Although Gideon was imperfect—very imperfect—he is remembered in the “Hall of Faith” in Hebrews 11. God showed through Gideon that strength belongs to the Lord. Because of the success of Gideon, the people asked him to “Rule over them” (8:22). Gideon refused the request and said “I will not rule over you, nor shall my son rule over you: the Lord shall rule over you” (8:23). That’s a great answer. Unfortunately, his son Abimelech had other ideas.
The book of Judges has several important themes, there are two that are very important for today’s chapter. The first theme of the book of Judges is the concept of the next generation. Judges 2:10 says, “All that generation also were gathered to their fathers; and there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord, nor yet the work which [Joshua] had done for Israel.” This statement is true of almost every Judge to follow. In Gideon’s case, he had 70 sons with many different women. He sired so many kids, there was no possible way for him to keep the words of Deuteronomy 6:6–9,
6 These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
Thus, it is no wonder that his son, Abimelech, rebelled in such a way that he betrayed Gideon’s words in 8:23.
The second important theme is about an earthly rule over the nation of Israel. There is a repeated statement that starts appearing toward the end of the book of Judges, “There was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes” (cf. 17:6, 18:1, 19:1, 21:25). There is a big difference between a judge and a king. Although judge’s served as military and administrative leaders (part of what a king does), they worked on a local level (rather than a national level) and their authority was not passed on to the next generation. Part of kingship was passing the baton to your offspring. Part of Abimelech’s offense was the attempt to make himself ruler by force. This attempt worked for a little while, but ultimately led to his inglorious death at the hands of an unknown woman.
Abimelech serves as a warning for parents to love their kids well and raise them according to the Word of the Lord. If Abimelech had known the consequences of trying to establish an earthly rule according to the Law of Moses, who knows, perhaps this whole mess could have been avoided. Secondly, he serves as a warning for those who try to usurp the Lord’s power. Gideon’s words are as true for us as that generation, “the Lord shall rule over you.” Many of us, like Abimelech, are dissatisfied with God’s management style. We think we know better. We don’t, and Judges shows us the depths of a people apart from God.
Ask yourself today, what reminders have I set up in my life to remember the word of the Lord, and what strategies can I use to pass it on to the next generation?
By: Tyler Short — Connections Ministry Associate