Once, there was a judge in Israel named Gideon. He has an exciting war-story in which he defeats an army with only jars and trumpets and torches and faith, but that’s another story for another day. Gideon’s good. I want to tell you a bad story.
Speaking of bad, he had a son named Abimelech. This guy was drunk on power and blood, and would do anything to get more.
Speaking of more, Abimelech had SEVENTY brothers. Yeah, you heard right. Seven oh. Seventy. That means that Gideon was a rather prolific spreader of seeds. He had wives from all over, or…I’m sure ‘wives’ is a generous word for what they were. Anyways, Gideon had made a foray into Shechem at one time in his life…saw a pretty slave girl…one thing led to another, and here comes Abimelech a few years saying to his mother’s people, (in the best sultry power-hungry voice you can imagine), “Ask the leading citizens of Shechem whether they want to be ruled by all seventy of Gideon’s sons or by one man. And remember that I am your own flesh and blood!”
Like anyone, the men of Shechem would rather be led by one power-hungry, blood thirsty king they have some ownership over, so they gave him seventy coins. With those seventy coins he went out and bought “reckless troublemakers.”
Don’t think this:
Then he went to his father’s house, forcefully took it over, and beheaded sixty-nine of his brothers, using the same stone as a chopping block. Blood flowed like wine. I can’t imagine the degree of heartlessness you’d need to kill your entire family in one day, in their own homes…and I’m sure not all of his brothers were grown. Only one of the brothers escaped, the youngest. His name was Jotham. He was like a prophet poet. And he was super angry.
Now Abimelech was king, and no one could come against him.
When the leaders of Shechem were crowning Abimelech king, Jotham went to the top of the neighboring hill (he wanted to be sure he had a good distance between him and them): and he shouted a poem at them.
No, it was more like an angry punk rap. He basically said, “Yo yo leaders of the people: the trees asked an olive branch to become their king but it refused to quit its work because we need olive oil. Next they went to the fig and implored it to be king, but it said, ‘should I quit makin’ my sweet fruit? I don’t think so. Then they begged the grapevine to become king but it refused, because it was too busy makin’ grapes for wine. So finally, they turned to the thorn bush and asked IT to be king. And it accepted.”
I’m sure everyone gasped. Them’s fightin’ words! NO ONE wants to be called a thornbush. But Jotham didn’t stop, he kept shouting (by this time I’m sure his voice was hoarse):
“If you have acted honorably and in good faith toward Gideon and his descendants today, then may you find joy in Abimelech, and may he find joy in you. But if you have not acted in good faith, then may fire come out from Abimelech and devour the leading citizens of Shechem and Beth-millo; and may fire come out from the citizens of Shechem and Beth-millo and devour Abimelech!”
So basically, Jotham prophet isn’t just warning the wicked Abimelech, he’s warning the leaders that the wicked Abimelech will eventually turn into The Mandarin and go all mouth-fire dangerous on them.
And then Jotham ran and hid.
Not even three years passed before God sent dissension between the leaders of Shechem and Abimelech. You see, God wanted to punish Abimelech for slaughtering his brothers. Interestingly, an entire town was completely destroyed off the face of the earth because of it. No, that’s not interesting. That’s horrific. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
So, Shechem nobles rebelled. It happened this way:
A new brother moved to Shechem, named Gaal (worst name ever). He saw all the taxes and fruits leaving the city and going to Abimelech, and it made him bitter. During the annual harvest festival, after all the money and best of the fruits were shipped away to Abimelech, and THE WINE FLOWED FREELY, Gaal incited rebellion. He said, “Abimelech isn’t a part of our family! Why should we serve him? If I were in charge here, I would get rid of Abimelech. I would say to him, ‘Get some soldiers, and come out and fight!’”
So no one in Abimelech’s family is claiming him.
But Gaal was a little too big for his britches.
Zebul, the leader of Shechem, was furious with Gaal and his loud mouth, so he tattled on Gaal. Not only that, but he told Abimelech exactly how to destroy Gaal. Bad decision. You know what happens to rats? They reproduce prolifically and are found in every corner of the world. Oh wait, no. Not that. Rats always get discovered.
So Abimelech splits his army into four groups and surrounds the town. And Zebul says to Gaal, “Now where is that big mouth of yours? Wasn’t it you that said, ‘Who is Abimelech, and why should we be his servants?’ The men you mocked are right outside the city! Go out and fight them!”
So Gaal takes his men and goes out and fights Abimelech. And gets massacred. Like the Little Giants did against the Pee Wee Cowboys. Except it was much bloodier.
But after Abimelech destroyed Gaal and his men, he wasn’t done. He met the army of Shechem in the fields and mowed them down. Then he went to the city. The city was in a panic. All of the leaders, and whoever else could fit, ran into the temple and hid there. Shechem killed everyone in his path. Then he and his men took branches, laid them down at the foot of the temple, and set fire to it. Everyone died. One thousand people.
Then he leveled the city and sprinkled salt over its ashes. Nothing would ever grow there again.
But do you think this guy was done? No way! His thirst for blood was only whetted. He and his men marched to Thebez. They attacked it, and conquered it. Killing everyone in their path. Stealing the valuables. Burning homes and stores. Bringing apocalypse.
But there was a strong tower in the town. Everyone went and hid in the tower, and barricaded it.
By this time Abimelech was probably drunk on blood and power.
Then the strong went to the top of the tower, presumably to shoot arrows and pour hot oil on the invading forces.
But not everyone needed an arrow or oil to get the job done.
A woman was on the roof of the tower. She watched as Abimelech and his men went to fetch wood to lay at the bottom of the tower. Once they returned and lit the branches, everyone she knew and loved would be toast.
She was not going to let that happen.
She loosened a rock from one of the walls. I presume it was a hefty rock, one that probably took two hands.
Abimelech drew nearer, with a huge branch across his shoulder. He was intent on his task: headed straight for the wall. She had only a second for this to work. Abimelech leaned down and set the branch at the foot of the tower. She held her breath, aimed carefully, and hurled the rock at his head.
It caved in his skull.
He lay on his back, he knew he was dying. His sword bearer pulled him out of harm’s way.
The woman looked down on him. Everyone was silent. And then there must have been a cheer go up on the top of the tower, and much congratulations to her, because Abimelech was completely and utterly humiliated. So humiliated was he that he turned to his sword bearer and said, “Draw your sword and kill me! Don’t let it be said that a woman killed Abimelech!” So the young man gladly ran him through with his sword, and he died.
When Abimelech’s men saw that he was dead, they disbanded and returned to their homes (as they should have from the beginning).
The end of the story goes thus:
In this way, God punished Abimelech for the evil he had done against his father by murdering his seventy brothers. God also punished the men of Shechem for all their evil. So the curse of Jotham son of Gideon was fulfilled.
But the moral of the story is this: That’s what you get if you ever underestimate the throwing ability of a woman.
(story found in Judges 9)
Other bad bible stories: