“And Ga’al, the son of Ebed, went out and stood at the entrance gate of the city and Abimelech and the men with him rose from their ambush. Ga’al saw the people and said to Zebul, ‘Alas! The people are coming down from the mountaintops!’ And Zebul said to him, ‘You are seeing the shadow of the mountaintops, but they are men!’ And again, Ga’al added, saying, ‘Alas! People together in groups from the center of the earth! And one company coming from the way of the Oak of the Soothsayers! And Zebul said to him, ‘Where is your mouth now, which said, ‘Who is Abimelek that we serve him?’ Are these not those people whom you rejected? Go on out now and fight with him.’”
Woe to the one who, in God’s providence, must eat the words of his mouth! And woe to those who follow him to their own destruction. The wicked are about to punish the wicked. Abimelek has rallied a mass of troops and has surrounded the city by night, lying in wait until just the right time. Ga’al has now awoken with the sun, looks out from the gate of the city he has claimed and sees men in massive numbers coming toward the city to lay waste to it. Hence, instead of translating הִנֵּה (hineh) as the customary, “Behold!”, I have translated it as “Alas!” to convey the “shock and awe” that Ga’al must have been feeling.
Zebul, of course, has been waiting for this moment. You can almost hear him gloating a bit as he points out the people coming down to Ga’al and he witnesses the reality of the situation settling into Ga’al’s demeanor. Finally he says, “You better hurry up and get yourself together and go fight with Abimelek…that’s what you wanted!” It’s a difficult thing when you receive what you ask for when what you have asked for is nothing more than drunken boasting. The blowhard, Ga’al is about to get his comeuppance.
In a situation like this, you almost wonder who to root for. Ga’al is definitely a lowly figure but Abimelek is a wicked usurper as well. In every sense of the term, both are falling under the judgment of God. Thus, who do we root for? God. God will bring his vengeance against the wicked, we need never doubt that; here, though, God is avenging the wicked by using the wicked. It is a reminder that God is not only sovereign over the life and affairs of his own, but he is sovereign over the life and affairs of all mankind — over his total creation. Deny God all you want, but he will still use you and your life to accomplish his purposes.