Dear friend, today we will explore the biblical account of Abimelech, the son of Gideon. This tragic story serves as a sobering warning about the dangers of idolatry, greed, violence, and ungodly ambition. As we walk through Abimelech’s life, may we examine our own hearts and realign ourselves to God’s ways.
In Judges Chapter 8, we read about the heroic exploits of Gideon, who led the Israelites to a mighty victory over the Midianites. However, the years that followed this triumph highlight a darker period in Israel’s history. After Gideon’s death, the nation slid into idolatry, evil, and civil war (Judges 8:33-35).
At the center of this turmoil was Gideon’s son, Abimelech, whose wicked schemes and violent actions brought disaster upon Israel. His tragic life illustrates how quickly sin can take root and spread destruction if left unchecked. As we study Abimelech’s choices, may we guard our hearts against compromise and walk in wisdom before God.
- Idolatry destroys unity and invites God’s judgment
- Ungodly ambition breeds cruelty, violence, and disaster
- God is patient, but evil will ultimately reap negative consequences
- We must examine our hearts and live uprightly before God
Abimelech’s Unwise Bid for Power
The trouble began immediately after Gideon’s death, when the Israelites turned away from the Lord and began worshiping the false gods Baal and Ashtoreth (Judges 8:33). Tragically, Gideon’s own family led the people into idolatry, as he had many wives and a concubine in Shechem who bore him 70 sons.
Likely resentful of his half-brothers’ legitimate birthright, Abimelech schemed to seize power over Israel (Judges 9:1-2). He started by murdering 69 of his siblings, leaving only the youngest, Jotham, alive to escape. Then, Abimelech convinced the people of Shechem to make him king through flattery and bribery (Judges 9:3-4).
This was a grasping bid for power not appointed by God. The Israelites had rejected Yahweh as King and were not meant to be ruled by a monarchy. By proclaiming himself king through deceit and violence, Abimelech revealed his unwise, greedy, and ruthless heart. His actions also showed complete disregard for God’s law and ways.
The Curse of Jotham
In response to Abimelech’s coronation, Jotham courageously pronounced a curse over the people of Shechem and his brother. Standing on Mount Gerizim, he recounted a parable comparing Abimelech’s rise to power to a thornbush ruling over noble trees (Judges 9:7-15).
Jotham concluded his parable by crying out, “If then you have acted in truth and sincerity in making Abimelech king, and if you have dealt well with Jerubbaal and his house, and have done to him as he deserves…But if not, let fire come from Abimelech and devour the men of Shechem and Beth Millo; and let fire come from the men of Shechem and from Beth Millo and devour Abimelech!” (Judges 9:16, 19-20).
This curse from Jotham revealed God’s perspective on the people’s rebellion. By appointing a wicked and violent man as ruler, they had invited eventual destruction upon themselves. God takes no pleasure in evil or those who do injustice, and He would not allow this treachery to go unpunished.
Abimelech Sows Discord
For three years, Abimelech ruled over Israel (Judges 9:22). Rather than seeking justice and righteousness, “he sowed discord between the brothers who had supported him and the leaders of Shechem” (Holman Christian Standard Bible, Judges 9:23). He ruled for his own gain, stoking conflicts between groups to maintain control.
Abimelech’s reign illustrates the sad reality that ungodly rulers often stay in power through oppression and sowing strife, rather than cultivating peace or justice. As followers of Christ, we must be wary of leaders who divide and stir up disunity for their benefit. Our allegiance belongs to the Kingdom of God alone.
A Violent End
Eventually, the citizens of Shechem rebelled against Abimelech’s oppressive rule. In response, Abimelech brutally attacked and captured the city, slaying the people and destroying it completely (Judges 9:42-45).
However, Abimelech did not enjoy victory for long. When he attacked the city of Thebez, a woman dropped a millstone on his head from the city tower, mortally wounding him (Judges 9:50-53). Realizing the ignoble way he would die, Abimelech commanded his armor-bearer to run him through with a sword so no one could say a woman killed him.
This grim end reveals the inevitability of violence begetting further violence. Abimelech lived by the sword through brutal ambition, and he died in the same manner. It is a sober reminder that hatred and godlessness ultimately give birth to destruction and death. There are no true victors, only victims.
Lessons for Our Hearts
Friend, as we reflect on Abimelech’s legacy, let us examine our own hearts and realign ourselves to God’s ways. What can we learn?
First, we must guard against idolatry and rebellion towards God. Compromise and unfaithfulness will only invite disaster. The Lord disciplines those He loves, so let us cling closely to Him (Hebrews 12:5-6).
Second, beware ungodly ambition and the corrosive nature of power. Those who sow discord and violence to gain control will ultimately self-destruct. Our life motto should be to serve rather than grasping.
Third, take refuge in God’s justice and sovereignty. Evil may seem to prevail for a season, but the Lord sees all and will make all things right in the fullness of time (Psalm 37, Romans 12:19). Let us live uprightly and pray for Christ’s Kingdom.
Finally, walk in wisdom, not folly. Sin’s promises are empty, no matter how alluring. May we fix our eyes on Jesus daily as we navigate this fallen world (Hebrews 12:1-3).
Friends, just like the Israelites, we are prone to wander from the Lord in our hearts. But He remains faithful to disciplines and restore us when we repent. Let Abimelech’s lessons turn our eyes back to our Good Shepherd, who leads us in righteous paths for His glory. May we reflect His light until the day we dwell with Him forever. God bless you.