Death by Division: Abimelek

  • January 11, 2017 | JUDGES 9:22–57
The field of Christian comedy has grown in the past three decades. Stand-up comedians such as Tim Hawkins and Jeanne Robertson fill auditoriums, Christian satirical news websites like The Babylon Bee draw tens of thousands of readers, and Anita Renfroe’s video of “William Tell Momisms” went viral with over 1.2 million views.

Humor can be an important communi- cation tool, and Judges provides us with several examples of divinely inspired comedy. For instance, King Eglon’s embarrassingly long bathroom break in chapter 3 is a piece of slapstick that highlights how ridiculous it is to oppose God. And in today’s reading, we clearly see use of literary irony, which exposes just how far the Israelites have fallen from faithful obedience to Yahweh.

As a first example, the Midianites and the Canaanites had been subdued and their marauding campaigns halted, but the Shechemites picked up where they left off. They rob and ambush their own (v. 25). Now the terror of Israel is . . . Israel! Further, Gaal—a man of outsider status (just like Abimelek)—moved into Shechem and slyly persuaded the people to follow him. But whom does he suggest as his political hero? Hamor, who was the father of the young prince, Shechem (vv. 26–28). To understand how shocking this is, remember that Shechem raped Jacob’s daughter, Dinah, and later begged his father, Hamor, to procure her to be his wife (see Genesis 34). Hamor, the father of and colluder with the rapist Shechem, is hardly an improvement on the murderer Abimelek!

Finally, in another example of dramatic irony, the people of Shechem took refuge from Abimelek in Baal’s temple— and there they died. Baal was not the god whom people could call their “refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble” (Ps. 46:1).

Apply the Word

Where have you turned for refuge and strength? The world says we find safety in wealth or professional networking. We can be tempted to put our trust in leaders or worldly answers that lead to destruction. But God will never fail us. He does not promise an easy life free from pain, but He does promise to be with us (see Psalm 23).

BY Jennifer Michel

Jen Pollock Michel is a regular contributor for Christianity Today’s Her.meneutics. Her first book, Teach us to Want: Longing, Ambition and the Life of Faith, is published by InterVarsity Press. Jen earned her BA in French from Wheaton College and her MA in Literature from Northwestern University. She lives in Toronto, Canada, with her husband and five children, and serves on staff at Grace Toronto Church. You can follow Jen on Twitter @jenpmichel or you can find her at

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