22 Abimelech was king over Israel for three years. 23 Then the one True God sent an evil spirit to stir up dissension between Abimelech and the leaders of Shechem. Consequently the leaders of Shechem acted with treachery against Abimelech; 24 and all of this happened so that the brutal murder of Jerubbaal’s 70 sons might be avenged and their bloodguilt laid upon their brother Abimelech, who had ordered their deaths, and on the leaders of Shechem who had lent their strength to his cause.
25 As a result of their new hatred for Abimelech, the leaders of Shechem began to ambush travelers along the mountain roads, robbing everyone who passed by, and these robberies were reported to Abimelech.
26 When Gaal, the son of Ebed, arrived in Shechem with his family, the leaders of Shechem trusted him. 27 After they had been in the fields, gathered the grapes, and trampled them for wine, they celebrated a festival in the temple of their god. While they ate and drank, they insulted Abimelech.
Gaal: 28 Who is this Abimelech, and who are we here in Shechem that we should serve him? Didn’t the son of Jerubbaal and his deputy, Zebul, serve the men of Hamor, Shechem’s father? Why then should we serve him? 29 I wish this people were under my command! I would get rid of Abimelech. I would tell him, “Go ahead. Call out your army!”
30 When Zebul, who governed the city, heard what Gaal, the son of Ebed, said, he was furious. 31 Secretly he sent messengers to Abimelech.
Zebul’s Message: Here’s what’s happening: Gaal, son of Ebed, and his family have come to Shechem, and they are igniting the city against you. 32 You should go by night with your troops and lie in wait in the fields. 33 Then in the morning, when the sun comes up, march on the city; and when Gaal and his forces come out to defend it, you can deal with them.
34 Abimelech and his troops prepared to do just as Zebul suggested. Four companies of men waited for morning. 35 When Gaal, the son of Ebed, went outside, stood in the gate of the city, and looked out, Abimelech and his troops rose from their hiding places to attack.
Gaal (seeing them): 36 Look, Zebul, people are coming down from the mountaintops!
Zebul: It’s just the shadows on the mountains. They must look like men to you.
Gaal: 37 No, look! One company is coming right down the center, and another company is coming from the direction of the fortune-teller’s tree!
Zebul: 38 Where are your big words now? Where is the loudmouth who said, “Who is this Abimelech, that we should serve him?” Aren’t these the men you insulted? Go on, fight them!
39 So Gaal gathered the leaders of Shechem, and they fought against Abimelech’s forces. 40 Abimelech overwhelmed Gaal and chased him and his men, many of whom were wounded and fell along the way as they retreated, all the way to the gate. 41 Abimelech remained in Arumah, and Zebul threw Gaal and his people out of Shechem.
42 The next day the people of Shechem went out to work the fields. After hearing this news, Abimelech 43 took his troops, divided them into three groups, and set an ambush in the fields.
When he saw the people emerge from Shechem, he ordered his troops to attack them. 44 Abimelech and his men captured a forward position at the city gate, cutting off any retreat. Then the other two companies of Abimelech’s men swept down on the people trapped in the fields and cut them down. 45 Abimelech continued his attack all day long, until he had captured Shechem and killed everyone in it. Then he demolished the city and scattered salt over the place where it had once stood.
Abimelech here carries out a devastating act in antiquity that ensures the death of an agricultural area, both food and water sources, for subsequent generations.
46 When those leaders inside the tower of Shechem heard this news, all of them entered into the stronghold of the temple of El-berith. 47 Abimelech learned that all the leaders were in the tower, and 48 he took his men up Mount Zalmon. There he took an ax, cut a bundle of firewood, and hoisted it atop his shoulders, ordering his men to quickly do the same. 49 When they had all cut and loaded their wood, they followed Abimelech back to the stronghold, where they piled the wood against the walls and set fire to it, killing about 1,000 men and women inside the tower of Shechem.
50 Next, Abimelech went on to Thebez. He laid siege to it, captured it, and 51 discovered that in the city was a strong tower where the leaders and men and women of the city had locked themselves in to escape and had climbed onto the roof. 52 So he stormed the tower, ready to burn this tower as he had the other. 53 But this time as he approached the entrance, a woman dropped an upper millstone upon him, crushing his skull.
Abimelech (to his armor-bearer): 54 Take your sword and kill me. I won’t have anyone say that I died like this—killed by a woman.
The young man killed Abimelech with the sword.
55 When the people of Israel saw that Abimelech was dead, they all went back home.
56 So God avenged the evil that Abimelech had committed against his father by murdering his 70 brothers, 57 and the evil of the leaders of Shechem God brought back on their heads; everything happened just as Jotham, son of Jerubbaal, had prophesied when he cursed them all.
10 After Abimelech died, Tola (the son of Puah, son of Dodo), who was of the tribe of Issachar and who lived at Shamir in the highlands of Ephraim, rose to deliver Israel. 2 He served as judge and defender of Israel for 23 years. When he died, he was buried at Shamir. 3 After Tola died, Jair the Gileadite served as judge of Israel for 22 years. 4 Jair had 30 sons who rode on 30 donkeys, and they had 30 towns, which are in the land of Gilead and are still called Havvoth-jair today. 5 When Jair died, he was buried at Kamon.
6 But again the people of Israel did what the Eternal considered to be evil right in front of Him. They worshiped the Baals and Ashtaroth, the gods of Aram and Sidon, of Moab and Ammon, and the gods of the Philistines. When they abandoned the Eternal and no longer worshiped Him, 7 He became furious with them and placed them in servitude to the Philistines and Ammonites 8 who crushed them and ruled over them for the next 18 years. They oppressed the Israelites east of the Jordan in Gilead, the land of the Amorites, 9 and the Ammonites crossed over the Jordan to attack the tribes of Judah, Benjamin, and Ephraim; therefore, Israel was desperate. 10 Then the Israelites cried out to the Eternal.
Israelites: We have sinned against You because we have abandoned our True God and worshiped the Baals.
Eternal One: 11 Haven’t I delivered you in the past from the armies of the Egyptians, the Amorites, the Ammonites, and the Philistines? 12 Didn’t I come through in your struggle against the Sidonians, the Amalekites, and the Maonites? When they swept down on you and over you, didn’t I hear your cries for help and rescue you? 13 Yet you have abandoned Me to worship these other gods. That is why I am finished coming to your rescue. 14 Why don’t you go and cry for help to the gods you have chosen instead of Me? See if they will save you now in your time of trouble!
Israelites: 15 We have sinned against You. Do to us as You think best, but please rescue us this one time more!
16 They put away the foreign gods they had worshiped and returned to the Eternal, and He could not bear to witness their suffering any longer.
17 The Ammonites had prepared for war and were camped in Gilead, so the people of Israel gathered troops and camped at Mizpah.
Gilead Commanders (among themselves): 18 Whoever will lead the attack against the Ammonites will be the leader of all the people of Gilead!
13 Picture this:
That same day, two other disciples (not of the eleven) are traveling the seven miles from Jerusalem to Emmaus. 14 As they walk along, they talk back and forth about all that has transpired during recent days. 15 While they’re talking, discussing, and conversing, Jesus catches up to them and begins walking with them, 16 but for some reason they don’t recognize Him.
Jesus: 17 You two seem deeply engrossed in conversation. What are you talking about as you walk along this road?
They stop walking and just stand there, looking sad. 18 One of them—Cleopas is his name—speaks up.
Cleopas: You must be the only visitor in Jerusalem who hasn’t heard about what’s been going on over the last few days.
Jesus: 19 What are you talking about?
Two Disciples: It’s all about the man named Jesus of Nazareth. He was a mighty prophet who did amazing miracles and preached powerful messages in the sight of God and everyone around. 20 Our chief priests and authorities handed Him over to be executed—crucified, in fact.
21 We had been hoping that He was the One—you know, the One who would liberate all Israel and bring God’s promises. Anyway, on top of all this, just this morning—the third day after the execution— 22 some women in our group really shocked us. They went to the tomb early this morning, 23 but they didn’t see His body anywhere. Then they came back and told us they did see something—a vision of heavenly messengers—and these messengers said that Jesus was alive. 24 Some people in our group went to the tomb to check it out, and just as the women had said, it was empty. But they didn’t see Jesus.
Jesus: 25 Come on, men! Why are you being so foolish? Why are your hearts so sluggish when it comes to believing what the prophets have been saying all along? 26 Didn’t it have to be this way? Didn’t the Anointed One have to experience these sufferings in order to come into His glory?
Luke has told his story. It ends with joy and praise. The crucified Jesus has been resurrected and has ascended to heaven to take His place at God’s right hand just as the ancient prophets predicted. For the band of disciples, Easter joy has eclipsed Good Friday sorrow.
This ending point becomes the starting point for Luke’s sequel, known as the Acts of the Apostles. The story isn’t really over; it’s just begun. The life and ministry of Jesus that Luke has just recounted is the mustard-seed stage of the kingdom of God that continues to grow and grow and grow. Now it’s time for this Kingdom to fill the world. If Luke’s Gospel is about what Jesus began to do and teach, then Luke’s sequel is about what the risen Jesus continues to do and teach through His followers for millennia. Luke writes in hope that future believers will be taken up into this beautiful story that will never, ever end.
27 Then He begins with Moses and continues, prophet by prophet, explaining the meaning of the Hebrew Scriptures, showing how they were talking about the very things that had happened to Jesus.
28 About this time, they are nearing their destination. Jesus keeps walking ahead as if He has no plans to stop there, 29 but they convince Him to join them.
Two Disciples: Please, be our guest. It’s getting late, and soon it will be too dark to walk.
So He accompanies them to their home. 30 When they sit down at the table for dinner, He takes the bread in His hands, He gives thanks for it, and then He breaks it and hands it to them. 31 At that instant, two things happen simultaneously: their eyes are suddenly opened so they recognize Him, and He instantly vanishes—just disappears before their eyes.
Two Disciples (to each other): 32 Amazing! Weren’t our hearts on fire within us while He was talking to us on the road? Didn’t you feel it all coming clear as He explained the meaning of the Hebrew Scriptures?
33 So they get up immediately and rush back to Jerusalem—all seven miles—where they find the eleven gathered together—the eleven plus a number of others. 34 Before Cleopas and his companion can tell their story, the others have their own story to tell.
Other Disciples: The Lord has risen indeed! It’s true! He appeared to Simon!
35 Then the two men report their own experience—their conversation along the road, their moment of realization and recognition as He broke the bread. 36 At that very instant, as they’re still telling the story, Jesus is there, standing among them!
Jesus: May you have peace!
You might expect them to be overjoyed, but they aren’t.
37 They’re startled and terrified; they think they’re seeing a ghost.
Jesus: 38 Why are you upset? Why are your hearts churning with questions? 39 Look—look at My hands and My feet! See that it’s Me! Come on; touch Me; see for yourselves. A ghost doesn’t have flesh and bones, as you can see that I have!
[40 Then He shows them His hands and His feet.][a]
41 Now their fear gives way to joy; but it seems too good to be true, and they’re still unsure.
Jesus: Do you have anything here to eat?
42 They hand Him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and He takes it and eats it in front of them.
Jesus: 44 I’ve been telling you this all along, that everything written about Me in the Hebrew Scriptures must be fulfilled—everything from the law of Moses to the prophets to the psalms.
45 Then He opens their minds so they can comprehend the meaning of the Hebrew Scriptures.
Jesus: 46 This is what the Scriptures said: that the promised Anointed One should suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 that in His name a radical change of thought and life should be preached, and that in His name the forgiveness of sins should be preached, beginning in Jerusalem and extending to all nations. 48 You have witnessed the fulfillment of these things. 49 So I am sending My Father’s promise to you. Stay in the city until you receive it—until power from heaven comes upon you.
50 Then He leads them out to Bethany. He lifts up His hands and blesses them, 51 and at that moment, with His hands raised in blessing, He leaves them and is carried up into heaven. 52 They worship Him, then they return to Jerusalem, filled with intense joy, 53 and they return again and again to the temple to celebrate God.
A song of thanks.
Psalm 100 is one of the best known and most loved psalms. This hymn of thanksgiving invites the whole world to come to God’s temple in Jerusalem and enter its sacred spaces with unbridled joy and hearts filled with gratitude. And why should we? The psalm provides the answer. Not only has God created us—a gracious act of love in and of itself—but He has made us His own people. He has chosen us and loved us. As with Psalm 23, God’s people are cast in the role as sheep living well in His pasture.
The psalm ends on a high note of confidence and hope. At all times—but perhaps more in times of difficulty—we need to be reminded of what is true. Regardless of what seems to be happening around us, the Eternal is good; His love and faithfulness will endure forever.
1 Raise your voices;
make a beautiful noise to the Eternal, all the earth.
2 Serve the Eternal gladly;
enter into His presence singing songs of joy!
3 Know this: the Eternal One Himself is the True God.
He is the One who made us;
we have not made ourselves;
we are His people, like sheep grazing in His fields.
4 Go through His gates, giving thanks;
walk through His courts, giving praise.
Offer Him your gratitude and praise His holy name.
5 Because the Eternal is good,
His loyal love and mercy will never end,
and His truth will last throughout all generations.
11 The house of the wicked will be destroyed,
while the tent of the upright will prosper.
12 Before every person lies a road that seems to be right,
but the end of that road is death and destruction.