Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Judges 9, 10, 11 Jerub-Baal

Death of Abimelech.Image via Wikipedia
When God called Gideon to action, his first assignment was to tear down his father's altar to the pagan god, Baal.  Because he was so terrified of the public outcry and repercussions about destroying the altar of this popular deity, Gideon dismantled it at night.  The next day, when this deed was discovered, all of his townsmen wanted to kill Gideon for blaspheming against their god.  But, Gideon's father said, " If Baal is really a god, let him defend himself." (Judges 6:31)

That day,  the townsmen began to call Gideon, Jerub-Baal, meaning "let Baal contend with him". (Judges 6:32)  This phrase carries the expanded meaning of, if Baal is really god, let him judge Gideon for the destruction of his altar; conversely, if Baal is no god, Gideon will suffer no judgement.   So, Gideon's life was a bold statement testifying to his unswerving allegiance to the One true God of Israel, in whom he placed his trust.  Gideon's new name proclaimed to the world that he stood in opposition to faith in Baal, to whom many Israelites already succumbed.

In spite of all of his military conquests, Gideon, at the time of his death, was still known as Jerub-Baal. After Jerub-Baal's death, his seventy sons identified themselves with his stance against Baal, but Abimelech, his son by a concubine, despised his father's relationship with God.  Returning to Shechem where his mother's family lived, Abimelech incited the people to rebel against the leadership of Jerub-Baal's sons.  When the people of Shechem hired him to lead their military, they paid him from the coffers of Baal's city temple, which implies that Abimelech was now working for Baal.  Abimelech's first act was to massacre his seventy righteous step-brothers.

 Jotham,  Jerub-Baal's youngest son who managed to escape, climbed up Mount Gerizim and proclaimed  a curse over Abimelech.  Although, in the Books of Moses, Mount Gerizim was identified with blessings, not curses, it would appear that Jotham, by ascending Mt. Gerizim was identifying himself with God's blessings.  As a representative of Israel clinging to the true knowledge of God, he described Abimelech's sin and then placed the judgement of it into God's hands.  Where Jerub-Baal was a name that called on Baal to avenge himself, Jotham called on the living God of Israel to avenge the slaughter of his brothers, Jerub-Baal's sons.

Three years later, the curse of Jotham came upon Abimelech, the citizens of Shechem, and the citizens of Beth Millo.  In this very public arena, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob defended Himself and vanquished those who trusted in Baal, a god who couldn't defend his followers against God's judgement.

Intertwined throughout Old Testament accounts, Baal worship was something with which young Israel constantly struggled.  Baal, the supreme male deity of the Phoenecians or Canaanites, originated from the   Hebrew בַּעַל (ba`al)  meaning the adversary who is also lord or master.  Baal later became known as Beelzebub.  Eventually, this name was identified with the prince of demons.  

It is imperative to note that the struggle has always been between Absolute Good and Evil; between Light and Dark; between the One true God of Israel and Baal, in his numerous incarnations and names.

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