JUDGES 9: BOOMERANGED?
HAVE YOU EVER BLOODIED YOUR OWN NOSE?
Thus God repaid Abimelech for the crime he committed against his father in killing his seventy brothers; and God also made all the wickedness of the people of Shechem fall back on their heads, and on them came the curse of Jotham son of Jerubbaal (Judges 9:56-57 NIV).
When I was in sixth grade I did something dumb while playing basketball. In a fit anger, I threw the ball against the wall not more than four feet in front of me. It bounced back at my head with the same velocity with which I hurled it, hitting me square in the face, bloodying my nose. Okay, I had it coming, right?!
That memory of self-injury came back to me as I read the story of Abimelek in Judges 9. He did several wicked things that boomeranged on him. And, just like me, he had it coming! It’s too lengthy a story to recount all the details here, so let me hit the high points.
Abimelek’s mother was Gideon’s concubine from the city of Shechem. He also had 70 half-brothers because his father had many wives (Judges 8:29-31). Because Abimelek’s mother did not have the same status as a legitimate wife it created two problems for him: one, he was an outsider among his siblings, and two, he likely would not inherit any of his father’s wealth, power or leadership in Israel. But this did not deter the ambitious and treacherous Abimelek. He would do whatever he had to do to get what he wanted, and he wanted it all!
After Gideon died, Abimelek went to the men of Shechem and said something like this: “Wouldn’t it be better to have just one ruler over you (he assumes a king-like role, not a judge) than to have to deal with 70 sons of Gideon? After all, I’m one of you since my mom is from here.” They agreed and give him seventy shekels of silver with which he hired a bunch of brutal thugs to murder all his brothers in cold blood—all except the youngest, Jotham, who escaped.
From a safe distance, Jotham shouted how ridiculous it was to choose Abimelek as their leader. Jotham tells them he hopes punishment comes on both Abimelek and on the people of Shechem. Abimelek’s murderous rampages did not stop with the massacre of his brothers. Later, after the men of Shechem showed disloyalty to Abimelek, he and his army ambushed and killed a group of them. Then, he incinerated 1,000 Shechemites by setting fire to a tower in which they had fled for refuge.
Was God absent while all this was happening? It might seem so—between Judges 8:34 and 10:6 the covenant name of God is not mentioned. It seems as if God had been pushed out of the picture, but he was there and actively working unseen by anyone. God sent an evil spirit to create division between Abimelek and the men of Shechem in order to avenge Abimelek’s murder of his brothers (vs. 23-24). In what would be his final attack against those who he thought were disloyal to him, Abimelek got too close to the entrance to another tower, and a woman dropped a large stone on his head and cracked his skull. Rather than let it be said that a woman killed him, Abimelek ordered his armor-bearer to run him through with his sword. Verses 56-57 read, “Thus God repaid the wickedness that Abimelek had done to his father by murdering his seventy brothers. God also made the men of Shechem pay for all their wickedness.” Young Jotham’s prayer was answered.
First, God is silent at times, but he is never absent. In his own time and in his own way, he delivers his people. So, take heart and be patient when you don’t see him at work.
Second, sin has a way of boomeranging. Numbers 32:23 says, “you may be sure that your sin will find you out.” Ask God to help you live in such a way that your sin doesn’t bounce back and hit you square in the face and do far more damage than a bloody nose.
Lord, God, although I cannot always see your activity in the world, I know you are working powerfully behind the scenes. No evil goes unnoticed by you, and you will bring about justice in your own time and in your own ways. I thank you and trust you. In Jesus' name, Amen!
Dr. Dan Dozier
Dan Dozier preaches for the Rural Hill Church of Christ in Antioch, TN. Dr. Dozier holds degrees from Lipscomb University, Harding School of Theology, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and a Doctorate from Abilene Christian University. He has been married to his high school sweetheart, JaneLee, since 1972. They have three married children and eight grandchildren.