Notes on Judges 9 verses 46-49, The Battle of Shechem, Part 2
by Jonathan Spurlock
(Holts Summit, MO)
Judges 9:46, KJV: And when all the men of the tower of Shechem heard (that), they entered into an hold of the house of the god Berith. Abimelech took an axe in his hand, and cut down a bough from the trees, and took it, and laid (it) on his shoulder, and said unto the people that (were) with him, What ye have seen me do, make haste, (and) do as I (have done).
This tower’s location and description are not described. It seems the tower was near the temple (“house”) of “the god Berith” or “El-Berith” (if this is a proper name). The temple was previously dedicated and also called “Baalberith” in verse 4. There is no reason given for the change in the temple’s name.
The “hold” was probably a storehouse or chamber where goods (offerings?) were kept. Contrast this with the Tabernacle which apparently had little if any “warehouse” space, being relatively small. At any rate, these people abandoned the tower and headed for the temple. Were they expecting their idol to protect them from Abimelech?
47 And it was told Abimelech, that all the men of the tower of Shechem were gathered together.
The identity of the person who told Abimelech about the people gathering together into the “house” of Baalberith is not revealed. The informer could have been one of Abimelech’s soldiers who saw the people leaving the tower for the temple, or, more darkly, this could have been one of the “men of the tower” who defected on the spot to Abimelech on the spot.
48 And Abimelech gat him up to mount Zalmon, he and all the people that (were) with him; and
Mount Zalmon is not mentioned anywhere else but here. The location is not given. From the text, it must have been relatively close to Shechem and there must have been plenty of trees. Abimelech took an axe and instructed the rest of his people to do the same thing, namely, cut down a “bough” or tree branch.
49 And all the people likewise cut down every man his bough, and followed Abimelech, and put (them) to the hold, and set the hold on fire upon them; so that all the men of the tower of Shechem died also, about a thousand men and women.
The branches were either dry or dead but still on the tree when Abimelech and his soldiers cut them down. If they had been green or freshly cut, they might have produced more smoke than fire but the text indicates they caught fire, burned, and caused the death of nearly 1000 people.
Their god, Baalberith, did not protect them. Did any of the people seek the True God at this time?
Scripture quotations taken from the King James Version of the Bible (KJV).