Judges 9:1-21

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, September 26, 2016 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

Today’s passage of Judges 9:1-21 is a long one, but I encourage you to read it here before continuing on with this post.

The story in this passage revolves around Abimelech, who as we saw last week was one of Gideon’s 70 sons from his various wives and concubines. Abimelech was born of a concubine (who is lesser status than a wife) who still lived under her father’s household in Shechem. Interestingly, Abimelech’s name literally means “my father is king” (in Hebrew, “ab” means father, the “i” means my, and “melech” means king). Gideon was not the king, although the people wanted him to be after his victory over the Midianites. Perhaps Abimelech’s mother the concubine wanted to honor Gideon by naming their son Abimelech; we don’t have that detail recorded in Scripture.

Abimelech had 69 half brothers, and he was likely shunned by many of them because his mother was a lowly concubine, not even a full-fledged wife. He appeals to his brothers to get more prestige and recognition from them. Abimelech makes the logical argument that it’d be better for one man to rule over the people instead of 70. I’ve been involved in projects with multiple leaders, and I can agree that such a situation never works out well. Abimelech appeals to the people of Shechem to make him their leader. The city of Shechem was on an important trade route, so it was a prominent city in the region. It was founded by the Canaanites, and it’s likely that the people maintained a link with them.

Abimelech is worried that the people will choose another of his brothers instead of him, so he gets rid of the competition. He hires people to kill all of his half brothers except for the youngest, Jotham (verse 5). The people of Shechem apparently don’t care that Abimelech is essentially a murderer, so they make him their king (verse 6)!

Jotham knows Abimelech’s true character, so he’s compelled to warn the people about the person they just put in charge. He uses a fable to explain Abimelech’s true character. This is the same literary technique that Jesus uses with His parables in the Gospels.

In Jotham’s fable (verses 8-15), he uses the imagery of trees and plants. First the trees want the olive tree to be king. It was a very valuable tree, with its oil being used for lamps and its olives for food and medicine. But the olive tree had important functions, so it declined to be king. Next the fig tree was nominated. Figs were a key crop, however, so it too declined. Third, the grape vine was suggested. But its vines are good for wine, so the vine also declines being king. Finally there’s the thorn bush. It’s really not good for anything, so since it’s not doing anything, it might as well be king, right?

Even though Jotham’s point seems pretty clear, in verses 16-20 he provides an explanation. Gideon was the olive tree, and Abimelech is the thorn bush. It’s not wise to make someone your king just because they have the time and motivation to do it; they should really be a qualified leader. But since the people seemed to like Abimelech, after calling them out like this, Jotham fled the area.

So how does this apply to us? Here in the United States, the election drama is heating up. We are preparing to choose a new leader for our country. Who is an olive tree? Who is a thorn bush? Take a look at the political candidates and pray about who God would have lead this country of ours for the next 4 years.

This also applies in the non-political realms of our lives. Everyone is a leader in some way, whether you have an official leadership title and position or not. You may be a leader in your household. You may be a leader for your friends at school. You may be a leader to a younger sibling. We are all leading someone, so what kind of leader are you? Are you cruel and ruthless like Abimelech, or are you following God’s ways and imitating Him in your leadership?

Examine your life and the leaders in it, and pray to God to help you make wise choices.

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