July 25, 2014

Up and Down the Mountains (Judges 9)

Category: Bible - OT - Judges :: Permalink

In Judges 9:7, Jotham goes up onto the “head” of the mountain to confront the men of Shechem down below as they make Abimelech their king.  The mountain here is Mount Gerizim, which might surprise us because Jotham’s words are identified as a “curse” (v. 57),  and yet Mount Gerizim was the mountain of blessing in Joshua.  Perhaps the point is that Jotham’s fable and its application are intended as a summons to repentance leading to blessing: “Listen to me … and God will listen to you” (v. 7).  It’s only when the men of Shechem refuse to listen to Jotham that his words become a curse.

The curse is worked out in the rest of the story, but interestingly the outworking of the curse involves people going up and down mountains.  In verse 25, the lords of Shechem set “men lying in ambush” for Abimelech “upon the heads of the mountains,” and they robbed all those who passed by them.  Shechem’s attack on Abimelech involves something on the heads of the mountains.

When Abimelech strikes back at Shechem, he also sets an ambush.  Though Zebul tells him to set an ambush “in the field” (v. 32), it turns out that the ambush is on the mountain.  Gaal sees Abimelech and his army arising “from the ambush” (v. 35) and says “People are coming down from the heads of the mountains” (v. 36).

When Abimelech prepares to wipe out the men of Shechem utterly, he goes up Shadow Mountain — Mount Zalmon, though this mountain is otherwise unknown and this may be a different name for Mount Ebal or Mount Gerizim — and cuts branches and brings them to burn the stronghold of El Berith in Shechem.

Up and down the mountains they go.  Why?  I wonder if it’s not because Jotham’s curse was proclaimed on the head of the mountain, and now the outworking of that curse flows, as it were, from the mountain down to the people who were cursed.

Posted by John Barach @ 2:01 pm | Discuss (0)

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