“And Abimelek, the son of Jeruba’al, went to Shekem, to the brothers of his mother. And he said to them and to the whole clan of the house of his father and mother, saying, ‘Please speak into the ears of all the leaders of Shekem, ‘Which is better for you to rule over you? Seventy men who are all sons of Jeruba’al to rule over you or one man? Remember that I am your bone and your flesh.’ And his mother’s brothers spoke in the ears of all of the leaders of Shekem all of these words. And they bowed their hearts to follow Abimelek because they said, ‘He is our brother.’
As we return to the life of ancient Israel after the death of Gideon (aka Jeruba’al), the scheming of sinful hearts clearly is seen to abound. Of course, one might say, “What do you expect when you have seventy-one sons from numerous wives and a concubine!” How David and Solomon should have learned from the foolish practice of Gideon and his polygamy.
In this case, the sons of Gideon’s wives formed a kind of Council of Seventy to lead the people of Israel. Abimelek, the son of his concubine who grew up in Shekem. What is particularly interesting about growing up in this location is that Shekem (or Shechem as is transliterated in many of our Bibles) is one of the cities of refuge established by Joshua (Joshua 20:7), a place where those guilty of un-premeditated murder may flee for refuge and thus avert the death sentence (Numbers 35:9-15). It would likely have been a place where many thugs and criminal types would have abounded…and these were Abimelek’s kin. It helps us to get a picture of why Abimelek sought to do what he would do next.
There is a great debate as to whether nature or nurture influences us more profoundly. Certainly we must recognize that nature is a significant part of the equation…we are born in sin as a result of the fall. But sinners raising sinners; well, we just compound the problem. Oh, the wicked web we weave when we pursue the lusts of our heart.
The sanctuary cities were to be controlled by the Levites (Numbers 35:6). The principle behind this should have been obvious — use the leaders in the church to guide the refugees toward a life of faith. Yet, Levites are sinners too and thus what this city of refuge has become is more or less a prison and the levites guards on the prison wall. Again, the evil of sinful man begets nothing good in our world. What is even sadder is that, knowing the lessons of history, often the church acts no differently than the pagan world, plotting and conspiring to gain power and influence rather than living submissively according to God’s law…even in the church of Jesus Christ.