“And it came to pass, as soon as Gideon was dead, that the children of Israel turned again, and went a whoring after Baalim, and made Baalberith their god. And the children of Israel remembered not the LORD their God, who had delivered them out of the hands of all their enemies on every side: Neither showed they kindness to the house of Jerubbaal, namely, Gideon, according to all the goodness which he had showed unto Israel.” (Judges 8:33-35)
Though the ephod Gideon made was a copy of the high priest’s, and was intended to focus attention on God, it drew attention away from God’s plan. As soon as Gideon was not there to refocus their attention on God, they turned aside after the people around them’s gods. In our day, many organizations have been started to support or enhance the church. Unfortunately, when the founder dies, they often turn away to other goals. The ACLU is a prime example, started to protect religious freedom for Christians, it has become one of the most anti Christian organizations in America. Harvard University was started to train men for the ministry. Today it is one of the most influential promoters of atheism. Almost every para-church movement eventually does the same thing, regardless of the founder’s intentions.
“And Abimelech the son of Jerubbaal went to Shechem unto his mother's brethren, and communed with them, and with all the family of the house of his mother's father, saying, Speak, I pray you, in the ears of all the men of Shechem, Whether is better for you, either that all the sons of Jerubbaal, which are threescore and ten persons, reign over you, or that one reign over you? remember also that I am your bone and your flesh.
And his mother's brethren spake of him in the ears of all the men of Shechem all these words: and their hearts inclined to follow Abimelech; for they said, He is our brother. And they gave him threescore and ten pieces of silver out of the house of Baalberith, wherewith Abimelech hired vain and light persons, which followed him.
And he went unto his father's house at Ophrah, and slew his brethren the sons of Jerubbaal, being threescore and ten persons, upon one stone: notwithstanding yet Jotham the youngest son of Jerubbaal was left; for he hid himself.
And all the men of Shechem gathered together, and all the house of Millo, and went, and made Abimelech king, by the plain of the pillar that was in Shechem.” (Judges 9:1-6)
Gideon had many wives, including one he never formally acknowledged. Her son Abimelech was understandably resentful, as were her family. Knowing that Gideon had been offered the monarchy, Abimelech played on the family resentment, asking his realtives whether they’d rather have a family member as king or a group of seventy of his brothers who wouldn’t even claim them. He totally ignored Gideon’s reasons for turning down the throne.
His relatives campaigned for him, raising money to hire a support staff of people who weren’t doing anything of value to give the illusion of a popular following. He also had his seventy brothers killed, but the youngest hid and escaped. The only real difference from today’s political campaigns was that Abimelech actually murdered his opposition while today they just murder his reputation, as shown by the negative political ads of the last election.
With his opposition defeated, the men of Shechem gathered all their relatives and declared Abimelech king, even though they were only a small part of the tribe of Manasseh. Had they been following the Law as commanded, they would have executed Abimelech for murder instead. They chose to overlook his sin contrary to God’s law.
“And when they told it to Jotham, he went and stood in the top of mount Gerizim, and lifted up his voice, and cried, and said unto them, Hearken unto me, ye men of Shechem, that God may hearken unto you.
The trees went forth on a time to anoint a king over them; and they said unto the olive tree, Reign thou over us. But the olive tree said unto them, Should I leave my fatness, wherewith by me they honour God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees?
And the trees said to the fig tree, Come thou, and reign over us. But the fig tree said unto them, Should I forsake my sweetness, and my good fruit, and go to be promoted over the trees?
Then said the trees unto the vine, Come thou, and reign over us. And the vine said unto them, Should I leave my wine, which cheereth God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees?
Then said all the trees unto the bramble, Come thou, and reign over us. And the bramble said unto the trees, If in truth ye anoint me king over you, then come and put your trust in my shadow: and if not, let fire come out of the bramble, and devour the cedars of Lebanon.” (Judges 9:7-15)
When he heard that Abimelech had been made king, Jotham warned the men of Shechem that they would be held accountable by God for their decision. He started with a parable about trees, which, like Israel needed no king but decided they wanted one. All the qualified candidates were doing things that they considered more important than telling people what to do. The only one willing to take the job was the bramble, which did nothing of but cause problems anyway, and was not even qualified, as it really wasn’t a tree at all. Given the job, the bramble demanded absolute obedience, threatening to destroy any who didn’t comply.
An analyst recently pointed out that throughout history, most of those who sought political power have been people who were pathological control freaks, with few other qualifications, who devote their lives to gaining power. Ultimately they destroy everything in their efforts to demonstrate their power.
“Now therefore, if ye have done truly and sincerely, in that ye have made Abimelech king, and if ye have dealt well with Jerubbaal and his house, and have done unto him according to the deserving of his hands; (For my father fought for you, and adventured his life far, and delivered you out of the hand of Midian: And ye are risen up against my father's house this day, and have slain his sons, threescore and ten persons, upon one stone, and have made Abimelech, the son of his maidservant, king over the men of Shechem, because he is your brother;) If ye then have dealt truly and sincerely with Jerubbaal and with his house this day, then rejoice ye in Abimelech, and let him also rejoice in you: But if not, let fire come out from Abimelech, and devour the men of Shechem, and the house of Millo; and let fire come out from the men of Shechem, and from the house of Millo, and devour Abimelech.” (Judges 9:16-20)
Jotham then called on the men of Shechem to consider the choice they had made. Could they justify the betrayal of Gideon’s principles and murder of his sons to make Abimelech king because he was a relative? If they were right in doing so, then they should enjoy having him as their king and everybody should be happy. If it was a bad decision, there would be conflict between Abimelech and his supporters that would lead to many on both sides being destroyed.
Far too often major decisions are made on the basis of what we think would be best for us without thoroughly considering what is right. The consequences can be quite serious. Choosing a candidate simply because he is a member of a particular party or stands for a certain preferred position despite other concerns is as silly as buying a car simply because it is a certain color. Other factors may turn out to be far more important than the one you considered.
“And Jotham ran away, and fled, and went to Beer, and dwelt there, for fear of Abimelech his brother.” (Judges 9:21)
Having delivered his warning, Jotham didn’t hang around to see how Abimelech would respond. After all, he’d already killed all his other brothers. He probably wouldn’t hesitate to kill another one.