Abimelech reigns for three years until, in judgment, the Lord sends a spirit of ill will between Abimelech and the men of Shechem for the murder of Gideon’s sons. The men of Shechem choose a new leader, Gaal, to overthrow Abimelech. However, Abimelech and his troops defeat Gaal and his men. Then Abimelech seizes Shechem and kills the people both outside and inside the city. The remaining people flee to the temple of the god Berith for refuge, but Abimelech barricades them inside and sets it on fire, killing about a thousand men and women.
After the slaughter of Shechem, Abimelech goes to Thebez in an attempt to do the same to the people there. Once again we see the people of the city take refuge in a strong tower. However, Abimelech does not have the same success with burning down this tower. A woman throws a millstone down and crushes his head. Abimelech tells his armor-bearer to thrust his sword through him so no one will say that a woman killed him. Unfortunately for Abimelech, throughout this story a woman will continue to get credit for his death (2 Samuel 11:21). “Thus God repaid the wickedness of Abimelech, which he had done to his father by killing his seventy brothers. And all the evil of the men of Shechem God returned on their own heads, and on them came the curse of Jotham the son of Jerubbaal.”
The people, seeking safety and security, sought refuge in a tower built by man, but they never sought the Lord. “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe” (Proverbs 18:10). If we run to the Lord in times of trouble and call upon Him through prayer and reading His word, we will remember His goodness and His sovereignty, and we shall find peace and rest for our souls. However, the children of Israel don’t experience this peace for long because they keep seeking fulfillment outside of the Lord.
Again the Israelites return to doing evil and serving other gods. “So the anger of the Lord was hot against Israel; and He sold them into the hands of the Philistines and into the hands of the people of Ammon. From that year they harassed and oppressed the children of Israel for eighteen years —all the children of Israel who were on the other side of the Jordan in the land of the Amorites, in Gilead.” Then the Israelites cry out to God until “His soul could no longer endure the misery of Israel.”
The children of Israel gather together and ask “who is the man” that will fight Ammon? So God raises up a man to lead the people. This is when we meet Jephthah, a mighty man of valor and a son of a harlot. His half brothers drove him away from home, but when Ammon makes war against Israel, the elders of Gilead, who are now desperate, call Jephthah to come back and save them. Jephthah responds, “If you take me back home to fight against the people of Ammon, and the Lord delivers me, shall I be your head?” The elders of Gilead say “yes”!
When the Amorites accuse Israel of taking their land, Jephthah says that the land is theirs because the Lord gave it to them. “‘Therefore I have not sinned against you, but you wronged me by fighting against me. May the Lord, the Judge, render judgment this day between the children of Israel and the people of Ammon.’ However, the king of the people of Ammon did not heed the words which Jephthah sent him.”
Tomorrow Jephthah makes a foolish vow to the Lord, resulting in a tragic outcome. Keep reading to find out what happens. (Judges 9:22-11:28)