Taming the Unicorn
Chapter Twelve – Gideon's Folly
Samson was not the only Judge in Israel that got stomped on by the unicorn. Gideon ran after the unicorn, too, and ended up losing most of his posterity because of it. In Gideon's case, though, the weapon that brought him down was two–pronged. He fell through Pride, as well as Lust.
After Gideon won battles for the Israelites that gave them relief from their enemies, the Israelites wanted to make him their king. Knowing that it would be displeasing to God for him to accept that position, as the Lord alone was meant to be Israel's king, Gideon "modestly" turned down the honour. But, in an attempt to make sure that the Israelites did not forget how God had miraculously delivered them through Gideon's hand, Gideon asked a large offering from them. With part of the proceeds, he made a splendid, golden ephod that he set up in his city as a memorial of his deeds, though he disguised it as a religious artifact that supposedly gave honour to the Lord.
The ephod became a snare to the Israelites for they made a god out of it, probably just touching it for "luck" at the beginning, until they were involved in full–blown idolatry, bowing before it, donating money for the upkeep of its shrine, and taking oaths on it. This thing became a snare to Gideon and his house. It was flattering to him and his family that the Israelites had such reverence for the artifact he had made, and they proudly left the thing in place, instead of being jealous for the Lord and destroying it, repenting of a bad idea.
Gideon started off humble, considering himself a nobody and wondering how God could use him to work deliverance for Israel. But it happened. With God's help, he managed to turn back the destroyers. In time, perhaps he got to thinking that maybe he'd had some great talents all along that he simply hadn't been aware of. He started to touch the glory that should have gone only to God.
Then there were the women who wanted to marry him, and families that wanted to marry their daughters to him, so that they could be associated with Israel's great deliverer. Giddy Gideon let fame and fortune go to his head, and he took up a lot of those offers.
Gideon had only been pretending to be modest and godly in his response to the Israelites' offer to make him their king. In his heart, he really did think of himself as a king. Hence, a harem befitting a king to excite envy and to indulge his lust, and also to thumb his nose at those who had not thought much of him before he was raised up to to be a Judge.
All together, Gideon's wives gave him seventy sons. That isn't counting the daughters. It is highly unlikely that his wives gave birth only to sons. How on Earth was this man able to cope with civic duties, wait on God so that he could get the answers he needed to give as a Judge, meet the needs of all those ladies, and pay adequate attention to his children? He wasn't able to do it. He messed up royally, though for the sake of His people, God kept giving Gideon wisdom to decide their matters.
All those wives weren't enough for Gideon. For his comfort and amusement when he visited Shechem on his circuit, he kept a concubine there. He must have bought a house for his convenience and the concubine was his housekeeper. Maybe she had servants, maybe not. It might have been only a small house that she could handle on her own, but better than she could have expected if she married a man in her own social position. Gideon's famous name offered her protection from being opportuned with harassment of any kind.
Gideon's concubine had a son, and what did Gideon name him? To mollify this concubine because of her lower social position to the rest of his wives, and to console his son about his low birth, Gideon called him "Abimelech," which means "father of the king." This was a royal name among the Philistines. It is what they called their kings, just as the Egyptians called their kings Pharaoh. The Philistine name for their king carried the connotation that he would stay in power and father a dynasty.
Besides expressing his pride in his own accomplishments, Gideon was in effect telling his son that, regardless of his lesser standing to his brothers, he could be a success in life. He could be a great conqueror like his father. Abimelech did indeed make some conquests, but at the expense of his brothers' lives.
That boy grew up feeling hugely slighted because he didn't get to live in his father's house, not even in his city. His father was not around often enough to see that Abimelech got the attention and instruction he needed, and when he visited, his interest was in the bed chamber with Abimelech's mother. He maybe got a present and a pat on the head, but not much else. Resentment burned in his heart.
Perhaps his mother soothed him by telling him things that flattered his ego, and complained about his father so that Abimelech only saw his shortcomings, instead of getting a balanced picture of Gideon's character and some insight into his father's huge responsibilities.
The concubine would have served her son better if she had said to him, "Abby, your father is a great man. I am flattered that he took notice of me and decided to take me for his concubine. Don't think that your brothers and sisters get any more attention from him than what you do; he's too busy being a Judge to spend much time with them."
"We may not have as much prestige as the rest of his family, but if I had married a man who could not afford more than one wife, one who had more time for his children, you wouldn't been born, Abby. You more than make up for the lack of prestige to me, Abby. And God doesn't look on you as any less than your brothers and sisters; His opinion is the one that counts. Besides that, I probably could not have married a man with more wealth and respect than your father. Let's be thankful for what we have, instead of being bitter that it isn't more."
Unfortunately, Gideon wasn't looking for character when he took Abimelech's mother for his concubine. He was looking at her figure and her face and her thick, shining hair. Undoubtedly, she was a virgin, else he would not have made her his concubine, but virginity does not always denote character. It can be preserved through social pressure. People should always consider what kind of parent a prospective spouse is going to be to their children, and if they are apt to teach their children reverence for the Lord.
The unicorn says, "Nay, nay, nay, don't look too closely at that. He/she is young, that will come. Don't expect too much right away. Look at that build. Look at that face. Listen to those compliments. By the time you have children, this person will have learned a lot more than what they know now, and everything will be okay." Too late the lesson is learned that we should marry for admirable character traits that are already exhibited, not because the person has "potential."
When people settle for potential, it signals that they are willing to put up with junk, at least for a while, and the other person is likely to test to see how much junk their spouse will tolerate before they won't put up with it anymore. Then the long–hoped for character development might commence, but maybe not.
Abimelech grew up with great ambitions. He had a name that he wanted to live up to by gaining rule and building a dynasty. Adding fuel to this fire, when he went to Ophrah for his Daddy's funeral, his brothers rejected him. They were a proud clique. Abimelech's mother was no more than a slave, regardless of his fine–sounding name. They probably laughed at him and asked why he was hanging around when there was no place for him in Ophrah. He should just take his inheritance and go home.
Burning with resentment, Abimelech indeed went home, where he roused up his relatives to speak on his behalf to the men of Shechem. Rather than having Gideon's seventy sons ruling them, wouldn't it be better if they had only one, and of their own blood and background? The men of Shechem agreed and gave him some money, with which he hired a gang to round up Gideon's sons and kill them. The only one who escaped was the youngest, who managed to hide when the bandits swooped down on his father's house.
It must have been quite a bloodbath. It is unlikely that the mothers of those sons escaped with their lives. The sisters who still lived at home must have been slaughtered, as well, after they were raped, if they weren't carried off as slaves. Relatives and other townspeople probably tried to assist in the rescue, to no avail. They lost their lives, too. In the end, Abimelech had his brothers lined up, probably delivered a boastful speech to make them regret their rejection of him, and had them all beheaded on one stone.
If Gideon had foreseen the calamity that would one day decimate his house, he would not have let his ego and his lust get away on him, but people frequently do not consider the possible outcomes of their actions when the unicorn prances their way. One wife, and such sons and daughters as she could give him, would have been easier to deal with, they each would have had a bigger inheritance because it would not have had to be split up in so many directions, and the end of Gideon's story would have given him more honour because his apparent modesty in refusing a crown would be more believable.
Sad story follows sad story when the unicorn is allowed to rule. A Christian goes on a business trip to Thailand, and is unfaithful to his new bride. He comes home with AIDS and, though he is sorry for what he did, he can't make love to his young wife without putting her at risk of getting his disease. A married woman sneaks off to Mexico for a clandestine vacation with her lover. She contracts Montezuma's revenge and dies in Mexico of dehydration. Her family had no idea that she was having an affair, and this was a shocking way to find out.
A woman takes a live–in lover, and when she tries to break up with him, he is so controlling that he considers her his property and kills her. Or he possibly kills her children, thinking it will make her sorry that she tried to leave him. It just makes her sorry that she got involved with him in the first place, but it's too late. Regrets won't bring back her children.
Yes, if a person is going to take lovers, they can be more careful about whom they choose to get involved with, and that is wise, but what if they die in their sinful condition? Death can happen so suddenly. Some people in perfect health die for apparently no reason, but when God calls us to account for our lives, nothing can prevent us from keeping that appointment.
A person might think that God will keep on showing His mercy and be patient with them while they are horsing around, but what if they miscalculate, and find that He feels that He has given them enough chances to change their ways? What if they have an aneurysm or a heart attack before they get around to turning away from their sin, and they find themselves trapped in a nightmare that will never end, not even a trillion years later? It's too high a price to pay for such transitory pleasures.
People who died and went to Hell, then came back to life, said that they saw demons laughing as they sexually humiliated humans whose souls they had managed to capture for all time and eternity. There was great shame and horror felt by those souls in the activities perpetrated on them, and no pleasure at all; just pain and frustration for there is no gratification of any kind in Hell.
It calls to mind a saying I read about how foolish it is for people to risk drinking a sea of wrath in Eternity for a sip of pleasure in this life. Satan's motto may be, "Do as you will," but he doesn't mention that there is a price to pay when he offers his bait; a price that involves misery beyond imagining that lasts forever, and one of the torments of Hell is that the captives know that nobody will ever come to their rescue.
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Taming the Unicorn, Chapter 13