Last week we noted the unfitting end to Gideon’s life. A man worthy of great commendation for his faith, comes a hair’s width away from condemnation near the end. He declared that God was Israel’s King, but lived as if he were king, even naming his son Abimelech (“My father is king”).
Gideon’s downfall was the result of:
- Underestimating external temptation
- Underestimating internal corruption
- Neglecting the means of God’s preservation (Holy Spirit, Prayer).
But prior to that, we saw him lead an army of 300 against 135,000 Midianites. God granted him victory by causing chaos in the Midianite camp so that they turned their swords upon one another. God caused evil to destroy itself!
In our text this morning, we will see something similar, but now it occurs among the Israelites themselves. The good news is that our sovereign God can use evil to destroy evil.
Read Judges 9
Abimelech’s Rise in Shechem (1-6)
Abimelech receives financial help from Shechem, his mother’s clan, to hire “worthless and reckless fellows” who assist him in killing 70 of his brothers (1 escaped) ensuring rule over Israel by himself.
4 70 shekels of silver – A shekel per victim.
5 Jerubbaal’s sons were slaughtered “on one stone”. This stone was located in Ophrah, the original site of Baal’s altar that Gideon tore down (cf Josh. 24:25-27).
Do you notice what’s missing from this narrative compared to the typical cycle we’ve grown accustomed to in Judges?
- Israel did what was evil (8:33). Check
- The Lord sold them…
- The people cried out…
- The Lord raised up…
Instead of the Lord selling Israel into the hand of a foreign oppressor, the people got exactly what they wanted. God’s punishment was allowing them to indulge their idolatry and request a king like the nations.
The Lord’s can punish sin by bringing external oppression (as each cycle previously displayed), or he can punish people by allowing them to indulge in their internal corruption (Rom. 1:24-25).
This is why the restraining grace of the Lord’s discipline is a great mercy. Left to ourselves, our corrupt hearts rebel against God. The accountability and discipline of the Holy Spirit are a means of sustaining our faith!
Abimelech’s in power, but Jotham had escaped…
Jotham’s Fable on Mt. Gerizim (7-21)
Jotham, the lone escapee, curses Shechem and Abimelech.
7 Mt. Gerizim has covenantal overtones (Deut. 27:12-13; Josh. 8, 24) just like this fable (19-20). Jotham speaks from a theological base regarding the covenant curses.
Reversal: Blessing > Curse.
Notice the contrast of blessing (olive, fig, vine) with curse (bramble).
- Olive provides oil.
- Fig provides sweet fruit.
- Vine provides fresh wine.
- Bramble provides thorns (2:3), NOT shade.
What do we learn about ourselves? We are a lot like Israel. We want “kings” who are like the “nations”. We want church leaders who are “good” by worldly standards. This leads to the kind of devastating consequences we see in Judges 9. Destruction often comes from within, from the leaders we ourselves have elected.
Ask for leaders who know and promote God’s agenda (not their own). Then, having elected godly leaders, pray for them.
The problem was not kingship (refrain 21:25), but the kind of king they wanted. Israel wanted a king like the nations.
As soon as our desires are turned toward worldly means of comfort, we should be on our face before God asking him to do whatever it takes to preserve us from wandering!
God chastised Israel before alluring her (Hos. 2:13-14).
The rest of the narrative proves the accuracy of Jotham’s curse…
Abimelech’s Demise at Thebez (22-57)
Escalation: Discontentment (23-24) > Opposition (25) > Rival (26-29) > Cival War (30-49) > Death of Tyrant (50-55).
Church leadership must be vigilant to eliminate this escalation of tension within the church. It can become all too easy for factions of discontentment to escalate to a point that ultimately brings shame upon the Church and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Eventually, Shechem’s tension with Abimelech boiled over into complete destruction.
Fire from Abimelech (42-49): He wiped out everybody related to him. First his brothers, then his mother’s clan.
Fire from Shechem (50-55): He attempted the same tactic at Thebez that was successful at the tower of Shechem. Death by the hands of a woman. Another unlikely means proves God’s providential governance.
56-57 What do we learn about God? In God’s judgment, He can use evil to destroy evil. God’s judgment is swift and exacting.
How does it point us to Christ? Abimelech’s “reign” parallels Saul’s reign in several ways:
- The role of an evil spirit (1 Sam. 16:14).
- The desire to die with honor (1 Sam. 31:4).
Saul’s reign contrasts David’s reign, who foreshadows Christ’s reign.
Block He who had slaughtered his brothers ‘upon one stone’ has his skull crushed beneath one stone.
The narrator may be alluding to Gen. 3:15! Only, the promise is reversed.
The good news is that our sovereign God can use evil to destroy evil.
- Abimelech’s Rise shows how God punishes people by allowing them to indulge their internal corruption.
- Jotham’s Fable reveals how God’s intended blessing can become a curse when forsaken and neglected.
- Abimelech’s Demise was a result of the judgment of God. God used evil to destroy evil.
Abimelech isn’t the judge we need, but the one we deserve. However, God used all of this to raise up his Son. Jesus Christ isn’t the Savior we deserve, but he brought healing when he was crushed for our iniquities!