Judges 9:1-6 1 Abimelech son of Jerub-Baal went to his mother’s brothers in Shechem and said to them and to all his mother’s clan, 2 “Ask all the citizens of Shechem, ‘Which is better for you: to have all seventy of Jerub-Baal’s sons rule over you, or just one man?’ Remember, I am your flesh and blood.” 3 When the brothers repeated all this to the citizens of Shechem, they were inclined to follow Abimelech, for they said, “He is our brother.” 4 They gave him seventy shekels of silver from the temple of Baal-Berith, and Abimelech used it to hire reckless adventurers, who became his followers. 5 He went to his father’s home in Ophrah and on one stone murdered his seventy brothers, the sons of Jerub-Baal. But Jotham, the youngest son of Jerub-Baal, escaped by hiding. 6 Then all the citizens of Shechem and Beth Millo gathered beside the great tree at the pillar in Shechem to crown Abimelech king.
Holy smokes this is a brutal chapter of the Bible. Talk about your ultimate case of sibling rivalry. Here’s the scenario: Gideon has 70 sons, which to me seems a bit excessive. One son, Abimelech decided he should be in charge around here so he convinces the people to help him. Now you should now that Abimelech’s mother was a slave of Gideon (first problem: sleeping with your slave), so his relatives were a different people group than the other sons. He convinces his relatives that he should be the only one in charge. After all, a throne with 70 guys on it gets a little crowded. Well, they agree with him and he beginning days of his leadership aren’t something to be proud of. And his choices at the beginning of his leadership defined the remainder of his days.
Abimelech made three horrible choices at the beginning of his rulership: 1. He accepted money from the temple of a false God. He essentially used dirty money to launch his authority. 2. He hired fun, free-spirited, reckless adventurers for his team. There are two problems with this – buying his followers and selecting a bunch of trouble causers. 3. He killed people to gain authority.
Now this last one seems like an obvious no-no, but let’s also take a look at the other two. Because I see these same things happening in our world today. Number one, people are offered dirty money to get ahead. Examples of this are bribes, stolen money, and sketchy business deals. Number two, surrounding oneself with people who flatter them and are willing to do what you say as long as you pay them to say the right stuff. Number three, stepping on whoever is necessary to get ahead.
This is corporate America, people! This is the way of the world. And it always works and it never works. It always seems to work out in the short-term. It provides instant results, but it usually catches up with the person in the long run. They may later be exposed for their incompetency and it is discovered that they cheated their way to the top. They may later crack under the pressure because they don’t have the skill set necessary to lead. No matter the cause, leadership that starts off corrupt usually ends with poor results.
This is why it is so important to start things the right way. Abimelech’s life was ended in a miserable, shameful way – a lady dropped a brick on his head. The decisions he made at he beginning of his rulership followed him. He became defined by how he started. He started a cheater, so he led like a cheater. He started a murderer, he led like a murderer. He couldn’t escape it. (Well he could have escaped it by repenting and turning to God, but he didn’t.) He chose the way he would be defined. We, too, choose the way that we are defined. We get to decide how we start things. We can hold integrity as a high standard and follow the ways of the Lord or we can lie, cheat, and steal our way into power. We just have to keep in mind that whatever path we choose will define our leadership. It will stick with us. So let’s choose to have ethics that we can be proud of. Let’s start things with the right motives in the right way.