What does Judges 9:45 mean?
ESV: And Abimelech fought against the city all that day. He captured the city and killed the people who were in it, and he razed the city and sowed it with salt.
NIV: All that day Abimelek pressed his attack against the city until he had captured it and killed its people. Then he destroyed the city and scattered salt over it.
NASB: Abimelech fought against the city that whole day, and he captured the city and killed the people who were in it; then he tore down the city and sowed it with salt.
CSB: So Abimelech fought against the city that entire day, captured it, and killed the people who were in it. Then he tore down the city and sowed it with salt.
NLT: The battle went on all day before Abimelech finally captured the city. He killed the people, leveled the city, and scattered salt all over the ground.
KJV: And Abimelech fought against the city all that day; and he took the city, and slew the people that was therein, and beat down the city, and sowed it with salt.
NKJV: So Abimelech fought against the city all that day; he took the city and killed the people who were in it; and he demolished the city and sowed it with salt.
Verse Commentary:
Abimelech wants to end Shechem and everything in it once and for all. The leaders of the city made him their ruler. They had even helped hire murderers to assist Abimelech in executing his brothers, making him the undisputed heir of Gideon's authority (Judges 9:1–6). It didn't take long for conflict to arise between the two sides, however (Judges 9:22–25). Shechem's leaders wanted him dead and gone. Yet Abimelech had routed them and their puppet leader in battle (Judges 9:38–41). Unsatisfied, Abimelech then ambushed and killed the people of the city who came out to work the fields the next day (Judges 9:42–44).

Even that level of slaughter is not enough for Abimelech. Nor is his goal to force the survivors to serve him or be exiled from their home. Instead, once the field workers are dead, he takes his forces into the city and wreaks havoc. During a day of fierce fighting, he soon captures the city. No prisoners are taken: Abimelech and his men simply murder everyone. They tear down all the buildings in the lower part of the city, leaving the upper area around the temple for later.

In a final act of spite and symbolism, Abimelech "sows" the city with salt. Contaminating fields with massive quantities of salt was a tactic used in ancient times. This was meant to ruin the land's ability to support crops. Eventually, the salted soil would recover, but not before bringing ruin to anyone depending on it for food. Salt was also used as a symbol of agreements and covenants. Scattering salt in and around Shechem may have been a symbolic act to declare that this city would never rise again. Whatever Abimelech does is effective: the city will be empty and barren for almost two hundred years, rebuilt during the time of Jeroboam (1 Kings 12:25).

In the immediate aftermath of the attack, at least one temple remains standing. This is perhaps attached to the defensive tower of Shechem. This will not last long, either (Judges 9:46–49).
Verse Context:
Judges 9:22–57 describes the brutal fulfillment of Jotham's curse against his brother, Abimelech, and the leaders of the city of Shechem. God allows the two sides to be split by an evil spirit. First, Shechem's leaders attempt to kill Abimelech. Then they plot with a man named Gaal to overthrow him. Helped by his officer in the city, Abimelech and his men ambush Gaal and Shechem. They kill all the people and destroy the city. They then move on to the town of Thebez to do the same, but Abimelech is killed. Jotham's prediction of divine vengeance (Judges 9:19–20) comes true.
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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