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Scripture reading – Judges 9-10
Though he reigned for forty years (Judges 8:28), the last years of Gideon’s rule as the judge of Israel left the people ill-prepared for the events that followed his death (Judges 8:29-35). Upon his demise, and true to their pattern, Israel forgot Gideon and forsook their covenant with the LORD (8:34).
The Usurpation of Abimelech, and the Murders of Gideon’s Sons (Judges 9:1-6)
Remember that Gideon had many wives and “threescore and ten sons” (8:30); however, another son was not numbered with the seventy born to Gideon’s wives. His name was Abimelech, a son of Gideon born of a concubine (not a wife). After Gideon died, Abimelech aspired to claim his father’s leadership in Israel, and he stirred the men of Shechem, his mother’s people, to make him king (9:1-2).
Incredibly, Abimelech plotted to murder the seventy sons of Gideon, his half-brothers. His people reasoned they would be better served with Abimelech ruling Israel than one of Gideon’s other sons (9:3). With seventy pieces of silver, Abimelech hired wicked mercenaries, described as “vain and light persons” (9:4), and they “slew his brethren the sons of Jerubbaal…notwithstanding yet Jotham the youngest son of Jerubbaal was left; for he hid” (9:5). (Imagine the breadth of depravity in Israel, that men in their midst would slay the sons of Gideon!)
Jotham’s Prophetic Parable Against Abimelech (Judges 9:6-21)
Jotham, Gideon’s youngest and only surviving son, stood upon “the top of Mount Gerizim,” which towered eight hundred feet above the plain. He lifted his voice against the men of Shechem who made Abimelech ruler (9:6-21) and told a parable (9:8-15). Jotham described how the olive trees, fig trees, and vines invited a bramble bush to be king, saying, “Come thou, and reign [i.e., be king] over us” (9:14).
A prickly, thorny bramble is a wild bush and lacks the majesty, beauty, and height of other trees. The parallel Jotham drew with his parable was that his slain brothers had been great men, like the cedars of Lebanon (Judges 9:15). In contrast, Abimelech was nothing more than a bramble bush, and yet his people had chosen him to be king. Jotham cursed the men of Shechem (Judges 9:15) and prophesied they would come to hate Abimelech, and he would hate them to their destruction (Judges 9:17-21).
The Ruin of Abimelech and the Shechemites (Judges 9:22-57)
True to Jotham’s prophecy, three years passed, and the men of Shechem plotted to kill Abimelech and failed (Judges 9:22-40). The people of Shechem then retreated into a tower, and Abimelech set fire to the stronghold, and “a thousand men and women” died (9:46-49).
Abimelech then went to Thebez, and the men of that city fled into their strong tower. Abimelech would have burned the tower, but “a certain woman cast a piece of a millstone upon Abimelech’s head, and all to brake his skull” (9:53). Realizing he was dying from his wounds, Abimelech commanded his armorbearer to slay him with his sword, lest it be said of him, “A woman slew him” (9:54).
The LORD Sent Revival and Peace to Israel (Judges 10:1-5)
Two judges ruled in Israel after Abimelech died (10:1-5). If we assume that Shamgar was the third judge (Judges 3:31), Deborah the fourth judge (4:4), and Gideon the fifth judge (Judges 6:12; 8:28), Tola would have served the LORD as the sixth judge, and he ruled Israel for twenty-three years (Judges 10:1-2). After Tola, Jair judged Israel for twenty-two years (Judges 10:3-5).
A Season of Apostasy and Trouble in Israel (Judges 10:6-9)
Following Jair’s death, Israel turned from the LORD, and “did evil again in the sight of the Lord,” and served many gods; however, they “forsook the LORD” and did not serve Him (Judges 10:6). Then the LORD turned Israel over to her enemies, to be chastened eighteen years until they cried out to Him (Judges 10:7-10). Humbled, broken, and oppressed by their enemies, Israel confessed, “We have sinned against thee” (Judges 10:10).
Israel’s Cry and the LORD’s Reply (Judges 10:10-16)
The LORD answered their cry, rebuked Israel’s ingratitude, and reminded them of the times He had delivered them out of the hand of their enemies (Judges 10:11-12). He admonished Israel, saying, “Go and cry unto the gods which ye have chosen; let them deliver you in the time of your tribulation” (Judges 10:14).
Nevertheless, the children of Israel cried out more and not only confessed their sins but surrendered to the LORD to do with them as He pleased (10:15). Israel repented, destroyed the idols they worshipped, and set their hearts to serve the LORD (Judges 10:16).
Closing thoughts (Judges 10:17-18):
What a wonderful lesson in repentance we have in today’s devotional! Israel realized it was not enough to confess they had sinned. They knew their fellowship and covenant with the LORD could not be restored until they put away their idols. Then, in a beautiful act of God’s grace, we read that the LORD “was grieved for the misery of Israel” (10:16). With their sins forgiven and the covenant restored, Israel was ready to go to war, knowing they were on the Lord’s side (10:17-18).
Once again, we observe the spiritual cycle: Sin leads to Slavery, which leads to Sorrow, and sorrow unto repentance leads back to the LORD for Salvation.
Believer, God takes no pleasure in the sorrows that befall us because of our sins. Yet, He is gracious, merciful and longs to forgive and restore us.
1 John 1:9 – “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith
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