This post follows the Bible reading plan available at oaktreechurch.com/soap.
Chapter nine follows Gideon’s story with the story of one of his sons, Abimelech, who was born to Gideon’s concubine. 1 In Judges 8:35 we read that Israel did not “treat the family of Jerub-Baal fairly,” and this chapter explains that. When he was grown, Abimelech returned to Shechem, the home of his mother, and proposed that they install him as their ruler, rather than following Gideon’s other seventy sons (Judges 9:1-6). They agreed, and he hired assassins to kill his seventy half-brothers, but the youngest one, Jotham, escaped. When Jotham heard that the people had indeed made Abimelech their ruler, he told a parable to the people, with a thorn bush representing Abimelech as their worst choice and their eventual destroyer (Judges 9:7-21). However, Jotham told them, God would judge whether they made the correct decision in killing his family and subjecting themselves to Abimelech.
Judges 9:22 says that “Abimelech commanded Israel for three years.” This is different than the other judges who “ruled” Israel. The word translated “commanded” occurs only here in Judges and only five other times in the Old Testament. It may indicate a type of authoritarian rule. This could be the method God used to create strife between the people and Abimelech (Judges 9:22-25). The writer clearly states that God was about to bring Jotham’s prediction to fulfillment. The Shechemites gave their loyalty to a man named Gaal, who loudly proclaimed his disdain for Abimelech and challenged his rule (Judges 9:26-41). One of Abimelech’s loyal followers informed him of the uprising and suggested that Abimelech ambush the traitors, which he did successfully. The next day he attacked Shechem and killed its citizens and leveled the city (Judges 9:42-45). The leaders of the city had fled, and Abimelech found them locked in a tower, which he burnt to the ground (Judges 9:46-49). Finally, he moved to another city and attempted to do the same thing when they took shelter in their tower, but a woman dropped a millstone on his head, and he died at his assistant’s hand (Judges 9:50-55). Thus, Jotham’s prophecy came true; the people had chosen poorly and suffered the consequences for it (Judges 9:56-57).
- Although Gideon refused to be Israel’s king, he named his son Abimelech, which means “my father is king.” ↩