Study Guide

Abimelech in Book of Judges

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Abimelech is so bad, it's kind of cool. The quasi-illegitimate son of Gideon, he decides he wants to be king. The problem? He has about 70 brothers ahead of him in line for the throne. So what does he do? He gets into local politics, starts a grassroots campaign for the monarchy, leads a kill-squad to his brothers's house, and murders them all—except one: His youngest brother Jotham hides and lives to prophecy of Abimelech's destruction (9:1-6). Could this get any more mafia-operatic?

Abimelech's reign is short but eventful as he leads his armies to war against uncooperative neighboring cities (9:22-57). He's ruthless and cunning, and might have had a longer, even bloodier rule if it hadn't been for that darn prophecy. "But God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the lords of Shechem so that the violence done to the seventy sons of Jerubbaal [Gideon] might be avenged and their blood be laid on their brother Abimelech, who killed them" (9:23-24). Payback comes in the worst possible way for Abimelech when, during a siege of a high tower full of enemy citizens, a woman drops a stone onto his head while he's trying to set their stronghold on fire. Horrified that he's been beat up by a girl, he begs a servant to run him through with his sword so the kill doesn't count for her (9:53-54). But we all know the truth, and Abimelech will go down in history as a great villain who met a satisfyingly poetic end.

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