Gaal was the son of a man named Ebed. He and his brothers moved into the area of Shechem sometime around the time that Abimelech had become the leader of the region.
Gaal must have been a man of some influence as well, because he was able to stir up the leaders of Shechem against Abimelech during a harvest festival when they were eating and drinking in the temple of their god.
While Gaal was busy boasting of what he would do to Abimelech, however, the governor of the city informed Abimelech of Gaal’s ambitions. Abimelech then advanced on the city in the morning, drew out Gaal and his men, and killed them in battle. The next day he ruthlessly attacked the people of Shechem for supporting Gaal, and the very short story of Gaal and his ill-conceived idea came to an end.
The ancient city of Shechem played an important role throughout the history of Israel. It was at Shechem that the Lord revealed to Abraham that he would receive Canaan as his inheritance (Genesis 12).
Later Jacob bought a plot of ground there, and Joseph’s bones would eventually be laid to rest there (Genesis 33:18–19; Joshua 24:32). At Shechem the people established a covenant with the Lord during the time of Joshua (Joshua 24). It was also at Shechem that the kingdom of Israel split into two kingdoms (1 Kings 12). And at a place near Shechem, Jesus spoke to a Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well (John 4).