What does Judges 9:20 mean?
ESV: But if not, let fire come out from Abimelech and devour the leaders of Shechem and Beth-millo; and let fire come out from the leaders of Shechem and from Beth-millo and devour Abimelech.”
NIV: But if you have not, let fire come out from Abimelek and consume you, the citizens of Shechem and Beth Millo, and let fire come out from you, the citizens of Shechem and Beth Millo, and consume Abimelek!'
NASB: But if not, may fire come out of Abimelech and consume the leaders of Shechem and Beth-millo; and may fire come out of the leaders of Shechem and from Beth-millo, and consume Abimelech.'
CSB: But if not, may fire come from Abimelech and consume the citizens of Shechem and Beth-millo, and may fire come from the citizens of Shechem and Beth-millo and consume Abimelech."
NLT: But if you have not acted in good faith, then may fire come out from Abimelech and devour the leading citizens of Shechem and Beth-millo; and may fire come out from the citizens of Shechem and Beth-millo and devour Abimelech!'
KJV: 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.
NKJV: “But if not, let fire come from Abimelech and devour the men of Shechem and Beth Millo; and let fire come from the men of Shechem and from Beth Millo and devour Abimelech!”
Verse Commentary:
Jotham brings his proclamation from the mountaintop (Judges 9:7) to an abrupt end. This is a prophecy of destruction for all below: the people of Shechem and the murderous Abimelech, whom they anointed after paying him to kill Gideon's sons (Judges 9:1–6). This is also described as a curse of vengeance from the sole survivor of Abimelech's massacre.

The uninvited speech included a fable about trees, who selected the worthless bramble as their king (Judges 9:8–15). The point of Jotham's tirade is that Shechem has not acted sincerely or honestly. They funded murder, dishonored Gideon, and are anointing someone they know full well is not qualified for the role. In the fable, the bramble promised fire and death if his new subjects were not acting "in good faith."

Knowing Shechem has not acted "in good faith," Jotham prophecies fire—meaning destruction and ruin—will come from Abimelech and devour the leaders of Shechem. It will also consume the well-to-do area inside Shechem known as Beth-millo. As well, they will send death and harm back on Abimelech. This curse predicts that the new king and citizens of Shechem will destroy each other. The story that follows shows how true Jotham's prophecy was (Judges 9:56–57).
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).
Accessed 5/26/2024 10:34:54 AM
© Copyright 2002-2024 Got Questions Ministries. All rights reserved.
Text from ESV, NIV, NASB, CSB, NLT, KJV, NKJV © Copyright respective owners, used by permission.
www.BibleRef.com