Judges - The Texture of Failure: Week 5

By Jacob Toman

Last week we read about the great success of Deborah and Barak in battle against the general of king Jabin, Sisera, and his army of Iron Chariots. We also saw the rise to power of the hiding “mighty man” - Gideon. This week we turn to see the first internal war of God’s people as they seek for a king to rule over them, and become entangled in a upheaval that was unparalleled at the time.

 

Read Judges 8:22-27...

  1. What is the request of the Israelites to Gideon? (Hint: see verse 22)
  2. What is Gideon’s “Compromise”? (Hint: see verse 23-24)
  3. What is an Ephod?
    • A passage in the Book of Exodus describes the Ephod as an elaborate garment worn by the high priest, and upon which the Hoshen, or breastplate containing Urim and Thummim, rested. According to this description, the Ephod was woven out of gold, blue, purple, and scarlet threads, was made of fine linen, and was embroidered with skillful work in gold thread (Exodus 28:6-14).
      • Used by the high ________
      • Used for consulting ________

 

Read Judges 8:28-35...

  1. Gideon’s nickname “Jerubbaal” means - contender with Baal (given for his heroics in Judges 6). Notice the author of Judges swap from using the name “Gideon” to “Jerub-baal” in verse 29 and 35. In verses 32 and 33 the author of judges uses the name “Gideon”. What are some possible reasons for using both names in verses 29-35?
  2. When Gideon dies, what is the summary statement of Israel’s life choices? (Hint: see verse 33-34)
Abimelech (judges).jpg

Read Judges 9:1-6...

  1. What is Abimelek’s lineage? (Hint: see 9:5)
  2. What are Abimelek's reasons for why he ought to be king? (Hint: see 9:2)
  3. What does Abimelek do to secure his power and position as king? (Hint: see 9:4-6)

 

Read Judges 9:7-20

  1. Who is the thornbush in Jotham’s message to the citizens of Shechem? (Hint: see 9:16)
  2. What is the prediction of Jotham concerning the newly crowned king and his followers? (Hint: see 9:19-20)

 

Read Judges 9:21-29...

  1. What is the lineage of Gaal? (Hint: see 9:26)
  2. What is Gaal’s campaign speech? (Hint: see 9:27-29)

 

Read Judges 9:30-41...

  1. Who conspires against Gaal? (Hint: see 9:30)
  2. What is the outcome of Gaal’s rebellion against Abimelek? (Hint: see 9:41)

 

Read Judges 9:42-49...

  1. How does Abimelek deal with the continued uprising of the people of Shechem? (Hint: see 9:42-45)
  2. What is the method Abimelek uses for breaching the tower of Shechem? (Hint: see 9:48-49)

 

Read Judges 9:50-56...

  1. How does Abimelek’s downfall compare to Jotham’s curse? (Hint: see 9:20)
  2. Who suffers under the reign of Abimelek? (Hint: see 9:56-57)

map of ancient mizpeh and surrouding area.png

We see a switch in the tragedy and violence of Judges during the story of Abimelek. Up until Judges 9, the focus seems to be a continual struggle between God, his people, and their desire to follow the ways of the Canaanites; God sends various external invaders to discipline and encourage his people to return to him. With Abimelek, we see the enemy of God’s people arising from among their own ranks. Jesus gives us warnings in Matthew 7:15-20 concerning false prophets - false teachers and leaders of God’s people:

            15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.  Matthew 7:15-20

There are some amazing parallels in the story of the downfall of Sisera and the downfall of Abimelek.  We see similarity in the introduction of the story (Israel did evil), the rise of an oppressor (Sisera/Abimelek), the prediction of the destruction of the oppressor (in battle and war), friends of the oppressor becoming enemies (the Kenites/The people of Shechem), and the destruction predicted comes true (Sisera slain by a woman, Abimelek consumed by fire).

The amount of similarities are surprising. But this doesn’t mean that everything in the two stories is the same. At least one of the key distinctions between the story of Sisera as an oppressor and Abimelek as an oppressor are their point of origins. Sisera is used by God as a force to discipline God’s people and turn God’s people back to him. Abimelek is a descendent of Gideon - a man who was visited personally by the angel of the Lord. Sisrera was a threat from the outside, while Abimelek was a threat to God’s people from the inside.

When God’s people abandon the ways of the Lord, there is no distinguishing between the people of God and the people of this world.

Think back to what motivated Abimelek - what he wanted and desired. When do we bring violence and internal struggle to our own lives, families, churches, and communities? The story of Abimelek gives us a reminder that even the people of God can be the cause of great harm to themselves and one another.

Today, are we seeking to submit ourselves to the ways of the Lord, the word of the Lord, and the plans of the Lord? Or do we desire to see our own ways established, our own words obeyed, and our own plans followed?