Remember in Judges 8:22 The Israelites said to Gideon, "Rule over us—you, your son and your grandson—because you have saved us out of the hand of Midian." Well, Jether was the eldest and I assumed that he would be the natural choice but here we have Abimelek son of Jerub-Baal to be the ruler after Gideon's death. Not only did he usurp authority but extended the intention of rulership, he got himself crowned king! This is a great example of where conceit leads to deceit. Furthermore, we are to learn that Abimelek, was the son of his female slave (verse 18) and therefore not through marriage. Abimelek went to the family, who at some level agreed to give/sell his mother into slavery, and appeals to them to appoint him their king! From the perspective of 1000's years after the fact, it's incredulous. I wonder what we do today in our relationships that would incur a similar response!
Jotham pipes up from Mount Gerizim the sarcastic tale of the thornbush and the trees. This is typical of a prophet. I also think that calling from the mountain which Moses pronounced the blessings and not curses (Mount Ebal) was significant. Truth, no matter how painful to hear is always a blessing. (See Deuteronomy 11:28-30) His pronouncement seems to fall in somewhere between "may you get what you deserve" "reap what you sow" and "you deserve one another".
Next, God pipes up by working in the background, he stirs up trouble between the two parties, Abimelek and the people of Shechem. When we truly realise that the"wages of sin is death" the progession of the downward spiral of sin becomes clearer. Gal 5:26 reminds us "Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other".
This is played out very vividly in the next part of the story. God brings in an outsider Gaal son of Ebed to liven things up and bring trouble to a head. Gaal derides the leadership in the land, and Zebul its governor. Zebul sends a message to Abimelek to get ready and ambush this outsider.
It is worth mentioning that one of the themes in Judges, is that "everyone done what was right in his own eyes".
Zebul the governor of the city encourages Abimelek "do whatever your hand finds to do" then later in the story at the Tower of Sechem he orders the men with him, "Quick! Do what you have seen me do!" Abimelek ends up slaughtering people and salting the earth, just as the midianites done in Gideons time. v 55 "When the Israelites saw that Abimelek was dead, they went home". What a pointless exercise and waste of human life..... unless we learn from their ways!
verses 56 -57Thus God repaid the wickedness that Abimelek had done to his father by murdering his seventy brothers. God also made the people of Shechem pay for all their wickedness. The curse of Jotham son of Jerub-Baal came on them.
God has the last word on wickedness!