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ing the latter in a taunting manner, come out.” The indignation of Zebul was kindled when he heard of these things, and he immediately despatched messengers to his master with as much secrecy as possible. They were directed to inform Abimelech that Gaal and his party had come to Shechem, and that the city was in a state of defence to resist him should he endeavor to regain his dominion there. Zebul, also, urged him to hasten forward by night with his forces, and to lie in wait near the city, and in the morning, by commencing an assault, to draw out Gaal and the rebels, and either make them prisoners, or destroy them, as he might deem best. Sad degeneracy of human nature How full is the history of our race of the enmity which man bears both towards God and towards his fellowmen. The usurpation of the fratricide Abimelech, and the intrigues of Gaal, with the consequent evils which befell them and the Shechemites, are but specimens of innumerable similar transactions that have taken place in all ages and countries. It is the acting out of the spirit of selfishness and of sin. It is the opposite of that spirit of christian love, which yields the entire homage of the heart to God, in a cheerful obedience to his commands, and goes forth in self-denying good will to others, seeking to promote their best interests, temporal and eternal. Nothing but divine grace will impart this spirit. Nothing but divine grace will cherish and preserve it in the breast.
My young friend, which of these two opposite dispositions of the soul have you? Unless your heart has been renewed by the Spirit of God, you have no true love to him and to your fellowmen. Every thing of a moral nature within you is selfishness and sin. And these are the principles that contend against all that is right and good, and prepare the heart, where they continue to maintain their ascendency, for inconceiv able wretchedness.
Abimelech takes and destroys the city of Shechem. His death. Tola. Jair.
Abimelech, on receiving the message from Zebul, lost no time in following his counsels. The same night found him and his men, in four bands, lying in wait in the vicinity of Shechem. As the morning began to dawn, and while he was making with his forces some movements to wards the city, they were descried by Gaal standing in the entering of the gate. “Behold,” said he to Zebul, who appears to have been near him at the time, “there come people down from the top of the mountains.” On Zebul's replying that he mistook shadows for men, Gaal assured him it was not so, and that two distinct bands were evidently approaching the city. Zebul soon perceiving that this was indeed the case, began to taunt Gaal with his former bravado against Abimelech, and urged him now to carry it into effect. “Where is now thy mouth,” (or loud boastings,) “ wherewith thou saidst, Who is Abimelech, that we should serve him 1 is not this the people that thou hast despised 1 go out, I pray now, and fight with them.” The challenge could not be declined. A battle ensued, in which Abimelech was victorious, and Gaal and his party were obliged to retreat within the city. They did not, however, remain there long. Zebul succeeded in exciting so much opposition to them, probably on account of their late want of success in repelling Abimelech, whom he represented as cowardly and shameful, that the inhabitants thrust them out in disgrace, and we hear no more of them. They were glad, doubtless, to retire to their homes with as much secrecy and despatch as possible.
Abimelech, in the meanwhile, having withdrawn his forces out of sight, the Shechemites thinking that there was no immediate danger, went out into the fields, the following day, to pursue their usual employments. They were soon surprised by their enemies, who had been lying in ambush for the purpose. One party, with Abimelech at their head, took possession of the gate of the city, while two others rushed upon the Shechemites, who, having no way of retreat, were entirely destroyed. Abimelech then took the city after a severe contest, putting all the inhabitants to the sword. He razed its walls and buildings to their foundations, and sowed it with salt, as emblematical of what he supposed would be its perpetual desolation. In this, however, he was mistaken. It was afterwards rebuilt, and became a place of so much importance, that the Israelites resorted to it, to make Rehoboam king.
A portion of the Shechemites were still left in a tower not far distant, whither they had resorted for safety. But seeing the strength of their enemies and the entire destruction of the city, they feared they would be unable to resist Abimelech, and withdrew into a strong hold belonging to the temple of their god Berith. The sacredness of the place, at least, if no other means of defence was left, would, they hoped, afford them protection. But Abimelech's ambition was not to be restrained by any superstitious fears. He led his army to Mount Zalmon, in the neighborhood of Shechem, so called from the extensive shade which its forests cast over it. Taking an axe in his hand, and cutting down a large bough from a tree, he placed it on his shoulder, and ordered all his soldiers to do the same. His example was soon followed. Abimelech and his army, thus equipped, resorted immediately to the strong hold in which the remaining Shechemites were assembled, and piling up around it the boughs which they carried, set them on fire. The place was soon in flames, and all who were in it perished, about a thousand in number. Abimelech not satisfied with these victories, next marched against Thebez, a city in the tribe of Ephraim, and near Shechem, of which he soon made himself master. He did not do this, however, before the inhabitants had retreated from their dwellings, and shut themselves up in a strong tower that stood within the city. His late success in a similar case, led Abimelech to suppose that the work of destruction would again be easy. Approaching the door of the tower to burn it, and thus gain access for himself and his followers, he was descried by a woman on its top, who casting down a piece of a millstone upon his head, it broke his skull. He felt that death must be near, and abhorring the disgrace of this