Tonight, as we begin in Judges chapter 9, we will be dealing with one of Gideon's sons, Abimelech. But Abimelech was not a son through one of the many wives that Gideon had, but through his concubine. And a concubine was nothing more than someone that you lived with and took care, but was not your wife. They, in a sense, were living together. Which probably made his half-brothers think of him as not part of the family. Again, after Gideon dies, the people fall right back into idolatry and forsake the Lord who delivered them. And that leads us into Judges chapter 9, as we will see how wicked this man Abimelech is.
1. We see Abimelech go to his family, on his mothers side, down in Shechem. And there he gives them a proposition, and of course slants the proposition to make him look good. He says to them, "Which would you rather have rule over you, the 70 sons of Gideon, or Me? And don't forget, I am your relative and they are not!" Those men were not going to side with the 70 sons of Gideon, they were not even family. They knew that they would be take care of much better by Abimelech, since he was a blood family member, they thought! VERSES 3-6 1. His brothers agree to Abimelech's plan and they pay him 70 shekels to take care of Gideon's sons, to destroy them. And he hires these worthless guys to help carry out this deed. You can always find people like this who will do anything for money. And Abimelech wipes out all of Gideon's sons except for Jotham, who hid himself from them.
2. Why would Abimelech do this horrible deed to his own half-brothers? The same reason people do it today, for their own personal gain. Proverbs 29:2 says, "When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice, but when the wicked man rules, the people groan." You see, the people will only go as far as their leaders will go. If they are righteous, then that is what the people will be like. If they are wicked, then that is how the people will respond. Abimelech was evil, and we will see the people be just like him in their actions.
3. Isaiah 59:7 speaks of the actions of evil people. We read "Their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed innocent blood; their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity; wasting and destruction are in their paths."
4. Shechem is an interesting place. It is where Abraham was told by God that his descendents would inherit the land of Canaan. It was the area where Jacob told his family to put away their idols. And if you remember from our study in Joshua, it was the place the children of Israel gathered to hear the blessings from Mount Gerizim and the cursings from Mount Ebal. But it is the place now where Abimelech is made king, something his father refused, as the people wanted to make him king, and his descendents. A kind of perpetual kingship from Gideon's linage. But Gideon told them "I will not rule over you, nor shall my son rule over you; the LORD shall rule over you." Judges 8:23. Gideon recognized that the Lord was the only true leader, but now Abimelech attempts to usurp that rule, and led the people as their king.
1. IT is about a 20 minute run up to the top of this 800 foot slope of Mount Gerizim. And this Mount, which was used to pronounce the blessings upon Israel for their obedience to the Lord, was now going to echo forth a curse in the form of a parable, by Jotham, the only son who escaped death at the hands of Abimelech. And Jotham is going to rebuke the people for making Abimelech their king, and show them what a foolish choice they made.
1. The trees spoke of the people, and they were looking for a king to rule over them. They went to the olive tree, the fig tree and the vine, but they all refused. They all produced fruit and they represented Gideon and his sons. And we said that Gideon refused to be king, and also his sons, just as these trees and vine also refused. So all that was left was this bramble, a worthless piece of tumble weed that was good for nothing basically. It was only used to start fires. It produced no fruit let alone trying to take shade under it, that was a joke. And this is what the people chose as their king - the bramble - Abimelech.
2. Jesus expounds on that point in Matthew chapter 7. And He is saying that if you don't produce fruit, then you are useless, and good only to burn in the fire. As Christians, fruit is naturally produced in our lives, but for those that are not saved, it is only rotten fruit, good for nothing.
1. Jotham lets the people have it. He tells them that his father fought for them and delivered them out of the hands of their enemy. This man Gideon, who you were going to make king, you are now treating disrespectfully by allowing the killer of his sons to be king over you. Thus, if you are acting in truth and sincerity towards my family, then you have nothing to fear. But if you are not, judgment is coming upon you and your city!
2. After this rebuke and curse upon the people of Shechem, and Abimelech, he high tails it away, having at least a 20 minute head start on them if they wanted to come after him, and he goes into hiding in Beer.
1. The words of Jotham had no impact upon the people. And so God will deal with them. We now see strife between the people of Shechem and Abimelech. And Abimelech was going to reap what he had sown, and judgment was not only going to fall upon him, but the people of Shechem also.
1. These guys were hiding along the trade routes, and as these caravans and the other travelers would come by, they would rob them. This not only reduced the travel on these roads but it wasalso taking money out of the kings pocket. You see, these people would pay a tax, a kind of toll, for using these roads. With these raiders around, the king was losing this tax and it was of course showing great dishonor to the king. Just the thing the men of Shechem wanted to do.
1. The grape harvest was in June/July, and this guy Gaal was a big talker. They were drinking and having a good old time. And as the wine caused them to let their defenses down, he began to speak what was in his heart. And Gaal said, "Why should we serve Abimelech?" If you remember from Genesis chapter 34, and how Simeon and Levi killed Hamor and his son Shechem, because he wanted to marry their sister, Dinah. Thus, Gaal is saying "Why should they serve the children of Israel, for they murdered our family! Serve me, a descendent of Hamor." You see, if he was king, he would destroy Abimelech. And you can just imagine how Gaal was acting. "Let me at him, I'll rip him to pieces. Come and get me if you can Abimelech. Or are you scared?" Big talk now, but trouble is coming quickly upon Gaal for his big mouth.
1. Zebul warns Abimelech of what Gaal is doing, that he is trying to mobilize men to side with him. Thus, Zebul tells Abimelech to set-up an ambush against Gaal. To take him by surprise as he was going to do to you.
1. It is almost comical what Zebul does here. Gaal tells him that it looks like people are coming down from the mountains, and Zebul basically says you are seeing things, it is only shadows that you see. But Zebul knew exactly what was coming down. He lets Gaal think he is seeing things until Abimelech was right upon him. And notice what Zebul now says to Gaal!
1. Zebul says "Ok big shot, you think you are so tough, here comes Abimelech, lets see how tough you really are hot shot!" And Gaal and his men are defeated and he is exiled from Shechem.
1. Abimelech already defeated Gaal, but he thought the whole city was against him. On the other hand the Shechemites felt the battle was over, and they were not going to fight. That is why they were going out to their fields to work. But fear is a hard thing to let go and Abimelech did not want another revolt to occur, so he destroys them. And he sows salt on the land to make the land unfit for growing crops.
1. Word spread quickly of what Abimelech had done and many go and take refuge in the tower of their god. Abimelech catches wind of where they are and burns 1,000 men and women in this tower, just as Jotham had said earlier would happen. So much for that brotherly love between Abimelech and the people of Shechem.
1. Thebez was about 10 miles northeast of Shechem, and Abimelech was going to do to them, what he did in Shechem. The people again hid themselves in a tower for safety, and Abimelech was once again going to burn the tower down.
1. The large millstone could weigh some 400 pounds upward to 1 ton. Now I can't see this woman tossing a 400 pound millstone down upon Abimelech's head. But the smaller millstones, some 8 to 10 inches long, was what she most likely tossed down upon his head. And now the fear is that he is going to die at the hands of a woman, so he asks his armor-bearer to slay him, and he does. But this is not forgotten, for during the time of David, Abimelech is remembered not for his great strength, but that he died at the hands of a woman. (II Samuel 11:21).
1. God raises up Tola, who judges Israel for 23 years in the mountain area of Ephraim.
1. Jair is the next Judge, who lives on the east side of the Jordan River in the area of Gilead, in the tribe of Manasseh. And Jair was a wealthy man as we see that he was able to give his 30 sons, 30 donkeys to ride. During Jair's time, the land had rest for 22 years.
1. Israel turns into a equal opportunity god worshiper. They accept any and all gods, except the true and living God! So God raises up the Ammonites who oppress Israel on the east side of the Jordan River, and they overflow with this oppression to the west side of the Jordan River, as we will see the Philistines oppress them when we get to the story of Samson.
1. In the earlier chapters we did not see them repent of their sins, but cry out because of the oppression they were in. But here we see them repent of two sins - forsaking the Lord andserving these foreign gods. For 18 years they were oppressed but now they cry out to God to deliver them.
1. God re-caps for them how He had delivered them from the hands of their enemies, who serve these so-called gods. And you have to understand the mentality of the enemy. The gods they served where, in a sense, local gods. Thus, when you would go to battle and you would defeat your opponent, you would come to the conclusion that your god is stronger than their god! And God is saying to the children of Israel that no enemy, no god is able to stand against Him, for He has delivered them from all their enemies!
2. And God tells them if these other gods which you are now serving are so strong and powerful, then let them deliver you from your trouble. You see, these gods appealed to their flesh, it satisfied those desires. But they were totally ineffective in times of trouble. These gods of pleasure were of no help. We see that today, as people serve the gods of pleasure, power and wealth. But in times of trouble, can they truly deliver you? No way! It is only the living God that can heal you both physically and spiritually. He is the fountain of living water.
1. Here we not only see them repent of their sin, but it leads to action - they put away the foreign gods. And notice God's mercy and grace that he extends towards them and towards us over and over again. We read in Nehemiah 9:31, "Nevertheless in Your great mercy You did not utterly consume them nor forsake them; for You are God, gracious and merciful." If someone does something wrong to us, man, they are off our Christmas list! But we look for God's grace and mercy in our own life, as we mess up so many times, and we rejoice that it is there for us. Now if God treats us in that way, how come we are so hard on people and unforgiving?
1. Again, we see no leader to led them in battle.
1. Here we get some background information on our next Judge, Jephthah. His father Gilead married and had many sons. But he also got involved with a harlot and she conceived and bore him a son, Jephthah. First of all getting involved with a harlot was wrong, but to his credit he raises up this child as his own.
2. Even though Gilead treated him as a son, his other sons looked down upon him. And as they got older they saw him as a threat to their inheritance. Thus they drive him out of the family.
1. After being thrown out of his family, he flee's to Tob and bands together with a group of outlaws. And during this time, word spreads of his abilities and strengths.
1. Israel is in trouble again and now they are going to have to swallow their pride and ask Jephthah, whom they threw out, to come back and be their commander. And Jephthah says "Hey, you threw me out, and now, because you are in trouble, you want me to help." He wanted to be sure this is what they wanted, and they agree to make him their leader. 2. Now the city of Tob was located in Syria, and they were heavily into idolatry. Because of this, many feel that Jephthah was influenced by this. The only problem is that when he speaks, he speaks of the Lord, and he is well aware of Israel's history and God's involvement with their victories. Also, in Hebrews 11:32 he is listed in that great hall of faith with men like David and Samuel and the many others. Keep this in mind as we move through this section and then as we come to the famous and foolish vow of Jephthah.
1. Notice the diplomacy of Jephthah - he doesn't just go in there and destroy them. He tries to reason with them. You see, they were descendants of Israel, Moab and Ammon came from Lot and his relationship with his 2 daughters. Edom, which is Esau, was the son of Isaac. But neither showed kindness to Israel when they entered the land, for they just wanted to pass through their territory, but Edom and Moab would not let them. (The Arnon River made the southern boarder of Ammon and flowed into the Dead Sea. The Jabbok River was the northern boundary of Ammon and it flowed into the Jordan River, on the east side of the Jordan River.).
1. First of all the land belonged to the Lord, and He took it from Sihon, king of the Amorites, and gave it to Israel. VERSES 24-25 1. Jephthah wants them to be sure of what they are doing. You take what your god has given you, and we will take what our God has given us. If you want what our God has given us, make sure your god is stronger!
1. This is a good point that Jephthah makes. For 300 years Israel has been in the land, and now they are complaining. Why did you wait so long? If you had a claim on this land you should have made it along time ago!
1. They should have heeded the words of Jephthah, but they did not listen to his counsel and they will pay for it as we shall see.
1. Before we look at what this vow was all about, notice that the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah, and he defeats the people of Ammon. God gave him the victory, but Jephthah, before he goes into battle, makes this foolish vow, something that God never asked him to do.
2. Now there is much controversy over this vow. Did Jephthah actually offer his daughter as a human sacrifice to the Lord, a burnt offering? And understand, where he grewup, this kind of sacrifice was common. Or did something else take place here? First of all you can make a good argument for both cases, but I feel that after looking at the character of this man, his understanding of the Law, that he did not offer his daughter as a human sacrifice to the Lord. You may disagree, and that is ok, but listen carefully to the text and see what the Lord shows you.
3. Jephthah's vow is this, "Whatever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the people of Ammon, shall surely be the LORD'S, and (or) I will offer it up as a burnt offering." Judges 11:31. First of all he knew the Scriptures, and he knew that human sacrifice was forbidden by God. He knew the history of Israel and what God required of them. He speaks freely of the Lord and he was Spirit-filled. Now all that does not mean he couldn't stumble and fall into this sin, but I don't think that he did.
4. The word "and" in verse 31, WAW in the Hebrew, can be translated "or." And if that is the case, it does change the meaning of this vow. It would read "Whatever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me...Shall surely be the LORD'S, or I will offer it up as a burnt offering." Jephthah is saying that if a person comes out, they are to be dedicated unto the Lord, to serve Him. If an animal comes out, it would be offered as a burnt offering to the Lord.
5. You see, if he was going to offer his daughter as a burnt offering, he would have to take her to Shiloh, and have a priest do it. First of all, if the people got wind of it, they most likely would stop him, but even if they didn't I can't believe that a priest would sacrifice this girl.
6. Now as he saw his daughter come out, he recognized what this would cost him, for his daughter was now going to spend the rest of her life in service to the Lord. She would not marry, nor have any children, which was a great sacrifice, not only depriving her of children but also Jephthah of having grandchildren. And if she where going to be killed, why would she bewail her virginity instead of her death? You see, she was willing to serve the Lord day and night, a life of sacrifice unto Him. She, in a sense, was married to the Lord. And we do see women serving in this capacity in Exodus 38:8, I Samuel 2:22 and Luke 2:36-39.
7. And in verse 39 we read that "He carried our his vow with her which he had vowed." You see, it never says that he killed her and if he did the daughters of Israel would not "celebrate" this time, but would lament. But they celebrate the dedication and faithfulness of this woman as she sacrifices everything to serve the Lord.
8. I don't believe that God wants us to make vows to Him, for many times they are foolish or they become a burden. But understand if you do, that He does expect you to go through with it. In Ecclesiastes we read "When you make a vow to God, do not delay to pay it; for He has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you have vowed. It is better not to vow than to vow and not to pay." Ecclesiastes 5:4-5. We are under no law that says we must make a vow, just love the Lord with all your heart, soul and mind! If you get that right, everything else will fall into place.
1. Again we see the men of Ephraim show-up after the battle is over and complain that they were not asked to assist their brethren in this fight. They pulled this with Gideon, but they were not going to get away with it this time, for Jephthah deals with them much more harshly than Gideon did.
1. Jephthah lets them have it. He asked them for help and they refused. Now after the work is done, the battle is over, they say "Why didn't you let us know, we would have helped you." They had their chance and they did not respond. Now God has defeated the enemy without them.
1. Jephthah does battle with Ephraim for their words and their lack of action in assisting them. And they set a group of men at the fords of the Jordan River, that is those areas in which you could cross the Jordan, and would catch any enemy that was trying to escape to safety across the Jordan. They where able to tell who was the enemy by getting them to say the word SHIBBOLETH. If they could not pronounce it correctly, they were captured. It is kind of like TOMATO and TAMATO or CREEK OR CRICK.
1. Jephthah only Judged Israel for 6 years.
1. Ibzan Judged Israel for 7 years in the area slightly northwest of the Dead Sea on the west side of the Jordan River.
1. Elon Judged Israel for 10 years in the area of Zebulun, in the north.
1. Abdon Judged Israel for 8 years in the area of Ephraim, and he too was a wealthy man, as was evident by the 70 donkeys he gave to his sons and grandsons.
2. We have covered now 11 of the 12 Judges in the book of Judges.
1. OTHNIEL 2. EHUD 3. SHAMGAR
4. DEBORAH 5. GIDEON 6. TOLA
7. JAIR 8. JEPHTHAH 9. IBZAN
10. ELON 11. ABDON
And next week we will look at Samson, the 12th and last Judge in the book of Judges.