The sad story of Judges continues after Gideon dies, with the sad story of his children. Gideon’s faithfulness and courage seems to have imprinted only a few, for some reason. I would hope to have more of a lasting impact after having done so much for a people. He sank good roots into his people, but the produce was lacking when it came to harvest.
And Abimelech the son of Jerubbaal went to Shechem to his mother’s relatives, and spoke to them and to the whole clan of the household of his mother’s father, saying, “Speak, now, in the hearing of all the leaders of Shechem, ‘Which is better for you, that seventy men, all the sons of Jerubbaal, rule over you, or that one man rule over you?’ Also, remember that I am your bone and your flesh.” And his mother’s relatives spoke all these words on his behalf in the hearing of all the leaders of Shechem; and they were inclined to follow Abimelech, for they said, “He is our relative.” They gave him seventy pieces of silver from the house of Baal-berith with which Abimelech hired worthless and reckless fellows, and they followed him. Then he went to his father’s house at Ophrah and killed his brothers the sons of Jerubbaal, seventy men, on one stone. But Jotham the youngest son of Jerubbaal was left, for he hid himself. (Judges 9:1-5 NASB)
Abimelech is the son of Gideon’s concubine. Gideon has “many” wives who produce 70 sons for him, and yet still feels the need for a concubine in Shechem. It’s characteristics like this that make Gideon a difficult character to understand completely. He is fearful, then fearless. God changes his heart. But then makes an item used in worship that is eventually worshiped. And it becomes a trap for he and his family. He’s not a flat, simple, Bible character. He’s complex and perplexing. And he has one bad son.
For whatever reason, Abimelech has it in for his brothers. He lies about them, they don’t want to rule, they’re fine being farmers (I’ll explain that tomorrow, maybe). This lie gets his relatives to go to the leaders of Shechem on his behalf, who accept his bid for leadership simply because they’re related. The whole people associated with this city seem bizarre and creepily ridiculous, dangerously so.
What does it take for a whole people to wander so far from their worship of their Creator and Savior? Not as much as we might think. Consider this: the name of their pagan god is “Baal-Berith”, but in Hebrew that means, “lord of the covenant”. Isn’t that who Yahweh is? It’s very possible the people think they are worshiping their Creator and Savior. But in reality, they have kept only a vestige of the name of God. The object of their worship is very different.
In many ways, we have wandered away from our Master. It’s not difficult to begin down that slippery slope where we project our desired qualities onto Who we worship. He begins to take on the characteristics of our politically correct views. Or, He takes on the characteristics we hold vehemently against politically correct views. Either way, suddenly God is on our side. Scripture isn’t politically correct, but neither is it against all politically correct views. So, when will we join God’s side?
Looking more closely at the world around us than we do at the face of Jesus, as viewed through Scripture, condemns us to the ridiculousness of the leaders of Shechem. They listened to a person, and weighed their decisions on family relation rather than actual character. People will always fail us. We tend toward people, because, in our minds, God has failed us. And, in such thinking, we have stopped asking the question, “have we failed God?”. Judges, and Shechem in particular, is about us.
This cur-of-a-human, Abimelech, executes his seventy brothers, seventy men on one stone. He offers them as a human sacrifice. The blood of his brothers soaked the ground, but not the ground of his home town. His home town stood ready to anoint him king. They chose a king; one hiring characterless men, doing despicable things, and telling groundless lies. How does a city, once a bastion of faith in the midst of a pagan culture, get so low that they can make such thoroughly godless decisions?
Trading the Creator Who Is for one of our own making doesn’t happen overnight. But it does happen. How do we avoid the path of Shechem? How do we keep the name on the sign, and also the Person we worship? It takes commitment. It takes single-minded determination to accept that the Scriptures are about God’s perspective of us, not others. Look at Philippians 3. We like chapter 2, and we love chapter 4, but it’s the determination to follow the path Paul describes in chapter 3 that ensures we don’t become Shechem.
That’s my view through this knothole. What do you see of God through yours?