The Book of JUDGES
James J. Barker
THE PROBLEM WITH ABIMELECH
- Abimelech was the son Gideon had with his concubine that was in Shechem (8:31). Shechem was an ancient and important city of Palestine, called also Sichem (Genesis 12:6), Sychar (John 4:5), and Sychem (Acts 7:16).
- It is not known whether the city was named after Shechem (Genesis 33:18), or if he received his name from it.
- According to Joshua 20:7, Shechem was situated on Mount Ephraim.
- Abimelech destroyed the city (Judges 9:45), and according to I Kings 12:25, King Jeroboam rebuilt it 200 years later.
- Abimelech was considered part of his mother’s family since he was the son of a concubine and the offspring of such a union belonged to the wife’s clan (9:1, 2).
- Degraded by Baal worship and blinded by Satan these wicked Shechemites went along with Abimelech’s plan (9:3).
- The men of Shechem agreed to support Abimelech and they gave him seventy pieces of silver out of the temple of Baal-berith (9:4; cf. 8:33).
- THE CONSPIRACY OF ABIMELECH
- THE OPPPOSITION FROM JOTHAM
- THE JUDGMENT OF ABIMELECH
THE CONSIRACY OF ABIMELECH
- The Scofield Study Bible uses this term “conspiracy of Abimelech” and I think it is appropriate. We often hear people scoff at the term “conspiracy theory” as if those who believe in conspiracies were foolish.
- But the Bible teaches that the history of mankind is replete with conspiracies (cf. Acts 23:12ff).
- In II Thessalonians 2:7 the apostle Paul refers to “the mystery of iniquity.”
- Brutus, and Cassius, and a few other men conspired to kill Julius Caesar.
- Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth, who was involved in a conspiracy with a number of others. Several of them were hanged. In fact, some historians believe it was a RC conspiracy since Mrs. Surratt and her son and a few of the other conspirators were all devout Roman Catholics.
- Let us now consider Abimelech and his conspiracy. Abimelech was very ambitious. His father Gideon refused to be king but Abimelech craved it and would stop at nothing to get it.
- Abimelech was unprincipled. He hired “vain and light persons” (9:4), mercenaries who would do anything for money, even murder innocent people (9:5, 6).
- Matthew Henry said that Abimelech hired “the scum and scoundrels of the country, men of broken fortunes, giddy heads, and profligate lives.”
- Abimelech was cruel and barbaric, and with the scoundrels he hired he murdered the seventy sons of Gideon – all except young Jotham (9:5).
- The lords of Shechem are referred to as “all the house of Millo” (9:6). These lords went and made Abimelech king by the plain of the pillar that was in Shechem (9:6).
OPPOSITION FROM JOTHAM (9:7-21).
- The Lord Jesus Christ often spoke in parables but there are not many parables in the OT – however, there are a few and this is the first one (9:8-15). In verses 16-20, Jotham explains his parable.
- The trees (representing Israel) were looking to elect a king. Jotham portrays Gideon and his sons as the olive tree, the fig tree, and the vine, who wisely refused to leave their God-appointed places of usefulness in order to go and reign over the other trees.
- But Abimelech was a usurper. He was like a useless bramble or thorn brush (good only as fuel for a fire), who not only eagerly accepted the invitation but warned that he would devour the cedars of Lebanon if the trees did not anoint him king (9:14).
- Jotham made a pointed application to his parable. If they had done truly and sincerely in making Abimelech king and in killing Gideon’s sons, then they could rejoice (9:16-19).
- “But if not, let fire come out from Abimelech…” (9:20).
- According to Jotham’s parable, this miserable bramble would ruin Shechem, and then the men of Shechem would destroy Abimelech (9:20).
- After giving the men of Shechem his warning, Jotham took off and ran (9:21).
THE JUDGMENT OF ABIMELECH
- God waited three years to move. Longfellow said, “Though the mills of God grind slowly, yet they grind exceeding small.”
- We know this was the judgment of God because 9:23 says that “God sent an evil spirit (demon) between Abimelech and the men of Shechem…”
- I was preaching recently about how God sometimes sends evil spirits to punish wicked men (cf. I Sam. 16:14, 15, 23; I Kings 22:19-23).
- God used demonic powers to confuse Abimelech and to confuse the men of Shechem for choosing such a wicked man to be their king (Judges 9:23, 24).
- A horrible civil war resulted, with many casualties.
- The men of Shechem set up an ambush in the mountains and the word soon reached Abimelech. Caravans were being robbed and this deprived Abimelech of his tribute money (9:25).
- Next we read of another conspiracy – this one was led by Gaal the son of Ebed (9:26-29). Merrill Unger wrote, “The conspiracy of Gaal was an insurrection of the original Canaanites headed by Gaal, who urged the people to serve Hamor, the father of Shechem (cf. Genesis 33:19) and thus revive the ancient Shechemite aristocracy” (Unger’s Commentary on the OT).
- A crowd was gathered together for a harvest festival and there was much merriment, drinking, idolatry, and cursing of Abimelech (9:26, 27).
- Gaal reminded the Shechemites that Abimelech was the son of Gideon (a Jew), but they were superior because they were descended from Hamor, not Jacob (9:28).
- This kind of thinking is still pervasive in the Middle East.
- Abimelech’s friend Zebul was “the ruler of the city” (9:30). He was angry at Gaal’s provocation, especially since Gaal insulted him too (9:28). Zebul sent messengers to Abimelech and soon Abimelech arrived with four companies of soldiers (9:31-34).
- Soon Gaal was fleeing for his life and Abimelech destroyed Shechem (9:35-49).
- The Bible does not say why Abimelech went on to Thebez (9:50 – about ten miles from Shechem). More than likely they were aligned with Shechem. So Abimelech went there and attempted to overthrow their strong tower (9:51, 52).
- It was there that he was killed when a “certain woman cast a piece of millstone” upon his head and broke his skull (9:53-57).
- It was a disgrace for a soldier to be killed by a woman and for hundreds of years people in Israel talked about it (cf. II Samuel 11:21).
- Remember Abimelech had slain his brothers on a stone (9:5, 18), and then later on a stone crushed his head (9:53).
- God took care of Abimelech, and God requited the Shechemites for their wickedness as well. Both the destruction of Shechem and the horrible death of Abimelech were just recompense for the atrocities perpetrated against Gideon’s family.
- The curse of Jotham was realized when both Shechem and Abimelech were devoured just as Jotham had predicted (9:57; cf. 9:20).