Abimelech: Gideon’s Arrogant & Abominable Son

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT? Although Abimelech’s father, Gideon, initially resisted the offer of kingship, his actions betray him and reveal his true intentions. He may not have used the royal title, but Gideon lived like royalty.

Abimelech, whose name means “my father is king,” provides further evidence of the failures of Gideon.

Upon his father’s death, Abimelech moves quickly to obtain the headship of Israel. Fearing that one of his brothers may become his father’s successor, Abimelech orders the execution of all of his brothers—only Jotham escaped. In the end, however, Abimelech’s life ends with a shameful death. (cf. Judges 8:29-35; 9:1-57)

SO WHAT? Abimelech’s short tenure as a pseudo-king of Israel was characterized by the worst kinds of evil. This very brief reign was meant to illustrate the consequences of a wicked king. These evils are highlighted in Jotham’s sermon to the people of Shechem, which prophetically announced Abimelech’s downfall.

Like the people of Israel, we, too, can be tempted to follow a charismatic leader (politician, professor, pastor, etc.) who is not living a God-honoring life. We must be wise to only affirm leaders who know, love, and serve the LORD God Almighty.


1. Abimelech is not God’s man.

2. The prophetic parable.

3. The absence of truth and integrity.

4. The downfall of the depraved king.

5. In the end, Justice is served.

abimelech blogNOW, WHAT? Although the covenantal name of God (LORD) is not used in the account of Abimelech, He was not absent. In the end, justice is served and the sovereign rule of the LORD is announced. At times, it may appear that evil leaders, especially those who oppress and abuse their own people, operate with impunity. Nevertheless, believers can be assured that God’s justice is certain. Therefore, we can fully trust that God is aware of every situation and is providentially working to bring about the consummation of all things in Christ.

Study Questions (Judges 8:29–9:57)

1. What is the significance of Abimelech’s name?

2. Who is being worshiped in Shechem (9:4)?

3. How does Jotham’s parable describe the folly of the people and the downfall of Abimelech (9:7-15)?

4. Can you reconcile the description of God sending an evil spirit and the truth that no evil proceeds from God (Judges 9:23; James 1:13)? Explain why or why not.

5. What is the significance of Abimelech losing his life to a woman (Judges 9:53; cf. 4:21)?

6. Are there parallels between Abimelech and King Saul’s deaths (Judges 9:54; 1 Samuel 31:1-7)?

The Text

Now Abimelech the son of Jerubbaal went to Shechem to his mother’s relatives and said to them and to the whole clan of his mother’s family, 2“Say in the ears of all the leaders of Shechem, ‘Which is better for you, that all seventy of the sons of Jerubbaal rule over you, or that one rule over you?’ Remember also that I am your bone and your flesh.” 3And his mother’s relatives spoke all these words on his behalf in the ears of all the leaders of Shechem, and their hearts inclined to follow Abimelech, for they said, “He is our brother.”  4And they gave him seventy pieces of silver out of the house of Baal-berith with which Abimelech hired worthless and reckless fellows, who followed him. 5And he went to his father’s house at Ophrah and killed his brothers the sons of Jerubbaal, seventy men, on one stone. But Jotham the youngest son of Jerubbaal was left, for he hid himself. 6And all the leaders of Shechem came together, and all Beth-millo, and they went and made Abimelech king, by the oak of the pillar at Shechem (Judges 9:1-6).


50Then Abimelech went to Thebez and encamped against Thebez and captured it. 51But there was a strong tower within the city, and all the men and women and all the leaders of the city fled to it and shut themselves in, and they went up to the roof of the tower. 52And Abimelech came to the tower and fought against it and drew near to the door of the tower to burn it with fire. 53And a certain woman threw an upper millstone on Abimelech’s head and crushed his skull. 54Then he called quickly to the young man his armor-bearer and said to him, “Draw your sword and kill me, lest they say of me, ‘A woman killed him.’” And his young man thrust him through, and he died. 55And when the men of Israel saw that Abimelech was dead, everyone departed to his home.56Thus God returned the evil of Abimelech, which he committed against his father in killing his seventy brothers. 57And God also made all the evil of the men of Shechem return on their heads, and upon them came the curse of Jotham the son of Jerubbaal (Judges 9:50-57).

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