The Despicable Son of a Slave

“And Ga’al, the son of Ebed, entered into Shekem, as did the brothers of Ebed. And so the leaders of Shekem put their trust in him.”

(Judges 9:26)

While we don’t know specifically who Ga’al is, we know that his name means “despicable, defiled, or wretched.” What a name to name your child. Of course, Ebed is the Hebrew word for a servant or for a slave. So here is the child of a slave, named “Despicable” and  his father’s brothers (at best, a band of worthless men) who come to town and offer the Shekemite leaders another option.

Before, the Shekemites didn’t like the idea of being governed by Gideon’s sons because none of those sons were Shekemites. Thus, they found Abimelek, the son of a Shekemite servant who had been impregnated by Gideon, who was at least part Shekemite and assisted him in the murder of his brothers so he could rule the land. Yet, they didn’t like Abimelek (their kin) after a few years and so they turn toward the son of a slave and his fellow ruffians, people who once again have no connection to Shekem, and they put their trust in them.

The idea of them placing their trust in Ga’al has to do with finding their security in him. Some suggest the connection between trust and faith, seeing this in religious terms, but there are abundant uses of the term (as in Genesis 34:25) to suggest a simple human connection. They didn’t like Abimelek who was one of their own (and it can be suggested that Abimelek had left Zebul in the city as a kind of governor — or stooge! — to keep the people under his control while he was away from his home city) so they replaced Abimelek with Ga’al, who was not one of their own. Yet, as so often happens when men take matters into their own hands, instead of taking the high road, they take the low road and so the bramble begins to burn.

As we noted before, if people are quite willing to help you usurp power from one rightfully in office, do not be surprised when they seek to assist someone else in usurping your power. I suppose that in the west we are used to the political games that our elected officials so often play inside of the Washington beltway. Yet, we shouldn’t be. We should be disgusted and ashamed of the shenanigans that sometimes goes on in the name of politics. Instead, we ought to elect men of Christian character to office and expect them to act and legislate according to that character.  The same must also be said of those who lead in our congregations. How often we see people making power plays in churches either to oust one pastor or to bring in a new one, to change a form of worship into another form, or to take a congregation in one direction that is different than it has historically been, only to later leave for another “more promising” congregation…usually leaving the first in disarray. Shame on those who would do such things to Christ’s flock.

As a young man I was told to do the right thing because it is the right thing to do. I confess that this is often harder than it sounds and I have been responsible for many messes over the years of my life. Yet, we repent and move forward, confessing our sin and righting our wrongs when God gives us the opportunity to do so. In the end, the question really is whose model will you follow? Is it the model of Christ, protecting, preserving, and even dying for his church? Or, is it the model of the world, using the church for personal gain? If it is the latter, understand that the judgment of God awaits you as it did with Abimelek, Ga’al, and the leaders of Shekem.

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