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to the laws then in force. Gideon's self-denial and humility towards the Ephraimites, shew his character in a most amiable light; and the good effects they produced afford an excellent lesson, teaching us, that the best way to overcome envy and evil-will, is to resolve to act with mildness and temper, forbearing to recriminate and return those unjust reproaches that proceed from mistake and passion.
Gideon was, however, desirous of having something that might remain as a memorial of his late extraordinary victory: he therefore made an ephod in imitation of part of the sacred vestment worn by the priests, and placed it somewhere in Ophrah ; soon after this he quitted public employment, and retired to his countryhouse : in all probability, Gideon left this ephod be. hind him, not in the least supposing it could produce any bad
consequence; but some time afterwards, when the people were returning to idolatry, they began to imagine that God would answer them at Ophrah, where this ephod was, as well as at Shiloh, and so perverted it to a bad purpose : indeed he ought not to have made it. Gideon, in the latter part of his life, seems to have fallen into this mistake himself in some degree, which shews the ill effects of a bad education. He was the son of a priest of Baal; and, though converted by a divine vision to the belief of the true God, he might have neglected to inform himself of the ceremonial part of religion, and he probably remained satisfied with the reci titude of his intentions: this was a great fault in him, for he should have applied himself to the study of God's laws, in order to learn the whole of his duty: especially as the temporal huppiness and prosperity of the people of Israel depended on a punctual observancé of those ordinances which God had appointed.
As the people proved so ungrateful to God, no
wonder that they should forget Gideon; but they were at last severely punished for their apostasy and ingratitude.
THE DEATH OF ABIMELECH-THE GOVERNMENT OY
TOLA AND JAIR.
It was related in the foregoing section, that Gideon had several wives, and a great number of children ; as this was the case, his family could not be educated upon a very regular plan; and we may suppose that there were among them, in a variety of instances, envy, jealousy, and discontent, even during his life-time; but the Israelites had learnt the custom of having a plurality of wives from their idolatrous neighbours, for it was quite contrary to the law of God (which from the beginning required that a man should have only one *), and it was a great means of bringing down his judgments upon them.
Gideon had in all seventy sons; one of them, named Abimelech, was of an anibitious aspiring temper, and his mother's family had great interest in Shechem; he therefore, after his father's death, endeavoured to get himself made king : his relations encouraged him: and that he might not want money to carry on his design, they furnished him with some out of the treasury of the idol Baal-berith, with which he hired a number of profligates to attend him. With these supplies, he repaired to his father's house ; and having seized all his brethren, excepting Jotham the youngest, who made his escape, he slew them all upon one stone, and then returned to Shechem, where, instead of meeting with the
* See Gen. ii. Matth. xix.
destestation his crime deserved, he was in a general asp sembly elected king.
When young Jotham heard of this, he ascended mount Gerizim, which overlooked Shechem, and calling on the inhabitants of the city to attend to him, he proposed a fable to them *, by which he attempted to convince them of their folly in choosing a man for their king, who was no more able to protect them than a bramble is to cover with its branches other trees that should resort to it; and also to recal to their minds his father's modesty and self-denial, in refusing to have the government which they had now conferred on one, as much inferior in virtue and honour to Gideon and his deceased sons, as the bramble is to the olive-tree, the fig-tree, and the vine.
Jotham then expostulated with them on the injury they had done his family, and upbraided them with their ingratitude to his father's memory, appealing to their own consciences, whether they had done right or not; he then denounced a curse against them, to the following effect, Let fire come out of 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.
Having thus expressed his sentiments to the Shechemites, Jotham made his escape to Beer, wliere he lived secure from Abimelech's rage ; and it was not long before his curses, which seem to have been prophetical, began to operate ; for the people of Shechem, growing jealous and distrustful of their new king, were for killing him, which made him leave the place, and escape
for his life. As soon as he was gone, they
* See Judges, ix. 8, &c.
set up another vile wretch, named Gael, to be their governor. Abimelech soon after stormed the place where Gael was, and killed all the inhabitants that came in his way; and some of them having taken shelter in a fort belonging to the temple of their idol Baal-berith, he set fire to it, and destroyed them all together.
Soon after he attempted to burn two other towns ; but while he was encouraging them to set the gate on fire, a woman threw down a piece of mill-stone upon his head, and fractured his skull.
Though Abimelech was sensible that he had received a mortal blow, and must soon expire, he did not discover any remorse for his crimes, but spent his last thoughts on a trifling concern for his fame; being shocked by nothing but the fear that it would be reported that he lost his life by the hand of a woman; this proceeded from a false notion of honour, founded on pride ; and many persons, even at this day, entertain sentiments of a similar nature; but CHRISTIANITY teaches better principles, and shews that nobleness of mind consists in supporting disgrace with fortitude and resignation.
The act of which Abimelech was guilty in slaying his brethren, proves that he was of a most savage disposition. The tribes were quite passive on this occasion, from whence we may infer, that they had lost all sense of honour and liberty, justice and gratitude ; they had quite extinguished among them the spirit which led them to take such vengeance on the Benjamites, for the murder of one woman, or they certainly would have united to put to death a person, who, without any provocation, was so ur.natural as to massacre sixty-eight of his own brethren. It is thought the Shechemítes assembled for the purpose of electing Abimelech at the very place where the stone had been erected in memory of the covenant which the Israelites made with the LORD when Joshua delivered his last exhortation to them.
Abimelech's reign proved both thorny and short-lived, and he verified the prediction of Jotham concerning him ; for in the space of three years, he and the Shechemites were fire-brands to each other.
The house of Millo, which joined with the Shechem. ites, is supposed to have been all the kindred of Abimelech's mother.
Abimelech was succeeded in the government of Is. rael by Tola, who was a man of a very prudent and peaceable disposition, and very capable of reforming abuses, and appeasing tumults in the state; it is related of him that he judged Israel 23 years, and that he lived and died in peace, from whence we may infer that he was an enemy to idolatry.
After the death of Tola, Jair governed Israel. He appears to have been intent on aggrandizing his own family, who lived in the utmost magnificence; for it is related, that he had thirty sons, who rode on thirty asse colts, and that each son had a city. Though asses are with us condemned to the most servile employments, and it is thought disgraceful for any person above the lowest rank to mount them, they were at that time of great estimation, and bore on their backs kings and nobles; for the Israelites had an express command not to multiply + horses to themselves, because they were under the immediate direction of God; and He promised, that he would be to them instead of horses and chariots; and it is evident, from the Jewish history, that this law was observed; for when Joshua prevailed