An Election Year Parable (Judges 9)
Abimelech (Gideon’s son) then goes to his brothers and tells them to ask the people of Shechem whether it would be better for 70 brothers to rule over them, or just one. He reminds them that he is their flesh and blood. The brothers agree, and the people are ‘inclined to follow’ him, so they give Abimelech 70 shekels of silver from the temple of Baal-Berith, which Abilmelech uses to hire ‘reckless adventurers.’ He then murders all of his brothers except Jotham, Gideon’s youngest son, who hides. The people then gather and crown Abimelech king.
FYI: Killing your brothers when you become king is a common practice during this time. When Abimelch went to his brothers for support and reminded them that they were his brothers, he was likely implying that he was going to become king, and was reminding them what would happen if they did not support him. He killed them anyways to ‘secure’ his throne. Many of his brothers likely have more of a claim to a throne, since Abimelech is the son of a concubine, and not a wife, if you believe royalty should pass from father to son. (Though the name ‘Abimelech’ implies that his father meant for him to succeed him. Not that Gideon was ‘king’… but Abimelech has delusions of grandeur.) In this time uprisings against a king often involved the people getting behind a relative of the king and claiming that this relative had more of a claim to the throne than the current ruler. Abimelech was trying to guarantee that this would not happen.
Jotham (Gideon’s youngest son who escaped) then climbs to the top of Mount Gerizim and tells the people a parable. He says that the trees wanted to anoint a king for themselves so they asked the olive tree to be king, but the olive tree produced oil that was needed. The olive tree decided that it would be wrong to give up doing something so necessary just to ‘hold sway’ over the other trees. The fig and the vine are asked to be king as well, but they too do not feel it is right to give up producing important fruit in order to be in charge. Finally the thorn bush is asked. The thorn bush is not a good king however. He tells the other trees to take refuge in his shade. (This is how a thorn bush kills other trees. By outgrowing them when they are young and weak, the bush deprives them of sunlight, and ‘chokes’ them out by using up all their resources. The trees then whither and die.) When the trees will not ‘take refuge’ in the thorn bush’s shade, the thorn bush catches fire (another thing thorn bushes are known to do, especially in the desert where they dry out easily) and the fire consumes even the sturdiest trees (the cedars of Lebanon).
Point to Ponder: This parable applies today. Too often the people best suited to run the country are too busy producing and running their own businesses. Instead we are left to choose from a group of people who can easily leave whatever they are doing, and want the job. This is not ‘the best’ group of people to be choosing from. A good ruler (or in our case ‘representative’) of the people is one who has succeeded in other aspects of life. Unfortunately, these people are difficult to get as they are often busy with productive work that is important too. If we want our country to run well, we need to pry more of them away from their jobs and convince them to serve us for a time!
An excerpt from: A New Believer’s Bible Commentary: Joshua-Job (Click on Books By Me in the sidebar for more details)
Photo by Matija Barrett