Not long ago, I was on Twitter and witnessed (participated in, maybe) a debate over the push to see Jesus in every Old Testament text. In the middle of things, a challenge was issued: "Where's Jesus in Judges 9?" This led me to do some analysis on Judges 9 to find out if we can in fact see Jesus in that narrative. Turns out (unsurprisingly to anyone not enslaved exclusively to distinctively modern modes of exegesis) that we definitely can. Then, today, I was called upon to read this text in church and was reminded of my investigation. This further prompted me to share what I found here. I was able to identify three possible lines of connection between Jesus' own story and the story of Abimelech's attempt at kingship in Judges 9.
- That Abimelech is able to successfully gather a movement to crown him king ties into an ongoing biblical narrative of humanity, and God's people in particular, exchanging divine authority for their own, generally wicked, authority. This begins as far back as Genesis 3, when Adam turns from the authority of God's command and yields his own authority over his wife and the Garden to obey the authority of the Serpent. It happens over and over later, as Israel rebels against Moses, insists on having a king on their own terms in their own time, and eventually abandons their Messianic King with the cry, "We have no king but Caesar!" These mistakes always lead to pain and suffering, such as the eventual devastation of Israel and destruction of the Temple. Israel under Abimelech behaves just like Israel will under Saul, Herod, Pilate, and Caesar, to the same disastrous ends. This comes in its worst form when Israel trades its Messiah for Caesar, but after that, the theme is subverted, as those who are not God's people begin to trade their demonic loyalties for the Lordship of Christ.
- A loose connection can be found in the name "Abimelech" itself, which is usually translated, "My father is king." There are several Abimelechs in the Bible, and they are generally bad characters. They serve as wicked kings, heirs of wicked fathers, and inasmuch as they are portrayed as the seed of the Serpent, it could be said that their common father is the devil, who does (or did?) rule this age. Yet Christ is the true Abimelech, whose Father is genuinely the King of Kings and makes His Son to hold the same office. Jesus serves as the ultimate anti-Abimelech, the Son whose Father rightfully reigns in justice.
- Finally, Abimelech is, as with all of the people who persecute the righteous and kill their seed (see: his 70 brothers), in the role of the seed of the Serpent. Like the Pharisees, Abimelech's father is the devil, and as the spawn of Satan, he is set at enmity with the woman and her seed. This is highlighted as he is finally defeated when an unnamed woman crushes his head with a millstone, marking one of many fulfillments of the prophecy in Genesis 3. Eventually, the prophecy will reach its climax when the woman Mary gives birth to a seed who will crush the head of the Serpent and all his seed for good.
These are, of course, not massive and obvious knockdown arguments about Jesus' presence in Judges 9. But the patterns and resemblances are there. The handful of points of similarity objectively exist, and the reader must discern whether these are simply coincidences in the inspired Scriptures or whether God made the links on purpose.