Title: Judges 9. Abimelech, part 3: Jotham interprets his parable and the conflict at Shechem.
JDG 9:14 "Finally all the trees said to the bramble, 'You come, reign over us!'
JDG 9:15 "And the bramble said to the trees, 'If in truth you are anointing me as king over you, come and take refuge in my shade; but if not, may fire come out from the bramble and consume the cedars of Lebanon.'
Abimelech can offer no comfort or security to Shechem, but, as worthless as he is, he can destroy them, and he does.
The briar, which has nothing but thorns upon it, and does not even cast sufficient shadow for anyone to lie down in its shadow and protect himself from the burning heat of the sun, is an admirable simile for a worthless man, who can do nothing but harm.
The danger of the briar is addressed particularly in the Law.
"If a fire breaks out and spreads to thorn bushes, so that stacked grain or the standing grain or the field itself is consumed, he who started the fire shall surely make restitution."
The weak and the useless can destroy things that are better and stronger than them if they are allowed to. Think about how a very small percentage of our national population, who are weak and petty, can destroy the rights of the entire population because they are allowed to. A group of brambles that catch fire can noisily destroy an entire cedar forest.
Jotham makes the application of the parable with sarcasm.
JDG 9:16 "Now therefore, if you have dealt in truth and integrity in making Abimelech king, and if you have dealt well with Jerubbaal and his house, and have dealt with him as he deserved —
JDG 9:17 for my father fought for you and risked his life and delivered you from the hand of Midian;
The Midianites oppressed the Canaanites in the land as well as the Jews. They owe their deliverance to Gideon. If they have dealt in truth and integrity concerning Gideon and Abimelech then fine and good.
Of course they have not. Jotham reminds them that his father risked his life to deliver them and they in turn killed his sons. In the literal Hebrew Jotham states that his "father cast away his soul at a distance," meaning that he didn't consider his own life of any consequence to himself if it meant the deliverance of Israel.
JDG 9:18 but you have risen against my father's house today and have killed his sons, seventy men, on one stone, and have made Abimelech, the son of his maidservant, king over the men of Shechem, because he is your relative —
JDG 9:19 if then you have dealt in truth and integrity with Jerubbaal and his house this day, rejoice in Abimelech, and let him also rejoice in you.
If they have done well in truth then they have made a grand choice in Abimelech and they should rejoice and he will rejoice in him.
If the bramble was the right choice then they should both rejoice = sharp sarcasm.
If you have chosen correctly then I wish you well. May this marriage of king and country, or really, king and city be prosperous and fruitful. And oh, if not, then the bramble is going to consume you with fire and then you will consume him. It would make a great wedding congratulations card.
JDG 9:20 But if not, let fire come out from Abimelech and consume the men of Shechem and Beth-millo; and let fire come out from the men of Shechem and from Beth-millo, and consume Abimelech."
JDG 9:21 Then Jotham escaped and fled, and went to Beer and remained there because of Abimelech his brother.
Jotham smartly high tales it out of there before Abimelech can get a hold of him and complete his set of murders. Yet, we will see that Abimelech is not done with handing out death and his violence will continue until he is crushed by a millstone.
Conflict of Shechem
JDG 9:22 Now Abimelech ruled over Israel three years.
JDG 9:23 Then God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the men of Shechem; and the men of Shechem dealt treacherously with Abimelech,
JDG 9:24 in order that the violence done to the seventy sons of Jerubbaal might come, and their blood might be laid on Abimelech their brother, who killed them, and on the men of Shechem, who strengthened his hands to kill his brothers.
JDG 9:25 And the men of Shechem set men in ambush against him on the tops of the mountains, and they robbed all who might pass by them along the road; and it was told to Abimelech.
"Rule over Israel" - The writer uses the Hebrew suwr, which means "prince" or "captain" and not the word for "king."
The writer doesn't see him as a king and for good reason. "Israel" is sometimes used for a small area of the land and that is what it means here. It does not refer to the entire nation, but only to Greater Shechem, which is the city and its surrounding towns.
His attempt to be king would not last long. As is common for this book, the length of rule is stated at the beginning. He would only rule for three years.
"God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the men of Shechem."
God instigated an evil spirit/demon between the ruler and the people. God simply allows the evil to work amongst the people, and if they are evil, then the results are terrible judgment.
In the future an evil spirit will be sent upon Saul, and since he was an evil man, it ran with that evil spirit into great harm upon himself. Many think the evil spirit is a demon that God uses to instigate, much like He uses an evil nation, like Midian or Moab or the Philistines, to discipline Israel. Whether it is a demon or something else is not the issue. What is important to us is that God can allow that which is evil to exercise great influence. This also means that He can limit the influence of evil by His hedge or wall of fire.
The second important thing to note is that God is not causing Abimelech or the Shechemites to behave in an evil way. They already are evil and the presence of a greater influence of evil is welcomed by them.
The greater evil always promises something in return for loyalty, which it never delivers on. One evil man joins forces with another evil man hoping for more power and wealth when in fact, the more evil there is in a person or organization, the greater possibility there is for conflict and inner destruction. People in nations that are suffering under evil rulership may invite greater evil upon themselves when they elect another, more terrible evil that promises a quick fix. They choose men like Lenin, Mao, Hitler, Castro, etc. rather than suffer through the work of building their own republic. Evil begets evil and plenty of it is around for the taking. Evil loves the darkness and they welcome more darkness.
God, in His infinite genius, allows evil a freer influence when it will bring His desired ends in the way He so chooses. He does not create the evil, nor does He need it.
Abimelech and Shechem will wipe each other out. God could have done this immediately with a word, but He allows evil to reveal itself for what it is, and for anyone who comes to know of such events, a valuable lesson is given concerning the ends of what evil thinking and actions cause. God is teaching, but He doesn't need sin or evil.
People need to see the result of evil, but evil tries to hide itself in a shroud of good. God allows them to see it fully exposed.
God pulls away the shroud that evil attempts to hide behind.
All God is doing is pulling away the shroud so that our eyes may see. He doesn't create the evil, nor does He need it.
2CO 11:10 As the truth of Christ is in me, this boasting of mine will not be stopped in the regions of Achaia [Roman name for the province including Corinth, Athens, and Sparta/Peloponnesian peninsula].
2CO 11:11 Why? Because I do not love you? God knows I do!
2CO 11:12 But what I am doing, I will continue to do, that I may cut off opportunity from those who desire an opportunity to be regarded just as we are in the matter about which they are boasting.
God used the truth from Paul to expose the evil of false workers or false apostles. The exposing was needed and is always needed since they disguise themselves as angels of light.
2CO 11:13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ.
2CO 11:14 And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.
2CO 11:15 Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their deeds.
By our doing, sin and evil exist. God only allowed it as He allowed our free will to express itself. It's like a blind over a window on a sunny day. The light is always pouring through the window as evil is always pouring itself over the land. The blinds can be wide open to let all the sunlight in, they can be shut to block all the light, or they can be slightly open, etc. God can open the blinds, as He does here in Shechem, or He can close them. If we are righteous and pure then the evil will only serve as a test for us, in which the light of Christ will be shown to be pure. If a person is evil then he welcomes more of it. Evil is a test to both the godly and the ungodly. It clearly reveals who they are.