People who desire power always outnumber those who are able to use power wisely once they have it. Perhaps this is because power has a way of taking over and controlling the person using it. This is especially true in cases of inherited but unmerited power. The life of Abimelech shows us what happens when hunger for power corrupts judgment.
Abimelech’s position in Gideon’s family as the son of a concubine must have created great tension between him and Gideon’s many other sons. One against 70: such odds can either crush a person or make him ruthless. It is obvious which direction Abimelech chose. Gideon’s position as a warrior and judge had placed Abimelech in an environment of power; Gideon’s death provided an opportunity for this son to seize power. Once the process began, the disastrous results were inevitable. A person’s thirst for power is not satisfied when he gets power – it only becomes more intense. Abimelech’s life was consumed by that thirst. Eventually, he could not tolerate any threat to his power.
By this time, ownership had changed. Abimelech no longer had power – power had him. One lesson we can learn from his life is that our goals control our actions. The amount of control is related to the importance of the goal. Abimelech’s most important goal was to have power. His lust for power led him to wipe out not only his brothers, but also whole cities that refused to submit to him. Nothing but death could stop his bloodthirsty drive to conquer. How ironic that he was finally injured by a woman! The contrast between Abimelech and the great people of the Bible is great. He wanted to control the nation; they were willing to be controlled by God.
Strengths and Accomplishments
- The first self-declared king of Israel
- Qualified tactical planner and organizer
Weaknesses and Mistakes
- Power hungry and ruthless
- Took advantage of his father’s position without imitating his character
- Had 69 of his 70 half brothers killed
Vital Statistics for Abimelech
- Where: Shechem, Arumah, Thebez
- Occupations: Self-acclaimed king, judge, political troublemaker
- Relativers: Father: Gideon. Only surviving brother: Jotham
Key Verses for Abimelech
“Thus God repaid the wickedness that Abimelech had done to his father by murdering his seventy brothers. God also made the men of Shechem pay for all their wickedness. The curse of Jotham son of Jerub-Baal came on them” (Judges 9:56, 57).
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His story is told in Judges 8:31-9:57. He is also mentioned in 2 Samuel 11:21.
Click here to print or download the Bible character study “Abimelech – My Father is King“