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Judges 9. Abimelech, part 1: Convincing others that you're something you're not.

JUDGES-9-170505
length: 60:53 - taught on May, 5 2017
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Title: Judges 9. Abimelech, part 1: Convincing others that you're something you're not.

 

 

Abimelech

 

 

Abimelech sees his opportunity. He desires power, but the most prominent family in Israel, Gideon's, is made up of seventy sons. Gideon had rejected the offer from the people that his sons be a dynasty, and there is no indication that any of these sons sought for a title or throne. Yet still, who in Israel would willingly put Abimelech above them as a king. Although Abimelech is the son of Gideon, he is half Jewish, half Canaanite, the son of a concubine.

 

His mother is from Shechem, and Shechem has not been conquered by the Jews. It remains in Canaanite hands as a city-state. He concocts a plan to make himself king of Shechem.

 

The people of the city are called the men of Hamor, a Canaanite king (Gen 34).

 

JDG 9:28

Serve the men of Hamor the father of Shechem;

 

JDG 9:1 And Abimelech the son of Jerubbaal went to Shechem to his mother's relatives, and spoke to them and to the whole clan of the household of his mother's father, saying,

 

JDG 9:2 "Speak, now, in the hearing of all the leaders of Shechem, 'Which is better for you, that seventy men, all the sons of Jerubbaal, rule over you, or that one man rule over you?' Also, remember that I am your bone and your flesh."

 

JDG 9:3 And his mother's relatives spoke all these words on his behalf in the hearing of all the leaders of Shechem; and they were inclined to follow Abimelech, for they said, "He is our relative."

 

Jerubbaal, the Baal fighter, is the name used for Gideon throughout this chapter as a reminder of the great contrast between those who worship God and those who do not, since his son consents to worship Baal and through this to gain power.

 

The book of Joshua shows Israel camped at Shechem when they heard the Law from between Mt.'s Gerizim and Ebal, but it does not say that they conquered it. It would seem that the Canaanites in the area did not resist or fight against Joshua and that means that it was up to the tribe of Ephraim to conquer Shechem for themselves, but in their weak spiritual condition, they never did.

 

Joshua, at the end of his life, renewed the covenant of Jehovah at Shechem (JOS 24:26), and now it is the center of the worship of Baal of the covenant.  

 

JOS 24:1 Then Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem, and called for the elders of Israel and for their heads and their judges and their officers; and they presented themselves before God.

 

JOS 24:2 And Joshua said to all the people, "Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel

 

Then Joshua gives them a brief history lesson, beginning with the fact that God took Abraham away from a land of worshippers of false gods and opened his heart to the worship of the one true God. To that point where they stand, this land had been given to them by God, a land filled with good things that they did not make, or earn, or build.

 

JOS 24:14 "Now, therefore, fear the Lord and serve Him in sincerity and truth; and put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord.

 

JOS 24:15 And if it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."

 

JOS 24:16 And the people answered and said, "Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods;

 

JOS 24:17 for the Lord our God is He who brought us and our fathers up out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage, and who did these great signs in our sight and preserved us through all the way in which we went and among all the peoples through whose midst we passed.

 

JOS 24:18 "And the Lord drove out from before us all the peoples, even the Amorites who lived in the land. We also will serve the Lord, for He is our God."

 

JOS 24:19 Then Joshua said to the people, "You will not be able to serve the Lord, for He is a holy God. He is a jealous God; He will not forgive your transgression or your sins.

 

JOS 24:20 If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, then He will turn and do you harm and consume you after He has done good to you."

 

JOS 24:21 And the people said to Joshua, "No, but we will serve the Lord."

 

JOS 24:22 And Joshua said to the people, "You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen for yourselves the Lord, to serve Him." And they said, "We are witnesses."

 

JOS 24:23 "Now therefore, put away the foreign gods which are in your midst, and incline your hearts to the Lord, the God of Israel."

 

JOS 24:24 And the people said to Joshua, "We will serve the Lord our God and we will obey His voice."

 

JOS 24:25 So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and made for them a statute and an ordinance in Shechem.

 

JOS 24:26 And Joshua wrote these words in the book of the law of God; and he took a large stone and set it up there under the oak that was by the sanctuary of the Lord.

 

JOS 24:27 And Joshua said to all the people, "Behold, this stone shall be for a witness against us, for it has heard all the words of the Lord which He spoke to us; thus it shall be for a witness against you, lest you deny your God."

 

JOS 24:28 Then Joshua dismissed the people, each to his inheritance.

 

After the death of Gideon, Abimelech, his bastard son, opened a way for himself to reign as king over Israel, by murdering his brethren with the help of the Shechemites. For this grievous wrong Jotham, the only one of Gideon's seventy sons who escaped the massacre, reproached the citizens of Shechem in a parable, in which he threatened them with punishment from God, which first of all fell upon Shechem within a very short time, and eventually reached Abimelech himself.

 

JDG 9:1 And Abimelech the son of Jerubbaal went to Shechem to his mother's relatives, and spoke to them and to the whole clan of the household of his mother's father, saying,

 

JDG 9:2 "Speak, now, in the hearing of all the leaders of Shechem, 'Which is better for you, that seventy men, all the sons of Jerubbaal, rule over you, or that one man rule over you?' Also, remember that I am your bone and your flesh."

 

Abimelech may assume that the seventy sons of Gideon have the same ambition to rule as he did.

 

Abimelech strategically uses Gideon's nickname Jerubbaal, Baal fighter, to sway the Shechemites who worship Baal. "Do you want the sons of the Baal fighter to rule over you?"

 

JDG 9:3 And his mother's relatives spoke all these words on his behalf in the hearing of all the leaders of Shechem; and they were inclined to follow Abimelech, for they said, "He is our relative."

 

Abimelech's first step was to secure the support of his mother's relatives and then enlisted them to gain the support of the aristocracy of Shechem.

 

You can't take a throne without the support of someone powerful. When we look at the famous coups of the past, the men who become kings have a group behind them.

 

Who knows what Abimelech promised to his mother's family, but we can easily imagine it. He would have promised them promotion, power in his government, and above all wealth. He would have convinced them that as the son of Gideon he was qualified to rule as a strong warrior. He would have ensured them that though he was half Jewish that his heart was fully Canaanite and a worshipper of Baal. He would have also demonstrated that if he wasn't king then one or all of his seventy half brothers, sons of Gideon, would have come to rule over the city, which this was a lie, and as fully Jewish they would have taken away the worship of Baal and all the pleasure and wealth that went with that cult. This all seemed quite good to them and they went off to the aristocracy of the city in order to convince them that they should make Abimelech king.

 

All the best usurpers are good talkers, good salesmen, conveniently political, convincing. They always show those they wish to rule that they have only the people's best interest in mind when it is their own self-interest that is secretly at work.

 

Abimelech argues:

One ruler is better than seventy.

It is better to be ruled by one of your own than an outsider.

 

The aristocracy are convinced. When they state, "He is our relative," we know that the blood connection was significant to them and that they disliked the possibility that the seventy sons of Gideon might take and rule their city, and so they agree and then fund from the treasury of Baal, a gang of thugs to be used by Abimelech to get rid of Gideon's sons once and for all.

 

JDG 9:4 And they gave him seventy pieces of silver from the house of Baal-berith with which Abimelech hired worthless and reckless fellows, and they followed him.

 

Seventy pieces of silver are given him and he is going to head off to kill seventy of his half-brothers. To Gideon they are worth only one piece of silver each.

 

Temple treasures were frequently applied to political purposes. Not much has changed.  

 

The men that he hires to assist him in his brutal, murderous act are described by two words, worthless and reckless.

 

"worthless" - qyr [reyq (rake)] = empty, to empty out; men with idle hands and empty stomachs, but with no desire to work or earn an honest living.

 

These are men with nothing to do and not wanting to do any legitimate work in order to earn a living. They are idle and yet evil. They are ready to do any illicit task for a price. The world is never in short supply of such people.

 

"reckless" - zjp [pachaz] = to bubble over, to lead a life of dissipation, or to be violent. It implies reckless and licentious men.

 

Abimelech finds for himself an eager group of idle and worthless men who were devoid of wisdom and any moral fiber. They will assist him in a brutal, hideous act of murder.

 

JDG 9:5 Then he went to his father's house at Ophrah, and killed his brothers the sons of Jerubbaal, seventy men, on one stone. But Jotham the youngest son of Jerubbaal was left, for he hid himself.

 

This would not be the last time that such a thing was done in Israel.

 

1KI 15:29

And it came about, as soon as he was king, he struck down all the household of Jeroboam. He did not leave to Jeroboam any persons alive, until he had destroyed them

 

Killing them on one stone means that he killed them one at a time over a period of time that would have terrified anyone. To proceed with such a systematic, slow murder after murder would reveal utter contempt of life within the murderer and his associates. This is a calculated, planned, act that is designed to foster terror in the minds of anyone thinking of opposing him. I personally find it terribly sad that there is no one found in Manasseh to stop him. After all that Gideon had done for them. After even requesting that these sons rule over them, and not hearing of any evil they may have done, to stand idly by while this weak and power-hungry man slaughters them like cattle, one by one, is inexcusable.

 

Israel has remained under the idol worship of Baal, even though God delivered them, and this makes them weak. They possess no strength in a way of God's morality or ethics that sees human life as a precious gift from God. They are heartless, uncaring, unloving, and only in search of the next personal feeling of pleasure, which is all that the Baal cult has to offer, and they take it in replacement of God's law.

 

Where are the sons of the 300? Where are the sons of Manasseh to put a stop to this and to justly execute Abimelech and his band of worthless, reckless men?

 

In quite the opposite of what should have been done to him, Abimelech is crowned as king of Shechem.

 

JDG 9:6 And all the men of Shechem and all Beth-millo assembled together, and they went and made Abimelech king, by the oak of the pillar which was in Shechem.

 

 Beth-millo or "House of Millo" could be a neighboring town, a sort of satellite town of Shechem or it may refer to the citadel within the city of Shechem. In the Chaldee "mileyta" signifies a rampart or a two walled structure and so this is likely a reference to the inhabitants of the palace of Shechem, the men of the tower or the upper nobility. Together with the people they crowned Abimelech king.

 

The irony of what men do in the Bible seems almost endless and here we have another example. They crown this murderer at the pillar which was in Shechem.

 

Shechem crowns Abimelech king at the same place where Joshua renewed the covenant of God with Israel just before his death.

 

JOS 24:27

"Behold, this stone shall be for a witness against us, for it has heard all the words of the Lord which He spoke to us; thus it shall be for a witness against you, lest you deny your God."

 

It is likely that they constructed the temple to Baal-berith in this location as well.

 

As with everything God says, it will come true.

 

Jotham, the surviving son of Gideon, pronounces a parable unto the people of Shechem from the top of Mt. Gerizim.

 

We will read it first and then look into its meaning.

 

JDG 9:7 Now when they told Jotham, he went and stood on the top of Mount Gerizim, and lifted his voice and called out. Thus he said to them, "Listen to me, O men of Shechem, that God may listen to you.

 

Gerizim rises 800 ft. above the valley.

 

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