The New Declension
Dr. Joe Temple


Open your Bibles, please, to the book of Judges, chapter 9, that portion of the Word of God which we are studying together. It might be wise for us to remember, in view of the lesson that we are going to have, exactly how we have been discussing the book of Judges. You will recall that we told you the entire book of Judges is made up of a series of disciplines and deliverances. Thus far we have found the children of Israel being disciplined at the hand of Mesopotamia for eight years and God delivering them by the hand of Othniel. Then God disciplined them at the hand of Moab for eighteen years and delivered them by the hand of Ehud. Then they were in the hands of the Philistines for an unstated period of time, delivered by the hand of Shamgar.

If you will remember the stories that we read in connection with these three judges, we were impressed with the fact that God was pleased to choose the simple things of this world to confound the wise. God then delivered the children of Israel into the hands of the Canaanites for twenty years and delivered them at the hand of Deborah and Barak. We have been studying for several weeks the discipline which God placed Israel under at the hand of Midian for seven years and then their marvelous deliverance at the hand of Gideon.

Bible scholars are of differences of opinion as to whether the story we are going to look at in this lesson should be related to a discipline because of disobedience or whether it should be considered part of the history of Gideon. I think it would be wise for us to keep in mind that we have said in every instance, repeated over and over and over again, that Israel disobeyed, God found it necessary to discipline, and then in His grace He provided a deliverance.

A Deliberate Declension Into Idolatry

This lesson should actually begin with the last paragraph of chapter 8, and I would like for you to notice that as we read it together, beginning with verse 33:

Judges 8

33And it came to pass, as soon as Gideon was dead, that the children of Israel turned again, and went a whoring after Baalim, and made Baalberith their god.
34And the children of Israel remembered not the LORD their God, who had delivered them out of the hands of all their enemies on every side:
35Neither shewed they kindness to the house of Jerubbaal, namely, Gideon, according to all the goodness which he had shewed unto Israel.

These verses of Scripture indicate that we are running true to form in our study of the book of Judges, because they present to us the new declension which we should consider together in this lesson. That new declension was made up of three things, the first of which is idolatry. This was nothing new. As soon as every judge who had delivered Israel went home to be with God, the nation of Israel would go a-whoring after other gods. The term “a-whoring” is always used of idolatry on the part of God's people. It took a twofold form. They went after Baalim, the gods of Baal. There was not just one god in Baal that they worshiped, but there was a whole family of gods, Baal being their spiritual progenitor.

Secondly, which was even worse, they adopted a Baal-berith. Now that sounds like they adopted a new god, but actually the words Baal-aberith means “Baal of the covenant;” and it means not only that they bowed down to an idol, but they made a covenant with Baal just like they had made a covenant with Jehovah at Mt. Sinai. It wasn't mere lip-service they were rendering because they were in a situation where they had to. It was a deliberate declension into idolatry on their part.

Characterized By Forgetfulness

This new declension was characterized by something else. It was characterized by what we call forgetfullnes. In verse 34 we read:

Judges 8

34And the children of Israel remembered not the LORD their God, who had delivered them out of the hands of all their enemies on every side:

The word “remembered” is an interesting word. It comes from the Hebrew word zakar , which really means “mention.” When we read that they did not remember the Lord, what we are actually reading is that they didn't mention the Lord, and that's the reason we use the word “forgetfulness.” It's easy to forget if you don't mention Him. That's the reason the Psalmist was constantly saying, “I will mention the loving kindnesses of the Lord.” That is the reason that in the book of Malachi, the Book of Remembrance was written, and in it was inscribed the names of those who met together and thought upon His name. When we get to the place where we don't ever mention the Lord, it won't be long until we are out of fellowship. Now that is a good thing to remember in your associations.

I was talking with someone today, and they said, “You know, when I'm with this certain group of people, we never talk about the Lord; and then when I'm with this other group, we are always talking about the Lord. With the one group it is hard to do. With the other group it seems real easy.” And then this person said, “You know, I have discovered that when I am in fellowship, I enjoy the company of the group that mentions the name of the Lord.” This is always true. This was part of Israel's declension. They forgot the Lord because they didn't mention Him. Then didn't talk about Him.

The Sin of Ingratitude

The third thing that marked this new declension of which I speak was the sin of ingratitude. I do not know of a greater sin than the sin of ingratitude. God looks upon it with a great deal of seriousness. The ingratitude to which we refer was not an ingratitude toward God primarily, but an ingratitude toward the representatives of God.

Notice verse 35:

Judges 8

35Neither shewed they kindness to the house of Jerubbaal, namely, Gideon, according to all the goodness which he had shewed unto Israel.

At the moment you have not read the record of how they had failed to show kindness to the house of Jerubbaal, how they failed to show kindness to the house of Gideon. That is to come. It is to come in a rather unique and strange way, because this time when Israel departed from the Lord, this time when Israel left off following God, He did not turn them over to a foreign nation for discipline as He had in the past. He did not turn them over to the Canaanites or to the Midianites. He turned them over, rather, to one of their own company. Sometimes God uses the very sin we commit as a rod in His hand to chasten us. He uses the very same sin that we commit as a chastening rod to discipline us. That you might know that this is true, we would like for you to notice chapter 9, verses 56 and 57:

Judges 9

56Thus God rendered the wickedness of Abimelech, which he did unto his father, in slaying his seventy brethren:
57And all the evil of the men of Shechem did God render upon their heads: and upon them came the curse of Jotham the son of Jerubbaal.

The discipline which we have noticed in each one of our stories, then, is summed up in those verses. God used their sin as a rod in His hand to discipline them.

Because chapter 9 is a very long chapter and because our powers of retention are such, it would forbid the profitable reading of the whole chapter. I would like to paraphrase–that is, tell you the story of– what you find in the first part of the chapter, verses 1-7, and then read with you the heart of the chapter around which our lesson actually revolves.

The Rule of Abimelech

You remember that Gideon, when he lapsed into the flesh, had a plurality of wives. In addition to the plurality of wives, he had a concubine from Shechem. To the union of Gideon and the concubine was born a son named Abimelech. This name “Abimelech” means “my father is king.” You remember the people offered the kingship to Gideon, but Gideon said, “No, God will rule over you. Neither I nor my sons will rule over you.” But perhaps he had only refused this kingship with his head, not with his heart, because he was responsible for giving this boy his name; and the name means “my father is king.” It is very possible that he had a very special relationship with this boy. As a matter of fact, the story pretty well indicates it, and perhaps oftentimes he had said to his son, “Son, if I had wanted to I could have been king, and then you could have been king.” Perhaps he drilled into him the fact that he made a sacrifice, but instead of letting his son know that his sacrifice was made out of a willing heart, he let him think that it was made out of an unwilling heart, and it embittered his children.

We need to be careful about that. We need to remember that the so-called surrenders and the so-called sacrifices we make are presented to our children in a fashion that will cause them to desire to make the same kind of sacrifice instead of causing them to say, “If my dad hadn't decided to preach, I might have a better living than I have.”, or “If my mother hadn't decided to be so religious, we could do a lot of things we are not allowed to do.” I am only examining this in the light of human nature which never changes, because I see the results in the life of this boy.

Abimelech went to his brethren in Shechem and he said to his brethren (the sons of his mother of a different father, his cousins, his uncles who lived in Shechem), “Say, I've had an idea. Why don't you fellows think a little bit? Do you know what's going to happen? Gideon is dead, and he has seventy sons beside me, and they are liable to make themselves rulers over all of us. If they do, it's going to be a tremendous upkeep for us all. It would be a good idea if we got rid of those seventy boys and you made me king. After all, that's my name, ”my father is king,“ and you are bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh. Why should we have these fellows rule over us?” They thought it over and they decided it was a good idea, so they gave Abimelech seventy pieces of silver with which he could hire some outlaws who killed the seventy sons of Gideon, with one exception, Jotham. Jotham hid himself and was not killed when all of these other boys were killed. Then the men of Shechem went ahead and made Abimelech king.

Jotham's Prophecy

You will recall that when we first entered the land of Canaan with the Israelites, there was a natural amphitheater formed between two mountains–one of them, Mount Gerizim. When Jotham saw what was happening, he came out of hiding. He stood on Mount Gerizim, and he spoke in a loud voice so that all of the people gathered in this natural amphitheater could hear him very well. What he told them was a parable. It is one of the few Old Testament parables in the Word of God. Notice it with me, beginning with verse 7:

Judges 9

7And when they told it to Jotham, [that is , that they were making Abimelech king] he went and stood in the top of mount Gerizim, and lifted up his voice, and cried, and said unto them, Hearken unto me, ye men of Shechem, that God may hearken unto you.
8The trees went forth on a time to anoint a king over them; and they said unto the olive tree, Reign thou over us.
9But the olive tree said unto them, Should I leave my fatness, wherewith by me they honour God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees?
10And the trees said to the fig tree, Come thou, and reign over us.
11But the fig tree said unto them, Should I forsake my sweetness, and my good fruit, and go to be promoted over the trees?
12Then said the trees unto the vine, Come thou, and reign over us.
13And the vine said unto them, Should I leave my wine, which cheereth God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees?
14Then said all the trees unto the bramble, Come thou, and reign over us.
15And the bramble said unto the trees, If in truth ye anoint me king over you, then come and put your trust in my shadow: and if not, let fire come out of the bramble, and devour the cedars of Lebanon.

Perhaps more literally rendered verse 15 would read: “The bramble said to all the other trees, ‘All right, if you want me to be your king, I will be your king; and as long as you dwell peacefully in my shadow, everything will go all right. But if you don't dwell peacefully in my shadow, then I am going to bring the fire down and devour the cedars of Lebanon.'”

Jotham continued his parable in verse 16:

Judges 9

16Now therefore, if ye have done truly and sincerely, in that ye have made Abimelech king, and if ye have dealt well with Jerubbaal and his house, and have done unto him according to the deserving of his hands;
17(For my father fought for you, and adventured his life far, and delivered you out of the hand of Midian:
18And ye are risen up against my father's house this day, and have slain his sons, threescore and ten persons, upon one stone, and have made Abimelech, the son of his maidservant, king over the men of Shechem, because he is your brother;)
19If ye then have dealt truly and sincerely with Jerubbaal and with his house this day, then rejoice ye in Abimelech, and let him also rejoice in you:
20But if not, [and this is a prophecy] let fire come out from Abimelech, and devour the men of Shechem, and the house of Millo; and let fire come out from the men of Shechem, and from the house of Millo, and devour Abimelech.
21And Jotham ran away, and fled, and went to Beer, and dwelt there, for fear of Abimelech his brother.

That is the parable and a summary of the sequel. The rest of the chapter tells the story of how the prophecy of Jotham was fulfilled. Abimelech ruled over Israel for approximately three years. Then people got tired of his rule, and they began to make it uncomfortable and unsafe to travel along the highways.

The Fulfillment of Jotham's Prophecy

One way you could tell a king was respected by his people was that any person could travel on the highways in safety. These men deliberately, in verse 25, set liers in wait on the mountains. They made it difficult for anybody to travel. Then a man by the name of Gaal went down to the city of Shechem and said, in verse 28, “Who is Abimelech, and who is Shechem that he should be king? I tell you if I were king, things would be different in this land. There would not be as much anarchy and lack of safety as there is.”

One of Abimelech's captains, Zebul by name, was mayor of that city, and he listened to Gaal and then sent word to Abimelech, saying, “Do you know that there is a traitor down here in the city?” Abimelech came and made war against the city of Shechem. The story is all there in this passage. Abimelech destroyed the city of Shechem. After killing everybody, he sowed it with salt to indicate that it could never be rebuilt again, though it was. Then he went to the tower of Shechem, where men had taken refuge; and he built a fire around the base of it and killed everybody that was in the tower of Shechem.

By this time Abimelech's wrath was stirred, or rebellion was in such a state that he could not stop, because in verse 50 you read:

Judges 9

50Then went Abimelech to Thebez, and encamped against Thebez, and took it.

In the capture of Thebez, Abimelech was killed, and so the prophecy of Jotham was fulfilled. Fire came out of the bramble, for Abimelech was the bramble, and devoured the cedars of Lebanon, for the men of Israel were the cedars of Lebanon.

This is the story, and if we dismissed right now, you could go home and say, “I remember reading that a time or two and studying it in Sunday School, but I don't know that I have been particularly helped by our gathering together.” The purpose of our gathering together always is to learn what God has for us spiritually from these lessons because the mite of history that we learn, though it is interesting, is not particularly beneficial. I am going to suggest–I trust the story has been made clear to you–that you notice with me some doctrines which are presented in seed fashion in chapter 9 of the book of Judges, some lessons, if you want to use that word, that I think would be wise for us to learn.

The Doctrine of Discipline

One of them I have already hinted at in the telling of the story. I call it the “doctrine of discipline.” It isn't the doctrine of discipline as God disciplines individuals; rather, it is the doctrine of discipline that should exist in every home which wishes to honor God, the responsibility of discipline which rests upon the shoulders of parents. I think that Judges, chapter 9, is one of the most interesting illustrations of the text often quoted, Proverbs, chapter 22, verse 6:

Proverbs 22

6Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

We have emphasized this text in another series of messages so much that we will not dwell over long on it, but let me remind you that we have learned that this particular verse tells us that if we train a child up according to his individual bent, according to the way that God wants him to go, instead of the way that we have in mind, that when he reaches the age of maturity, he will go in that direction.

I say the doctrine of discipline is illustrated in a negative fashion here, because there is mentioned, first, Abimelech. If there was any discipline in Abimelech's life, it is not indicated in the mature example that he set, and I am inclined to think there was none. I am inclined to think, as I have already suggested to you, that there was a relationship between Gideon and Abimelech where Abimelech matured as a spoiled brat, wanting to have his way, no matter what.

It is interesting that in the same family there can be two different personalities. Don't forget that Jotham was a son of Gideon, and Jotham was an individual whom, as we are going to learn, by his very name and certainly by the speech that he made, was one who honored God. I wonder, as I puzzle over this chapter, who might have had the responsibility of the training of Jotham. I wonder if Gideon didn't spend too much time with his concubine in Shechem and the training of Jotham was left to a godly mother. It's amazing the influence that a mother can have on a child, a lasting influence.

In a family, here was Abimelech, a boy who, without any qualm of conscience, could kill sixty-nine of his own brothers and not bat an eyelash. Another boy, who realized what was happening, ran away and hid, which was the sensible thing. He wasn't a coward, because a coward would never have stood upon Mount Gerizim and said what he said. But he was able to do it because–it is my personal opinion only–there was a mother who instilled in him something about God that I'm going to mention to you a little bit later when we talk a little bit more about this boy, Jotham. It's too early to mention it now.

May I suggest to you, as you study chapter 9, that you consider what is presented in seed form, the doctrine of discipline; and if all of your children are grown, then be patient with them if they are not doing exactly what you want them to do, and don't be asking what is wrong with them. Don't even be asking what is wrong with God. Just say to yourself, “Where, somewhere along the line, did I fail? Since I failed, I am going to help mend the broken vase and help pick up the pieces and keep the thing going.”

Do you know something today? Many parents are put out with their children and disown them and have nothing to do with them because their children, in their state of unloveliness, are a constant rebuke to them. They know where the real trouble lies. Remember, you may have an Abimelech or you may have a Jotham in your family. There is no guarantee that they will all be Jothams and, thank God, they do not all have to be Abimelechs either.

The Danger of Apathy

Another doctrine I would like to bring to your attention is the doctrine of the danger of apathy. “Apathy” is a word that describes the idea of doing absolutely nothing in view of what is occurring. The doctrine of apathy is that doctrine that men adopt whereby they want to take the line of least resistance and decide the simplest thing to do is to take the line of least resistance.

When I was reviewing this chapter for you, you recall that I said that Abimelech went to his brothers and said, “There are seventy of those boys in Dad's family, and they are in line to rule not as kings, but as judges. They are in line to rule, and seventy men and their families will put a tremendous strain on the budget of Israel. I'll tell you one good way to lower the taxes. Let me get rid of them, and you support me.” They got to thinking about it, and they said, “The support of one man is much simpler than the support of seventy.” They didn't consult God; they didn't care about God. They were apathetic about the whole thing, and they said to Abimelech, “You do whatever you want to do, and we will fall in line with you.”

In this chapter is a truth that we need to remember, particularly in this day in which we live, and that is that apathy results in anarchy. Because these people were apathetic and said to Abimelech, “You do what you want to do,” pretty soon there was no law in the land at all. It wasn't safe to travel the streets of Shechem or the highways between Shechem and Thebez.

I'm not going to take the time to make a comparison to the day in which we live; you make it for yourself. But you know very well that our land is not a safe land. Our large cities are like jungles, and it's all because of the apathy that has existed for the last twenty years on the part of people who should have exerted their influence.

The last thing that I would mention in connection to this doctrine of apathy is that it results in annihilation, for do you remember what happened here in the story? Not only were the people and the leaders involved killed, but so was everybody in Shechem and all of Abimelech's army. Everybody involved in this apathetic situation was annihilated. It never would have happened if they had had the stamina to stand up and to make their feelings known about what they wanted in relation to government. At the very moment Abimelech had come to them and said, “Here is my plan.”, if they had said, “You stop right there because that is contrary to God and his Word.”, this sad page in Israel's history would not have been written. But they were apathetic just like we are; and Beloved, I want to remind our hearts that if we don't stir ourselves up to understand the times and realize the situation in which we are, we're going to have some sad things happen to us.

The Doctrine of the Remnant

There is a doctrine in this chapter that I love to think about. The Bible speaks of it as the doctrine of the remnant, and this is not the only place you will find it. Many places in the Scripture do you find it. One of the most interesting places you find reference to it is in chapter 9 of the book of Romans, of how Elijah felt that he was the only one left, and God said, “No, I've got seven thousand that have not yet bowed their knee to Baal.” In chapter 11, Isaiah said, “Except God had been gracious unto us, there would not have been a remnant left.” But thank God, He was gracious; and thank God, He is gracious.

We have already mentioned to you the fact that when Abimelech set out to slay the seventy sons of Gideon, God preserved one of them. Jotham went and hid himself, and do you know what his name means? “Jotham” means “Jehovah is perfect.” That's the reason I said some of the things I said to you a few moments ago. I said you would know why I said them when we looked at his name, “Jehovah is perfect.”

I have said to you often that Old Testament names are always significant. Today I don't know if we spend a great deal of time worrying about the significance of names. We give them for a variety of reasons, but names were prophetic in that day, and I don't know who gave him this name, but I am rather inclined to think that his mother did. I don't think that his father had time with all of the running around he did when he was living in the flesh. Who knows, but the mother of Jotham had her heart broken by Gideon while he was living in the flesh. Who knows how many trials and tests she went through, and when God sent her a little baby to comfort her heart, she said, “You know, God is perfect. His ways are perfect. I don't always understand them, but He knows what's best, and I'm going to call this boy 'Jotham'.” Every time she looked at him, she was reminded that God's ways are perfect.

This is one of the most difficult lessons for us to learn. It is easy to talk about it. It's easy to sing about it. But it is awfully hard to accept it. Do you know that? As long as you are comforting somebody else, the words come pretty glibly; but when you face it for yourself, are His ways still perfect? Thank God, in His grace, I can say, “Jehovah is perfect.” He never makes a mistake. As for God, His ways are perfect.

God had His eye on this little boy, and when the time came for all of the other boys to be killed, God perserved him. The Scripture says that Jotham hid himself at Beer. The word “Beer,” means “the well.” Take a concordance sometime and study the references to “the well” in the Scriptures, and you will find that they always refer to God making provision for those who are His own in a way that no one else can make that provision.

Do you remember the story of Hagar, when Sarah said to Abram, “Get rid of that woman; get rid of that boy.”? Abram wasn't man enough to be head of his house, and he said to Hagar, “Hagar, you're going to have to go. I'm sorry, but you have to.” He gave her a bottle of water and sent her out. She traveled long and was weary and tired. The boy was about to die, and God sent His angel to provide what was needed, the well of water that guaranteed the strength that was needed that she might carry on the journey.

God always has His remnant. Will you remember that? This is particularly true in relation to the nation of Israel, but I want you to see it from a personal standpoint and recognize in your own life that God never makes a clear end of everything where His children are concerned. There is always a remnant left. Now, you may think so. The roof may fall in, and the walls may fall down, and you may wonder if the foundation isn't going to go, but it won't, for God always leaves enough to begin again. This is the doctrine of the remnant in relation to people, in relation to things.

The Doctrine of Subjection

There is another doctrine I want you to notice. It is centered primarily in the parable of the trees which we read together, as we pointed out to you, one of the few parables in the Old Testament. I have referred to the doctrine as the doctrine of subjection, and I'm not thinking of husbands and wives just now. I am thinking about the Greek word, as we have used it so often and as it is used so often in the New Testament, the Greek word, hupotosso , which means “taking one's place.” Once again, I'm not talking about the home. I'm talking about the family of God now. I'm talking about the place in the Body of Christ that God has given you. When Jotham told his story, he said, “There were a bunch of trees one day, and those trees wanted a king.” Well, the very idea is ridiculous in itself, as is all activiity in the flesh. So they went to the trees involved, and they said to them, “Will you be king?” “No.” “Will you be king?” “No.” Finally they went to a bramble bush, and they said to that bramble bush, “Will you be king?” The bramble bush said, “Yes, indeed, I will; I will be glad to.”

In the parable is illustrated, first, the importance of recognizing our usefullness in the place that God puts us, and our uselessness if we get out of that place. What about our usefulness? Look at verse 9 and notice the invitation was given to the olive tree, and the olive tree said unto them, “Should I leave my fatness wherewith by me they honor God and man and go to be promoted over the trees?” The word “fatness” refers to the oil of the olive, and the oil of the olive was used to honor God, because it was a consistent part of the sacrificial oil that was used in the worship in the temple. It was used for the benefit of man because it had a medicinal value as well. It was useful. The olive tree said, “Should I leave this place of usefulness to reign over all of the other trees?” Well, you might say, “Wait a minute. To be promoted over all of the other trees–isn't that a promotion?” Well, I want you to look at the word “promoted,” as I remind you that the word “promoted” comes from a Hebrew word which means simply “to waive.” It means “to just swing in the breeze without any real point, any real aim, any real usefulness at all.” As a matter of fact, it comes from the Hebrew word nuwa , which means “a wave.” The olive tree said, “Should I leave this place of usefulness to take on a job of uselessness?” Well, what would you say? If you were led of the Spirit of God, you would give the response that the olive tree gave; but if you were in the flesh, as many of us are sometimes, you might think it is more significant to wave in the breeze than it is to be used for the glory of God and the welfare of men.

Look again at verse 10 and notice that the trees said to the fig tree, “Come thou and reign over us.” The fig tree said unto them, “Should I forsake my sweetness, my good fruit, and go to be promoted over the trees? Should I forsake my strength, my good fruit, that's used to heal the body, and just spend my time waving in the breeze?” Usefulness contrasted with uselessness.

Then you notice the vine. They asked the vine, too; and the vine said, in verse 13, “Should I leave my wine, which cheereth God and man, and go to be promoted?” There is the same word, “wave in the breeze.”

Do you realize, Beloved, the Devil is always attempting to get you out of your place of usefulness and put you in a place of uselessness so that the work of God will be hindered? Sometimes the Devil can make the offers very alluring.

Let me tell you something. You're far better off as an olive tree, if that's what God wants you to be, far better off as a fig tree, if that's what God wants you to be, than to be king over all the trees in the forest.

Did you notice the bramble? When they asked the bramble if it wanted to rule, the bramble immediately jumped at the opportunity. But did you know that the bramble didn't have anything else at all to offer because the bramble could offer nothing but shade, according to verse 16 of this chapter. Will you tell me what trees need with shade. Do you know any tree that needs to be shaded by another tree? That's all he could offer. And Abimelech, who was the bramble, was never content to do other than what he died doing. Do you remember where he died? He died at Thebez. The word “Thebez” means, very literally translated, “aiming at glory.” When he started out visiting with his brothers down at Shechem, and when he made the proposition that they with him should slay the seventy sons of Gideon, he was aiming at glory. When he died, he was still aiming at glory, and he never attained it.

One of the saddest commentaries, I think, on anybody's life is to spend all your life aiming for self-glorification and never receiving it and dying, still aiming at that self-glorification. Isn't it good, isn't it wonderful today, to have so yielded your life that you can say, “I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless, I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me, and the life that I now live, I live by the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me?” Isn't it wonderful to reach the place where God says, “Seekest thou great things for thyself? Seek them not.” Isn't it a wonderful thing to be able to say, when anything happens in your life, “To God be the glory.” What a difference from dissatisfied, hungry lives seeking for glory.

The Doctrine of the Usurper

I want you to indulge me for just a few more minutes, as I suggest to you another doctrine in this chapter, perhaps more clearly than any other that we have looked at. It is related to the subject of prophecy. It is what I refer to as the doctrine of the usurper. You remember that the Lord Jesus Christ said, in chapter 5 of the Gospel of John, verse 43:

John 5

43I am come in my Father's name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive.

He was making reference to the Antichrist. The Jewish nations who would not receive the Lord Jesus Christ, who came in the name of the Father, are going to gladly receive the Antichrist when he comes; and he will be coming in his own name. There is a very interesting picture of this usurper in the life of Abimelech. We will have time only to point out to you the characteristics which come to our mind when we think about this one who was the usurper, not the one who really would have been king.

Abimelech - a Picture of the Antichrist

The first thing that we notice is that he did not come in his father's name. He was the son of a concubine. He had no legal claim to the name of his father. He did not come in his father's name, and that's why he didn't go to the seventy boys of Gideon. He knew he had no claim upon them at all, and the claim to authority that he had, he got through opposing God's heritage. He made war against the seventy sons of Gideon. If you please, he led a false religion.

Did you notice, when we were telling you the story, that when he went down and talked to his mother's brethren, they went into the treasure house of Baal and gave him seventy pieces of silver? That immediately made a connection with religion. Then did you notice that he slew all of those sixty-nine boys on one stone? That stone was an altar. He offered them up in sacrifice to Baal, just as the Antichrist is going to offer what Daniel refers to as the “abomination of desolation” in the Temple during the Tribulation, so Abimelech led a false religion.

Did you then notice that Abimelech gained office by popular consent? He sold the men of Shechem a bill of goods. That is exactly what the Antichrist is going to do when he comes. Don't get the idea that the Antichrist is going to wave a flag and say, “Look who I am.” Do you remember what we studied in the book of Revelation, chapter 13, and again in chapter 16, that the ten kings of the world will willingly give their authority to the Antichrist and make him king over them?

Then notice that after Abimelech had received his authority and not before, he revealed himself as a dictator. The prophecy that Jotham made about fire coming out of the bramble bush and eating up the cedars of Lebanon proved to be absolutely true.

Perhaps the most convincing thing that we can say, by way of parallel, is that he was rejected of God before he ever started, because he was a bramble, and perhaps you remember what is spoken of brambles in chapter 6 of the book of Hebrews. The story is told of the ground which is well tilled:

Hebrews 6

7For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God:
8But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned.

Abimelech was rejected before he ever started.

The End of Abimelech

There is one last thing that I would call to your attention, and that is that he was slain by a stone. Remember when he was at the foot of the tower of Thebez, a woman cast the upper part of a millstone down from the tower and broke his skull. He knew he was going to die, and he said, “I don't want it to be said that I have died at the hand of a woman.” So he said to his armor-bearer, “Thrust me through with your sword, so it won't be said of me, 'A woman killed him with a stone'.”

When you have time, read Daniel, chapter 2, and remember the story of the feet of the image, which is typical of the Antichrist, and recall to mind that a great stone cut out of a mountain without hands comes down out of the Heavens and falls on the feet of the image and crushes it to death. Abimelech makes a perfect picture of the Antichrist. How grateful we are today, that God has put in His Word that which can serve as a reminder and a warning to us.

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