Bible Question: How do I reconcile Judges 8:30 and Judges 9:5?

Recently, someone asked me about how to reconcile Judges 8:30 and Judges 9:5. What I do is list the person’s question. I then answer it.

I have been reading Judges and I noticed in chapter 8:30, Gideon has 70 sons. In Judges, 9:5 seventy sons get killed, yet Abimelech and Jotham are still alive. I was just wondering how this adds up? I know the Word of God is not in contradiction. I just haven’t caught how it works here! Thanks very much.

In order to best understand this passage, one must understand it in its context. Judge 8:30 falls within the greater context of Judges 6:1-8:32. This section deals with the fourth period of a select history of the judges. This period is the period of Gideon versus the Midianites. 

Judges 9:5 falls within the greater context of Judges 8:33-10:5. This section deals with the fifth period of a select history of the judges. This period is the period Tola & Jair versus Abimelech’s Effects.

Since I am addressing factual information, I will only read from Judges 8:22-9:21 for context. I bold the names Gideon, Abimelech and Jotham. I also bold the verses of interest (8:30 and 9:5). I underline any areas of overlap between the names and verses of interest. I add commentary after chapter 8 and after 9:21.

22 Then the men of Israel said to Gideon, “Rule over us, both you and your son, also your son’s son, for you have delivered us from the hand of Midian.” 23 But Gideon said to them, “I will not rule over you, nor shall my son rule over you; the Lord shall rule over you.” 24 Yet Gideon said to them, “I would request of you, that each of you give me an earring from his spoil.” (For they had gold earrings, because they were Ishmaelites.) 25 They said, “We will surely give them.” So they spread out a garment, and every one of them threw an earring there from his spoil. 26 The weight of the gold earrings that he requested was 1,700 shekels of gold, besides the crescent ornaments and the pendants and the purple robes which were on the kings of Midian, and besides the neck bands that were on their camels’ necks. 27 Gideon made it into an ephod, and placed it in his city, Ophrah, and all Israel played the harlot with it there, so that it became a snare to Gideon and his household.

28 So Midian was subdued before the sons of Israel, and they did not lift up their heads anymore. And the land was undisturbed for forty years in the days of Gideon.

29 Then Jerubbaal the son of Joash went and lived in his own house. 30 Now Gideon had seventy sons who were his direct descendants, for he had many wives. 31 His concubine who was in Shechem also bore him a son, and he named him Abimelech.32 And Gideon the son of Joash died at a ripe old age and was buried in the tomb of his father Joash, in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.

33 Then it came about, as soon as Gideon was dead, that the sons of Israel again played the harlot with the Baals, and made Baal-berith their god.34 Thus the sons of Israel did not remember the Lord their God, who had delivered them from the hands of all their enemies on every side; 35 nor did they show kindness to the household of Jerubbaal (that is, Gideon) in accord with all the good that he had done to Israel.

Judges 8:30 states Gideon had seventy sons who were his direct descendants. The next verse states his concubine in Shechem also born him a son. This son’s name was Abimelech. These two entities (the seventy sons and the lone son from the concubine) are separate. Judges 8:35 makes it clear that the household of Jerubbaal is synonymous with Gideon.

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, “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.” 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.”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. 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. 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.

Now when they told Jotham, he went and stood on the top of Mount Gerizim, and lifted his voice and called out. Thus he said to them, “Listen to me, O men of Shechem, that God may listen to you. Once the trees went forth to anoint a king over them, and they said to the olive tree, ‘Reign over us!’ But the olive tree said to them, ‘Shall I leave my fatness with which God and men are honored, and go to wave over the trees?’ 10 Then the trees said to the fig tree, ‘You come, reign over us!’ 11 But the fig tree said to them, ‘Shall I leave my sweetness and my good fruit, and go to wave over the trees?’ 12 Then the trees said to the vine, ‘You come, reign over us!’ 13 But the vine said to them, ‘Shall I leave my new wine, which cheers God and men, and go to wave over the trees?’14 Finally all the trees said to the bramble, ‘You come, reign over us!’ 15 The bramble said to the trees, ‘If in truth you are anointing me as king over you, come and take refuge in my shade; but if not, may fire come out from the bramble and consume the cedars of Lebanon.’

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.

Recall from Judges 8:31 that Abimelech was born of the concubine; he was not among the 70 in Judges 8:30. Therefore, it makes sense he is not one of the 70 that were killed in Judges 9:5. However, Jotham, regarded as of the house of Jerubbaal (aka Gideon), remained alive. The HCSB Apologetics Bible (p. 377) explains that the author in this case used “a common literary device of his day, the one-number-more or one-number-less style, or exception clause.” This type of device emphasized the completeness of the destruction while simultaneously recording what actually occurred (see Numbers 26:64-65, 1 Samuel 30:17 and Proverbs 30:15 & 18). It’s not a far-fetched explanation in light of the other passages.

While knowing that type of information is certainly cool, it pales in comparison to knowing about Jesus Christ Himself. He came to save people from their sins (Matthew 1:21; John 1:29; 1 Timothy 1:15). That is significant because people are born dead in trespasses and sins.

Ephesians 2:1-10 explains:

2 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

The Bible is clear that people are born dead in trespasses and sins (2:1-3). God’s being rich in mercy makes one alive in Christ (2:4). Furthermore, it is by grace through faith that one is saved (2:5-9). It is not based on works (2:9).

If you do not believe what Ephesians 2:1-10 states, I would ask you please look at the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20:1-17. Have you ever told a lie? Have you ever stolen something, even if it was small? Have you ever used God’s name in vain? Jesus said that whoever looks upon a woman to lust after her has already committed adultery in the heart (Matthew 5:27-28). Jesus also said that if you ever get angry at someone, you’ve committed murder in the heart (Matthew 5:21-26). Just the mere thoughts of adultery and murder make you guilty of the very acts themselves.

Please understand that it only takes one murder to be a murderer, one lie to be a liar and so forth. David said in Psalm 51:5 that he was conceived in sin. Genesis 6:5 states that every intent of the thoughts of man’s heart is only evil continually. Clearly, man has a sin problem. Romans 3:23 states that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Man is in big trouble with God because of his sin. This is more amplified by the fact that perfection is the standard (Matthew 5:48).

Now, some people try to justify their sin by trying to balance it out with the good deeds that they have done. However, if you were to try that in a court of law, the judge would throw the book at you. A good judge would not accept a bribe. He would cast you off into jail. God likewise will not accept a bribe, for there is no partiality with Him (Deuteronomy 10:17; Ephesians 6:9).

Thankfully, Jesus came to solve the sin problem over 2000 years ago (Isaiah 53:1-12). You and I broke the law. Jesus paid the fine (Matthew 26:14-28:20). This means that the judge can do what’s legally right in dismissing your case. He can say, “This person has broken the law, but someone has paid his fine. He’s out of here.” This is good news.

There are two things a person must do. He must repent. This means to turn from his sin (Mark 1:16; Luke 24:36-49; 2 Timothy 2:19-26; Acts 17:30-31). He must also put his trust in the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (Acts 16:31, 17:30-31; Romans 4:1-25, 10:1-17; Galatians 3:1-14; John 6:26-29). These gifts of repentance and faith are granted by God (Ephesians 2:8-9; 2 Timothy 2:22-26). If you repent and put your trust in the Savior Jesus Christ, He will forgive you of your sins and grant you everlasting life (John 6:47). Oh may you know His mercy and grace today if you have never repented and put your trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation. 

I hope this answer helps.

Published by Clint Adams

My name is Clinton Adams. I am a born-again Christian. I used to have the blog "faithcontenderblog.wordpress.com." After taking it down, I have since rebooted as "The Earnest Layman" as I earnestly contend for the faith once for all entrusted to the saints (Jude 3). I also promote sound Christian doctrine and rebuke that which contradicts it (Titus 1:9). I mainly do book reviews. However, I also do other types of posts (normally extensive). Should you request a certain topic, I will most definitely consider it. :) If you ever have questions or comments on anything you read here, feel free to comment with your feedback on any of my posts. You can also email me at earnestlayman@outlook.com. If you really like what you read here, you can always follow my blog. Thank you so much for reading!

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