Chapter 41
Gaal’s Call to Rebellion [Judges 9.26-9.29]


Scripture: Judges 9:26-29 (KJV)

26 And Gaal the son of Ebed came with his brethren, and went over to Shechem: and the men of Shechem put their confidence in him.
27 And they went out into the fields, and gathered their vineyards, and trode the grapes, and made merry, and went into the house of their god, and did eat and drink, and cursed Abimelech.
28 And Gaal the son of Ebed said, Who is Abimelech, and who is Shechem, that we should serve him? is not he the son of Jerubbaal? and Zebul his officer? serve the men of Hamor the father of Shechem: for why should we serve him?
29 And would to God this people were under my hand! then would I remove Abimelech. And he said to Abimelech, Increase thine army, and come out.



26 And Gaal the son of Ebed came with his brethren, and went over to Shechem: and the men of Shechem put their confidence in him.--Judges 9:26 (KJV)
26 Then Gaal (son of Ebed) and his brothers moved into Shechem. Citizens of Shechem trusted him.–Judges 9:26 (GW)

And Gaal the son or Ebed came with his brethren, and went over to Shechem…
Who this Gaal was, and who his brethren were, and where they came from, are all uncertain; but there are three schools of thought presented for your consideration:
1. Jarchi thinks he was a Gentile, and it looks, by some speeches he made afterwards, that he was a descendant of Hamor, the founder-prince of Shechem, during the times of Jacob. His family had moved far away from Shechem when the Canaanites were expelled from Canaan; but when he heard about the dispute (created by God), between Abimelech and the Shechemites, Gaal along with some of his family and his personal army of bandits, went there to take advantage of the situation, if he could. Gaal knew about the state of public opinion, and their disaffection with Abimelech, and he hoped to cause a revolution that would bring down Abemilech and restore the ancient government as it was under Hamor. This man Gaal is said to be the son of Ebed, whose name means “a servant”, which perhaps is significant; implying that Gall was born to a poor family. In the same way as Abimelech was on his mother's side of his family, so was Gaal on his father's side; they were both the son of a servant. However, at this point he must be rich and powerful, with a considerable following. We have reason to suspect that this Gaal was a native Canaanite, because he soon cultivates a favorable rapport with the Shechemites who place themselves in subjection to the men of Hamor, who was the ancient lord of this city in Jacob's time. Gaal was a bold ambitious man, and he served their purpose admirably well when they were of a mind to quarrel with Abimelech, and they also served his purpose as well; so he went to Shechem to court their backing in his scheme to lead a successful revolution against Abimelech’s regime, and they put their confidence in him.
2. There is another idea about who this Gaal was and it is quite interesting and may be correct. He may have been an officer sent by Abimelech, and accompanied with a force sufficient to bring the men of Shechem back into allegiance to Abimelich, but once there he tried to turn the rebellion to his own advantage. He got into Shechem with a band of men, "his brethren," unopposed by Zebul, Abimelech's officer, and soon gained the confidence of the Shechemites.
3. Gaal, the son of Ebed (the Syriac and Arabic, read "son of Eber," instead of "son of Ebed."), came to Shechem with his brethren. Judging from his appearance in Shechem, he was a knight-errant, who went about the country with his brethren, i.e., as captain of a company of bandits, and was welcomed in Shechem, because the Shechemites, who were dissatisfied with the rule of Abimelech, hoped to find in him a man who would be able to render them good service in their revolt from Abimelech. This may be gathered from the words "and the lords of Shechem trusted in him."

and the men of Shechem put their confidence in him;...
The men of Shechem freely told him of the harsh opinion they had of Abimelech, and they confided in him what their strategy was against him; and he assured them he would take their part, and defend them to the utmost; therefore, they depended on him, and they felt secure and went about their business.

This is a reflection upon the foolishness of the men of Shechem. What an incredible lapse of ordinary intelligence it was which prompted the lords of Shechem to trust this itinerant marauder whose only purpose was to exploit other people in order to further his own interests. Perhaps that `evil spirit' had blinded them for the purpose of their destruction.

An insurrection of the original Canaanites, headed by this man, broke out at last in Shechem.


27 And they went out into the fields, and gathered their vineyards, and trode the grapes, and made merry, and went into the house of their god, and did eat and drink, and cursed Abimelech.–Judges 9:27 (GW)
 27 They went into the country and harvested grapes in the vineyards to make wine. Then they made an offering of praise in the temple of their gods. They ate, drank, and cursed Abimelech.–Judges 9:27 (GW)

And they went into the fields, and gathered their vineyards,
Before Gaal and his brethren arrived the citizens of Shechem were afraid of Abimelech’s power, and did not dare to go out of the city. They stayed within the city, even though the time was right to harvest grapes and make wine. They were afraid for their lives; thinking that the troops of Abimelech may attack them for their lying in wait for him, and because he was now aware of the robberies they committed along the roads leaving Shechem. Abimelech wanted to rid his kingdom of these road agents and to that end he had prepared to raise some forces with which to attack them. The men of Shechem knew about his plans for them; but, they were encouraged by the protection of Gaal, and they ventured out to gather their grapes in the vineyards (June-July) without fear.

and trode the grapes, and made merry:
They sang songs and danced and made merry, which is what they customarily did when harvesting the fruits of the earth, and while they were treading the winepress, [1](Isaiah 16:10), [2](Jeremiah 48:33), [3] (Isaiah 24:7-9): But now they had added to the celebration their redemption from Abimelech's tyranny. However, Abendana thinks this joy and merriment were made to their idol, to which they gave the praise for their harvest; the praise they should have been given to the true God, and what follows may seem to confirm it:

Made merry. The word translated "merry" occurs only here and in Leviticus 19:24. Here the sense is of "praises" and "thanksgivings"; and the indication is that the fruits themselves which were brought to the House of God with songs of praise, and eaten or drunken with a religious service, were called thank-offerings and would be a portion of the new wine from the vintage which they had just gathered in.

[1](Isaiah 16:10; NKJV) “Gladness is taken away, And joy from the plentiful field; In the vineyards there will be no singing, Nor will there be shouting; No treaders will tread out wine in the presses; I have made their shouting cease.”
[2](Jeremiah 48:33; NKJV) “Joy and gladness are taken From the plentiful field And from the land of Moab; I have caused wine to fail from the winepresses; No one will tread with joyous shouting-- Not joyous shouting!”
[3](Isaiah 24:7-9; NKJV) “The new wine fails, the vine languishes, All the merry-hearted sigh. The mirth of the tambourine ceases, The noise of the jubilant ends, The joy of the harp ceases. They shall not drink wine with a song; Strong drink is bitter to those who drink it.”

and they went into the house of their god;
Their god was an idol in the temple of Baalberith. Their offerings of grapes and wine were either to beg his help against Abimelech, or to give him thanks for the hopes of regaining their liberty.

The Israelites made themselves an idol while Moses was receiving the Ten Commandments from the hand of God: “Early the next day the people sacrificed burnt offerings and brought fellowship offerings. Afterward, they sat down to a feast, which turned into an orgy…When he came near the camp, he saw the calf and the dancing. In a burst of anger Moses threw down the tablets and smashed them at the foot of the mountain” (Ex 32:6, 19; GW). Neither the god of the Shechemites or the golden calf of the Israelites accomplished anything; they were nothing more than the handiwork of mere men; lifeless creations.

and did eat and drink;
It is the custom of idolaters to bring their first fruits into their idol temple; the temple of Baal-berith.  On this occasion the men of Shechem are so confident that Gaal can protect them against Abimelech that they start throwing drunken parties and openly cursing Abimelech.

According to [4]Leviticus 19:23-25, the entire yield of the fruits which newly-planted orchards or vineyards bore in the fourth year were to become praise-offerings. The presentation of these fruits, through which the vineyard or orchard was sanctified to the Lord, was associated, as we may learn from the passage before us, with sacrificial meals. The Shechemites held a similar festival in their temple to honor Baal.

Eat and drink: To the honor of their idols, and out of the “praise-offerings” of grapes they had gathered and pressed into wine, as they used to do to the honor of Jehovah, and for his sacrifices.

and cursed Abimelech;
They wished they had never seen him and known him, and they hoped they would soon be rid of him, and that he would meet with the disgrace and punishment he deserved; and all this went on in that very temple from which they had taken money fir him to use in hiring the men that would assist him with his rise to king by murdering seventy of his brothers. Now they seem so fickle and changeable.

They did all the harm they could to Abimelech's name. They were glad that he was absent from their city and they hoped that he would soon be out of the way, and now that they had Gaal to lead them, they looked forward to getting rid of him permanently.

It was at an idolatrous feast in the house of Baal-berith, on the occasion of the offering of the first fruits to their god after they were drunk with wine, that the rebellion erupted. Those present began to "curse Abimelech," to speak insultingly of him, and to revile him (compare [5]Leviticus 20:9; [6]2 Samuel 19:21; [7](Isaiah 8:21). Gaal, the son of Ebed, who was watching for the opportunity to assume command of the situation, immediately incited them to revolt from the dominion of Abimelech, offering himself to be their captain;

Cursed: Either by insulting him, or, rather in a more solemn and religious manner, cursing him by their god, as Goliath did David.

[4](Lev 19:23-25; NKJV) “When you come into the land, and have planted all kinds of trees for food, then you shall count their fruit as uncircumcised. Three years it shall be as uncircumcised to you. It shall not be eaten. But in the fourth year all its fruit shall be holy, a praise to the LORD. And in the fifth year you may eat its fruit, that it may yield to you its increase: I am the LORD your God.”
[5](Lev. 20:9; KJV) “For every one that curseth his father or his mother shall be surely put to death: he hath cursed his father or his mother; his blood shall be upon him.”
[6](2 Samuel 19:21; KJV) “But Abishai the son of Zeruiah answered and said, Shall not Shimei be put to death for this, because he cursed the LORD'S anointed?”
[7](Isaiah 8:21; KJV) “And they shall pass through it, hardly bestead and hungry: and it shall come to pass, that when they shall be hungry, they shall fret themselves, and curse their king and their God, and look upward.”

28 And Gaal the son of Ebed said, Who is Abimelech, and who is Shechem, that we should serve him? is not he the son of Jerubbaal? and Zebul his officer? serve the men of Hamor the father of Shechem: for why should we serve him?–Judges 9:28 (KJV)
28 Gaal (son of Ebed) said, “Who's Abimelech, and who are we, the people of Shechem, that we should serve him? Isn't he Jerubbaal's son, and isn't Zebul his officer? Serve the descendants of Hamor, Shechem's father! Why should we serve Abimelech?–Judges 9:28 (GW)

And Gaal the son of Ebed said…
They went into the house of their god, to formalize their feast of in-gathering (little more than an excuse for a drunken orgy), and there they did eat, and drink, and cursed Abimelech. "Such celebrations could easily degenerate into an orgy with excessive drinking, when inhibitions previously effective, would have been replaced by boisterous deeds." They not only said all the unpleasant things they could about him as they joined together in table-talk, making merry, and carousing; they sang songs and drank too much wine, and they wished for Baal, their idol, to destroy him as they sacrificed and prayed to their idol. They drank to his confusion and bad health, and with as loud hurrahs as they ever had drunk them to his prosperity. That very temple where they had fetched money to set him up with, they now met in to curse him and plot his ruin. If they had deserted their idol-god for their image-of-a-king, they might have hoped to prosper; but, since they still embrace the former, the latter will cleave to them until he causes their ruin. How should Satan cast out Satan?

who is Abimelech, and who is Shechem, that we should serve him (Abimelech or his officer Zebul)?
Who is Abimelech{[8](1 Samuel 25:10); [9](2 Samuel 20:1); [10](1 Kings 12:16)}—What is he but a low-born person, a cruel tyrant, and one that is unworthy to govern you? Who is Shechem—That is, Abimelech, named in the preceding words, and described in those which follow. He is called Shechem because he was a Shechemite. The gist here is who is this Shechemite? In view of the fact that he was by the mother's side, born of a woman of your city, but she was Gideon’s concubine and servant; why should you submit to one so scandalously descended? This was a reminder that their king had a Jewish father, while they were sons of Hamor, not sons of Jacob (Genesis 34). They were pleased with Gaal's livid defiance of Abimelech. They loved to hear that impudent upstart speak disrespectfully, of Abimelech, though calling him Shechem, or a Shechemite, reflected poorly upon their own city.

Or there is another translation that has been offered: “Who is this Abimelech the Shechemite?  Is he greater than Shechem, the old prince of this place, who was expelled from it long ago? The one is no better than the other, and neither one has a better rite to rule and govern than the other, so why should we serve him; of the two, the descendants of the old Shechem have the best claim to the title.

is not he the son of Jerubbaal?
Gaal answers his own questions. Abimelech was regarded by him as contemptible, not because he was the son of a maid-servant or of very low birth, but because he was ambitious and cruel, a murderer of his brethren, and because he was a son of Jerubbaal, a son of the man who destroyed the altar of Baal at Shechem and restored the worship of Jehovah; for which the Shechemites themselves had endeavored to slay him [11](Judges 6:27; NKJV).

and Zebul his officer?
Gaal is speaking not so much of the city as of its inhabitants. The might and greatness of Shechem did not consist in the might and authority of its governor, Zebul, who had been a   temporary appointment by Abimelech, and whom the Shechemites had felt no need to serve. Gaal opposed Zebul and he pushed the citizens to align with "the men of Hamor, the father of Shechem," as those whom the Shechemites should serve. Zebul was in attendance and heard the threats, but at present he was too weak to oppose Gaal or to even speak against him

One thing that can definitely be gathered from Gaal’s speech is that there were remnants of the Hivite (or Canaanitish) population still living in Shechem, and therefore that the Canaanites had not been entirely exterminated—a fact which would sufficiently explain the revival of the worship of Baal there.)

serve the men of Hamor the father of Shechem: for why should we serve him?
That is, they should serve the men of Hamor rather than Abimelech; which was speaking very contemptuously of his government, preferring the descendants of Hamor, the old Canaanitish prince, that ruled in this place, to Abimelech; and if Gaal was a descendant of Hamor, he spoke the truth, and thought this was a good opportunity to take over the government of the city and restore it to him and his family, since their old religion and idolatry were well established among them; and if they had received the one, why not the other?

Gaal's appeal to the Shechemites was quite logical. [12]Hamor was a powerful figure in Shechem when Jacob bought that piece of ground from him, but whether or not he was the "father of Shechem," as alleged by Gaal is not known. The rabble-rouser's argument was, "Why should we serve these Jews? They were once inferior to the great founders of our city!"
[8](1 Samuel 25:10; NKJV) “Then Nabal answered David's servants, and said, "Who is David, and who is the son of Jesse? There are many servants nowadays who break away each one from his master.”

[9](2 Samuel 20:1; NKJV) “And there happened to be there a rebel, whose name was Sheba the son of Bichri, a Benjamite. And he blew a trumpet, and said: "We have no share in David, Nor do we have inheritance in the son of Jesse; Every man to his tents, O Israel!"

[10](1 Kings 12:16; NKJV) “Now when all Israel saw that the king did not listen to them, the people answered the king, saying: "What share have we in David? We have no inheritance in the son of Jesse. To your tents, O Israel! Now, see to your own house, O David!" So Israel departed to their tents.”

[11](Judges 6:27; NKJV) “So Gideon took ten men from among his servants and did as the LORD had said to him. But because he feared his father's household and the men of the city too much to do it by day, he did it by night.”

[12]Hamor was the name of the Hivite prince who had founded the city of Shechem (Genesis 33:19; Genesis 34:2, 6; compare Joshua 24:32). The "men of Hamor" were the leading men of the city, who "derived their origin from the noblest and most ancient stock of Hamor" (Rosenmller). Gaal, along with the "men of Hamor," that were loyal to him opposed Abimelech and his representative Zebul.

29 And would to God this people were under my hand! then would I remove Abimelech. And he said to Abimelech, Increase thine army, and come out.–Judges 9:29 (KJV)
29 How I wish I controlled these people! Then I'd get rid of Abimelech. I would tell him, ‘Get yourself a big army and come out.'”–Judges 9:29 (GW)

And would to God this people were under my hand…
Or under my government; that I, Gaal was the ruler of their city, and general of their forces: I wish you would unanimously submit to me, as your captain and governor; for he found them divided; and some of them hearkening after Abimelech, whom they had recently rejected. Here we have the very words and conduct of a sly, hypocritical demagogue. Absalom expressed similar thoughts; “Moreover Absalom would say, "Oh, that I were made judge in the land, and everyone who has any suit or cause would come to me; then I would give him justice." (2 Sam 15:4; NKJV)

then would I remove Abimelech;
Gaal’s aim was not to regain Shechem's liberty, but instead, to change their tyrant: "O that this people were under my hand! What I would do!—I would remove Abimelech from his kingly office, and rid Shechem of him, and all the country round about, and indeed remove him out of the world. I would challenge Abimelech to fight me for the crown;" and it seemed that he desired his friends to send him word that he was ready to do battle with him whenever he pleased. This pleased the Shechemites, who were now as sick of Abimelech as they had ever been fond of him. Men of no conscience will be men of no consistency.

and he said to Abimelech;
Rather, "and I would say to Abimelech," as the LXX renders it; for as Dr. Wall observes, this was probably not said in the presence of Abimelech, who was in Arumah at the time; but at one of their traditional feasts—the Vintage Festival, where he boasted that he would challenge him. He may have spoken what follows in a heckling and blustering manner to an officer under him, that represented him; or he sent a messenger to him, saying…

increase thine army, and come out;
He challenged Abimelech to come into the open field and fight him, and bring as many forces along with him as he could; heated as he was with wine, Gaal certainly believed he was more than a match for him and therefore, he did not see any reason to surprise him. The men of Shechem would see they had nothing to fear from him, having such a man as Gaal at the head of them would bring security and pride. His fiery words may have been shouted as if Abemilech was present, but they were intended to motivate the Shechemites to make him their ruler. The fatal flaw in this ill-advised insurrection was that Zebal, Abimelech's deputy governor of Shechem, was present and reported the whole affair to Abimelech.