For photos of Shechem including remains of the temple mentioned in this chapter, see HERE.
In this chapter, Gideon is called by his other name, Jerub-Baal, which means "Let Baal contend against him"(6:32). Abimelech was Gideon's son through a concubine. So, his half-brothers probably shunned him. He recruited his mother's relatives to kill all his half-brothers but one, Jotham, Gideon's youngest son. Abimelech seemed to be one who craved power, or maybe he was bitter toward them because of being shunned. We do not know for sure, but he was crowned King of Shechem. Jotham's "calling to account" for the murder of his brothers and the crowning of Abimelech in the parable was brave. Abimelech was a worthless "bramble king," and the curse came true by the end of this chapter.
After three years, the Shechemites revolted against the new king by interrupting the caravan trade route through their city. This hurt Abimelech by not allowing him tributes and tolls. Furthermore, they exalted a new leader, Gaal, which led to Abimelech attacking and defeating Gaal and his company. In addition, he ambushed the Shehemites in their fields. The fire did "come out of the bramble, and devour the cedars of Lebanon" (9:15) because the cedars represented the leaders of the city who supported Abimelech originally.
The scattering of salt was symbolic of a sentence of infertility so that the land would remain barren forever (Deuteronomy 29:23; Jeremiah 17:6; 48:9). According to archaeologists, Shechem was destroyed in the 12th-century! King Jeroboam I, who reigned from 931 - 910 B.C., rebuilt it, and it became the Northern Kingdom's capital (1 Kings 12:25).
(Looking up 1 Kings 12 made me VERY EXCITED about next year in Bible Book Club. I worked on the schedule all weekend. I am such a Bible NERD. But I digress.)
What goes around comes around though, and Abimelech lost the kingdom eventually when the woman from Thebez dropped a millstone on his head. What a humiliation to be killed by a woman (2 Samuel 11:21)!
Ambitious Abimelech would not let anything stand in his way in his desire to be king. He wanted power, probably to make up for the inadequacies he felt as a shunned half-brother.
This reminds me of a quote from a lesson called "Taming Temptation" from Leadership Essentials by Greg Ogden:
What must Christian leaders guard against?Abimelech obviously was not a believer. So, he had no identity in Christ, but there is a lesson for us that if we want to rise to be in any position of influence, it cannot be because we are doing it to fill a void inside of us. It has to be because we know who we are in Christ, and He places us in those positions, not because we force ourselves into them to fill the void. I have worked with people like this in leadership, and it is so tough!
Since the health of the Christian community reflects the health of its leaders, leading disciples are a primary target of the evil one. Satan will attempt to separate leaders from the source of their life, their connection with the living God. When Christian leaders are not grounded firmly in their identity in Christ, they are particularly susceptible to the lure of money, sex, or power to fill the deficit. (p. 137)
Ogden goes on to say:
Our identity, our sense of value and worth, is where Satan will most likely launch his attack. Jesus entered the wilderness with His identity secure. He knew his value because of the place he had in the Father's heart.Because of this, the devil could not tempt Jesus with power. He had no ambition but to see the Father glorified, and this should be our ambition also.
"Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him" (2 Corinthians 5:9). AMEN!
Have you fallen prey to selfish ambition? Pray about any areas where you are trying to take control instead of letting the Lord guide and direct and exalt.
I heartily recommend doing this book with a couple of friends. We are doing it with our leadership team for our ministry right now.
Lord, guard us from selfish ambition. Help us to be honest with ourselves. Uncover areas where we are not secure in our identity in You and may be susceptible to the enemies wiles in this area. We pray this in the name and identity of Jesus. Amen.