Abimelech, son of Gideon, goes to his hometown of Shechem and convinces his mom’s family that he ought to be king of Israel. The only people standing in his way are his 70 brothers. He gathers campaign contributions from the men of Shechem and hires “worthless and reckless, which followed him” (9:4). Abimelech goes to his father’s house and massacres his 70 brothers, but one brother escapes! Jotham, the youngest, hides himself and avoids the slaughter. With his brothers out of the picture, Abimelech is made king of Israel. When Jotham hears about this, he goes and stands atop a mountain, where the men of Shechem can hear him. He tells them a story (9:8-15), and then gives the interpretation of his story: You men of Shechem have destroyed Gideon’s family, even after all he did for you. Abimelech is not the rightful king, and a fire will come out from him to destroy you (9:16-20). After several years (and a few interesting twists and turns) Jotham’s prediction comes to pass as Abimelech destroys Shechem and all of its people. Abimelech then attacks the neighboring city of Thebez. The survivors shut themselves in a tall tower. As Abimelech prepares to burn the tower, a woman drops a heavy stone onto his head, and his skull is crushed. He knows he is about to die, but he can’t bear the embarrassment of being killed by a woman, so he has his servant stab him. Chapter 11 has the story of Jephthah and how he sacrificed his daughter in response to a vow that he made to God. I’m out of space, so got to go.
Judges 9:54 (ESV)
Then he called quickly to the young man his armor-bearer and said to him, “Draw your sword and kill me, lest they say of me, ‘A woman killed him.’” And his young man thrust him through, and he died.
Here Abimelech had this stone dropped on his head, crushing his skull, and he had seen that a woman was the one who had dropped it. When he found himself ready to breathe his last breath, nothing troubled him more than it would be said that a woman had killed him. There was no concern about what might now happen to his precious soul in eternity. There was no prayer to God for his mercy. The man was dying, but his pride was alive and strong. Wow! How strong is the pride of mankind!
These chapters clearly show that God is a God of Justice. God works out His justice according to His plan and His timing. It may have taken some time, but ultimately God punished the wickedness of Abimelech, and of the men of Shechem (for making him king and ignoring the slaughter of his brothers). This was a good reminder for me that though wickedness may prosper awhile, it will not prosper always.
This reading has given me a better perspective on seeking justice. Jotham had every right (at least in my worldly eyes) to seek vengeance/justice for the wrongful killing of his brothers. Instead, he delivers a prophetic message to the people of Shechem and then fades away, letting God bring justice in His own time. While I do believe that God has used, and uses people of faith to seek justice (righting wrongs within our society), I need to do so according to His will and not my own. Too often our views of justice, and our reasons for seeking it, are distorted by our own experiences and our own worldly ambitions. I need to put my full faith in God and make sure that I am humbly following His plan and direction for my life.
I am so grateful for God’s plan of justice in this world. It allows a prideful sinner like me, who often has as much blackness in my heart as the worst sinner, to receive His forgiveness and His grace. His justice, which requires blood for blood, is available to me and to all of humanity through the shed blood and sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The only action that I have to take is to humble myself under his Lordship each day and authentically follow the Way of Christ.