The Judge Ehud Page 1 of 5 (series: Lessons on Judges)
by John Lowe
The Judge Ehud
Scripture: Judges 3:12-30
12 And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the LORD: and the LORD strengthened Eglon the king of Moab against Israel, because they had
and smote Israel, and possessed the city of palm trees done evil in the sight of the LORD.
13 And he gathered unto him the children of Ammon and Amalek, and went.
14 So the children of Israel served Eglon the king of Moab eighteen years.
15 But when the children of Israel cried unto the LORD, the LORD raised them up a deliverer, Ehud the son of Gera, a Benjamite, a man lefthanded: and by him the children of Israel sent a present unto Eglon the king of Moab.
16 But Ehud made him a dagger which had two edges, of a cubit length; and he did gird it under his raiment upon his right thigh.
17 And he brought the present unto Eglon king of Moab: and Eglon was a very fat man.
18 And when he had made an end to offer the present, he sent away the people that bare the present.
19 But he himself turned again from the quarries that were by Gilgal, and said, I have a secret errand unto thee, O king: who said, Keep silence. And all that stood by him went out from him.
20 And Ehud came unto him; and he was sitting in a summer parlour, which he had for himself alone. And Ehud said, I have a message from God unto thee. And he arose out of his seat.
21 And Ehud put forth his left hand, and took the dagger from his right thigh, and thrust it into his belly:
22 And the haft also went in after the blade; and the fat closed upon the blade, so that he could not draw the dagger out of his belly; and the dirt came out.
23 Then Ehud went forth through the porch, and shut the doors of the parlour upon him, and locked them.
24 When he was gone out, his servants came; and when they saw that, behold, the doors of the parlour were locked, they said, Surely he covereth his feet in his summer chamber.
25 And they tarried till they were ashamed: and, behold, he opened not the doors of the parlour; therefore they took a key, and opened them: and, behold, their lord was fallen down dead on the earth.
26 And Ehud escaped while they tarried, and passed beyond the quarries, and escaped unto Seirath.
27 And it came to pass, when he was come, that he blew a trumpet in the mountain of Ephraim, and the children of Israel went down with him from the mount, and he before them. 28 And he said unto them, Follow after me: for the LORD hath delivered your enemies the Moabites into your hand. And they went down after him, and took the fords of Jordan toward Moab, and suffered not a man to pass over.
29 And they slew of Moab at that time about ten thousand men, all lusty, and all men of valour; and there escaped not a man.
30 So Moab was subdued that day under the hand of Israel. And the land had rest fourscore years.
The next judgment to rebellious Israel came likewise from the east. On the eastern boundary of Reuben and of Gad lay the land of Moab. One of the chieftains of its tribes, Eglon, now allied himself with the old enemies of Israel, Ammon and Amalek, the former occupying the territory south of Reuben, the latter the districts in the far south-west, below Philistia. Eglon swept over the possessions of the trans-Jordanic tribes, crossed the river, and made Jericho, which was probably rebuilt as a town, though not as a fortress, his capital. Having thus cut the land, into two, he occupied its center and garden. Eglon degraded Israel (i.e., the Benjamites and perhaps some Ephraiminites.) to servitude for eighteen years. At the end of that period the people once more "cried unto the Lord," and "the Lord raised them up a deliverer," although Holy Scripture does not say that in his method of deliverance he acted under the influence of the Spirit of the Lord. However, in the peculiar circumstances of the case I am convinced that we can see the hand of God at work.
12 And the children of Israel
did evil again in the sight of the LORD: and the LORD strengthened Eglon the king of Moab against Israel, because they had done evil in the sight of the LORD.
13 And he gathered unto him the children of Ammon and Amalek, and went and smote Israel, and possessed the city of palm trees.
14 So the children of Israel served Eglon the king of Moab eighteen years.
Israel had enjoyed forty years of undisturbed peace while under Othniel, their first judge. After the death of Othniel, there was another time of backsliding and idolatry among the Israelites. Ehud, a Benjaminite, is the next of the judges whose achievements are reported in this history book we call The Book of Judges, and here is an account of his actions.
The Israelites, deprived of the moral and political influences of Othniel, were not long in following their native partiality to idolatry. When Israel dwelt in tents, Balak king of Moab, would have acted against them, but God confused his mind; now that they had forsaken God, and worshipped the gods of the nations around them (and perhaps the Moabites were among those pagan nations), there was another king of Moab, whom God built up to go against Israel. The Lord put power into his hands, even though he was a wicked man, so that he might be a scourge to Israel. The staff in Balak’s hand with which he beat Israel was God’s indignation;1
(Isa. 10:6,7 ). The Israelites did evil, and, we may suppose that the Moabites did worse; yet because God commonly punishes his own people for sins committed in this world, so that, the flesh being destroyed, the spirit may be saved, Israel is weakened and Moab strengthened against them.
God raised up another enemy nation as an instrument of judgment on His people. Moab is the land east of the Dead Sea, lying between the Arnon and the Zered Rivers. The Moabites were descendents of Lot by his older daughter’s incestuous relationship with him 2
(Gen. 19.30-38 ). This oppressor’s territory was situated nearer to them than the former, and therefore would be more harmful to them; God’s judgments were approaching them gradually, to bring them to repentance. Eglon’s ambition was to get back that extensive portion of his ancient territory possessed by the Israelites. In conjunction with his neighbors, the Ammonites and the Amalekites, sworn enemies of Israel, he first subjected the eastern tribes to hostilities; then crossing the Jordan, he made a sudden incursion on western Canaan.
The Moabites, like the other Transjordanian kingdoms, had been previously nomadic peoples. Eglon was able to gather a confederacy of men from Moab, Ammon and Amalek in order to defeat the Israelites. The Ammonites were closely allied to the Mosbites throughout their history, and the nomadic Amalekites had been bitter foes of Israel since the battle at Rephadim. These amalgamated tribes had harassed Israel considerably during the wilderness journey and remained a constant threat to them during the early settlement period as well.
The Transjordanian confederacy followed the same route that Israel had taken earlier and captured the city of palm trees, i.e., Jericho. This city was previously destroyed by Joshua; however, it occupied such a strategic position that apparently another city was built on the site a short time after its destruction; but without refortifying it with city walls, because of the curse on whoever did this 3
(Jos. 6.26 ). Archaeological remains show that Jericho was actually built, destroyed, and rebuilt several times.
They made the Israelites serve them (v. 14), that is, they exacted tribute from them, either the fruits of the earth in kind, or money in lieu of them. They neglected the service of God, and did not pay him his tribute; therefore, God recovered from them that wine and oil, that silver and gold, which they prepared for Baal, 4
(Hos. 2:8 ). What should have been paid to the divine grace, and was not, was paid to the divine justice. The former servitude (v. 8) lasted for eight years, this eighteen; for, if less troubles do not do the work, God will send greater.
God would not allow the Israelites, when they were the stronger nation, to distress the Moabites, nor to disturb them in any way even though they were idolaters 5
(Deut. 2:9 ); yet now he allowed the Moabites to distress Israel, and He strengthened them on purpose so that they might say: “Thy judgments, O God! are a great deep.”