Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Abimelech - The 6th Judge with the Asterisk Next to His Name

If you follow sports, you will notice that if a record is broken in a questionable manner, the person's name is listed with an asterisk. For example - think of Ben Johnson who won the 100-meter dash in Seoul in 1988 and broke the World Record, but was later stripped of his medal due to alleged illegal substances in his body.

Abimelech the concubine's son by Gideon has a questionable status as a judge because God did not appoint him as a leader but he persuaded those around him to make him their leader. He took an opportunity that was never meant to be his which invariably led to his crashing and burning at the bitter end. In short, he sought to rule Israel without proper authority. To eliminate any threats to his rule, he methodically murdered all of seventy of his half brothers minus one - Jotham, the youngest. Working through his worthless and reckless relatives in Shechem, he persuaded the people of that area to recognize him as king.

Jotham escaped, went to a mountaintop and told a parable to the people which basically contains a warning against choosing Abimelech as king. After the parable, where Abimelech is likened to a bramble or a twig - Jotham said -
“Now make sure you have acted honorably and in good faith by making Abimelech your king, and that you have done right by Gideon and all of his descendants. Have you treated him with the honor he deserves for all he accomplished?  For he fought for you and risked his life when he rescued you from the Midianites.  But today you have revolted against my father and his descendants, killing his seventy sons on one stone. And you have chosen his slave woman’s son, Abimelech, to be your king just because he is your relative.
“If you have acted honorably and in good faith toward Gideon and his descendants today, then may you find joy in Abimelech, and may he find joy in you.  But if you have not acted in good faith, then may fire come out from Abimelech and devour the leading citizens of Shechem and Beth-millo; and may fire come out from the citizens of Shechem and Beth-millo and devour Abimelech!” Judges 9:16-19

After the telling of this parable - Jotham ran away and lived in a different town out of fear of Abimelech.

Judges 9 details Abimelech's  battles and how he ultimately met his demise. Abimelech reigned three years - then God stepped in, in the form of an evil spirit which created contention between Abimelech and the people he ruled - the Shechemites. This contention was retribution for what he did to his brothers. Judges 9:22-24 The same division he employed, was ultimately used against him; treachery created treachery.

Another group - Gaal and his relatives, were angry that Abimelech was in charge and wanted to get rid of him but one of Abimelech's faithful men - Zebul, made him aware of the plot. Carnage ensued. (A side note: when you read through some of these stories you may be mortified at the amount and manner of bloodshed; you might even wonder how a loving God could allow such violence. But it's no different than what we deal with today. Humans have free will and make choices counter to the nature of God, and we all deal with the fallout of our choices. The war and the fighting provide a situational context.)

Abimelech and his men were able to burn down the tower of Shechem because he provided specific instruction  - and they were in the process of repeating these same actions in Thebez when a woman dropped a millstone - a huge, heavy rock, on his head. This woman was strong and determined to do her part in getting rid of Abimelech.

Abimelech wasn't raised in his father's house; he was the son of the concubine, not a wife so he automatically had a lower social status. It was considered odious (2 Samuel 16:21), a defilement, a reason to lose your birthright (1 Chronicles 5:1). Perhaps Abimelech had internalized some of these feelings and wanted to prove that he was just as good as his father - Gideon and his seventy brothers. Feelings of worthlessness can you lead you down a path that was not meant for you. Better to look inward and acknowledge those feelings than striking out at those who you blame.

Abimelech portrays a negative example of how a leader is to influence others. He led by force, murdered his opposition, and led in such a manner that even his subjects sought to overtake him. In contrast to the positive leadership of his father - Gideon, Abimelech focused on his own personal gain, hurting many in the process. (

Anti-Leadership Traits
  • Abimelech was divisive
  • Abimelech was punitive
  • Abimelech led by force
  • Abimelech was proud - even in death
  • Abimelech was self-focused

Don't be a leader with an asterisk next to your name -  your leadership is questionable, the title wasn't meant for you, you rule by fear, and those you manage would delight in seeing you gone. We are quick to see these traits in our bosses, presidents, executives, superintendents or others - but let's also look at ourselves. You may be influential like Abimelech, but because the position was not meant for you, your tenure may be shortened and a millstone may fall on your head and knock you out of the game (ouch!). Instead, let's continue to trust that God will place us where we need to be and that He will prepare us so that we are effective leaders. 

In this way, God punished Abimelech for the evil he had done against his father by murdering his seventy brothers. God also punished the men of Shechem for all their evil. So the curse of Jotham son of Gideon was fulfilled. Judges 9: 56-57

When the godly are in authority, the people rejoice.But when the wicked are in power, they groan. Proverbs 29:2

Do you see yourself as Abimelech, Jotham, or the woman with the rock? 


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  1. Some of the stories in Judges are quite bloody and make me wonder about the message God intends for us to receive as a result of recording their history. I like what you said about him being an asterisks. Could be and it would definitely be a lesson to learn to not try to take what is not yours by force. God opposes those who oppose Him.

  2. Giggling at your admonition not to be a leader with an asterisk by my name. :) I like the way you think, Nylse. :) "...let's continue to trust that God will place us where we need to be and that He will prepare us so that we are effective leaders." <--- Amen to that. I pray that wherever God has for me is the only place I'll ever desire to be. Don't want God to put my name down in history with an asterisk. :) -- Fun read, Nylse, thanks for sharing. ((hug))

  3. Nylse - such great imagery don't be the leader or person with an asterisk by your name. Sadly, I think there are way to many people who lead from fear, force, and pride. I have learned more lessons on what not to do as a leader from those who had asterisks by their name. tough times and tough lessons to be sure. I appreciate what you shared and your encouragement today. Thanks so much for linking up with #TuneInThursday today.

  4. We just finished studying Judges in my son's homeschool program and I have to say I all but glossed over this story. I will have to go back through and really read. I enjoyed reading through your lesson and it is a great reminder of how we are to trust that God is going to put us where he wants us as long as we remain faithful to him. Thank you for sharing!

  5. Some great study material here! I'd hope that I'm not like Abimelech and that I would be strong enough to do the right thing like the woman with the rock! Never know until I get put in that position though, I guess!

  6. Very interesting story. Strong lessons about the life of Abimelech. I love the asterisk bit and associated traits. Stick more that way. Thanks for sharing.


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