Last week, we touched on how Gideon’s son Abimelek went rogue. Abimelek killed his seventy brothers, proclaimed himself king over Israel, and generally sat in the middle of conflict until he died three years later. However, one brother escapes. Today, we’re looking at the interesting curse and flee response of Gideon’s son Jotham.
[Jotham said,] “Have you acted honorably and in good faith by making Abimelek king? Have you been fair to Jerub-Baal and his family? Have you treated him as he deserves? Remember that my father fought for you and risked his life to rescue you from the hand of Midian. But today you have revolted against my father’s family. You have murdered his seventy sons on a single stone and have made Abimelek, the son of his female slave, king over the citizens of Shechem because he is related to you. So have you acted honorably and in good faith toward Jerub-Baal and his family today? If you have, may Abimelek be your joy, and may you be his, too! But if you have not, let fire come out from Abimelek and consume you, the citizens of Shechem and Beth Millo, and consume Abimelek!”
Then Jotham fled, escaping to Beer, and he lived there because he was afraid of his brother Abimelek.Judges 9:16-21 NIV
Curse and Flee
I have to admit, Jotham’s curse starts off pretty confusing in verses 6-15 as he recaps Israel’s recent history. So, here’s some context from Judges 8-9. When Gidian defeated the Midianites, Israel asked to crown him king. Gideon refused and said God would rule them. Israel also asked for Gideon’s sons to rule over them. Gideon refused that, too. He even extended the refusal to any ruling by his grandsons. Later, Gideon died. Israel forgot about his family and turned back to idols. So, Abimelek, the son of Gideon’s concubine, decides to claim himself as ruler and gets his mother’s people at Shechem to help. As we know, all the boys die but Jotham. So, here we are as Jotham reminds Israel of their disloyalty to God and Gideon’s family.
Now, I would probably run away to another city if my brother had just murdered seventy other brothers, too. While Jotham remains one of the few Israelites who still honor God, he does not receive the battle command his father did. Instead, Jotham stands safely distant on a mountain, gives his speech, and runs away. Abimelek rules Israel for three more years before Jotham’s prophecy comes true. I imagine Jotham hid in that obscure town terrified that Abimelek would find him and confused about why the whole mess happened.
Gideon’s Son Jotham
Jotham seemed to inherit more of Gideon’s spirit than any of his other brothers. Jotham flees (and with good reason,) but he also stands up for his faith. He carries the memories of his people, just like Gideon did when he recognized God at the altar. Jotham probably wondered at God’s plan like Gideon questioned the Midianite invasion. Yet, just like with Gideon, God uses Jotham to complete His purposes. Jotham’s curse, though it takes years to come true, demonstrates God’s power to His people. The curse even shows God’s justice; Judges 9 repeatedly mentions that “God did this in order that the crime against Jerub-Baal’s seventy sons, the shedding of their blood, might be avenged on their brother Abimelek and on the citizens of Shechem, who had helped him murder his brothers,” (v. 24).
Yet again, God reminds us that He has a plan even when we are afraid and don’t understand. It took Jotham three years to see God’s justice unfold, but God had a plan the whole time. Sometimes it is easier to take comfort in God’s planning than others. For now, we can take comfort in the fact that God’s innate justice will not let evil go unpunished. He has a plan, and it is good.