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I, TT is a certain sign of a mean and proud spirit, for men J. 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 a 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.
8. Here is an additional proof, that a soft answer turneth away wrath. 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 teady to tire and faint in our spiritual warfare, still let us hold on «nd pursue the victory, and we shall prevail. Let nothing we Tneet 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 oion people, in this chapter is Abimelech's rise, reign, and ruin. He had no call from God, nor did Israel want a judge f but he was resolved to be one if possible.
1 A ND Abimelech the son of Jerubbaal, by his concubine, -£jL went to Shechem unto his mother's brethren; he left his father's house, his uncles and other relations, mho were persons of rank, and went to his mother's relations, and communed with them, and with all the family of the house of his moth
2 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 attend 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 icing,
3 and would enjoy the government they desired. And his mother'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 prefer
4 ments. And they gave him threescore and ten [pieces,] or Vol. II U u
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, vagabondfeliows, 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 tip 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 adminis
8 tered reproof with less offence. The trees went forth [on a iime] to anoint a king over them; and they said unto the olive tree, Reign thou over us. To represent the unreasonableness and wickedness of making any king.: the trees of the Lord which he planted and protected, being weary of God '* government, 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, t&
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
13 trees? Then said the trees unto the vine, Come thou. 13 [and] reign over us. And the vine said unto them, Should I
* 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.
leave my wine, which cheereth God and man, and go to be
14 promoted over the trees ?* Then said all the trees unto the bramble, Come thou [and] reign over us. The bramble, or thistle, was like Abimelech, a worthless, troublesome thing, Jit only to be burned; but it accented the proposal without hesita
15 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 yourselve* wholly to my conduct, and rely on my protection, and I will be *ure 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
IS thefable. 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 righteous 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 escapedfrom 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 devour 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 dissension and revenge prevail: and you mutually destroy each other f 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 ofJudah, near Jerusalem, and dwelt there, for fear of Abimelech his brother.f
* 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.
t If all Gideon's sons were like this, we cannot help lamenting the fall of such a number of fine men, who might have been public blessings; but such a snare was the ephod to Gideon's house. The Greeks claim the honour of being the inventors of fables and paraHes, bat this, and Nathan's, and others, show them to be much more ancient.
22 When Abimelech had reigned three years over Israely 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 r
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 re
25 markable. And the men of Shechem set Hers 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.) hit country seat, end they lay in wait to seize his person as he re~ turned, and plundered all of his party and friends that they met with t and it was told Abimelech, their whole plot was discarv*.
26 ered to him. And Gaal the son of Ebed came with his brethren, 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 firstfruits, 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 j 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? [is] 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 i for why should we serve him? this upstart, famousfor 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 J 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 i» the field.