And all the men of Shechem gathered together, and all the house of Millo, and went, and made Abimelech king…
The character and life of Abimelech furnish us with a terrible picture of ambition in its bad origin, wicked character, temporary triumph, and fatal issues.
I. THE BAD ORIGIN OF AMBITION. This is illustrated in the circumstances which were associated with the early days of Abimelech.
1. Irregular social habits. The parentage of Abimelech would
(1) stir in him a sense of injustice, and
(2) incline him to lawless conduct (Judges 8:30).
Loose morals undermine the peace of society. Whatever desecrates the sanctity of the home tends to derange the order of the state.
2. Parental vanity. The high-sounding name of Abimelech is significant as an index to the character of his mother, and the thoughts she would instil into his mind. The vanity of the parent may be the curse of the child.
II. THE WICKED CHARACTER OF AMBITION. Abimelech displays some of the worst features of ambition.
1. Selfishness. The ambitious upstart has no thought of his nation's prosperity, his sole aim is his own aggrandisement.
2. Deceit. Abimelech deceives his brothers and the men of Shechem. True greatness is simple and frank; the bastard greatness of ambition is mean, false, treacherous.
3. Cruelty. The new king soon abuses the confidence of his brethren, and develops into a murderous tyrant. Ambition inclines to cruelty
(1) because it isolates the ambitious man, and destroys the safeguard of the sympathy and influence of equals, and
(2) because it creates dangers from which there seems no escape but by violence.
III. THE TEMPORARY TRIUMPH OF AMBITION. Abimelech reaches the throne at which he aims.
1. We must not be surprised at the temporary success of wickedness. It is easier for the unscrupulous to obtain a low worldly triumph than for the conscientious to reach their more noble goal. The irony of providence is apparent in the fact that these men "have their reward" (Matthew 6:2).
2. We must not judge of conduct by worldly success. Success is no vindication of character. Bad conduct is not to be justified because it proves to have been expedient. The syco-phancy which flatters triumphant ambition, while it execrates the ambition which fails, is one of the meanest characteristics of popular opinion.
IV. THE FATAL RESULTS OF AMBITION.
1. To the people who shamefully countenance it it brings disaster. Israel was the worse for tolerating Abimelech, and Shechem, which accepted and encouraged him, suffered the heaviest calamities at his hand. Instead of securing strength and peace, the new throne only flung disorder and misery into the nation.
2. To the ambitious man his conduct brought ultimate defeat, shame, and death. Greed of power is punished by a triumph of weakness. Pride and vanity meet with humiliation and ridicule. - A.
Parallel VersesKJV: And all the men of Shechem gathered together, and all the house of Millo, and went, and made Abimelech king, by the plain of the pillar that was in Shechem.