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Judges 9:34-45

Context

9:34 So Abimelech and all his men came up 1  at night and set an ambush outside Shechem – they divided into 2  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 3  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.” 4  9:37 Gaal again said, “Look, men are coming down from the very center 5  of the land. A unit 6  is coming by way of the Oak Tree of the Diviners.” 7  9:38 Zebul said to him, “Where now are your bragging words, 8  ‘Who is Abimelech that we should serve him?’ Are these not the men 9  you insulted? 10  Go out now and fight them!” 9:39 So Gaal led the leaders of Shechem out 11  and fought Abimelech. 9:40 Abimelech chased him, and Gaal 12  ran from him. Many Shechemites 13  fell wounded at the entrance of the gate. 9:41 Abimelech went back 14  to Arumah; Zebul drove Gaal and his brothers out of Shechem. 15 

9:42 The next day the Shechemites 16  came out to the field. When Abimelech heard about it, 17  9:43 he took his men 18  and divided them into three units and set an ambush in the field. When he saw the people coming out of the city, 19  he attacked and struck them down. 20  9:44 Abimelech and his units 21  attacked and blocked 22  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 23  the city and spread salt over it. 24 

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

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

3 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.

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

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

6 tn Heb “head.”

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

8 tn Heb “is your mouth that says.”

9 tn Heb “the people.”

10 tn Or “despised.”

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

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

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

14 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.

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

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

17 tn Heb “And they told Abimelech.”

18 tn Heb “his people.”

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

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

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

22 tn Heb “stood [at].”

23 tn Or “destroyed.”

24 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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