Thus God returned the evil of Abimelech, which he committed against his father in killing his seventy brothers. And God also made all the evil of the men of Shechem return on their heads, and upon them came the curse of Jotham the son of Jerubbaal.” (Judges 9:56–57, ESV)

The author of Judges repeats a word two times in the last couple of sentences of Judges 9, it’s the word “return.”  The various English translations have different words to express what the author is saying here:

  • Repaid – NRSV, NASB
  • Rendered – KJV
  • Punished – NLT
  • Returned – ESV

The point being made is that God did not allow Abimelech to get away with his monstrous evil when he killed the 70 sons of Jerubbaal (Gideon), nor did he allow the leaders of Shechem to get away with their rebellion against Abimelech. God returned/repaid/punished both parties for their evil.

Notice also that the evil in the book of Judges is gradually getting worse and worse.  God raises up “heroes” again and again to save Israel from oppression, but they are flawed heroes one and all, and their flaws get worse and worse.  The beauty of the book of Judges is that the flawed heroes point us forward towards a hero who is not flawed, who will do God’s will perfectly, and who will free Israel (and all peoples of all nations) from their slavery to corruption, if they will follow him by faith. Paul understands this clearly:

For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” (Romans 8:2–4, ESV)

Like the flawed heroes of Judges, we too are flawed and corrupt and in need of a perfect hero to save us from ourselves.  This God gave us in Jesus, Son of God and Son of Man.