I never hated Abimelech.
I did pity him, for I knew the pressure of being the son of Jerubbaal (Gideon).
People expected us to be great because of the greatness of our father. Which, when you know the whole story, is a little humorous.
Our father never revealed the whole story to us. I don’t think he intended to deceive us. Yet, we were his sons who held him on a pedestal and I believe he wanted to live as the light in our eyes as long as possible.
Our mothers told us, though.
In moments when they were fed up with our father, or when they had a bit too much to drink, they would begin telling the stories of Jerubbaal’s — humble— beginnings.
No one felt they lived more in the shadow of our father than Abimelech.
I could never pinpoint the reason.
Perhaps it was because his mother was only a servant to Jerubbaal. I certainly never brought it up. He was my big brother and I loved him, even when he was difficult to like.
It was not surprising to hear he was stirring up trouble after our father’s death.
He had often talked about how he wanted to rule one day.
We tried to remind him that Israel has no king but our God. He would laugh and say he meant only as the head of a city, but the story in his dark eyes told of other dreams.
It turned out those dreams meant to be nightmares for the rest of us.
There were seventy other sons of Jerubbaal. We were all sitting down in Ophrah at our oldest brother’s home. A meal was prepared and we were telling our favorite stories of growing up with father.
He had become a great warrior but when he was with us, he was always the same silly man. He was never too proud to play ridiculous child games or to tell our favorite stories.
When Abimelech’s shadow breached the doorway I could feel something was off.
He was smiling but it was not a kind smile.
Our oldest brother stood to greet him.
“Bimel! It’s so good…” were the last words he ever uttered, for Abimelech had rushed in, drew his sword and separated our brother’s head from his body.
It was then I saw the other men standing behind Abimelech and they were rushing into the room.
I stumbled and fell as I tried to run.
Falling to my hands and knees may have been what saved me.
I crawled quickly, keeping low as I listened to the cries of my brothers.
We were all trained in combat, but none of us were armed that day.
We never stood a chance.
I was the only one to escape.
Later I returned to find the bodies of all of my brothers, dead on the floor.
Never has someone wept as much as I did that day and I cleaned up the bodies and held them in my arms one last time.
I would be unclean for handling them, but my heart did not care.
The pity I had always felt for Abimelech turned to hatred. That man was no brother of mine.
And just like that, the hatred was gone.
Because the truth was Abimelech was my brother.
And he was the only one I had left.
It was then that the tears returned even though I was convinced I had no more to cry.
Abimelech had done a great evil, not because he was evil, but because his heart was sick. He had listened to the lies inside his head telling him he would be nothing unless he ruled and it had poisoned his heart.
I addressed the people of Shechem.
I let them know their decision to place Abimelech in charge would come back to haunt them and it was dishonorable.
Then I fled to live away from my brother because I knew he would want me dead as well.
Yet I never spoke ill of him to anyone.
I would not willingly place myself around him. That would be a foolish course of action.
At the same time, I would not tolerate people speaking down of him.
I prayed for Abimelech daily that he would change his ways. I would hear about how he and the leaders of Shechem were at odds and it would break my heart knowing they all brought this upon themselves.
I prayed for him every day and loved my brother from afar.
I did this until the day I received word that my brother had been killed in battle.
I wept one more time. Some were tears of joy that Shechem and the surrounding areas would be free of his rule.
Mostly they were tears for my brother. It broke my heart to never get to see him again.
But that was the choice he made.