Abimelech is a figure from the Bible that plays an interesting role in the Book of Judges. He is a very controversial figure who is described as a villainous character. This is the son of Gideon, a great judge and hero as we’ve discovered in previous study.
The new king sets out on a mission to rule his city-state of Shechem, and in doing so, he becomes a powerful leader and a symbol of justice for the people of Shechem.
In this Bible study lesson featuring Judges 9:7-24, we will explore Abimelech’s story in detail, and examine how his actions have been interpreted over the centuries, and what they can teach us today.
Uncovering the History of Abimelech, the Worthless King
Who do you know in politics who is absolutely worthless? Hold on! Don’t name names right now.
Today’s story is about Jotham’s parable of the trees and the anointing of Abimelech, a worthless king. The Bible uses parables like this one to teach moral and spiritual lessons through short, simple stories.
As we learn in Judges, this king killed all who stood in his way and had nothing to offer the people he led.
The Parable of the Trees – A Comparison
Now when they told Jotham, he went and stood on the top of Mount Gerizim, and lifted his voice and called out.
Thus he said to them, “Listen to me, O men of Shechem, that God may listen to you.
Once the trees went forth to anoint a king over them, and they said to the olive tree, ‘Reign over us!’
But the olive tree said to them, ‘Shall I leave my fatness with which God and men are honored, and go to wave over the trees?’
Then the trees said to the fig tree, ‘You come, reign over us!’
But the fig tree said to them, ‘Shall I leave my sweetness and my good fruit, and go to wave over the trees?’
Then the trees said to the vine, ‘You come, reign over us!’
But the vine said to them, ‘Shall I leave my new wine, which cheers God and men, and go to wave over the trees?’
Finally all the trees said to the bramble, ‘You come, reign over us!’
The bramble said to the trees, ‘If in truth you are anointing me as king over you, come and take refuge in my shade; but if not, may fire come out from the bramble and consume the cedars of Lebanon.’ – Judges 9:7-15 NASB
Jotham’s Speech to Shechem
In contrast to God’s wishes, Abimelech was the son of Gideon and appointed king of Shechem.
In response to hearing the choice for the new king, Jotham spoke his parable of the trees from high on the mountain (7-15).
Parable of the Tree: Its Meaning
Obviously, the trees and vines were too busy producing good fruit to worry about power over others.
But, the worthless bramble was more than happy to take charge since it had nothing to lose and nothing to offer. As the parable illustrates, bramble eventually chokes out other plants and destroys them.
Which Brings Us to Abimelech
No doubt, Abimelech was a terrible choice as monarch. He was also a worthless person who hired shiftless undesirables to help carry out his plans. As a result, his rule was a disaster for the country and his legacy remains one of the worst in history.
Nothing worthwhile comes from electing an evil person to power. For example, Abimelech’s reign was characterized by murder and chaos, as he had his own brothers killed to secure his position. And then, he waged war against the other tribes of Israel.
Abimelech’s worship of idols and forgetting everything Gideon had accomplished would lead to yet another catastrophe for Israel.
As a result of his disobedience, Abimelech lasted only three years as king.
Why Did God Take So Long?
First of all, God works in His own way and at His own pace.
Before hastily judging God, we might want to think about our own lives. What if He decided to punish us right away?
It is easy to want quick justice for others, but do we want it for ourselves? I think it is better to rely on the forgiveness Christ provides than to expect quick justice from others.
Love in Christ
If you would like to discover more about the love and life-changing experience of Jesus Christ, please take a moment to read John 3:16 here.
- Read chapter nine of Judges in its entirety here.