Daily Thought for: 20th March
Judges 9. 1-57
The history of Abimelech stands as a solemn warning to all those who, without
a divine call, would usurp leadership over the people of God. Gideon, mighty
man though he was, left a sad heritage: an ephod that became a snare to
the nation, Judg. 8. 27, and a son, born of a concubine in Shechem, who
would bring disaster upon his people. That a man of Gideons stature who
had refused kingship and human succession, Judg. 8. 23, should give his
son the name Abimelech (a Philistine name meaning whose father is king)
is startling. Encouraged in an unholy ambition by his name, embittered
by the despised status of his mother and animated by jealousy of his seventy
half-brothers Abimelech intrigues, bribes and murders to become king. Leadership
amongst the people of God in any age is conferred by the Holy Spirit. Paul
put this clearly to the elders from the Ephesian church, Take heed . . .
unto yourselves and to all the flock over which the Holy Ghost hath made
you overseers, Acts 20. 28.
The appeal of Abimelech to the men of Shechem on the grounds of natural ties and self-interest found a ready response. The unusual word used for men is the word baalim meaning lords. They took character from their master Baal-berith (lord of the covenant). This idol with its cult centre in Shechem had displaced Jehovah in the affections of His people so they accepted this false leader; one who would bring disaster upon them. God allowed them Abimelech, not as a deliverer but as a punitive measure, richly merited!
The story of the Judges is a record of God taking up weak things to deliver His repentant people from invaders. The weakness of the agent shows the power of God as He takes up a left-handed man, an ox-goad, a tent peg or a jaw-bone of an ass. Abimelechs story stands in total contrasthe effects no deliverance. In fact God had to deliver His people from this murderous usurper by the use of a common household itema millstone. The lesson is underlined in the final verses; Thus . . . the wickedness of Abimelech and all the evil of the men of Shechem did God render upon their heads. His leadership was a divine judgment upon a rebellious people.