Tag Archives: Abimelech

No Honor Among Thieves

Abimelech ruled over Israel three years. But God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the lords of Shechem; and the lords of Shechem dealt treacherously with Abimelech.
Judges 9:22-23 (NRSV)

I have, of late, been enjoying watching Shakespeare’s Henry IV both parts 1 and 2, starring Tom Hiddleston (who played Loki in Marvel’s Thor movies) as the young prince Henry V. The teenaged heir to the crown has a troubled relationship with his father (King Henry IV, played by Jeremy Irons), and chooses to rebel from his royal life and slum around a seedy area of London known as Eastcheap.

There, in a tavern, young prince Henry (known as “Harry” or “Hal”) parties hard and incessant with a fat, licentious fool of an old knight named Sir John Falstaff. Harry, Falstaff and a band of rogues revel in drunkenness and all around dishonest mischief – sometimes enjoying a dishonest turn against one another. Harry’s friend, Poins, steals Falstaff’s horse from him, causing the old fool to quip, “It stinks when there is no honor among thieves.”

There is no honor among thieves.

That line came to mind when I read in this morning’s chapter about Abimelech’s treachery against his brothers and his grab for power. Not to question the validity of “God sending an evil spirit,” but I wonder if that spirit found it easy work to stir up trouble between Abimelech and his co-conspiritors. There being no honor among thieves, those who deal in treachery and dishonest gain tend to breed conflict and mistrust among their own.

This morning I am reminded of the simple wisdom of keeping good company. When we surround ourselves with those who seek truth, peace, joy, and love then we tend to find our lives rewarded with the fruit of our corporate longing. Young Henry learned this lesson in time. He eventually repents of his folly, restores his relationship with his father, and eventually becomes a legendary hero in Shakespeare’s sequel, Henry V.

Faith, Fear, and Flaws

Abimelech rebuking Abraham by Wenceslas Hollar...
Abimelech rebuking Abraham by Wenceslas Hollar. Abimelech asks Abraham, “What has thou done unto us?” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Abraham replied, “I thought, ‘This is a godless place. They will want my wife and will kill me to get her.’ And she really is my sister, for we both have the same father, but different mothers. And I married her. Genesis 20:11 (NLT)

Today’s chapter is the second time we see Abraham pass his wife off as his sister. His actions are rooted in fear. If the king who is hosting them decides he wants to take Sarah for his own he would have to kill Abraham to do it. Abraham’s household was undoubtedly large, but Abraham was not a warrior king and could do little against an attack which would kill him and take all that he had.

What makes this second instance different is that Abraham is pressed more directly by King Abimelech than he was by Pharaoh. Abimelech puts Abraham under cross-examination and we find Abraham revealing that Sarah really is his half-sister (it does feel like a soap opera moment, doesn’t it….“No way!”). Nonetheless, his half-truth is not the full truth and his actions jeopardized his host in order to safe his own neck. It was selfish and deceptive and was motivated by fear and a lack of faith.

The great patriarchs were human just like you and me. God’s Message not only reveals Abraham’s faith, but also reveals his flaws and fear. I find it common for people to think “God would/could never use me because [insert tragic flaw or heinous mistake here].” Abraham believed God and had enough faith to leave his home, but he clearly did not have faith enough to tell the truth and believe that God would protect he and Sarah from Pharaoh and Abimelech.

Today, I’m taking solace in the reality that God uses flawed human beings to do His will.