(A·bimʹe·lech) [My Father Is King].
Either a personal name or an official title of several Philistine kings, perhaps similar to the title Pharaoh among the Egyptians and Caesar among the Romans.
1. The king of the city of Gerar, where Abraham and Sarah took up temporary residence in about 1919 B.C.E. Thinking the couple were brother and sister, he took Sarah to become his wife but, providentially, did not touch her. Warned by Jehovah in a dream, the king returned Sarah to Abraham together with compensation consisting of livestock and slaves and, in addition, a thousand shekels of silver (c. $2,200) as a guarantee of Sarah’s chastity. Sometime later this king concluded a covenant of peace and mutual confidence with Abraham at Beer-sheba.
2. Possibly another king of Gerar at the time Isaac went there because of a famine. This was after the death of Abraham in 1843 B.C.E. Isaac, like his father Abraham, attempted to pass Rebekah off as his sister, but when the king, by accident, discovered she was Isaac’s wife, he issued a public decree granting them protection. Isaac’s God-given prosperity, however, became the object of envy, and so the king requested Isaac to move out. Sometime later this king of Gerar concluded a covenant of peace with Isaac similar to the one his predecessor had made with Abraham.
4. A son of Judge Gideon born to his concubine at Shechem. After his father’s death, Abimelech with presumptuous impudence sought to make himself king. Cunningly, he appealed to the landowners of Shechem through his mother’s influential family. Upon obtaining their financial support he hired some ruffians, went to his father’s house at Ophrah, and there massacred his half brothers upon a single stone. Of the 70 half brothers, only the youngest, Jotham, escaped the slaughter.
Abimelech was then proclaimed king, but Jehovah allowed a bad spirit to develop between the Shechemites and their new “king,” in order to avenge the bloodguilt of all those connected with the conspiracy. A revolt was organized by Gaal. Abimelech quickly crushed it, captured and destroyed the city of Shechem, and sowed it with salt. Then he attacked the vault of the house, or sanctuary, of El-berith and set it afire, and in the conflagration about a thousand of his previous collaborators, the landowners of the tower of Shechem who had taken refuge there, were burned to death. Immediately Abimelech followed up this success by attacking Thebez to the N, only to have a woman on the city tower hurl an upper millstone down upon his head. Abimelech’s three-year “reign” came to an end when his armor-bearer, in compliance with his dying request, ran him through with the sword, so that it could not be said that a woman had killed him.
5. The Masoretic text, followed by the King James Version, reads “Abimelech” in 1 Chronicles 18:16. The Greek Septuagint, Latin Vulgate, Syriac Peshitta, and 12 Hebrew manuscripts read “Ahimelech,” which is in agreement with 2 Samuel 8:17.