THE FAITHFULNESS OF GOD INCLUDES THE FULFILLMENT OF HIS CURSES
Have any of you ever seen those little boxes of Bible promises where you can pick one card out each week and take comfort in the blessing promised in that verse? When we think of the faithfulness of God, we usually think in terms of His keeping His promises of blessing. What a comfort to sing some of the old hymns like “Standing on the Promises of God.” Just like our Bible verse for the year “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today ad forever” (Heb. 13:8). We know that our God will never act in a way inconsistent with Who He is and What He has promised to do. We can count on God’s faithfulness every day.
But the conclusion of this account of Gideon’s son, Abimelech, the Bramble King, reminds us that God is just as faithful in carrying out His promised curses. Have you ever been in a Christian book store and seem a little box of Bible curses – where you can pick one out each day and meditate on it? Not so great from a marketing perspective!
The Bible is full of prominent curses. Starts right at the beginning of Genesis:
Gen. 2:17 “from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.” Satan’s strategy is to try to undermine God’s curses; coming alongside and whispering: Surely God didn’t mean what He said; Surely He won’t act so severely.
Gen. 3 – is all about the pronouncement of major curses by God
– He addresses the serpent – declares that the seed of the woman will have the ultimate victory
– He addresses the woman – promises pain in childbirth – Did God keep His Word?
– Then He addresses the man – promises hardship and toil in everyday labor – How did it go for you this week at your job? Was it a country club type of experience?
Maybe you think God will give you a pass on certain aspects of the famous Harvest Law:
“Whatsoever a man soweth, so shall he also reap.”
Make no mistake – God keeps His Word. You can track the multitude of curses sprinkled throughout the Scriptures. Don’t make the mistake of taking God lightly.
THE FAITHFULNESS OF GOD INCLUDES THE FULFILLMENT OF HIS CURSES
For devotions, I have been using a compilation of daily nuggets from the pen of A.W. Tozer. As we consider the sovereignty and providence of God that allow Him to carry out His blessings and cursings, I found it interesting that the theme for today’s reading was exactly our message for today: “God is faithful to condemn!” Don’t be fooled by God’s timetable where it might seem like there is no accountability. If you forsake truth and integrity, your treachery will be rewarded with the curse of God.
(:20) The Curse of Jotham: twofold application —
1) Let fire come out from Abimelech and consume the men of Shechem and Beth-millo
2) Let fire come out from the men of Shechem and from Beth-millo, and consume Abimelech
Flash forward to the final verse of Chapter 9: “Also God returned all the wickedness of the men of Shechem on their heads, and the curse of Jotham the son of Jerubbaal came upon them.”
I. (:22-25) THE FULFILLMENT OF GOD’S CURSES IS SOVEREIGNLY ORCHESTRATED
God is the conductor; the master director; He is directing the course of history and all of the minute details associated with all events – yet without being the author of sin
A. (:22) According to God’s Timetable
“Now Abimelech ruled over Israel three years.”
Three years is a long time. [What if you disobeyed your father and your mother warned you, when your father returns in three years he is going to punish you for that offense.] Probably thought that he had gotten away with his murderous treachery
Looks like he has expanded his rule somewhat beyond the borders of Shechem; apparently lived in Arumah – about 5 miles southeast of Shechem
Herbert Wolf: The word for “governed” (yasar) is unique to the book and is perhaps chosen to distinguish Abimelech’s ill-fated rule from that of the true judges. Abimelech was more like a tyrant than a king, and he soon encountered opposition in Shechem itself.
There was enough time transpired to sour the relationship between him and his supporters; they got the type of ruler they deserved; the opposite of a servant king
B. (:23-24) According to God’s Justice
1. (:23) Judging Treachery with Treachery
“Then God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the men of Shechem; and the men of Shechem dealt treacherously with Abimelech,”
cf. evil spirit that God sent to torment King Saul; could have been actual demonic spirit or a disposition to cause negative discord and strife
Block: the Hebrew word raa can have two meanings: moral malignancy or experiential misfortune, analogous to English “ill,” which refers primarily to moral evil and secondarily to unpropitious conditions.
This had been an unholy union from the start – cf. how God has called us to separate from evil; beware of friendship with the world; beware of running with the crowd; beware of sexual unions outside of the scope of God’s blessing – any type of unholy alliance will ultimately end badly; don’t try to make a deal with the devil
Takes the ministry of the Holy Spirit to bind us together in peace and harmony
Inrig: But false promises are followed by disillusionment, and that is exactly what happened to the people of Shechem. They quickly realized that Abimelech was not a liberator; he was a tyrant, and they tried to break away from him.
2. (:24) Holding All Parties Accountable
“in order that the violence done to the seventy sons of Jerubbaal might come, and their blood might be laid on Abimelech their brother, who killed them, and on the men of Shechem, who strengthened his hands to kill his brothers.”
C. (:25) According to God’s Methodology — Flair for the Unexpected ( Instigation)
1. Surprising Ambush = Primary Objective
“And the men of Shechem set men in ambush against him on the tops of the mountains,”
2. Surprising Attacks = Secondary Objective
“and they robbed all who might pass by them along the road; and it was told to Abimelech.”
Constable: Verse 25 probably means that the men of Shechem conspired to rob Abimelech of the tolls he received from the travelers and traders who passed through Shechem. They did this by ambushing them from Mt. Gerizim and Mt. Ebal, the two mountains between which the road passed near Shechem.
II. (:26-41) THE FULFILLMENT OF GOD’S CURSES IS HUMANLY INESCAPABLE –
COUP ATTEMPTED BY GAAL
You would think that one side or the other (Abimelech or men of Shechem) would emerge victorious
A. (:26-29) Men of Shechem Hopeful of Escape – Futile Aligning with a Human Savior
“Now Gaal the son of Ebed came with his relatives, and crossed over into Shechem; and the men of Shechem put their trust in him. And they went out into the field and gathered the grapes of their vineyards and trod them, and held a festival; and they went into the house of their god, and ate and drank and cursed Abimelech. Then Gaal the son of Ebed said, ‘Who is Abimelech, and who is Shechem, that we should serve him? Is he not the son of Jerubbaal, and is Zebul not his lieutenant? Serve the men of Hamor the father of Shechem; but why should we serve him? Would, therefore, that this people were under my authority! Then I would remove Abimelech.’ And he said to Abimelech, ‘Increase your army, and come out.’”
Gaal had been waiting in the wings; he had never been on board with the leadership of Abimelech; he sensed his opportunity to drive a wedge between the men of Shechem and their bramble king
“put their trust in him” = pagan concept of kingship rule was closely akin to trusting in man as a type of human savior; a deliverer; someone who would make their life safer and more comfortable
Hamor identified as the founding father of the city of Shechem – Gen. 33:19
Gathering grapes – not giving credit to the God who had provided so rich a harvest for them to enjoy
Block: Like Abimelech’s speech in v. 2, Gaal skillfully plays the ethnicity card in gaining the support of the lords of Shechem. If blood is the issue, then let it be kept pure, and let the kingship be brought home. Abimelech may claim kinship with the Shechemites through his mother, but his identity and nationality are determined by his father, Jerubbaal. Therefore, let the yoke of this foreigner be cast off.
Takes shot at Gideon here – speaks in deprecating fashion
B. (:30-33) God is Always One Step Ahead – Superior Intelligence and Winning Strategy
“And when Zebul the ruler of the city heard the words of Gaal the son of Ebed, his anger burned. And he sent messengers to Abimelech deceitfully, saying, ‘Behold, Gaal the son of Ebed and his relatives have come to Shechem; and behold, they are stirring up the city against you. Now therefore, arise by night, you and the people who are with you, and lie in wait in the field. And it shall come about in the morning, as soon as the sun is up, that you shall rise early and rush upon the city; and behold, when he and the people who are with him come out against you, you shall do to them whatever you can.’”
Zebul remained loyal to Abimelech; understood that Gaal had not been careful to make all the necessary preparations for warfare; if Abimelech could surprise him, he would stand a good chance of success
Everything is done in the darkness; the tone of deceitfulness and treachery as opposed to truth and integrity dominates this narrative
C. (:34-41) Arrogance and Boasting Crushed in the End
“So Abimelech and all the people who were with him arose by night and lay in wait against Shechem in four companies. Now Gaal the son of Ebed went out and stood in the entrance of the city gate; and Abimelech and the people who were with him arose from the ambush. And when Gaal saw the people, he said to Zebul, ‘Look, people are coming down from the tops of the mountains.’ But Zebul said to him, ‘You are seeing the shadow of the mountains as if they were men.’ And Gaal spoke again and said, ‘Behold, people are coming down from the highest part of the land, and one company comes by the way of the diviners’ oak.’ Then Zebul said to him, ‘Where is your boasting now with which you said, Who is Abimelech that we should serve him? Is this not the people whom you despised? Go out now and fight with them!’ So Gaal went out before the leaders of Shechem and fought with Abimelech. And Abimelech chased him, and he fled before him; and many fell wounded up to the entrance of the gate. Then Abimelech remained at Arumah, but Zebul drove out Gaal and his relatives so that they could not remain in Shechem.”
MacArthur: a diviners’ oak = a tree regarded superstitiously where mystical ceremonies and soothsaying were done.
Gaal forced to leave the protection of the city and take his troops to fight Abimelech in the open fields; Zebul made it impossible for him to retreat back into Shechem for safe haven
III. (:42-57) THE FULFILLMENT OF GOD’S CURSES IS PRECISELY TARGETED
No collateral damage; no sloppy missing of the mark; strikes right at the heart of the target
A. (:42-49) The Destruction of Shechem
1. (:42-45) The City of Shechem in General
“Now it came about the next day, that the people went out to the field, and it was told to Abimelech. So he took his people and divided them into three companies, and lay in wait in the field; when he looked and saw the people coming out from the city, he arose against them and slew them. Then Abimelech and the company who was with him dashed forward and stood in the entrance of the city gate; the other two companies then dashed against all who were in the field and slew them. And Abimelech fought against the city all that day, and he captured the city and killed the people who were in it; then he razed the city and sowed it with salt.”
Looks like the men of Shechem thought that the conflict was over and they could just go about their normal daily activities; they did not think that Abimelech would hold them accountable for aligning themselves with Gaal
Wiersbe: The sowing of salt on a conquered city was a symbolic action that condemned the city to desolation so nobody would want to live there. “Put salt on Moab, for she will be laid waste; her towns will become desolate, with no one to live in them” (Jer. 48:9, NIV).
Block: It is evident from this paragraph that not every corner of the city had fallen to him. The previous verses seem to have involved his destruction of the lower part of the city, as opposed to the acropolis on which the temple fortress stood. The former, which represented the areas where people lived and carried on their daily activities, took up the larger portion of the city, to be sure, but the last line of defensive personnel and structures still remained.
2. (:46-49) The Leaders of Shechem in Particular
“When all the leaders of the tower of Shechem heard of it, they entered the inner chamber of the temple of El-berith. And it was told Abimelech that all the leaders of the tower of Shechem were gathered together. So Abimelech went up to Mount Zalmon, he and all the people who were with him; and Abimelech took an axe in his hand and cut down a branch from the trees, and lifted it and laid it on his shoulder. Then he said to the people who were with him, ‘What you have seen me do, hurry and do likewise.’ And all the people also cut down each one his branch and followed Abimelech, and put them on the inner chamber and set the inner chamber on fire over those inside, so that all the men of the tower of Shechem also died, about a thousand men and women.”
Herbert Wolf: “shoulder” = “Shechem” – Thus the name of the city held prophetic import for its own destruction.
B. (:50-57) The Destruction of Abimelech
“Then Abimelech went to Thebez, and he camped against Thebez and captured it. But there was a strong tower in the center of the city, and all the men and women with all the leaders of the city fled there and shut themselves in; and they went up on the roof of the tower. So Abimelech came to the tower and fought against it, and approached the entrance of the tower to burn it with fire. But a certain woman threw an upper millstone on Abimelech’s head, crushing his skull. Then he called quickly to the young man, his armor bearer, and said to him, ‘Draw your sword and kill me, lest it be said of me, A woman slew him.’ So the young man pierced him through, and he died. And when the men of Israel saw that Abimelech was dead, each departed to his home. Thus God repaid the wickedness of Abimelech, which he had done to his father, in killing his seventy brothers. Also God returned all the wickedness of the men of Shechem on their heads, and the curse of Jotham the son of Jerubbaal came upon them.”
Abimelech feeling his oats; felt invincible; apparently the men of Thebez had been involved in some type of insurrection attempt as well or were supportive of the men of Shechem; Abimelech figured he would take the same military approach and he should achieve the same results.
[Remember what it says in fine print in many advertisements: Past performance is no guarantee of future success.]
Look at the famous feat of this unnamed strong woman – she had carried this heavy upper millstone to the top of the tower and was able to hit the target at just the right moment
Herbert Wolf: an easily held stone, about ten inches long, that rode back and forth over the larger lower millstone as the grain was crushed (cf. Deut. 24:6). Grinding wheat was the work of women, and the woman doubtless took the stone with her as a potential weapon. Her success was as surprising as the arrow that pierced Ahab’s armor (1 Kings 22:34). It was unmistakably a divine retribution.
2 Sam. 11:21 – came to a disgraceful end – “Who struck down Abimelech the son of Jerubbesheth? Did not a woman throw an upper millstone on him from the wall so that he died at Thebaz?”
Block: The man who had shamelessly played the female card to seize the throne (vv. 1-2) now shamefully falls victim to a representative of this gender. Indeed the story of Abimelech the macho man is framed by two women: the first, who gave him life (8:31), and the second, who took it (9:53).
Doctrine of Retribution – Wikopedia: Divine retribution is supernatural punishment of a person, a group of people, or all humanity by a deity in response to some human action. . .
Divine retribution is aligned with divine vengeance. Almighty God alone is a just judge. Delayed judgment will eventually become eternally displayed.
The wrath of God is aligned with God’s nature where He loves righteousness and hates wickedness. The wrath of God is closely associated with Divine administration of justice. The wrath of God is commonly contrasted with the love of God.
Block: we observe God operating on the basis of fairness and honesty, doing what is right and giving people what they have earned. This time God does not act in mercy. He gives people the king they deserve, and he gives the king subjects he deserves. As dramatically as anywhere in Scripture, we observe a rigorous divine application of the principle of retribution. Fratricide has been answered with fratricide. He who had slaughtered his brothers “upon one stone” has his skull crushed beneath one stone.
Gospel: Jesus made a curse for me:
Gal. 3:10-14 “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us – for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree’”
What has God said about Unholy Alliances?? Do you think you can take fire into your bosom and not be burned??
Eccles. 12:13-14 “The conclusion, when all has been hear, is fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.”