Notes on Judges 9 verses 30-34

by Jonathan Spurlock
(Holts Summit, MO)

Judges 9:30, KJV: And when Zebul the ruler of the city heard the words of Gaal the son of Ebed, his anger was kindled.

Little is known about Zebul except he was “the ruler of (Shechem)”, probably acting as governor or in some other capacity under Abimelech’s authority. He showed his loyalty to Abimelech by becoming angry at Gaal’s challenge, and later by informing Abimelech of the situation (see verses 31-33).

31 And he sent messengers unto Abimelech privily, saying, Behold, Gaal the son of Ebed and his brethren be come to Shechem; and, behold, they fortify the city against thee.

Zebul sent more than one messenger (note the plural) to Abimelech but it is not clear if he sent these messengers together or separately. Joshua had sent the two spies to Jericho together (Joshua 2:1) and, many years later, Hushai, David’s friend, sent Jonathan and Ahimaaz to warn David about Absalom’s plot (2 Samuel 17:15).

Apparently Zebul’s plan was to “fortify” the city. What kind of fortifications, if any, had been there before?

32 Now therefore up by night, thou and the people that (is) with thee, and lie in wait in the field:

This is a paralllel strategy to that which Joshua employed in the second battle of Ai (Joshua 8). Zebul seems to have a working knowledge of military tactics and strategy. Perhaps he remembered hearing about Joshua in his youth?

33 And it shall be, (that) in the morning, as soon as the sun is up, thou shalt rise early, and set upon the city: and, behold, (when) he and the people that (is) with him come out against thee, then mayest thou do to them as thou shalt find occasion.

“As soon as the sun is up” may mean anywhere between dawn, when the sun is over the horizon, to noon when the sun is directly overhead. The phrase “thou shalt rise up early” most likely means an early hour to attack or “set upon the city”.

The second half of the sentence is another parallel to the Second Battle of Ai (Joshua 8), when part of the Israelite army pretended to flee before the men of Ai. They had no idea that another, larger, force was waiting to surround the city and the army. This seems to be the plan Zebul suggested here although stated in general terms.

34 And Abimelech rose up, and all the people that (were) with him, by night, and they laid wait against Shechem in four companies.

This proves Abimelech was not in Shechem when Gaal and the others arrived there. Abimelech received the message from Zebul, and then took his people (amount not stated) on an all-night march until they came near to Shechem. No mention is made of any conflict with the robbers who had attacked the travelers near Shechem (verse 25). The four companies may mean an attack from all four directions.

Scripture quotations taken from the King James Version of the Bible (KJV).

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