Choosing the Right Leader


Read Judges 9:1-21

Now Abimelech the son of Jerubbaal went to Shechem to his mother’s relatives and said to them and to the whole clan of his mother’s family, “Say in the ears of all the leaders of Shechem, ‘Which is better for you, that all seventy of the sons of Jerubbaal rule over you, or that one rule over you?’ Remember also that I am your bone and your flesh.”

And his mother’s relatives spoke all these words on his behalf in the ears of all the leaders of Shechem, and their hearts inclined to follow Abimelech, for they said, “He is our brother.” And they gave him seventy pieces of silver out of the house of Baal-Berith with which Abimelech hired worthless and reckless fellows, who followed him. And he went to his father’s house at Ophrah and killed his brothers the sons of Jerubbaal, seventy men, on one stone. But Jotham the youngest son of Jerubbaal was left, for he hid himself.

We are introduced to a new character in the story named Abimelech. He was the son of Gideon from a concubine which meant that he was an illegitimate child who will not get any inheritance from his family. He was marginalized and look down upon. That is why in this story, he reminds his relatives that he is part of their flesh and blood.

Abimelech then argued to his relatives how better it would be to have one ruler (himself) than to have seventy (legitimate children) of Gideon to rule over them. In some twisted way, he was able to convince his relative with the plan and was able to get some money to hire his goons to carry out his scheme. First in his agenda was to kill all of his seventy siblings.

There is an excellent lesson to be learned here especially for us as Filipinos.

Keypoint #1: Sometimes we trust people just because we are blood relatives to them in spite of all the warning signs that nothing good would come out of making our relative the leader. 

This scenario happens many times in business and politics. We see clans ruled by relatives who don’t know what they are doing. In the process of trying to protect the family’s interest – having someone incompetent and have bad moral standing to lead us would be more detrimental to the everyone than getting someone with skills and character to guide us.

It is astounding here in the Philippines where politicians draft anti-dynasty laws yet break the same law they approved by having relatives run in all government positions.

Keypoint #2: We should not be easily impressed by qualities that are not important to God.

Some leaders rule over us because of their skills and not with character. We get impressed by how they carry themselves, but when seen up close we see signs of moral decay and pride that could easily be used to manipulate people that we lead. We also get impressed with good speaking and communication skills rather than checking how they lead their own family and the track record of their leadership.

Abimelech was a great presenter; he might be included in a TED TALK during his time, being able to persuade people verbally yet his actions betrays him. For the people who made him the leader, it was too late.

Jotham, the legitimate heir of the throne who escaped the murderous actions of Abimelech then calls on the people of Shechem to reconsider their decision to make Abimelech king. Jotham’s name means Yahweh while Abimelech means “my father is king.” Their names remind us that there is always a choice between the self-reliance of men (Abimelech) or reliance on Yahweh (Jotham).

Jotham then told them a story:

When it was told to Jotham, he went and stood on top of Mount Gerizim and cried aloud and said to them, “Listen to me, you leaders of Shechem, that God may listen to you. The trees once went out to anoint a king over them, and they said to the olive tree, ‘Reign over us.’ But the olive tree said to them, ‘Shall I leave my abundance, by which gods and men are honored, and go hold sway over the trees?’ 10 And the trees said to the fig tree, ‘You come and reign over us.’ 11 But the fig tree said to them, ‘Shall I leave my sweetness and my good fruit and go hold sway over the trees?’ 12 And the trees said to the vine, ‘You come and reign over us.’ 13 But the vine said to them, ‘Shall I leave my wine that cheers God and men and go hold sway over the trees?’ 14 Then all the trees said to the bramble, ‘You come and reign over us.’ 15 And the bramble said to the trees, ‘If in good faith you are anointing me king over you, then come and take refuge in my shade, but if not, let fire come out of the bramble and devour the cedars of Lebanon.’

In the story, Jotham pointed out how the people chose a thornbush as a king. A thornbush has no value as a plant. They were short and scraggy to provide any kind of shade from the heat and is often the cause of the fire which destroys more trees that are valuable to the people. Jotham then concluded the story by telling them the point:

16-20 “Now listen: Do you think you did a right and honorable thing when you made Abimelech king? Do you think you treated Jerub-Baal and his family well, did for him what he deserved? My father fought for you, risked his own life, and rescued you from Midian’s tyranny, and you have, just now, betrayed him. You massacred his sons—seventy men on a single stone! You made Abimelech, the son by his maidservant, king over Shechem’s leaders because he’s your relative. If you think that this is an honest day’s work, this way you have treated Jerub-Baal today, then enjoy Abimelech and let him enjoy you. But if not, let fire break from Abimelech and burn up the leaders of Shechem and Beth Millo. And let fire break from the leaders of Shechem and Beth Millo and burn up Abimelech.”

Keypoint #3: We have to be brutally honest with the decisions that we make. Sometimes our emotions get the best of us when we choose the leader who would lead us. We have to pray to God before we select our leaders.

Talk it over:

  1. What kind of a leader are you? How can you improve your leadership?
  2. In looking at your choice for leadership, what are some considerations you make before choosing?
  3.  What are some things I am made aware today about the topic we discussed today?

In the next blog, we would see the effect of having a thornbush king.


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