1. Ambitious Abimelech
The ninth chapter of the Bible book of Judges records one ambitious politician's desperate ethnic and bloody schemings for power; schemings which appear to be such a close parallel to our contemporary political experience that his story becomes a prophetic parable for the present age.
Gideon the famous warrior, who delivered the Israelites from protracted oppression under the Midianites, was that infamous politician's father. In his day, Israel had been so overwhelmed with Gideon’s historic and lasting victory that they unanimously elected to make him their king, and his children his successors, to continue the dynasty after him. But he declined. God, he said, would be their King (Judges 8:21-23). Unfortunately, that was not the opinion of all his sons, especially the most illegitimate of them all, whose name was Abimelech.
Sometime after Gideon's death, Abimelech began his schemings, which involved the exploitation of ethnic sentiments, the use of juju resources, hired armed thugs, dirty money, high level propaganda through traditional elders, and so on.
1 One day Gideon's son Abimelech went to Shechem to visit his mother's brothers. He said to them and the rest of his mother's family, 2 “Ask the people of Shechem whether they want to be ruled by all seventy of Gideon's sons or by one man [himself]. And remember, I am your own flesh and blood! (9:1-2, New Living Translation).
After that secret consultation, his maternal uncles, in the very patriarchal society of those times, began a campaign to their subordinates on behalf of Abimelech, “because he was their relative” (v.3, NLT). The politics of ethnicity.
2. The Money and Men of Abimelech
They gave him [Abimelech] seventy silver coins from the temple of Baal-berith, which he used to hire some soldiers who agreed to follow him (v.4).
The end of Abimelech's story is a warning to all desperate politicians who seek power the Abimelech way. Abimelech’s party (let's call it AP) was funded with money from an evil source; polluted money from the temple of an idol. What did that money accomplish for that party and the people? Did it bring development to the people? Did it tar their roads, provide free medical care and portable drinking water for the people? No. It attracted thugs, destruction, assassinations, social instability, and so forth. It gave birth to a new culture and a new breed of wild political fans never known in the nation's history. That money brought crisis on the land.
Perhaps this sheds light on why the malicious but intelligent enemies of Jesus (the priests, scribes, and Pharisees) would not accept Judas' refund of his pay for betraying Jesus; they would not mingle that blood money with the rest of their money, because they realized that even though all money could be the same currency, it was not the same money (Matthew 27:6).
Abimelech was not so wise. By accepting political funding from such an unholy source, that prospective politician unwittingly put himself into an alliance with the evil powers behind that money's source. His end proved it. His regime was a disaster.
3. Abimelech's Police
Abimelech's 'police' are described variously as “soldiers” (NLT), “vain and light persons” (KJV) “worthless and foolhardy men” (Amplified), “reckless adventurers” (NIV). In Nigeria's experience, we could describe them as thugs, ‘touts,’ agberos, 'area boys,' almajiris, etc. They were the products of political funding from an evil source.
4. Abimelech's Foundation of Blood
Abimelech's party was a ruthless and desperate one. Soon as the thugs came on board, they traveled abroad to Ophrah, the home town of Abimelech's 'rivals,' those legitimate but unambitious seventy half-brothers of Abimelech who himself was the illegitimate son by a harlot (8:31;9:5).
At Ophrah, in one day, on one stone, Abimelech and his 'boys' slaughtered all seventy of Gideon's sons, except the last born, who had hidden away and escaped. Thus, Abimelech built his political career on a foundation of blood, and that blood was to catch up with him dangerously in his later years.
Sad has been the daily news these days, of kidnappings, ritual murders, and politically motivated assassinations, behind which have been ambitious ‘Abimelechs.’ Recently, for example, there was a report of the apprehension of a jut bag of about 16 children's heads, of a seventy year old man disappearing on his birthday, etc.
In a southern Nigeria city, a father returning from school with his three kids stopped on a lonely road to help what appeared to be a dying man lying beside a motorcycle and shivering to death. His good Samaritan heart proved fatal. Armed men came out of the bush, abducted the children, and had the youngest of them ritually murdered. The father fainted.
The other day, armed men went into a hospital in Owerri in south eastern Nigeria, shot into the air, scared people away, and picked babies into bags and fled, for political rituals.
Satan would not help any Abimelech to the throne then stand aside to watch him prosper for God and men. He will pursue that king and his people with crises, the Abimelech way.
In this season, may God frustrate them. May their blood be upon their own unrepentant heads. And it shall be no surprise when, in the midst of their apparent political glory in the days to come, disasters begin to eliminate them one by one as they and theirs begin to reap the harvest of the seeds they have sown. Some of them will be assassinated in office as they have done to others. “Those who use the sword will be killed by the sword” (Matthew 26:52, NLT). It is the law of the sword. Others of them will be driven out of office by insanity.
May the land refuse them, oppose them, oppress them. Their judgment shall be seen by all. And we shall not wonder when that judgment begins, even in the midst of the religious activities that some of them will afterward clothe themselves in. God is not asleep. In Jesus name, we reject the spirit of Abimelech from our land.
5. The Landslide Victory
Then the Electoral Commission announced the results: Abimelech had won a 'landslide' victory, after having eliminated, exiled or silenced all his real and imagined political opponents. But God was watching.
Then the people of Shechem and Beth-millo called a meeting… and made Abimelech their king (v.6, NLT).
Why did God allow bloody Abimelech to win the elections? How could the people be so gullible to vote such a man, whether under the spell of ethnic sentiments or juju connections!
Don’t worry. Watch their tragic end.
God does not usually act according to our schedules, but He will. He has His game plans.
When Judgment Day came for Abimelech, it came not only on the man Abimelech who had masterminded the plots, but also on those who had “aided him [in whatever way] in the killing of his brethren” (9:24 KJV).
6. After Three Years
22 When Abimelech had reigned three years over Israel,
23 Then God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the men of Shechem… (vv.22-23).
There were three years of romance; three years of apparent peace; three years when it seemed Abimelech had triumphed and got away with his evil, and God had forgotten the matter. But those years were actually the years of God's ultimatum, during which Abimelech could have repented and turned to God. But he wasted those years of grace. He took them for the years of ‘consolidation.’ During those years, Abimelech's thugs became powerful in the land. They manned every political and administrative corner like shepherd dogs. One of them was Zebul the planted mayor of the city of Shechem, a faithful member of the Abimelech Party. All opposition was silenced. But God was waiting (9:26-33).
At the expiration of grace, God dispatched an evil spirit between those erstwhile lovers (vv. 22-23). The people revolted against the man they had all helped to install. They cut off his lines of support, and he in turn set fires to their cities, burning several of them alive. Eventually, the land became so ungovernable that war broke out. In the final battle, an old woman smashed Abimelech's brains with the missile of a grinding stone dropped from a tower. It was a shameful end to the ambitious ruler, dying at the hands of a woman (vv.22-55).
56 Thus God rendered the wickedness of Abimelech…
57 And all the evil of the men of Schechem… (vv.56-57).
The political ambition that funds itself with wicked money will establish an alliance with wickedness, which shall distress that politician all his regime. Satan cannot sponsor anyone to power and thereafter stand aside to watch them prosper.
The politician who must pave his way with the blood of others only sows seeds whose cruel harvest shall sooner or later confront him. He will not outlive his regime. Those who have helped him today shall smash his brains tomorrow when God, in answer to so many prayers, dispatches evil spirits between him and his erstwhile lovers in wickedness.
May Shechem decide now whether to vote a bloody Abimelech merely because he is a ‘brother.’ The same man shall tomorrow burn them alive who had sponsored him. Satan is not a gentleman.
God may be silent for three years, but not forever.
This is the parable of Abimelech.
From The Preacher's diary,
March 14, 2003.