What does Judges 9:18 mean?
ESV: and you have risen up against my father’s house this day and have killed his sons, seventy men on one stone, and have made Abimelech, the son of his female servant, king over the leaders of Shechem, because he is your relative—
NIV: But today you have revolted against my father's family. You have murdered his seventy sons on a single stone and have made Abimelek, the son of his female slave, king over the citizens of Shechem because he is related to you.
NASB: but in fact you have risen against my father’s house today and have killed his sons, seventy men, on one stone, and have made Abimelech, the son of his female slave, king over the leaders of Shechem, because he is your relative—
CSB: and now you have attacked my father's family today, killed his seventy sons on top of a large stone, and made Abimelech, the son of his slave woman, king over the citizens of Shechem 'because he is your brother'--
NLT: But today you have revolted against my father and his descendants, killing his seventy sons on one stone. And you have chosen his slave woman’s son, Abimelech, to be your king just because he is your relative.
KJV: And ye are risen up against my father's house this day, and have slain his sons, threescore and ten persons, upon one stone, and have made Abimelech, the son of his maidservant, king over the men of Shechem, because he is your brother;)
Verse Commentary:
Jotham finally delivers a direct condemnation on the people of Shechem. His brother, Abimelech, is the one who carried out the murders of Gideon's other sons, but Jotham is holding the people of Shechem responsible. They agreed with Abimelech's plan and provided money to hire hooligans for the deed (Judges 9:1–6). This resulted in some form of public execution, possibly even a ritual sacrifice.

By funding Abimelech's murders, the people are guilty of rising against Gideon's house instead of honoring the hero used by God to deliver them. They are responsible for the slaughter of Gideon's seventy sons. They have even made Abimelech king over them simply because he is a relative to some of them.

This condemnation ties to the fable which began Jotham's speech (Judges 9:7–15). That imagery casts Abimelech as a worthless, dangerous choice. In fact, Jotham chooses language here that is deliberately dismissive. He describes Abimelech as "the son of [his father's] female servant." Abimelech's mother was not Gideon's wife, but a concubine (Judges 8:31). In ancient middle easter culture, especially, this was no small insult. The implication is that Abimelech is "merely" the unwanted son of a servant—making him unworthy of being Shechem's king. This remark also has an obscure connection to Abimelech's eventual rival, whose name includes a reference to servanthood (Judges 9:26).
Verse Context:
Judges 9:6–21 contains a parable and prophecy spoken by the sole surviving son of Gideon. Jotham was the only one missed in a massacre orchestrated by his half-brother, Abimelech (Judges 9:1–6). During the coronation ceremony making Abimelech a local ruler, Jotham shouts out a curse against Abimelech and Shechem's leaders. This takes the form of a fable about trees making a bramble bush their king. The prediction intended by Jotham's declaration is that Shechem's leaders did not act in integrity, so they and Abimelech will destroy each other. Jotham then flees the area.
Chapter Summary:
Shechem's leaders conspire with a concubine's son to kill Gideon's other seventy sons. They make this man, Abimelech, their ruler. Gideon's youngest son survives, however, and delivers a curse. Using a fable, he says Abimelech and Shechem's leaders will destroy each other. God causes a division between Shechem's leaders and Abimelech. The noblemen attempt to kill Abimelech and unite behind a new leader. Abimelech discovers the plot and kills everyone in Shechem, destroying the city. When attacking a tower in a nearby town, however, Abimelech's skull is crushed by a thrown millstone. The curse is fulfilled.
Chapter Context:
Gideon successfully defeated Midianite raiders but declined to become Israel's official king. His sons, however, were held in high esteem during his remaining years (Judges 8). After Gideon's death, ambitious men conspire to kill almost all those heirs. This results in a series of bloody events. Eventually, judgment comes on those responsible. Israel fails to learn from the tragedies. Chapter 10 explains further idolatry and sin, before introducing the next major judge, Jephthah, in chapter 11.
Book Summary:
The Book of Judges describes Israel's history from the death of Joshua to shortly before Israel's first king, Saul. Israel fails to complete God's command to purge the wicked Canaanites from the land (Deuteronomy 7:1–5; 9:4). This results in a centuries-long cycle where Israel falls into sin and is oppressed by local enemies. After each oppression, God sends a civil-military leader, labeled using a Hebrew word loosely translated into English as "judge." These appointed rescuers would free Israel from enemy control and govern for a certain time. After each judge's death, the cycle of sin and oppression begins again. This continues until the people of Israel choose a king, during the ministry of the prophet-and-judge Samuel (1 Samuel 1—7).
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