So, Gideon is dead and the Israelites are back to their horrible wicked ways. His son, Abimelek, decides he wants to be the leader now. To prevent his 70 (!) brothers from getting in the way, he murders them all, except for the youngest, Jotham, who escapes.
The people crown him their king. (I was wondering why they would want the horrible guy who murdered 70 of his brothers to be the king, but we learn later than they helped. So, that's great.) During the ceremony, Jotham shows up and tells a confusing parable (which, apparently, are not only for Jesus). It's about some trees who want to pick out a king, and they go around asking various trees if they'll do it, and they refuse. Finally they ask the thornbush to be the king, and it agrees, but promises to burn down the cedars of Lebanon, whatever that is. Whatever that's all about... I guess Abimelek is the piece of crap thornbush of the story. Or something.
Shockingly, Jotham fails to persuade the people that Abimelek will be a bad king (I'm just assuming that was his goal, I have no idea what's going on), probably because they didn't know what the crap he was talking about. So Jotham runs away and hides for 3 years.
Meanwhile, Abimelek is king, and God "stirs up animosity" between Abimelek and the people. He does it to avenge the 70 murdered brothers; in typical fashion, God chooses to exert his supposedly omnipotent power, not when it might have actually done any good, but for revenge when it's too late.
Now we get a little story that is, I suppose, the main result of this civil unrest. Someone named Gaal moves to a town called Shechem, which is under Abimelek's juristiction. At some party Gaal gets the people all riled up, saying that some other guy should be the leader. Viva la revolution! This guy Zebul hears this and, being loyal to Abimelek, sends him a message telling him to come attack Gaal. So they come the next morning, Gaal and his people fight them, and they (Gaal et al) are all killed or chased off.
You'd think the story would be over now, wouldn't you? But no. Abimelek has to destroy the entire city and kill everyone there, even though they had next to nothing to do with Gaal's harmless little comment. The next day he destroys the city when everyone goes out to work in the fields. The survivors go to some stronghold (Helm's Deep?). Abimelek goes there and sets it on fire with everyone inside.
Having utterly destroyed Shechem and all of its people for their tangential involvement with Gaal and his drunken boasting, he goes and attacks some city called Thebez. I cannot figure out what this place has to do with anything, other than Abimelek is on a roll and it's the next random target. All the people in the town lock themselves in a tower, and some woman drops a big stone on Abimelek and cracks his skull. Abimelek asks one of his men to kill him, so that no one will ever say that he was killed by a woman. Wow. Misogyny taken to the extreme, I guess? I don't even know what to say about that.