Judges 7–9, Psalm 75, John 9
Today’s lessons are best considered by combining the first two readings and treating the
gospel separately. Judges 7–9 describe Gideon’s triumph over the Midianites and the
attempt of Gideon’s son Abimelech to set himself up as king of Israel. Gideon requests
food for his exhausted soldiers from the people of Succoth and Penuel, in order to hunt
down the two kings of Midian who had killed his brothers, and is refused by them. He
manages to kill the two kings anyway and exacts bitter revenge on the people of Succoth
and Penuel. When the Israelites ask Gideon to rule over them, because he has delivered
them from the Midianites, Gideon feigns humility and piety, saying, “I will not rule over
you, and my son will not rule over you; the Lord will rule over you” (8:23). But even as he
says this, he collects 1,700 shekels of gold from them and makes an ephod (breastplate)
that probably contains an idol, since the narrator comments that “all Israel prostituted
themselves to it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and to his family” (8:27). Upon
Gideon’s death, the Israelites formally make Baal-berith their god.
Gideon leaves seventy sons from multiple wives and one son, Abimelech, from a
concubine whose family are Shechemites. Abimelech enlists the support of his relatives
from Shechem, who give him money to hire a band of thugs, and promptly kills his
seventy brothers, except for Jotham, the youngest, who hides himself and survives the
great slaughter. Jotham warns the Shechemites about Abimelech’s ambition in the
famous parable of the trees: the olive, fig, and vine are all content to serve others; only
the invasive, good-for-nothing bramble aspires to rule over others. Jotham predicts that
Abimelech and the Shechemites will destroy each other, which is exactly what happens.
The narrator provides a theological summary at the end of chapter 9: thus God repaid
Abimelech for murdering his seventy brothers, and God destroyed the Shechemites for
Psalm 75 could well serve as further theological commentary on all the political intrigue,
the struggles for power, and the violence of Judges 7–9. The psalmist warns against
those who exalt themselves, for “it is God who executes judgment, putting down one
and lifting up another” (v. 7). Both the Judges reading and Psalm 75 remind us that not all
the characters in Scripture are heroes; God works out Israel’s history through villains and
murderers as well as through the righteous.
By contrast, the man born blind in John 9 becomes an example of the ideal disciple,
gradually deepening his understanding of the identity of Jesus Christ and growing
more and more bold to confess his own discipleship. Neither the religious leaders
nor his own fearful parents can keep him from proclaiming that Jesus is a prophet
and finally confessing him as Lord.
Where in my culture do I see political
power based on greed and violence?
What pressures in my life keep me from
confessing Jesus as my Lord?
Lord God, help us to remember that all
power belongs to you. and teach us to
use whatever influence we have in ways
that honor you and to serve others in your
Judges 7–9, Psalm 75, John 9