Sustained by God’s Word of Faith
Judges 9:1-21: As noted in the conclusion of yesterday’s reading, Gideon’s concubine in Shechem bore him a son, and Gideon named him Abimelech. After Abimelech kills his seventy brothers, the people of Shechem make him king. He is the first Israelite to take this title. (Ironically, his name means “my father is king.”) Yet Gideon himself had declared that neither he nor his son would rule over Israel and that only the LORD would be Israel’s ruler (Judges 8:23). Gideon’s youngest son, Jotham, survived Abimelech’s murderous plot and denounces Abimelech’s actions. In satirical fashion, he tells the men of Shechem a parable that warns against selecting someone to be king who has not been chosen by God.
[Jotham said:] “Did you respect Gideon’s memory and treat his family properly, as his actions deserved?”
1Gideon's son Abimelech went to the town of Shechem, where all his mother's relatives lived, and told them2to ask the men of Shechem, “Which would you prefer? To have all seventy of Gideon's sons govern you or to have just one man? Remember that Abimelech is your own flesh and blood.”3His mother's relatives talked to the men of Shechem about this for him, and the men of Shechem decided to follow Abimelech because he was their relative.4They gave him seventy pieces of silver from the temple of Baal-of-the-Covenant, and with this money he hired a bunch of worthless scoundrels to join him.5He went to his father's house at Ophrah, and there on top of a single stone he killed his seventy brothers, Gideon's sons. But Jotham, Gideon's youngest son, hid and was not killed.6Then all the men of Shechem and Bethmillo got together and went to the sacred oak tree at Shechem, where they made Abimelech king.
7When Jotham heard about this, he went and stood on top of Mount Gerizim and shouted out to them, “Listen to me, you men of Shechem, and God may listen to you!8Once upon a time the trees went out to choose a king for themselves. They said to the olive tree, ‘Be our king.’9The olive tree answered, ‘In order to govern you, I would have to stop producing my oil, which is used to honor gods and human beings.’10Then the trees said to the fig tree, ‘You come and be our king.’11But the fig tree answered, ‘In order to govern you, I would have to stop producing my good sweet fruit.’12So the trees then said to the grapevine, ‘You come and be our king.’13But the vine answered, ‘In order to govern you, I would have to stop producing my wine, that makes gods and human beings happy.’14So then all the trees said to the thorn bush, ‘You come and be our king.’15The thorn bush answered, ‘If you really want to make me your king, then come and take shelter in my shade. If you don't, fire will blaze out of my thorny branches and burn up the cedars of Lebanon.’
16“Now then,” Jotham continued, “were you really honest and sincere when you made Abimelech king? Did you respect Gideon's memory and treat his family properly, as his actions deserved?17Remember that my father fought for you. He risked his life to save you from the Midianites.18But today you turned against my father's family. You killed his sons—seventy men on a single stone—and just because Abimelech, his son by his servant woman, is your relative, you have made him king of Shechem.19Now then, if what you did today to Gideon and his family was sincere and honest, then be happy with Abimelech and let him be happy with you.20But if not, may fire blaze out from Abimelech and burn up the men of Shechem and Bethmillo. May fire blaze out from the men of Shechem and Bethmillo and burn Abimelech up.”21Then because he was afraid of his brother Abimelech, Jotham ran away and went to live at Beer.
What prompted Abimelech’s rise to a position of leadership (verses 1-3)? What did Jotham ask the people to remember about Gideon, his father (verse 17)? Reread verses 8-15. In this parable, the olive tree, the fig tree, and the grapevine all provide much needed and useful products. The thorn bush provided some shade in a sunny, dry climate but was often burned for fuel. How do you interpret this parable? What point do you think this parable makes about kingship?
Lord God, order my steps this day and teach me to make wise choices that are in accord with your will. May my words and actions honor and glorify you. Amen.
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Judges 9:22-57: Hostility arises during the time of Abimelech’s leadership.