A series in Judges: Abimelech

A series in Judges: Abimelech

So far in our study of the judges, we have seen mostly good judges who act with God’s glory in mind. Abimelech is controversially considered the sixth judge in the book of Judges. 

Many people claim he does not even deserve the title of judge because of his reckless dishonorable actions. Regardless, his story is in the Bible, therefore we can glean a lesson from it as we survey his shortcomings and mistakes. 

Gideon, who is also known as Jerubbaal, has had over 70 sons with various women. One 

of these sons, Abimelech, wants security of the throne to rule Israel and kills every one of his brothers except Jotham, his youngest brother, who escapes. 

Abimelech manipulates the city elders, the men of Shechem, into electing him as their king. Shortly afterward, Jotham warns these men of their grave mistake. 

For three years, Abimelech rules over the people, until the Lord begins to turn the leaders against Abimelech. Judges 6:23-24 says, “And God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the leaders of Shechem, and the leaders of Shechem dealt treacherously with Abimelech, that the violence done to the seventy sons of Jerubbaal might come, and their blood be laid on Abimelech their brother, who killed them, and on the men of Shechem, who strengthened his hands to kill his brothers.”

God stirs up animosity between Abimelech and the leaders who crowned him to accomplish his purposes of dethroning Abimelech. 

These leaders of Shechem begin to follow a new leader named Gaal. Abimelech uncovers Gaal’s plot to overthrow his kingdom, and ambushes Gaal during the night. Abimelech is successful in his ambush and destroys Gaal, his soldiers and their city. 

Abimelech continues his murderous rampage on the next city, where he approaches a strong tower within the city. As he nears the tower to set it on fire, a woman throws a millstone out of the tower and onto Abimilech’s head, crushing his skull. 

In his last few moments of life, Abimelech commands his armor-bearer to draw his own sword and kill Abimelech so that people don’t believe that he was defeated by a woman. 

Judges 9:57 sums up the results of the story by saying: “ And God also made all the evil of the men of Shechem return on their heads, and upon them came the curse of Jotham the son of Jerubbaal.”  

The curse is that those who appoint unqualified and reckless leaders to rule over them will one day be destroyed by those very same leaders. 

The story of Abimelech and the men of Shechem is a representation of the consequences of electing under-qualified people into places and positions of leadership. Good leadership is outlined in the Bible, in Jesus’ life specifically, and when we veer from that, the consequences are utterly detrimental to us and even future generations. 


  • Audrey Johnson

    Audrey is a sophomore majoring in elementary education. She is the religion section editor and a co-host of Tower Radio's podcast 'our high tops, His steps'.

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