Summary: God dedicated 57 verses to a wicked judge who ruled as king in Israel for about 3 years. Why would He do that? Is it possible the story of this evil man has something to us about how we should think as Christians?
OPEN: In Clay County, Kentucky there was a judge named R. Cletus Maricle. He was one of the rare judges I could find online who had been permanently disbarred.
You might ask: “Jeff, why was he disbarred?”
I’m glad you asked.
R. Cletus Maricle was disbarred because he and 7 other Kentucky officials were found guilty of voter fraud. Basically, they bought votes for candidates that were from their party. In the election years of 2002, 2004 and 2006, the group spent about $400,000 to bribe 8,000 voters to vote for their candidates.
And of course… Cletus (love that name) was disbarred.
You could say Judge R. Cletus Maricle was a BAD judge.
And he got disbarred.
By contrast, in our story today we find a man named Abimelech was also a BAD judge.
But if you read the rest of the 9th chapter of Judges you’d find that he didn't get disbarred.
Somebody killed him!
Now technically Abimelech wasn't really even a judge to begin with. A Biblical judge was one who was appointed by God to protect Israel from her enemies.
But God had NOT appointed Abimelech to do anything. And Abimelech wasn't into protecting anybody’s interests but his own. All Abimelech wanted power and prestige for himself.
So he was a bad judge.
Someone once even called him the “Anti-Judge” (Robert Leroe)
As I was preparing the sermon today, I got to wondering why Abimelech would want to seize power to begin with? Well, I believe he wanted the power because he felt ENTITLED to it. I suspect he believed he was destined to be the ruler of Israel. And I think the person who put that thought in his mind was his momma.
Judges 8:30-31 tells us that “Gideon had seventy sons, his own offspring, for he had many wives. And his concubine who was in Shechem also bore him a son, and he called his name Abimelech.”
In the society of that day, concubines were second class citizens. They weren't really REAL wives, and their children weren't really REAL sons and daughters of the father.
The Bible doesn't excuse that… it simply tells you what happened here.
So Abimelech wasn't really a REAL son to Gideon.
But – for whatever reason - Gideon named him Abimelech, which means “My father is king.”
I personally think Abimelech’s mother seized on that name because she wanted Abimelech to know that not only was Gideon (one of the greatest judges of Israel) his father… but that his daddy was a King. And thus Abimelech was born to greatness.
There’s only one problem with that notion: it wasn't true.
Gideon WAS Abimelech’s daddy… but he’d never been a king.
Judges 8:22-23 tells us: “the men of Israel said to Gideon, “Rule over us, you and your son and your grandson also, for you have saved us from the hand of Midian.
Gideon said to them, “I will NOT rule over you, and MY SON will NOT rule over you; the LORD will rule over you.”
So, I believe that Abimelech’s mother planted a lie in her son’s mind. A lie that his daddy was a King, when that wasn't true at all. But from her lie came the belief that he (in turn) was destined to be King of Israel. He was of “royal blood”. And I suspect he believed in that so strongly he was willing to do whatever was necessary to fulfill his destiny.
1. First he enlisted people to his cause.
Judges 9:1-3 says he “went to his mother’s brothers in Shechem and said to them and to all his mother’s clan, "Ask all the citizens of Shechem, ‘Which is better for you: to have all seventy of (Gideon’s) sons rule over you, or just one man?’ Remember, I am your flesh and blood."
When the brothers repeated all this to the citizens of Shechem, they were inclined to follow Abimelech, for they said, "He is our brother."
2. Then he lined up with whoever he could get to come to side. He essentially bought votes.
Judges 9:4 tells us that The citizens of Shechem “gave him seventy shekels of silver from the temple of Baal-Berith, and Abimelech used it to hire reckless adventurers, who became his followers.”
3. And then, to get rid of any competition he might have to being king, he executed almost every one of his 70 brothers (one brother, Jotham, escaped)
4. Then he engaged in a series of power struggles that ended up in his being killed
AND THAT’S IT.
That’s essentially the whole story. And the question that came to my mind as I prepared to preach this sermon was: why on earth would God tell us this story?
ILLUS: I work with a few other preachers developing sermon series, and this series wasn't really my idea. But when they mentioned preaching on the judges, I thought: why not? But last Monday I read this text and it suddenly occurred to me that I didn't really want to do a sermon this guy. I seriously began wondering if there wasn't another judge I could preach about instead.