Scriptures

Abimelech

Introduction

‘Abimelek son of Jerub-Baal went to his mother’s brothers in Shechem and said to them and to all his mother’s clan, ‘Ask all the citizens of Shechem, ‘Which is better for you: to have all seventy of Jerub-Baal’s sons rule over you, or just one man?’ Remember, I am your flesh and blood.’ When the brothers repeated all this to the citizens of Shechem, they were inclined to follow Abimelek, for they said, ‘He is related to us.’ They gave him seventy shekels of silver from the temple of Baal-Berith, and Abimelek used it to hire reckless scoundrels, who became his followers. He went to his father’s home in Ophrah and on one stone murdered his seventy brothers, the sons of Jerub-Baal. But Jotham, the youngest son of Jerub-Baal, escaped by hiding. Then all the citizens of Shechem and Beth Millo gathered beside the great tree at the pillar in Shechem to crown Abimelek king.’ Judges 9:1-6

1. Who was Abimelech?

Abimelech was the Son of Gideon and the grandson of Joash. He was born to Gideon and a concubine of Gideon’s who lived in Shechem. A Concubine is a woman living with a man lawfully. He was therefore related to the family of Manesseh so then he could go on to state his place for leadership on the basis of being a son of Gideon.

Although Gideon, ‘Abimelech’s father’, didn’t want to be king over Israel, Abimelech wanted it badly. He first won the support of the members of his mother’s family. Then he murdered all the sons of his father to protect his claim to the inheritance of Gideon.

2. Why did he go to Shechem?

Remember his mother was a woman who was living with Gideon, she was also called a slave girl.

‘But today you have revolted against my father’s family. You have murdered his seventy sons on a single stone and have made Abimelek, the son of his female slave, king over the citizens of Shechem because he is related to you.’ Judges 9:18

That’s why he went to Shechem.

3. Why did the men of Shechem follow Abimelech?

Abimelech had very cunningly approached his relatives in Shechem. They are called

‘his mother’s clan’, Judges 9:1

These men had a mistaken idea of what was to happen to place someone in the place of a king. Abimelech approached these men suggesting he should succeed his father, Gideon, in the place of leadership.

Nevertheless, fooled by Abimelech as they were, these men who were relatives of Abimelech persuaded the other men of Shechem to allow Abimelech to take leadership over them.

4. Why did they give him seventy pieces of silver?

These dishonourable men of Shechem supported Abimelech’s campaign by providing seventy pieces of silver out of ‘the house of Baal-Berith’ who was there pagan god. With this money, Abimelech was able to hire vain and wicked men who would follow him.

Since there were seventy sons of Gideon, we are left to suppose Abimelech was paid one piece of silver each for the sons of Gideon whom he killed.

5. Which son of Gideon escaped?

Jotham, the youngest of Gideon’s sons, escaped by hiding from Abimelech’s assassins.

Summary of what has happened so far

Abimelech a son of Gideon by one of his concubines seemingly wanted to become king over Israel. He killed his brother so that no one else would be in contention for king. Abimelech stands in contrast to Gideon. Gideon wanted to restore the worship of the true God.

Abimelech was seeking power for himself. He had no interest in spiritual things. He goes about founding his kingdom on bloodshed. He was an evil man. The people gathered together in the plain of Shechem which was in the plain below Mount Gerizim. Jotham the youngest son of Gideon who had escaped being executed stands on top of the mount and cries out in a loud voice this parable.

The parable

‘When Jotham was told about this, he climbed up on the top of Mount Gerizim and shouted to them, ‘Listen to me, citizens of Shechem, so that God may listen to you. One day the trees went out to anoint a king for themselves. They said to the olive tree, ‘Be our king.’ ‘But the olive tree answered, ‘Should I give up my oil, by which both gods and humans are honoured, to hold sway over the trees?’ ‘Next, the trees said to the fig tree, ‘Come and be our king.’ ‘But the fig tree replied, ‘Should I give up my fruit, so good and sweet, to hold sway over the trees?’ ‘Then the trees said to the vine, ‘Come and be our king.’ ‘But the vine answered, ‘Should I give up my wine, which cheers both gods and humans, to hold sway over the trees?’ ‘Finally, all the trees said to the thornbush, ‘Come and be our king.’ ‘The thornbush said to the trees, ‘If you really want to anoint me king over you, come and take refuge in my shade; but if not, then let fire come out of the thornbush and consume the cedars of Lebanon!’ Judges 9:7-15

What do you think this parable is saying?

The parable is this. Those who were loyal to Gideon would refuse to allow Abimelech to reign over them. Only the unworthy would do this. When the kingdom was offered to the Olive, Fig and Vine they refused choosing to serve rather than rule. To do good rather than evil.

Only the lowly bramble, who was unfit to rule, accepts the call to be over the people. But with a threat of fiery destruction if they do not allow him to rule. So, in other words, if anyone would not accept Abimelech as king, he would surely kill them.

‘Next Abimelek went to Thebez and besieged it and captured it. Inside the city, however, was a strong tower, to which all the men and women—all the people of the city—had fled. They had locked themselves in and climbed up on the tower roof. Abimelek went to the tower and attacked it. But as he approached the entrance to the tower to set it on fire, a woman dropped an upper millstone on his head and cracked his skull. Hurriedly he called to his armourbearer, ‘Draw your sword and kill me, so that they can’t say, ‘A woman killed him.’ So, his servant ran him through, and he died. When the Israelites saw that Abimelek was dead, they went home.’ Judges 9:50-55

In verse 53 we find that Abimelech is killed by a piece of millstone. God repays him for all his evil against the household of Gideon.

Practical application

Well Abimelech wanted to become king and ruler, he wanted to become the greatest by forcing his way to the top by using bloodshed. What about us, as Christians? Do we sometimes try to be the greatest? Whether it be the best song leader, the best speaker or the best at delivering sermons!

Story

Three young boys were discussing whose father was the greatest. The first young boy said, ‘Well my dad writes a few words on a piece of paper and calls it a poem. He sends it off to some publisher and gets £30 for it.’ The second young boy said, ‘Well you think that’s good, you should see my dad. He writes a few words down on a piece paper and calls it a song. He sends it away to big bands and gets £50 for it.’ The third young boy says, ‘Well that’s nothing. My dad writes down some words on a piece of paper and calls it a sermon, and it takes eight men to bring in all the money!’

We are sometimes like that. We think if we’ve got into the best jobs, higher up that executive ladder we can make the change. If we can get more power we can change everybody. Jesus’s disciples asked that very same question.

‘Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favour of him. ‘What is it you want?’ he asked. She said, ‘Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.’ ‘You don’t know what you are asking,’ Jesus said to them. ‘Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?’ ‘We can,’ they answered. Jesus said to them, ‘You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father.’ When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers. Jesus called them together and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’ Matthew 20:20-28

The apostles were starting to juggle themselves into positions of authority because Jesus had just finished telling them that He was going to die. Jesus knew it wasn’t James and John’s mother who was asking, she was asking on behalf of James and John, because when Jesus answered, He answered to the all of them.

‘You don’t know what you are asking,’ Jesus said to them. ‘Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?’ ‘We can,’ they answered.’ Matthew 20:22

‘Them’, is plural. Jesus knew what was happening.

The apostles were trying to get into positions of authority, when Jesus had already just brought them out of that position. ‘Jesus called them together and said,

‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them.’ Matthew 20:25

Jesus says remember the authoritarians! Do you remember what it was like when you were told to do this and do that? Jesus says,

‘my people do these things because they want to, because they love me and my father’.

You see, the disciples still did not understand and many Christians today, still don’t understand.

Jesus came to serve and not to be served. Jesus had the chance to change the world from the top down when the Devil offered Him that temptation in the desert.

‘Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour. ‘All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.’ Matthew 4:8-9

Jesus knew that He couldn’t change hearts with power. Jesus knew that the only way you can change people’s hearts was by serving. Jesus knew that trying to get people to repent would need a change of heart, which could only happen by serving. Because no one will want to serve if they have to and are told to, alright, they might, but they would do it without joy and pleasure. Jesus calls us today to serve but Jesus calls for us to change the world from the bottom up.

So how do we do that?

‘The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so, he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, ‘Lord, are you going to wash my feet?’ John 13:2-6

We change the world and people from the bottom up. We change people by washing their feet and serving others.

‘Jesus replied, ‘You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.’ ‘No,’ said Peter, ‘you shall never wash my feet.’ Jesus answered, ‘Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.’ ‘Then, Lord,’ Simon Peter replied, ‘not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!’ Jesus answered, ‘Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.’ For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean. When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. ‘Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. ‘You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.’ John 13:7-17

We will be blessed if we do these things

 

DAILY BIBLE VERSE

"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God."

Ephesians 2:8

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