(Related question posting: What deeper understanding/What can we infer when we read the account of Jotham's censure of people of Shechem for killing off Jotham's full brothers?)

What are some of the Major themes associated with the narrative related to Jotham's censure of people of Shechem for killing off Jotham's full brothers in Judges Book?

Judges 9:1-6, 16-2121

1 And Abimelech the son of Jerubbaal went to Shechem to his mother’s relatives, and spoke to them and to the whole clan of the household of his mother’s father, saying, 2 “Speak, now, in the hearing of all the leaders of Shechem, ‘Which is better for you, that seventy men, all the sons of Jerubbaal, rule over you, or that one man rule over you?’ Also, remember that I am your bone and your flesh.” 3 And his mother’s relatives spoke all these words on his behalf in the hearing of all the leaders of Shechem; and they were inclined to follow Abimelech, for they said, “He is our relative.” 4 They gave him seventy pieces of silver from the house of Baal-berith with which Abimelech hired worthless and reckless fellows, and they followed him. 5 Then he went to his father’s house at Ophrah and killed his brothers the sons of Jerubbaal, seventy men, on one stone. But Jotham the youngest son of Jerubbaal was left, for he hid himself. 6 All the men of Shechem and all Beth-millo assembled together, and they went and made Abimelech king, by the oak of the pillar which was in Shechem.
16 “Now therefore, if you have dealt in truth and integrity in making Abimelech king, and if you have dealt well with Jerubbaal and his house, and have dealt with him as he deserved— 17 for my father fought for you and risked his life and delivered you from the hand of Midian; 18 but 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 maidservant, king over the men of Shechem, because he is your relative— 19 if then you have dealt in truth and integrity with Jerubbaal and his house this day, rejoice in Abimelech, and let him also rejoice in you. 20 But if not, let fire come out from Abimelech and consume the men of Shechem and Beth-millo; and let fire come out from the men of Shechem and from Beth-millo, and consume Abimelech.” 21 Then Jotham escaped and fled, and went to Beer and remained there because of Abimelech his brother.

2 Answers 2


There are two betrayals committed by the sons of Jacob at or near Shechem that share similar themes:

  1. Betrayal of Joseph

Joseph has a dream that he would rule over his bothers, even though he was one of the youngest in the family:

Gen 37:8

Then his brothers said to him, “Are you actually going to reign over us? Or are you really going to rule over us?” So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words.

One day he was sent to Shechem to report on his brothers:

Gen 37:14

Then he said to him, “Go now and see about the welfare of your brothers and the welfare of the flock, and bring word back to me.” So he sent him from the Valley of Hebron, and he came to Shechem.

He eventually found them in Dothan. They saw him coming and plotted to kill him until:

Gen 37:28

Then some Midianite traders passed by, so they pulled him out and lifted Joseph out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver. So they brought Joseph into Egypt.

The massacre by Simeon and Levi

The other similar story is the betrayal of the Shechemites by Simeon and Levi after their sister Dinah was defiled by a local prince and he offered to marry her and join his city with the family of Jacob.

Gen 34:24-25 All who went out of the gate of his city listened to Hamor and to his son Shechem, and every male was circumcised, all who went out of the gate of his city. Now it came about on the third day, when they were in pain, that two of Jacob’s sons — Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers — each took his sword and came upon the city undetected, and killed every male.

Jacob condemned them for it and both were passed over for firstborn privileges when Rueben (the eldest) was also disqualified:

Gen 49:3-7

Reuben, you are my firstborn, My might and the beginning of my strength, Preeminent in dignity and preeminent in power Uncontrollable as water, you shall not have preeminence, Because you went up to your father’s bed; Then you defiled it — he went up to my couch. Simeon and Levi are brothers; Their swords are implements of violence. May my soul not enter into their council; May my glory not be united with their assembly; For in their anger they killed men, And in their self-will they lamed oxen. Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce; And their wrath, for it is cruel. I will scatter them in Jacob, And disperse them among Israel.

Interestingly enough, Reuben was passed over for firstborn privileges for sleeping with his fathers' concubine, which, often in the ancient near east, was a way to dominate his father sea usurp his power. In Judges 9:2, Abimelech appeals to his mother's family, saying, "I am your bone and your flesh" which is similar to Adam's words to his wife in Genesis 2:23 "At last this is bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh" which makes Abimelech's plea to join with his mother's family a perverted power move.

So, these two stories prime us to view Abimelech's brothers like Joseph -- unwitting victims. Abimelech's move as immoral and against the established order. The Shechemites are portrayed as going along with an evil plan like the brothers did against Joseph. In both stories there is a payment of silver to enlist others in the enactment of the betrayal. However, there is an element of mercy in the Joseph story. The silver was not just the the payment for betrayal, but also saved his life, so was a payment of redemption. Judah, advocated for Joseph's life (Genesis 37:26) and Reuben, returned to free him (Genesis 37:29), albeit unsuccessfully. So this portrays Abimelech's family as acting wholeheartedly evil.

By comparing the Judges story to Simeon and Levi's, it is making us think that the Shechemites will become the victims of Abimelech -- which eventually they do.

It also tells us that Abimelech and the Shechemites will not receive god's blessing and will fail in their attempt at leadership.

  • Thx. Incidentally, I Dislike talking about demonic spirits & curses, but I Cautiously want to point out as a passing comment that there seems to be some kind of demonic spirit/curse that is haunting the vicinity/area of Shechem, and possibly the Shechemites themselves. As you mentioned 1) the betray of Joseph by his brothers was done in Shechem. 2) Revenge killing for sexual assault of Dina by her brothers Simeon and Levi upon the Shechemites, and finally 3) Abimelech's violent coup against his half-brothers. Essentially, there is vicinity/locality demonic spirit/curse over Shechem Commented Oct 20, 2023 at 17:21
  • I suppose some sort of a curse is a possibility, but it definitely seems like the Genesis and Judges is portraying this sort of behaviour as not limited to any one place or people group. The Shechemites were the victims in Genesis, but the perpetrators in Judges. In Genesis the older, children were jealous of the betrayed the younger, in Judges the younger child was jealous of the older. In Genesis 9:22 -27 Ham exposes the nakedness of his father Noah (probably a Euphemism for sleeping with Noah's wife) and Noah cursed Canaan because of it.
    – Steven
    Commented Oct 20, 2023 at 23:39
  • However, the Canaanites are frequently showed as more righteous than God chosen people, and Reuben, the firstborn of God's chosen Israel, ends up falling into the same sin. Also, think about Joesph who was sold into slavery, and when he attains a position of power, enslaves all of Egypt (Genesis 47.13-26.) I think the Bible is actually saying that things like blessings and curses are less important than individuals making the right choice. Anyone of us find ourselves in any of the roles presented in the Bible and it is our choice what to do when those situations arise.
    – Steven
    Commented Oct 20, 2023 at 23:39

I think one of the major themes of Jotham's censure of people of Shechem for killing off Jotham's full brothers in Judges Book is the Proportionality in the general field of law ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proportionality_(law) )

Even though he is upset about the vicious killing of his full brothers, Jotham does give the Shechem's people some benefit of the doubt when it came to selecting someone from their own "Sub-ethnic" background(someone who is from Shechem ( i.e., Abimelech )) to be their leader. However, Jotham obviously disapproves of the killing of his full brothers, and thus Jotham uses the (Judges 9:8-15 )symbolism in the parable of the trees who anointed a king to curse the people of Shechem.

Jotham understands that the people of Shechem want a leader from their "Sub-ethnic" background, but Jotham disapproval of the killing of his full brothers suggests that Jotham thought the killings for disproportionate punishment/discipling.

This might be a little bit of a stretch, but I suppose that a relatively more recent actual historical/political event that is similar to said narrative in the Judges is the brutal killing of Russia's Royal Romanov family members ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Execution_of_the_Romanov_family#Execution ).

Just some historical background evaluation, Nicholas II of Russia was bad at governing Russia, and ignored the poor, and was antisemitic. However, the brutal killing of him and his family members withOut any judicial due process( Or at the very least some kind of trial regardless of how biased it might have been), and more importantly the shockingly brutal killing of his children is similar to the brutal killing of Jotham's full brothers in Judges.

In Christian Charismatic/Pentecostal churches, they often talk about curses that come about due to some kind of vicious action. Therefore, if we are from a Christian Charismatic/Pentecostal background, we can take a step further, and see the consequences of such a brutal killing of the Romanovs( especially the killing of the Romanov children which is similar to child sacrifices in the Bible's Old Testament). Let's elaborate, the consequential curses could be understood as the reign of the successive hard line Communist regime of Russia which is marked by oppression of Russian people, and evils of the cold war of the 1900s.

  • 1
    Interesting analogy with the brutal execution of Russia's Royal Romanov family members Commented Nov 16, 2021 at 21:52

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