20 May. Judges 8:29-9:21

20 May.  Abimelech becomes the first king of Israel

“Gideon son of Joash went to his home to live. He had 70 sons of his own, because he had many wives. He had a slave woman who lived in Shechem, and he had a son by her, whom he named Abimelech. So Gideon son of Joash died at a good old age. He was buried in the tomb of Joash, his father, in Ophrah, where the Abiezrites lived.”

“As soon as Gideon died, the people of Israel were again unfaithful to God and followed the Baals. They made Baal-of-the-Agreement their god. The Israelites did not remember the LORD their God, who had saved them from all their enemies living all around them. And they were not kind to the family of Jerub-Baal, also called Gideon, for all the good he had done for Israel.”

“Abimelech son of Gideon went to his uncles in the city of Shechem. He said to his uncles and all of his mother’s family group, ‘Ask the leaders of Shechem, “Is it better for the 70 sons of Gideon to rule over you or for one man to rule? Remember, I am your relative.”’”

“Abimelech’s uncles spoke to all the leaders of Shechem about this. And they decided to follow Abimelech, because they said, ‘He is our relative.’ So the leaders of Shechem gave Abimelech about 70 pieces of silver from the temple of the god Baal-of-the-Agreement. Abimelech used the silver to hire some worthless, reckless men, who followed him wherever he went.”

“He went to Ophrah, the home of his father, and murdered his 70 brothers, the sons of Gideon. He killed them all on one stone. But Gideon’s youngest son, Jotham, hid from Abimelech and escaped. Then all of the leaders of Shechem and Beth Millo gathered beside the great tree standing in Shechem. There they made Abimelech their king.”

“When Jotham heard this, he went and stood on the top of Mount Gerizim. He shouted to the people, ‘Listen to me, you leaders of Shechem, so that God will listen to you! One day the trees decided to appoint a king to rule over them. They said to the olive tree, “You be king over us!”…’”

“'Now, were you completely honest and sincere when you made Abimelech king? Have you been fair to Gideon and his family? Have you treated Gideon as you should? Remember, my father fought for you and risked his life to save you from the power of the Midianites. But now you have turned against my father’s family and have killed his 70 sons on one stone. You have made Abimelech, the son of my father’s slave girl, king over the leaders of Shechem just because he is your relative!’”

“’So then, if you have been honest and sincere to Gideon and his family today, be happy with Abimelech as your king. And may he be happy with you! But if not, may fire come out of Abimelech and completely burn you leaders of Shechem and Beth Millo. And may fire come out of the leaders of Shechem and Beth Millo and burn up Abimelech!’”

“Then Jotham ran away and escaped to the city of Beer. He lived there because he was afraid of his brother Abimelech.”

          (Judges 8:29-9:21)



During the four hundred years of leadership by the ‘Judges’, following the invasion of Canaan in c.1406BC, the Israelites periodically asked for a king to lead them in battle, like the neighbouring Canaanite and Philistine city-states.

After Gideon’s dramatic defeat of the Midianites in c.1208BC, the Israelites pleaded with Gideon to be their king. But Gideon refused, telling the Israelites that the LORD alone would lead them in battle and would be their king during peaceful times (see Judges 8:22-27).

Gideon remained a strong leader for nearly forty years, but his death in c.1170BC created a power vacuum. Gideon had seventy sons by his many wives, but none of them was a natural successor who could gain the support and respect of the people (see Judges 8:28-35).

Gideon also had sons by his concubines, and one of these – Abimelech – took advantage of the disputed succession to gain power. Appealing to the leaders of his mother’s clan at Shechem (modern-day Nablus), he persuaded them to grant him seventy shekels of silver from the Temple of Baal-Berith (‘Baal of the Agreement’) at Shechem (see 9 on the map on 10 May).

Abimelech used this money to hire mercenaries to form a personal bodyguard, then proceeded to Ophrah (modern-day Afula) where he murdered all but one of his seventy brothers.

On returning to Shechem, he persuaded the citizens to crown him as King of Shechem, despite the protestations from Jotham (the only other surviving son of Gideon) who pleaded for an end to Abimelech’s violence from the slopes of Mount Gerizim (see Judges 9:1-21).

The photo (by Someone35) shows the Vale of Shechem and Mount Gerizim from Mount Ebal.

You can read more about Abimelech @ https://www.thebiblejourney.org/biblejourney2/28-the-israelites-face-continuing-opposition/abimelech-becomes-king/

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