The story of Abimelek, son of Gideon, is a straightforward example of justice. In order to seize power in Israel, he murdered his brothers. During a subsequent battle to subdue some rebels, however, a woman dropped a millstone on his head, resulting in his death. “Thus God repaid the wickedness that Abimelek had done” (Judg. 9:56).
The wickedness of Sodom and Gomorrah had earned these cities a similar death sentence from God. This situation provided the occasion for a conversation between God and Abraham about justice and mercy. A brief soliloquy by God revealed why He involved the patriarch in this matter: Since Abraham was going to be the founder of a great nation and a source of blessing to all nations, God wanted to see if Abraham understood His heart and would lead His people in paths of righteousness (vv. 17–19).
Abraham passed the test. He could have declined to interfere. He could have agreed with God and cheered the judgment. But instead he pled for these cities to be spared. To us, his intercession might look like bargaining with God, but it wasn’t really. The conversation shows him exploring the nature and boundaries of the covenant relationship.
It also shows that Abraham had a merciful heart. He interceded not just for his nephew Lot but also for all the cities’ inhabitants, though surely he knew of his neighbors’ great wickedness. Further, his intercession did not imply criticism of God’s judgment, but was done with a recognition of God’s mercy and justice (v. 25). If there had been even ten righteous men, the Lord would have spared the cities. As a result of this conversation, Abraham understood even more deeply the just and merciful heart of God.
Apply the Word
Parents, do you want to be better spiritual leaders of your families? Then learn theology (v. 19)! Theology is the study and knowledge of God. In studying His character, we come to understand true justice, righteousness, and mercy. We walk with Him day by day in a relationship within which He is making us more like Himself. What a foundation for parenting!