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When the temptation to rule over others gets hold of someone, there is no end to what that person will do to attain power. In the time of Israel’s judges, a man named Abimelech even murdered his seventy brothers to become the leader of the people.

Abimelech was born to Gideon, the great leader who saved Israel from the Midianites—so one would think that Abimelech would also be a great leader. But from the start it was clear that Abimelech craved power and privilege more than leadership. After Gideon’s death, his seventy sons were regarded as the leaders of Israel. But Abimelech wanted the role of leader all to himself, and he convinced the people of his hometown of Shechem to help him.

They gave him money, and he hired a band of reckless men who went with him to Gideon’s hometown of Ophrah to murder Abimelech’s brothers—all except one. The youngest, Jotham, escaped and stirred up discontent in Shechem against Abimelech, but Abimelech put down the rebellion and ruthlessly punished the people of Shechem.

When he went to Thebez to put down more rebellion there, the people fled into a tower, and he was killed by a woman who threw down a millstone on his head after he came too close to the tower wall. The Bible points out that Abimelech’s death was just punishment for murdering his seventy brothers (Judges 9:56).

The story of Abimelech’s death at the hands of a woman must have come to be quoted proverbially in Israel as a warning against getting too close to the wall of a besieged city, because when Joab sent a messenger to inform David about Uriah’s death in battle, he anticipated that David would reference Abimelech’s death and criticize Joab for letting Uriah get too close (2 Samuel 11:18–21).