By the time you get through chapter nine, you might well wonder where God went. After all, in every case but that of Shamgar thus far, God has specifically raised up the deliverer for Israel.
Here, however, Israel begins to pick her own leaders, and you see right away the kind of leader she picks. The son of a prostitute, Abimelech talks his countrymen, the people of Shechem, into paying him to murder their royal family (or the closest thing they have to it – the family of Gideon). Abimelech is described by the only surviving member of Gideon’s family as nothing more than a thornbush the trees have chosen to rule over them – an improbability for a thornbush and a discomfort for the trees!
We do not know who Gaal, son of Ebed was. This is his only mention in the Bible. But known or not, he is the instrument by which God drives a wedge between Abimelech and the people of Shechem.
K. Lawson Younger observes on this chapter: “Sometimes it may appear as though evil is in control and God has taken a vacation. Injustice dominates and wicked people, morally empty and reckless like Abimelech’s hirelings, seem to prevail. Anyone living at the time of Abimelech’s rule must have felt that way . . . And when believers forget the Lord and live according to the world’s dictates, this only intensifies the power of the wicked. When believers choose this path, becoming functionally unbelievers, they may find that God allows them to get what they deserve, just as the Israelites experienced in the Abimelech story” (K. Lawson Younger, Jr. NIV Application Commentary: Judges/Ruth (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002) p. 234).