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1. Tense Relationships

Judges 9:1-6
1 Abimelech son of Jerub-Baal went to his mother's brothers in Shechem and said to them and to all his mother's clan,
2 "Ask all the citizens of Shechem, 'Which is better for you: to have all seventy of Jerub-Baal's sons rule over you, or just one man?' Remember, I am your flesh and blood."
3 When the brothers repeated all this to the citizens of Shechem, they were inclined to follow Abimelech, for they said, "He is our brother."
4 They gave him seventy shekels of silver from the temple of Baal-Berith, and Abimelech used it to hire reckless adventurers, who became his followers.
5 He went to his father's home in Ophrah and on one stone murdered his seventy brothers, the sons of Jerub-Baal. But Jotham, the youngest son of Jerub-Baal, escaped by hiding.
6 Then all the citizens of Shechem and Beth Millo gathered beside the great tree at the pillar in Shechem to crown Abimelech king.

Q: How did the people of Shechem choose their king? [They chose Abimelech, because he was from their town.] What did he do? [He murdered his 70 brothers, and became their king.]

C: Later on, the people and Abimelech started fighting. It ended badly let's see what happened:

Judges 9:42-49
42 The next day the people of Shechem went out to the fields, and this was reported to Abimelech.
43 So he took his men, divided them into three companies and set an ambush in the fields. When he saw the people coming out of the city, he rose to attack them.
44 Abimelech and the companies with him rushed forward to a position at the entrance to the city gate. Then two companies rushed upon those in the fields and struck them down.
45 All that day Abimelech pressed his attack against the city until he had captured it and killed its people. Then he destroyed the city and scattered salt over it.
46 On hearing this, the citizens in the tower of Shechem went into the stronghold of the temple of El-Berith.
47 When Abimelech heard that they had assembled there,
48 he and all his men went up Mount Zalmon. He took an ax and cut off some branches, which he lifted to his shoulders. He ordered the men with him, "Quick! Do what you have seen me do!"
49 So all the men cut branches and followed Abimelech. They piled them against the stronghold and set it on fire over the people inside. So all the people in the tower of Shechem, about a thousand men and women, also died.

C: Everyone in the town died. They died because they were full of hatred and unforgiveness. Then someone threw a stone down and killed Abimelech in a different city (vv.53-54).

Q: Let's break up into two groups, men and women, and talk about our lives. Is there anyone that you've had a bad relationship with? Who is that person? How do you think you can change to make things better?

2. Emotional Decisions

Judges 11:1-10
1 Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty warrior. His father was Gilead; his mother was a prostitute.
2 Gilead's wife also bore him sons, and when they were grown up, they drove Jephthah away. "You are not going to get any inheritance in our family," they said, "because you are the son of another woman."
3 So Jephthah fled from his brothers and settled in the land of Tob, where a group of adventurers gathered around him and followed him.
4 Some time later, when the Ammonites made war on Israel,
5 the elders of Gilead went to get Jephthah from the land of Tob.
6 "Come," they said, "be our commander, so we can fight the Ammonites."
7 Jephthah said to them, "Didn't you hate me and drive me from my father's house? Why do you come to me now, when you're in trouble?"
8 The elders of Gilead said to him, "Nevertheless, we are turning to you now; come with us to fight the Ammonites, and you will be our head over all who live in Gilead."
9 Jephthah answered, "Suppose you take me back to fight the Ammonites and the LORD gives them to me--will I really be your head?"
10 The elders of Gilead replied, "The LORD is our witness; we will certainly do as you say."

Q: What was Jephthah's family background? [Son of a prostitute, father was a good man (v.1). His brothers drove him away (v.2).] What kind of a man do you think he was? [Brave, bold, proud.]

C: In the time of trouble, when the Ammonites attacked Israel, the elders went and asked for Jephthah's help. They promised him that he could lead them in battle and then rule them afterwards. This was an exciting prospect for Jephthah. He really wanted to defeat the Ammonites. Let's see what he did.

Judges 11:29-31
29 Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jephthah. He crossed Gilead and Manasseh, passed through Mizpah of Gilead, and from there he advanced against the Ammonites.
30 And Jephthah made a vow to the LORD: "If you give the Ammonites into my hands,
31 whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites will be the Lord's, and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering."

Q: What promise did Jephthah make? ["I'll give whatever meets me first when I return as a sacrifice to God." (v.31).]

Was this a smart promise? [No. It was an emotional, foolish decision.]

C: Let's see what happened.

Judges 11:32-35
32 Then Jephthah went over to fight the Ammonites, and the LORD gave them into his hands.
33 He devastated twenty towns from Aroer to the vicinity of Minnith, as far as Abel Keramim. Thus Israel subdued Ammon.
34 When Jephthah returned to his home in Mizpah, who should come out to meet him but his daughter, dancing to the sound of tambourines! She was an only child. Except for her he had neither son nor daughter.
35 When he saw her, he tore his clothes and cried, "Oh! My daughter! You have made me miserable and wretched, because I have made a vow to the LORD that I cannot break."

C: Here we see that his daughter met him, and he had to kill her.

C: Let's talk about our lives for a bit now.

Q: Are any of you facing decisions in the next few months? Are any of you being tempted to make a decision that could take you away from God?


We've seen how bad decisions can ruin our lives. The people of Shechem accepted a murderer as their ruler, and he ended up killing them. Jephthah made a promise that he could not keep. He was too ambitious to be the ruler of Gilead, and lost his own daughter as a result. We must learn from these people. Let's not fight with each other. And let's not make emotional decisions.