The man who would not be king

Rudyard Kipling wrote a story called “The Man Who Would be King.”  It is about two Englishmen who took control of a small state in Afghanistan and set up a kingdom there.  You can read the story here.

The Bible tells of a man who would not be king.  He was offered the kingship of Israel and turned it down.  In view of what happened afterward I think he was wrong to do this.

The man’s name was Gideon.  You can read his story in Judges 6-8.  God called Gideon to deliver Israel from the Midianites.  With only 300 men he was able to overcome a Midianite army of 135,000.  The people of Israel were so grateful they offered to make him their ruler.

Then the men of Israel said to Gideon, “Rule over us, you and your son and your grandson also, for you have saved us from the hand of Midian.” 

Gideon said to them, “I will not rule over you, and my son will not rule over you; the Lord will rule over you.” (Judges 8:22,23)

They were doing nothing wrong in making this offer.  God had told them they could choose a king to rule them if they wished.

When you come to the land that the Lord your God is giving you, and you possess it and dwell in it and then say, “I will set a king over me, like all the nations that are around me,” you may indeed set a king over you whom the Lord your God will choose. One from among your brothers you shall set as king over you. You may not put a foreigner over you, who is not your brother. (Deuteronomy 17:14,15)

Gideon wasn’t willing to rule them.  The events that followed suggest that it would have been better if he had accepted their offer.

Now Gideon had seventy sons, his own offspring, for he had many wives. And his concubine who was in Shechem also bore him a son, and he called his name Abimelech. And Gideon the son of Joash died in a good old age and was buried in the tomb of Joash his father, at Ophrah of the Abiezrites. (Judges 8:30-32)

Judges 9 tells the story of Abimelech, the son of Gideon’s concubine.  He won the support of the leaders of Shechem, his mother’s home town.  He murdered all but one of Gideon’s legitimate children and was crowned king.  His reign ended when God caused hostility between him and the city of Shechem that led to their mutual destruction.

Gideon had said that his son would not rule over Israel.  In fact one of his sons did rule and brought evil on the nation.  If he had been willing to rule Israel one of his legitimate sons would have succeeded him and Abimelech’s evil would have been avoided.  Gideon served faithfully and his name is listed among those whom God commended for their faith.

And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets— who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. (Hebrews 11:32-34)

But I wonder if he might have accomplished a lot more if he had been willing to accept the offer to make him ruler of Israel.

Posted on November 6, 2017, in Bible study and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I find it ironic that Abimelech means “My father is king”. Even though Gideon didn’t accept kingship, it’s as if he thought of himself as a king, even taking for himself many wives. So, despite being really messed up, Gideon is in the Hall of Faith.

    Liked by 1 person

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