The words “they divided into” are supplied in the translation for clarification.

12 tn Heb “the people” (also in vv. 38, 43, 48). These were warriors, so “men” has been used in the translation, since in ancient Israelite culture soldiers would have been exclusively males.

13 tn Heb “the shadow on the hills you are seeing, like men.”

14 tn Heb “navel.” On the background of the Hebrew expression “the navel of the land,” see R. G. Boling, Judges (AB), 178-79.

15 tn Heb “head.”

16 tn Some English translations simply transliterated this as a place name (Heb “Elon-meonenim”); cf. NAB, NRSV.

17 tn Heb “is your mouth that says.”

18 tn Heb “the people.”

19 tn Or “despised.”

20 tn Heb “So Gaal went out before the leaders of Shechem.”

21 tn Heb “he”; the referent (Gaal) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

22 tn The word “Shechemites” is not in the Hebrew text, but is supplied for clarification.

23 tc Heb “stayed.” Some scholars revise the vowel pointing on this verb from that of the MT, resulting in the translation “and he returned to.” The Lucianic recension of the LXX understands the word in this way.

24 tn Heb “drove…out from dwelling in Shechem.”

25 tn Heb “the people”; the referent (the Shechemites) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

26 tn Heb “And they told Abimelech.”

27 tn Heb “his people.”

28 tn Heb “And he saw and, look, the people were coming out of the city.”

29 tn Heb “he arose against them and struck them.”

30 tn Or possibly, “the unit that was with him.”

31 tn Heb “stood [at].”

32 tn Or “destroyed.”

33 tn Heb “sowed it with salt.”

sn The spreading of salt over the city was probably a symbolic act designed to place the site under a curse, deprive it of fertility, and prevent any future habitation. The practice is referred to outside the Bible as well. For example, one of the curses in the Aramaic Sefire treaty states concerning Arpad: “May Hadad sow in them salt and weeds, and may it not be mentioned again!” See J. A. Fitzmyer, The Aramaic Inscriptions of Sefire (BibOr), 15, 53. Deut 29:23, Jer 17:6, and Zeph 2:9 associate salt flats or salty regions with infertility and divine judgment.



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