"Abimelek: The Anti-Judge"
20th Sunday after Pentecost | Read Judges 9:1-6; 16-20
Abimelech (also spelled Abimelek) is one of Gideon's sons. He was not a Judge per-se but was successful in attaining the title of King after killing all of his brothers, except one "Jotham," who was able to escape.
Abimelech wanted to be King above all, and he wanted to be first. This ambition drove him to rejected God as King over himself and Israel. He sought only to exalt himself, no matter the cost. His downfall was pride. Abimelek and his followers made a colossal mistake when they elected him King without asking for God's advice.
Under the leadership of Othniel, Ehud, Shamgar, Deborah, and Gideon, the people of God have enjoyed peace and a prosperous relationship with God. However, we are told that as soon as Gideon died, the Israelites prostituted themselves by worship images of Baal and making Baal-Berith their God. This is where our story for exploration begins... Read Judges 9:1-6; 16-20.
About the city of Shechen
Shechem was a place of promise. First mentioned in Genesis 12:6–7, Shechem was the location where Abram stopped at the tree of Moreh and received God's promise of the land. Shechem became part of the Promised Land of Israel, was given to the Kohathites and served as a Levitical city of refuge (Joshua 21:20–21). Shechem was the place where Joseph's remains were buried (Joshua 24:32). During the time of the divided kingdom of Israel, Shechem was the capital of the northern kingdom for a while (1 Kings 12:1).
Shechem was a place of commitment. In the area of Shechem, the Israelites were reminded of God's covenantal relationship to them, which He had first made to Abraham before they entered Canaan (Deuteronomy 11:26–30).
Shechem was a place of worship. When the Lord appeared to him at Shechem, Abram built an altar to God at the site (Genesis 12:7). Abram's grandson, Jacob, also built an altar at Shechem, calling it "El Elohe Israel," or "mighty God of Israel" (Genesis 33:18–20).
Abimelech (also Abimelek), one of Gideon’s sons, served as a judge of Israel following the judgeship of Gideon.
He is first mentioned in Judges 8:30–31, where we read, "[Gideon] had seventy sons of his own, for he had many wives. His concubine, who lived in Shechem, also bore him a son, whom he named Abimelek." Gideon was of the tribe of Manasseh and had led Israel to victory despite humanly impossible odds (Judges 7). After this victory, he became wealthy and had several wives, including a concubine in Shechem who became the mother of Abimelech.
Abimelech sought to rule over Shechem by eliminating all his opposition—namely, by killing all of the other sons of Gideon (Judges 9:1–2). All were killed except Gideon's youngest son, Jotham (verse 5). Abimelech then became King of Shechem (verse 6).
Now, and something for further consideration...
If the children of Gideon and Gideon were good leaders, why would the people of Shechem side with Abimelech? Remember that it was not the people looking for Abimelech; it was Abimelech looking for the people... my interpretation is that Abimelech was a meal ticket; it had nothing to do with being family. It had everything to do with avarice, and their desires would come back to hurt them.
After leading Shechem for three years, a conspiracy arose against Abimelech. Civil war broke out, leading to a battle in a town called Thebez (Judges 9:50). Abimelech cornered the city's leaders in a tower and came near with the intention of burning the tower with fire.
Abimelech offers a negative example of how a leader is to influence others. He led by force, murdered his opposition, and led in such a manner that even his subjects sought to overtake him. In contrast to the positive leadership of his father, Abimelech focused on his own personal gain, hurting many in the process.
Abimelech serves as an example of not getting too close to a wall during a battle, and we see that with David and with others in the Scriptures. Spiritually, the reference pointed out the flaw of leading for one's gain rather than out of service to God. See, 2 Samuel 11:21 also reminds us of the painful story of Cain and Abel.
This is a painful story of someone who never felt the love of family and was always consider a second class member of a family (See Judges 9:18), and so he tried to earn his way to the top by being the bigger dog... #Dogeatdogworld
So, in the end, Abimelech offers a negative example of how a leader is to influence others. He led by force, murdered his opposition, and led in such a manner that even his subjects sought to overtake him. In contrast to the positive leadership of his father, Abimelech focused on his own personal gain, hurting many in the process. The reality is that in all levels of society, there is an Abimelech... Let us remember this Legend and avoid repeating it.