« הקודםהמשך »
detestation his crime deserved, he was in a general assembly elected king. ,
When young Jotham heard of this,, he ascended mount Gerizim, which overlooked Shechem, and calling on the inhabitants of the city to attend to him, he proposed a fable to them*, by which he attempted to convince them of their folly in choosing a man for their king, who was no more able to protect them than a bramble is to cover with its branches other trees that should resort to it; and also to recal to their minds his father's modesty and self-denial, in refusing to have the government which they had now conferred on one, as much inferior in virtue and honour to Gideon a»d his deceased sons, as the bramble is to the olive-tree, the .fig-tree, and the vine.
Jotham then expostulated with them on the injury they had done his family, and upbraided them with their ingratitude to his father's memory,'appealing to their own consciences, whether they had done right or not; he then denounced a curse against them, to the following effect, Let fire come out of Alimelech, and devour the men of Shechem, and the house of Millo; and let fire come out from t/ie men of Shechem, and from the house of Millo, and devour Alimelech.
Having thus expressed his sentiments to the Shechemites, Jotham made his escape to Beer, where he lived secure from Abimelcch's rage; and it was not long before his curses, which seem to have been prophetical, began to operate; for the people of Shechem, growing jealous and distrustful of their new king, were for killing him, which made hira leave the place, and escape for his life. As soon as he was gone, they
* See Judges ix. 8, &c.
set set up another vile wretch, named Gael, to be their governor. Abimelech soon after stormed the place where Gael was, and killed all the inhabitants that came in his way; and some of them having taken shelter in a fort belonging to the temple of their idol Baal-berith, he set fire to it, and destroyed them all together.
Soon after he attempted to burn two other towns; but while he was encouraging them to set the gate on fire, a woman threw down a piece of a mill.stone upon his head, and fractured his skull.
Though Abimelech was sensible that he had received a mortal blow, and must soon expire, he did not discover any remorse for his crimes, but spent bis last thoughts on a trifling concern for his fame; being shocked by nothing but the fear that it would be reported that he lost his life by the hand of a woman; this proceeded from a false notion of honour, founded on pride ; and many persons, even at this day, entertain sentiments of a similar nature; but Christianity teaches better principles, and shews that nobleness of mind consists in supporting disgrace with fortitude and resignation.
The act of which Abimelech was guilty in slaying his brethren, proves that he was of a most savage disposition. The tribes were quite passive on this occasion, from whence we may infer, that they had lost all sense of honour and liberty, justice and gratitude; they had quite extinguished among them the spirit which led them to take such vengeance on the Benjamites, for the murder of one woman, or they certainly would have united to put to death a person, who, without any provocation, was so unnatural as to massacre sixty eight of his own brethren.
It is thought the Shechemites assembled for the pur
pose of electing Abimelech at the very place where the stone had been erected in memory of the covenant which the Israelites made with the Lord when Joshua delivered liis last exhortation to them.
Abimelech's reign proved both thorny and short-lived, and he verified the prediction of Jotham concerning him; for in the space of three years, he and the Shechemites were fire brands to each other.
The house of IViillo, which joined with the Shechem. ites, is supposed to have been all the kindred of Abimelech's mother.
Abimelech was succeeded in the government of Israel by Tola, who was a man of a very prudent and peaceable disposition, and very capable of reforming abuses, and appeasing tumults in the state; it is related of him that he judged Israel 23 years, and that he lived and died in peace, from whence we may infer that he was an enemy to idolatry.
After the death of Tola, Jair governed Israel. He appears to have been intent on aggrandizing his own family, who lived in the utmost magnificence; for it -is related, that he had thirty sons, who rode on thirty ass colts, and that each son had a city. Though * asses are with us condemned to the most servile employments, and it is thought disgraceful for any person above the lowest rank to mount them, they were at that time of great estimation, and bore on their backs kings and nobles; for the Israelites had an express command not to multiply + horses to themselves, because they were under the immediate direction of God; and He promised, that he would be to them instead of herscs and chariots; and it is evident, from the Jewish history, that this law was observed; for when Joshua prevailed * Sherlock's Dissertations. f Deut. xrii. 16;
against against the Canaanites, and took from them many horses and chariots, he was commanded to hough Op' ham-string the horses, and burn the chariots with Jire; and when Barak and Deborah delivered Israel from Sisera, who had nine hundred chariots of iron, it is expressly said that Barak was sent on foot into the valley t for God had taken the defence of Israel upon himself, and whenever the people took it out of his hands and placed it in their own, they were sure to be undone; for the Loud of Hosts wanted neither horse nor foot to fight His battles.
During the government of Jair the people went greatly astray, worshipping all manner of idols that were amongst the neighbouring people ; by this means they not only provoked God, but exposed themselves to the derision and contempt of all the world, as it proved the fickleness of their tempers. ^
JEPHTHAB APPOINTED TO DELIVER. ISRAEL.
From Judges Chap. x, xi.
And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the Lord, and served Baalim, and Ashtaroth, and the gods of Syria, and the gods of Zidon, and the gods of Moab, and the gods of the children of Ammon, .and the gods of the Philistines, and forsook the Lord, and served not him.
And the anger of the Lord was hot against Israel, and he sold them into the hands of the Philistines, and into the hands of the children of Ammon.
And that year they vexed and oppressed the children of Israel eighteen years, all the children of Israel that
.were were on the other side Jordan, in the land of the Amorites, which is in Gilead.
Moreover, the children of Ammon passed over Jordan to fight also against Judah, and against Benjamin, and against the house of Ephraim ', so that Israel was sore distressed.
And the children of Israel cried unto the Lord, saying, we have sinned against thee, both because we have forsaken our God, and also served Baalim.
And the Lord said unto the children of Israel, Did not I deliver you from the Egyptians, and from the Amorites, from the children of Ammon, and from the Philistines?
The Zicionians also, and the Amalekites, and the Maonites did oppress you, and ye cried to me, and I delivered you out of their hand.
,Yet ye have forsaken me and served other gods: wherefore I will deliver you no more. Go, and cry unto the gods which ye have chosen : let them deliver you in the time of your tribulation.
And the. children, of Israel said unto the Lord, We have sinned: do thou unto us whatsoever seemeth good onto thee; deliver us only, we pray thee, this day.
And they put away the strange gods from among them, and served the Lord : and his soul was grieved v for the misery of Israel.
Then the children of Ammon were gathered together, and encamped in Gilead. And the children of lerael assembled themselves together, and encamped in, Mizpeh.
And the people and princes of Gilead said one to another, What man is he that will begin to fight against the children of Ammon? he shall be head over all the inhabiUnts„of Gilead.