If we wondered in our last reading why only one of the 70 sons of Gideon, the one born to his concubine in Shechem, was mentioned, we now know the answer. The story is shifting, and Abimelech desires to make a name for himself. He is power hungry, in addition to feeling “less” than the others because he is the son of Gideon’s concubine and not one of the wives.
We already know the Israelites are in another period where they turn away from God. Now we see what evil is up to. Abimelech is a good example of how the abuse of power can be used to take over and control a situation.
At first, I felt a bit sorry for Abimelech. We can imagine how he had to compete for his father’s attention and was likely not accepted as the other sons. I saw him making an appeal to his family to support him in his efforts to be king. Little did I realize that would mean he’d have to kill off everyone else that could likely get in his way to steal the throne.
Abimelech had to have assumed that his brothers were also going to be seeking glory by ruling the people. This was certainly not a revelation he received from God. His power-hungry tactics worked because he was given money to support his cause. Apparently, such a donation was not uncommon to fund political purposes.
Without any moral restraint, Abimelech hired some tough guys to help him massacre his half-brothers. All but Jotham were killed, and Abimelech became king of Shechem. Jotham escaped and will no doubt have some role yet to play for his life was spared.
You may recall the town of Shechem from other readings. This is the not the first time Shechem has “been in the news,” so to speak. It was one of Abraham’s first stops when he first arrived in Canaan (Genesis 12); Jacob lived there and his sons killed all the men in Shechem following the rape of their sister (Genesis 34); and Joseph’s bones were buried there (Joshua 24:32), to name a few instances.
So rather than be crushed by being one of 70 sons, Abimelech became ruthless. We see how he became so power hungry he wasn’t going to let anyone stand in his way. Similarly, we often see people today drawn to power for unhealthy reasons. The media tends to glorify those who have power. Powerful people tend to get their way, even when it means stepping over many people more deserving. The drive for power often clouds good judgment.
Have you had any experience in your life when you were the one seeking fame, glory, or power? How did that go for you? God will equip us with the power we need for the purpose he gives. That’s the Holy Spirit’s power we have been given access to as followers of Christ. We don’t need to worry about the “how” we’re going to accomplish feats for God. He’s got that figured out already.
Lord, thank you for giving me access to your power when I feel weak. You are the one in control, and I look to you for guidance. I trust you will equip me with the tools I need to be successful in your mission here in earth. Use me, God. May people see your love and grace alive in me. In Jesus’ name. Amen.