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Bible Encyclopedias

The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia

Abimelech

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1. Son of GIDEON (surnamed Jerubbaal), the great "judge" of Israel. By virtue of his father's dictatorship or semiroyalty, he claimed to rule over Ephraim. He was, however, merely the son of Gideon's concubine; and to make good his claim he resorted to force. Aided by his mother's relatives, he put to death all of his half-brothers except the youngest, Jotham, and ruled three years in Shechem. His adherents were mostly of the old Canaanitish race, to which his mother probably belonged. The Israelitish party rebelled and gained control in Shechem. After prolonged strife, Abimelech took the city by assault. While besieging the neighboring stronghold, Thebez, he was struck on the head with a millstone thrown by a woman. Conscious that he was mortally wounded, he commanded his armorbearer to kill him at once with his sword. As a result of his death, Shechem and its environs were made permanently Israelitish.

J. F. McC.

2. King of Gath, mentioned in the superscription to Psalms 34 In 1 Samuel 21:20 he is called Achish.

3.—Biblical Data:

King of Gerar, with whom both Abraham and Isaac came into close connection. The stories that are told in both cases are very much alike in all details, which induces the Bible critics to believe that there is really only one (Genesis 20, , 26:1-17).

G. B. L.

—In Rabbinical Literature:

One of the few pious persons among the heathens whose name became the typical appellation for the rare class of pagans designated as pious by the rabbis (Midr. Teh. ). He was endowed with the gift of prophecy (Gen. R. ). His attempted seizure of Sarah (Genesis 20) is explained by the fact that he was childless, and that he hoped, through his marriage with a pious woman like Sarah, to be blessed with offspring. When, therefore, Michael, Abraham's guardian angel, descended from heaven and wanted to kill Abimelech with his sword, the latter could plead in his defense that he was ignorant of the criminal character of his deed and had acted with good intentions (Pirḳe R. El. ). But as Abraham was really in part to blame for the conduct of Abimelech toward him, Abimelech's curse, "May this one that will be thine have a covering on his eyes" (haggadic translation of , Genesis 20:16), took effect and resulted in Isaac's blindness in his old age (Meg. 15a).

Another occasion on which Abraham's conduct toward Abimelech incurs the reproach of the Haggadah is that of the consummation of the league of friendship between them, which was to continue in effect for four generations.

(Gen. R. 54:4; Midr. Sam. 12:1; Yalḳ, § 103 on 6:1).

God said to Abraham: "Thou hast given seven lambs to Abimelech in concluding the league of friendship with him; by thy life, for seven generations shall I retard the joy of thy off-spring; from Abraham unto Moses. Thou hast given him seven lambs; by thy life, seven righteous of thy race shall the Philistines [descendants of A bimelech] slay: Hophni, Phinehas, Samson, Saul, and his three sons. Thou hast given him seven lambs; by thy life, seven sacred possessions of thy people will his children destroy: the tabernacle, the sacred objects in Gilgal, Nob, Gibeon, and Shiloh, and the two temples. Thou hast given him seven lambs; seven months shall the holy Ark of the covenant abide in the land of the Philistines"

On the other hand, a very unfavorable picture is drawn by the Haggadah of the treatment of Isaac by Abimelech, wherein the latter allowed himself to be misguided by his envy. Among the inhabitants of Gerar the saying went, "I would rather possess the dung of Isaac's stables than the gold and silver of Abimelech." This exasperated Abimelech to such an extent that he sought to engage Isaac in a quarrel by declaring that the latter owed his wealth to the Philistines, to whom it rightfully belonged. In punishment for this, Abimelech, like Job, was visited by disease, and his house was robbed by thieves (Gen. R. 64:7).

L. G.

4. A priest mentioned in 1 Chronicles 18:16, where he is erroneously described as the son of Abiathar, whose father he was. Elsewhere he is called AHIMELECH.

G. B. L.

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Bibliography Information
Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for 'Abimelech'. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tje/a/abimelech.html. 1901.

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