God repaid both Shechem and Abimelech. There would be NO glorious reign as king for Abimelech. Both he and the men of the city would receive their just reward for their part in the death of Gideon’s sons.
The relationship between Abimelech and the leaders of Shechem soured REAL fast. Jotham’s words took root and God judged them both guilty. “God sent and evil spirit between Abimelech and the leaders of Shechem, and the leaders of Shechem dealt treacherously with Abimelech” (verse 23).
In the relationship between Abimelech and Shechem, it looks like Shechem struck the first blow. They “put men in ambush against him on the mountain tops, and they robbed all who passed by them along the way” (verse 25a). I’m not sure where Abimelech was living at this time but I’m assuming he had to go through this pass on a regular basis. It is possible that this was the only way into and out of the city to where Abimelech lived? It appears that he didn’t live in the city itself, otherwise this plan wouldn’t have had any chance for success.
But someone spilled the beans. Abimelech was told about the ambush. So much for their well laid plan. This revelation didn’t help the other unsuspecting people passing through. These men robbed any who passed through, at least until Abimelech’s troops put an end to it. I wouldn’t expect Abimelech to take this lying down. I’m wondering if he did put an end to it or if he demanded ‘his share’ from the evil men. I guess that’s one question I won’t be able to get a first person account of because he won’t be in Heaven to ask; not with the life he lived.
We aren’t told what Abimelech’s response to this plot was but we get to hear how things grew worse. “Gaal the son of Ebed moved into Shechem with his relatives, and the leaders of Shechem put confidence in him” (verse 26). The leaders of Shechem found someone else to back. They were already distancing themselves from Abimelech, because of the evil spirit God sent, when Gaal came along.
Gaal wanted to be king over Shechem. “Would that this people were under my hand! Then I would remove Abimelech” (verse 29a). He certainly knew how to ‘win friends and influence people’ by sharing his feast with the leaders of Shechem.
Notice here that “they went into the house of their god and ate and drank” (verse 27b). Abimelech didn’t serve the Lord but neither did Gaal OR the men of Shechem. This whole group of people were thumbing their noses at the God of Israel. They ALL deserved the punishment that awaits.
We don’t know if Gaal was spouting off under the influence of his wine of if he really though he could take on Abimelech and his troops. “I would say to Abimelech, ‘Increase your army, and come out’” (verse 29c).
I’m curious where Gaal came from. In his argument for splitting with Abimelech he equates himself as one with the men of Shechem. Abimelech made his bid to be over Shechem based on his mother’s family ties. We don’t hear what ties Gaal claims with the people. He pushes Abimelech aside because of Abimelech’s father’s line. “We don’t owe him anything. He is not of us. ‘Serve the men of Hamor the father of the Shechem’ (verse 28c).” When Gaal faced Abimelech it would be with the might from the city of Shechem, not his own ‘troops’. Talk about switching allegiances! The elders of this city are ready to follow ANYONE who tickles their ears and pleases their palates.
Be careful of the words you speak for you may have to eat them! Zebul, the one other man that Gaal disrespected that night, heard what was said. It sounds to me like he was in attendance at this meal; however, I could be mistaken. Somehow Zebul heard the taunt of Gaal and sent secret messengers to Abimelech with battle plans to deal with Gaal.
The account of Zebul and Gaal at the gate in the morning is what leads me to think Zebul was at the dinner. It sounds like this is the next morning and Gaal is a bit hung over. Zebul is using Gaal’s condition to convince him that he is seeing things. ‘Pink elephants!’ “You mistake the shadow of the mountains for men” (verse 36b). By the time Zebul admits that what Gaal is seeing it is too late. “Where is your mouth now…Go out now and fight with them” (verse 38a & c).
Gaal was able to have the leaders of Shechem back him up but “Abimelech chased him, and he fled before him. And many more fell wounded, up to the entrance of the gate” (verse 40). Gaal and his supporters were NOT prepared for this battle, especially if they were coming off their night of partying.
Gaal had no place left in the city of Shechem, nor did his relatives. Zebul saw to that. Abimelech would see to the rest of the city and the leaders of Shechem the next day. Abimelech struck the city with a vengeance! He razed the city, sowed its fields with salt and set fire to the tower the leaders were hiding in. “About 1,000 men and women” (verse 49c) died in the Tower of Shechem that day.
This should have ended the feud between Abimelech and the leaders of Shechem but God had not punished Abimelech yet, only the leaders of Shechem who supported his premeditated murder of his brothers. “God will NOT be mocked; for whatever a man soweth; that shall he reap” (Galatians 6:7). There is still punishment ahead for Abimelech; his just reward.
Abimelech decides to go on ‘increasing his territory’ and winds up at Thebez. He liked the strategy he employed with the Tower of Shechem. When he is faced with the same defense from this town, he employs the same strategy from the last town. He tries to burn the people out who are hiding in the tower.
Now it’s Abimelech’s time to receive his punishment and at the hands of a woman. That it was a woman who delivered God’s judgement was odious to Abimelech. He asked his servant to kill him because he knew he would die from the wound she inflicted on him and he couldn’t have it said that a woman killed him. TOO BAD! It is said here anyway!
God delivered His justice through the hands of a woman who was interrupted in the middle of her work. She ran for the tower carrying her millstone. She probably didn’t even think about it. She just grabbed it as she made her way to safety. But now she had the perfect weapon with which to defend herself and all her friends. This millstone probably wasn’t that large but because it was dropped from a height it became a deadly missile. It came down on EXACTLY the right spot; Abimelech’s head. Can we say guided by the hand of God? I AM!
It amazes me the people God uses to do His work. They don’t have to be major evangelists or might men of God. He can make use of both good and bad people in His plan. Gaal was one of the ‘bad’ ones but God used him to bring about the division needed to enact separate punishments on both Abimelech and the leaders of Shechem. God also used an unnamed woman to deliver His final blow to Abimelech. We know no more of either of their stories. We only see how God used them as His instruments.
I would MUCH RATHER be used as His instrument of good but I will fill whatever role He has for me at each moment. Sometimes that role is easier to see and sometimes it is easier to carry out. I LIKE delivering His messages of blessing! I cringe when delivering His rebukes. But ALL His messages are good and bring about healing.
That is ultimately what God’s correction is for. Abimelech and the leaders of Shechem had gone too far! I believe that if they had repented of their sins, God would have forgiven them BUT they were too entrenched in their sins, including worshiping other gods. There was no way back for their hearts. The blood of the seventy brothers called out to Him for justice and He delivered it. That was the only healing left for the hearts who had abandoned Him.
Father God, thank You for letting me be part of Your mercy and delivering Your blessings. I have been given this gift every time I forgive someone for the hurt they have done to me. I KNOW too that You will deal with the justice those hurts demand. Some will be tempered by mercy as those who caused the hurts turn back to You for forgiveness. Others will receive YOUR justice because they reject You and Your discipline. MANY of those final balances won’t be settled until standing before Your Judgement Seat. I leave ALL of that in Your hands.
I’m glad Jotham was alive to see Your justice. We don’t hear about him again but I’m pretty sure he kept an ear to the ground as far as Abimelech was concerned. Did he rejoice during these times or did he weep for the ‘innocent’ lives that were lost among the guilty? Were there any innocent ones lost? Only YOU know the hearts of man. I leave that too in your hands Lord.
Thank You Father God that I don’t have to pass judgement! I don’t have to exact revenge! I trust You with it ALL! Keep my heart ALWAYS coming to You for cleansing. I NEVER want to be on the wrong side of Your righteous judgment.