To paraphrase the well-known quote, we have all heard that history is destined to repeat itself. The Bible certainly holds a multitude of examples of this as we repeatedly forget God’s power and goodness. As I read the story of Gideon’s son Abimelech, it struck me as similar to the later story of David’s son Absalom. Let’s compare the stories of the power-hungry sons of Gideon and David.
Gideon’s son Abimelech killed his seventy brothers and took control of Israel (Judges 9). In contrast to his father, Abimelech did not hold the same view that God ruled Israel. Instead, he led the people of Shechem to take over leadership. His reign caused controversy. Within three years, the people in Abimelech’s territory divided into civil war. Abimelech finally died so that the chaos could stop. Abimelech exemplifies how a power-hungry son can divide a nation.
Decades later, we find conflict from a power-hungry son repeated in David’s family. For two years, David’s son Absalom plotted to kill his brother Amnon for raping Absalom’s sister, Tamar (2 Samuel 13). Honestly, the whole thing gets pretty messy from there. Absalom flees to Geshur, where he lives for three years. David mourns Absalom’s loss when he finishes grieving Amnon’s death. So, the army commander Joab convinces the king to bring Absalom back. David agrees but refuses to see Absalom for two years (2 Samuel 14). Once Absalom sees his father again, he begins manipulating all of Israel into rebelling against David (2 Samuel 15). This turns into a massive battle dividing all of Israel (2 Samuel 16-20). A large number of people died from both sides because of the power-hungry son’s actions.
Both Gideon and David seemed to have struggled with anxiety in their lifetimes. Yet, God uses them to fulfill his purposes and bring peace to Israel. So, what went wrong with their sons? First and foremost, the Bible never lays blame for the power-hungry sons’ actions on the fathers. We only know that Gideon created an ephod that became a stumbling block, and David had an affair leading to the death of an innocent man. However, the Bible does not connect these sins to the sins of their children. At least in David’s case, Absalom’s rebellion seems to test David again and stretch his faith in the Lord. I imagine that if Gideon lived to see Abimelek’s actions, he would feel tested just like David.