The Criticism Of The Gaal Narrative (Jud. 9:26-41) -- By: Harold M. Wiener
BSac 76:303 (July 1919) p. 359
The Criticism Of The Gaal Narrative (Jud. 9:26-41)
The story of Gaal (Jud. 9:26–41) cannot stand in its present position. As Dr. G. A. Cooke remarks on verse 42:”After the Shechemites have suffered the severe defeat just described, and Abimelech has retired and dwelt at Arumah, it is incredible that, on the next morning, the people should come out of the city as if nothing had happened, and that Abimelech should be able to surprise them by the same device which had proved so successful the day before.” He thinks verses 42–49 “a second account of Abimelech’s attack on Shechem, originally following 22–25.” This view, however, only raises fresh perplexities. It is difficult to believe that the destruction of the city and its sowing with salt (ver. 45) is sheer invention, for the narrative is old, and there would have been historical knowledge as to whether the city was destroyed or not. But, if we accept this, and regard the earlier passage as a duplicate, we cannot understand either how the Gaal story came to be invented or how the view that Shechem had not been destroyed found acceptance. The truth ‘is that both narratives (ver. 26–41 and 43 ff.) have the appearance of being strictly historical, and the difficulties arise not from their contents but from their present position.
It is suggested that the solution should be sought in another direction. The Gaal narrative perhaps lacks a beginning, telling who Gaal was and how Abimelech appointed Zebul as his governor of Shechem; but, subject to that, it looks like a thoroughly credible piece of historical writing. What is wrong is its position. It is earlier in time than the events that brought about the destruction of Shechem. If it be placed before verse 22 or 23, the difficulties disappear. It relates to the first symptoms of disaffection in the town. These Abimelech sought to meet by less severe measures than ultimately proved necessary. Gaal and his brethren were expelled, and it was hoped that the
BSac 76:303 (July 1919) p. 360
evidence given of military power would prove sufficient to insure loyalty. Verses 22 ff. tell of the failure of that hope.
Verse 42 cannot stand as...
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