I. GOD RELATES THE LIVES OF THE GOOD AND THE BAD FOR WISE ENDS. "Never any man was so ill as not to have some favourers: Abimelech hath a Zebul in the midst of Shechem" (Bp. Hall). Every situation has its moral complications.
II. THE WORTHLESSNESS AND IMMORALITY OF A SUPERIOR DO NOT EXONERATE FROM EXTERNAL RESPECT AND FAITHFUL DUTY, UNLESS HIS AUTHORITY IMPOSES UNRIGHTEOUS TASKS. Much of the routine of life is neutral from a moral point of view, otherwise it would be impossible for the righteous to live amongst men. We must fulfil our bond until the conduct of our employer renders it impossible for us to serve God in serving him. So with natural duties, as of a child to a parent.
III. ON THE OTHER HAND, FAITHFULNESS IN DETAILS WILL NOT ATONE FOR NEGLECTING TO STUDY THE MORAL DRIFT OF THE WHOLE SITUATION OF WHICH THESE DETAILS ARE A PART. The judgment of Abimelech involves Zebul. There comes a time when we share the guilt of the master in continuing to serve him. An honourable quittance should be sought at once in such a case, "The Lord will provide." Otherwise we shall be involved in the same judgment. - M.
And Abimelech took an axe in his hand.1. I learn first from this subject, the folly of depending upon any one form of tactics in anything we have to do for this world or for God. Look over the weaponry of olden times — javelins, battle-axes, habergeons — and show me a single weapon with which Abimelech and his men could have gained such complete triumph. It is no easy thing to take a temple thus armed. Yet here Abimelech and his army come up, they surround this temple, and they capture it without the loss of a single man on the part of Abimelech, although I suppose some of the old Israelitish heroes told Abimelech: "You are only going up there to be cut to pieces." Yet you are willing to testify to-day that by no other mode — certainly not by ordinary modes — could that temple so easily, so thoroughly, have been taken. What the Church most wants to learn, this day, is that any plan is right, is lawful, is best, which helps to overthrow the temple of sin, and capture this world for God. We are very apt to stick to the old modes of attack. We come up with the sharp, keen, glittering steel spear of argument, expecting in that way to take the castle; but they have a thousand spears where we have ten. And so the castle of sin stands, I propose a different style of tactics. Let each one go to the forest of God's promise and invitation, and hew down a branch, and put it on his shoulder, and let us all come around these obstinate iniquities, and then, with this pile, kindled by the fires of a holy zeal and the flames of a consecrated life, we will burn them out. What steel cannot do, fire may. We want more heart in our song, more heart in our almsgiving, more heart in our prayers, more heart in our preaching. Oh, for less of Abimelech's sword and more of Abimeleeh's conflagration! The gospel is not a syllogism; it is not casuistry; it is not polemics, or the science of squabble. It is blood-red fact; it is warm-hearted invitation; it is leaping, bounding, flying good news; it is efflorescent with all light; it is rubescent with all summery glow; it is arborescent with all sweet shade.
2. Still further, I learn from this subject the power of example. If Abimelech had sat down on the grass, and told his men to go and get the boughs, and go out to the battle, they would never have gone at all, or if they had, it would have been without any spirit or effective result; but when Abimelech goes with his own axe and hews down a branch, and with Abimelech's arm puts it on Abimelech's shoulder, and marches on, then, my text says, all the people did the same. How natural that was! What made Garibaldi and Stonewall Jackson the most magnetic commanders of this century? They always rode ahead. Oh, the overwhelming power of example! Oh, start out for heaven to-day, and your family will come after you, and your business associates will come after you, and your social friends will join you. With one branch of the tree of life for a baton, marshal just as many as you can gather. Oh, the infinite, the semi-omnipotent power of a good or a bad example!
3. Still further, I learn from this subject the advantage of concerted action. If Abimelech had merely gone out with a tree-branch, the work would not have been accomplished, or if ten, twenty, or thirty men had gone; but when all the axes are lifted, and all the sharp edges fall, and all these men carry each his tree-branch down and throw it about the temple, the victory is gained — the temple falls. Where there is one man in the Church of God at this day shouldering his whole duty, there are a great many who never lift an axe or swing a bough. It seems to me as if there were ten drones in every hive to one busy bee. What broken bone of sorrow have you ever set? Are you doing nothing? Is it possible that a man or woman sworn to be a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ is doing nothing?
4. Still further, I learn from this subject the danger of false refuges. As soon as these Sheehemites got into the temple, they thought they were safe. They said: "Berith will take care of us. Abimelech may batter down everything else; he cannot batter down this temple where we are now hid." But very soon they heard the timbers crackling, and they were smothered with smoke, and they miserably died. And you and I are just as much tempted to false refuges. The mirror this morning may have persuaded you that you have a comely cheek; Satan may have told you that you are all right; but bear with me if I tell you that, if unpardoned, you are all wrong. I suppose every man is stepping into some kind of refuge. Here you step into the tower of good works. You say, "I shall be safe here in this refuge." The battlements are adorned; the steps are varnished; on the wall are pictures of all the suffering you have alleviated, and all the schools you have established, and all the fine things you have ever done. Up in that tower you feel you are safe. But hear you not the tramp of your unpardoned sins all around the tower? They each have a match. You are kindling the combustible material. You feel the heat and the suffocation. Oh! may you leap in time, the gospel declaring, "By the deeds of the law shall no flesh living be justified." " Well," you say, "I have been driven out of that tower; where shall I go?" Step into this tower of indifference. You say, "If this tower is attacked, it will be a great while before it is taken." You feel at ease. But there is an Abimelech, with ruthless assault, coming on. Death and his forces are gathering around. "But," says some one, "you are engaged in a very mean business, driving us from tower to tower." Oh no! I want to tell you of a Gibraltar that never has been and never will be taken; of a bulwark that the judgment earthquakes cannot budge. The Bible refers to it when it says: "In God is thy refuge, and underneath thee are the everlasting arms." Oh! fling yourself into it,
(T. De Witt Talmage.).
PeopleAbimelech, Ebed, Gaal, Hamor, Jerubbaal, Jotham, Ophrah, Zalmon, Zebul
PlacesArumah, Beer, Beth-millo, Diviners' Oak, Lebanon, Midian, Mount Gerizim, Mount Zalmon, Ophrah, Shechem, Thebez, Tower of Shechem
TopicsAbimelech, Abim'elech, Army, Besieged, Camped, Captured, Captureth, Encamped, Encampeth, Position, Thebez
Outline1. Abimelech by conspiracy with the Shechemites, and murder of his brothers, is made king
7. Jotham by a parable rebukes them, and foretells their ruin
22. Gaal conspires with the Shechemites against him
30. Zebul reveals it
34. Abimelech overcomes them, and sows the city with salt
46. He burns the hold of the god Berith
50. At Thebez he is slain by a piece of a millstone
56. Jotham's curse is fulfilled.
Dictionary of Bible ThemesJudges 9:50
LibraryHere, by Way of Objection, Several Questions are Raised. ...
Here, by way of objection, several questions are raised. Scripture relates that God sometimes complied with certain prayers which had been dictated by minds not duly calmed or regulated. It is true, that the cause for which Jotham imprecated on the inhabitants of Shechem the disaster which afterwards befell them was well founded; but still he was inflamed with anger and revenge (Judges 9:20); and hence God, by complying with the execration, seems to approve of passionate impulses. Similar fervour …
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