We can hardly pass by the tragic end of Gideon’s sons, threescore and ten persons, slain upon one stone. It seems strange, when we remember the bright beginning to the story of Gideon. But was there not a cause? Alas, once again we find there surely was a reason for this tragedy. It was Abimelech, “the son of his maid-servant” (Judges 9:18), who murdered his seventy brothers. We read in Judges 9:30 that Gideon “had many wives.” This in itself was not of God; but it made it still more inexcusable that he should take his “maid-servant” as concubine. It was the gratification of this lust that caused the death of all these sons of Gideon.
But that is not quite all. You recall that after Gideon’s famous victory over the princes of Midian that “the men of Israel said unto Gideon, Rule thou over us, both thou, and thy son, and they son’s son also: for thou hast delivered us from the hand of Midian. And Gideon said unto them, I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you: the Lord shall rule over you.” (Judges 8:22-23). This was a noble answer, in keeping with the faith that had won such a notable victory.
But as Gideon grew older, his faith grew more dim, and I fear his pride increased; and when his concubine, the maid-servant, care him a son, “he called” him “Abimelech.” (Judges 8:31). And what does ‘Abimelech’ mean? It means “My Father is King.” The very place he had refused in his early days, now he seeks to seize, and his son’s name betrays his sad fall. “My Father” (that is, Gideon) “is King:” sad, sad departure from the noble faith he once had. Then he had said: “I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you.” Now he seeks the place of king, and his maidservant’s son seizes this place, at the cost of all his brothers, except the youngest. Terrible result of their father’s self-indulgence and pride: but what a man soweth, that shall he also reap.