Apr. 10. Rise and Fall of Abimelech; Other Judges lead Israel

Judg. 8:29-12:15

Gideon had many wives, a concubine in Shechem and seventy sons. (It’s probable that the number seventy was symbolic of many instead of a literal number.) He died at a “good old age” after a long life of service to God. The Israelites soon forgot the good life that they had with Gideon and once again also forgot God and began to serve idols.

Abimelech, the son of Gideon and his concubine was a shrewd operator. He conspired with the men of Shechem to make him king. Taking money that they had given him, he “hired worthless and reckless men” to help him carry out his scheme. Next, he killed all of his brothers, except Jotham, the younger one who escaped. He was then made king.

Jotham proclaimed a parable of the trees to the men of Shechem illustrating to them the fate that would befall them because of their actions.

Three years later that prophesy began to be fulfilled by ill will between Abimelech and the men of Shechem. Through a series of skirmishes with various leaders, Abimelech destroyed many of the Shechemites and was himself killed at the conclusion because of the evil he had done to his father’s sons.

After the dishonorable death of Abimelech, Tola succeeded Gideon as a judge to save Israel. He judged for twenty-three years and then he died.

Jair judged Israel during the next twenty-two years. He had thirty sons and each of these sons rode a donkey and had a town. They seemed to be prosperous for that time in history.

Following Jair’s death, the Israelites again turned to worshipping the Baals and Ashtoreths, gods of the nations around them. Baals were recognized as a group of male gods and Ashtoreths were considered to be female goddesses.

Since the children of Israel had forsaken God, He then forsook them and allowed the Philistines and Ammonites to oppress them. After eighteen years, they again cried out to the Lord, “We have sinned against You…”

BUT, God said to His children, “Did I not deliver you from the Egyptians and from the Amorites…and you cried out to Me, and I delivered you…Yet you have forsaken Me…Therefore I will deliver you no more. Go and cry out to the gods…let them deliver you…”

The Israelites continued to cry out in penitence. “And His soul could no longer endure the misery of Israel.”

Jephthah, son of Gilead, a Gileadite was the next judge over Israel. He was also the son of a harlot. Because of his less than honorable heritage, his half-brothers drove him out of the family. He became a mighty man of valor and the leader of a group of raiders.

Three hundred years after God had delivered the Ammonite nation to the Israelites, the people of Ammon attempted to recapture the land from Israel. Jephthah was called upon to lead Israel in defending their possession.

A series of negotiations between Jephthah and the Ammonites failed to bring peace. In a rash vow to God, Jephthah vowed to offer as a burnt offering “whatever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the people of Ammon.” God did deliver the people to him. To his great dismay, his daughter, his only child was the victim.

Since human sacrifices are an abomination to God, it’s possible that instead of offering her as a burnt offering, Jephthah consecrated his daughter to God as a perpetual virgin. “She knew no man, for this was a statute in Israel.”

During the period of time that had lapsed since moving into the Promised Land, the Israelites had become somewhat diverse in their lives. There were petty differences between the different tribes. That became evident when the Ephraimites attacked Jephthah because he did not “call us to go with you” when he fought against the Ammonites. He then defeated the Ephraimites in that battle.

Jephthah judged Israel for six years. Following him were Ibzan seven years, Elon ten years and Abdon eight years. During that period of time the Israelites lived in peace and obedience to God.