Yahweh versus Baalism : a theological reading of the Gideon-Abimelech narrative
This study attempts to describe the contribution of the Abimelech narrative for the theology of Judges. It is claimed that the Gideon narrative and the Abimelech narrative need to be viewed as one narrative that focuses on the demonstration of YHWH'S superiority over Baalism, and that the deliverance from the Midianites in the Gideon narrative, Abimelech's kingship, and the theme of retribution in the Abimelech narrative serve as the tangible matter by which the abstract theological theme becomes narratable. The introduction to the Gideon narrative, which focuses on Israel's idolatry in a previously unparalleled way in Judges, anticipates a theological narrative to demonstrate that YHWH is god. YHWH's prophet defines the general theological background and theme for the narrative by accusing Israel of having abandoned YHWH despite his deeds in their history and having worshipped foreign gods instead. YHWH calls Gideon to demolish the idolatrous objects of Baalism in response, so that Baalism becomes an example of any idolatrous cult. Joash as the representative of Baalism specifies the defined theme by proposing that whichever god demonstrates his divine power shall be recognised as god. The following episodes of the battle against the Midianites contrast Gideon's inadequate resources with his selfish attempt to be honoured for the victory, assign the victory to YHWH,w ho remains in control and who thus demonstrates his divine power, and show that Baal is not present in the narrative. Yet Gideon continues the battle against the Midianites on his own in the narrative complication, which culminates in Gideon's establishment of idolatry, shows that YHWH is still in control, and sets the background for the Abimelech narrative. Following the introduction of Israel's idolatry, the focus of the Abimelech narrative on Baal and Shechem defines them as examples of Israel's general idolatry. Abimelech is crowned on a Baalist basis and becomes Baal's chief representative. The theological theme is specified and its effect for the narrative outlined by Jotham as YHWH's representative; Abimelech's success or failure as king will show Baal's power or absence. The following episodes suggest that Baal is not present at all, that Baalism is a selfdestructive religion, and that YHWH is in control of the mutual destruction of the Baal worshippers, who are nevertheless held accountable. By the end of the Gideon-Abimelech narrative the narrator has demonstrated YHWH'S supreme power to deliver Israel from their enemies, his permanent control over the events, the inability of man to accomplish YHWH's work on their own, the absence of other gods, and the self-destructive force of idolatry. Therefore, YHWH is god and should be worshipped as god.