If you want to see and know and stay close to Jesus Christ, then you must also learn to identify the anti-Christ, the faker, that fool, that father of lies. I cut my teeth spotting the anti-Christ on the story of Abimelech, king of brambles. And truly, when it comes to the Bible, the devil is often in the details.
Judges 8:30-31 is where we begin, at the birth of Abimelech, at a point of contrast.
30 Now Gideon had seventy sons who were his direct descendants, for he had many wives.
31 His concubine who was in Shechem also bore him a son, and he named him Abimelech.
It’s painful to encounter Gideon’s polygamy. But remember, although God used Gideon, we aren’t here to follow Gideon. Gideon isn’t our Man. Look instead at what God is revealing through the details. And here we find that Gideon had 70 sons. A factor of perfection (7), completeness, and God’s law (10). Simply put, the number 70 communicates perfect spiritual order, carried out with all power.
And it is against this backdrop that the text confronts us with a birth in almost every way unlike that of our Saviour. Instead, we meet the disruption that is Abimelech, born illegitimately out of the depths of Gideon’s greed for women. Often, God reveals the state of things by highlighting how men are treating women, and this text is an early sign that things are very much disordered.
As we read further, we learn that after Gideon died and as Abimelech grew, Israel turned further away from God (v. 34). Trouble is brewing. The text is preparing us for Abimelech’s thirst for power, for his brutal murder of his brothers (echoing the sin of Cain), and of course, Jotham’s escape and prophetic parable.
In Judges 9:22, the image of the anti-Christ, the story of redemption in antithesis, begins to sharpen and intensify. I’ll show you what I mean.
- Where Jesus went to the grave for three days and emerged triumphant, Abimelech the bramble king rules for 3 years and descends into corruption.
- Where Jesus’s self-sacrifice grafts us to Him in perfect union (John 15:3), the seeds of Abimelech’s violence against his brothers return to him and to his allies, and they begin to consume one another (Isa 33:1).
In Abimelech we witness the way of the anti-Christ: brutality, conspiracy, conflict, cowardice.
And in the way of such things, a competitor king emerges, an early Judas known as Gaal. Together with the men of Shechem, Gaal gathers the grapes of their vineyards and tramples them, eating and drinking in an unworthy manner, cursing and plotting, drunk with the wine that stings like a serpent (Prov 23:31-33).
Abimelech hears of this and gathers his men together in a field for one last night before battle, awaiting their Judas, Gaal (Mark 14:32-50). Unlike Jesus, who condemns Simon Peter’s violence at his betrayal, Abimelech and Gaal square off, many fall wounded and die, and Abimelech razes the city of Shechem and sows it with salt. Abimelech has tried to cut off the line of Gideon, and now he sets his eyes on the leaders of Shechem, who have hidden in a tower in the temple of Baal-Berith.
Whew. Take a breath now if you can. Because even after Jotham’s warning, even after all of this, we are unprepared for what we meet in Judges 9:45-49.
Here, God shows us the blasphemy of Satan coming into full view. Abimelech the anti-Christ lays a branch across his shoulder (John 19:17) and, foreshadowing the words of Jesus at the Last Supper, says, “What you have seen me do, hurry and do likewise” (v. 48).
The disciples follow their false prophet. And just as Jotham had predicted, the bramble king and his band lay their branches against the tower of Shechem, light them on fire and consume the men and women of Shechem, about a thousand, on Mount Zalmon. Their end is slow and brutal. But Abimelech’s lust for death is unsatisfied, and he turns to the city of Thebez.
And yet, where there is an anti-Christ, there is always victory over him.
In verse 51, we come across this medicinal phrase,
But there was a strong tower in the center of the city
God is calling us ahead, beyond Abimelech to Proverbs.
The name of the Lord is a strong tower;Proverbs 18:10
The righteous run to it and are safe.
And beyond Proverbs, to our salvation. Because in the midst of all that masculine madness, we meet a woman with no name. A mother of Israel, a “certain woman,” who takes up the millstone, symbol of judgement and salvation, and crushes the head of Abimelech, agent of the serpent.
Satan, that great liar and lover of violence, that coward, that lion of the earth may accuse us before our God day and night. But he knows that he has a short time.
10 Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, “Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down.
11 And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.
12 Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and you who dwell in them! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time.”