Abimelech (also spelled Abimelek or Avimelech; Hebrew: אֲבִימֶלֶךְ / אֲבִימָלֶךְ, Modern Aviméleḵ / Avimáleḵ Tiberian ʼAḇîméleḵ / ʼAḇîmāleḵ, "father/leader of a king; my father/leader, a king") was the name of multiple Philistine kings mentioned in the Hebrew Bible.
The name or title Abimelech is formed from Hebrew words for "father" and "king," and may be interpreted in a variety of ways, including "Father-King", "My father is king," or "Father of a king." In the Pentateuch, it is used as a title for kings in the land of Canaan.
At the time of the Amarna tablets (mid-14th century BC), there was an Egyptian governor of Tyre similarly named Abimilki, who is sometimes speculated to be connected with one or more of the biblical Abimelechs.
Abimelech of Gerar
Abimelech was most prominently the name of a polytheistic king of Gerar who is mentioned in two of the three wife-sister narratives in Genesis, in connection with both Abraham (chap. 20) and Isaac (chap. 26).
King Abimelech of Gerar also appears in an extra-biblical tradition recounted in texts such as the Kitab al-Magall, the Cave of Treasures and the Conflict of Adam and Eve with Satan, as one of 12 regional kings in Abraham's time said to have built the city of Jerusalem for Melchizedek.
Other people with this name
Apart from the king (or kings) of Gerar, the Bible also records this name for:
- Abimelech, son of Gideon (Judges 8:31), proclaimed king after the death of his father (Judges 9:1-6).
- The father of Abiathar, and high priest in the time of David (1 Chronicles 18:16). In the parallel passage, 2 Samuel 8:17, the name is given as Ahimelech; most authorities consider this the more correct reading.
- The king of Gath better known as Achish, referred to as Abimelech or Achimelech in the title of Psalm 34.
Other literary references include:
- Abimélech, Satrap of Gaza is a character (baritone) in Saint-Saëns' opera Samson and Delilah (Weimar, 1877)
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- Wolfgang Bluedorn (19 December 2001). Yahweh Versus Baalism: A Theological Reading of the Gideon-Abimelech Narrative. A&C Black. p. 192. ISBN 978-1-84127-200-9.
- Wolfgang Bluedorn (19 December 2001). Yahweh Versus Baalism: A Theological Reading of the Gideon-Abimelech Narrative. A&C Black. p. 191. ISBN 978-1-84127-200-9.
- Benamozegh, Elia; Maxwell Luria (1995). Israel and Humanity. Paulist Press International. p. 104. ISBN 978-0809135417.
- Hamilton, Victor P. (2012). Exodus: An Exegetical Commentary. Baker Academic. ISBN 978-0801031830.