Abimelech attaching Shechem, from google image.
After the Israelite Judge Gideon defeated the Midian army, he could have become king; however, Gideon refused. He said that neither he nor his sons would rule over the Israelites, God would rule over them. During Gideon’s life time, Israel was at peace for a period of 40 years. The Israelites worshiped God. Gideon lived at Orphah in the tribal lands of Manassah. He had 70 sons by his wives and one son by a concubine. The concubine’s son was named Abimelech which means, “My father is king.” Abimelech lived in Shechem with his mother’s people.
After Gideon died, Abimelech and a band of adventurers killed all but Gideon’s youngest son Jotham. On the day Abimelech was declared king, Jotham cursed Abimelech and the men of Shechem and Beth Millo who supported him. The nature of the curse was that if they acted honorable in declaring Abimelech king and if they acted fairly toward Gideon and his family, than he wished them joy with Abimelech’s kingship; but if they did not, then may Abimelech and the citizens of Shechem and Beth Millo consume each other with fire. After giving the curse Jotham fled to another country because he feared Abimelech.
After three years of Abimelech’s kingship, an evil spirit came between Abimelech and the men of Shechem. In the meantime, a man named Gaal moved into Shechem; many people started to follow him. While Gaal and his followers were eating and drinking, they cursed King Abimelech. Hearing of their disrespect, Abimelech attacked Gaal and Shechem. After a fierce battle, Abimelech captured Shechem and burned its tower with the over 1000 men and women in it. He scattered salt on the ground so that the soil around Shechem would no longer grow farm and garden plants.
Next King Abimelech went to Thebez and captured it. As he attacked the Thebez strong tower, a woman dropped a millstone that cracked Abimelech’s skull. Because he did not want a woman to have credit for killing him, Abimelech begged his servant to kill him. When Abimelech’s followers saw that he was dead, they went home; thus, ended the short reign of the first king of Israel.
Chapter 9 of Judges contains 57 riveting verses of the rise and fall of the first king crowned by Israelites in the Promised Land. The coronation occurred at the great oak tree at the pillar in Shechem; the site where Joshua made a covenant with God for the Israelites and recorded decrees and laws for them in the Book of the Law of God (Joshua 24:25-26). In the 250 years between Joshua’s (c. 1375 B.C.) and Gideon’s (1122 B.C.) death, the Israelites moved from belief that God was their king to establishing an earthly king.
King Abimelech was a disaster, not because he was the son of a concubine, but because the foundation of his kingship was the murder of his 70 brothers. His followers were paid adventurers. The men of Shechem gave Abimelech money to pay the adventurers from the temple to Baal-Berith, an idol who was worshiped in the shape of a fly. In reality, how could a king trust these types of followers and how could a citizen trust a king who mercilessly slaughtered his brothers?
The curse of Jotham, son of Gideon, came true. A fire came out of Abimelech when he burned the tower of Shechem and killed about 1,000 men and women inside of it. When Abimelech attempted to set fire to the tower of Thebez, Abimelech was killed by a millstone dropped by a woman on the tower wall. He was killed by a citizen that he ruled.
Conclusion: The Bible ended the story of King Abimelech by saying that God repaid the wickedness of Abimelech for his brothers’ murders. Also, God made the men of Shechem pay for their wickedness.
Copyright: Carolyn A. Roth 3/14.