The Judge Ehud Page 2 of 5 (series: Lessons on judges)
by John Lowe
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.
To counteract the eighteen-year oppression brought on by Eglon, God raised up a deliverer, Ehud … a Benjamite, a lefthanded man . The term “lefthanded” comes from the Hebrew term meaning “bound of his right hand.” The Benjamites apparently were known for being lefthanded—“Among all this people there were seven hundred chosen men lefthanded; every one could sling stones at an hair breadth, and not miss” (Judges 20:16). They were also noted for being ambidextrous—“They were armed with bows, and could use both the right hand and the left in hurling stones and shooting arrows out of a bow, even of Saul's brethren of Benjamin” (1 Chr. 12:2).
In a clever move, Ehud was selected to bring a present (the yearly tribute money) demanded from Israel by the Moabite king. In actuality, the tribute was probably paid in the form of agricultural produce or a series of gifts requiring a number of porters (vs. 18) to carry it all. Bruce suggests that the gift was taken to Jericho, which was being used as a temporary headquarters within Israel by the Moabite king, rather than to Kir Hareseth, the capital of Moab. Davis (Conquest and Crisis, p. 107) dates the Moabite conquest from about 1335 B.C., including their infiltration into the Jordan Valley. Ehud, who perhaps had had this dubious responsibility previously, decided to use it as an opportunity to assassinate the Moabite king. In order to carry out the assassination attempt, Ehud made a dagger which was a cubit in length (vs. 16). The Hebrew word for cubit, is used no other place in the entire Old Testament. It refers to a short cubit, i.e., the distance between the elbow and knuckles of a closed fist; therefore, it was about twelve to fourteen inches long. Hiding the dagger under his robe, Ehud brought the tribute caravan to Eglon, who is described as a very fat man (indicating the need for the length of the dagger). After the official presentation of the tribute, Ehud dismissed his entourage and requested a private audience with the king himself.
What do we know about this new deliverer, named Ehud. We are told here:
1. That he was a Benjamite. The city of palm-trees lay within the lot of this tribe; therefore, it is probable that they suffered the most, and therefore, they were the first to shake off the yoke of oppression. It is supposed by the chronologers that the Israelites’ war with Benjamin for the wickedness of Gibeah, by which that whole tribe was reduced to 600 men, happened before this, so that we may rightly think that Benjamin was now the weakest of all the tribes, yet out of it God raised up this deliverer, as an indication of his being perfectly reconciled to them, to manifest his own power in ordaining strength out of weakness, and that he might bestow more abundant honour upon that part which lacked, 6(1 Co. 12:24 ).
2. That he was left-handed. It seems that many of that tribe was. Benjamin means the son of the right hand, and yet multitudes of them were left-handed; for men’s natures do not always echo their names. The LXX say he was an ambi-dexter, one that could use both hands in a similar way. We may suppose that this was an advantage to him in the action he was called to carry out; but the Hebrew phrase, that he was shut of his right hand, suggests that, either through disease or injury, he had little or no use of his right hand. He could only use his left hand, and so he was less fit for war, because there would be things he could not do like hold a shield for defense; yet God chose this left-handed man to be the man of his right hand, whom he would make strong for himself, 7(Ps. 80:17 ). It was God’s right hand that gained Israel the victory 8(Ps. 44:3 ), not the right hand of the instruments he employed.
3. That he was the son of Gera, one of Benjamin's sons 9(Ge 46:21 ).
4. Othniel was from Judah, the mightiest tribe in Israel. Ehud was from Benjamin, now the smallest tribe. God can use the great
or the small to gain the victory, since the power is from Him anyway. Men are simply the agents of deliverance, not the originators of it.
5. That he planned the death of this tyrant. It is apparent from the preparations he made that he followed a well thought-out plan. For example, he made a weapon for the specific purpose of killing King Eglon; a short dagger about half a yard long and shaped like a bayonet, which might easily be concealed under his clothes (v. 16). It had to be concealed because no one was allowed to come near the king with their swords by their sides. He wore the sword on his right thigh, so that it might be easily drawn with his left hand.
Before Ehud’s plan would work, he had to be alone with him, which might be easier now that he had not only made himself known to him, but ingratiated himself by the present, and the compliments which he no doubt had spoken to him. Presents, tribute, etc., in the eastern countries were offered with very great ceremony; and to make the occasion more distinguished several persons, ordinarily slaves, who were lavishly dressed, were employed to carry what would not be a burden even to one. This appears to have been the case in the present instance. It is highly likely that Ehud had hid his plans from everyone in the entourage, and he ordered them to leave as soon as they presented their gift, and then he followed them out of the king’s palace.
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.
The reference in verse 19 that he turned again from the quarries, that were by Gilgal has caused considerable confusion.
The Hebrew word translated quarries is usually translated “sculptured stones” (RSV) or “graven images” (LXX, RV mg) or statues of Moabite idols, the sight of which may have kindled the patriotic zeal of Ehud to avenge this public insult to Israel. The quarries are mentioned again in verse 26, where they are an important landmark. It is probably the case that when he had passed them he was safe from the Moabites. Thus, it has been suggested that they marked the limits of the Moabite territory and would be similar to boundary stones. Cundall (p. 77) prefers the idea that they were the actual stones set up earlier by Joshua to commemorate the miraculous crossing of the Jordan and, thus, were a well-known landmark.
Verse 18 states that he dismissed his retinue from the Kings presence. He soon left himself to accompany his companions on the return trip. When the group came to the quarries, Ehud turned back to seek a private audience with Eglon. The implication of this move was to reinforce the concept of the secrecy of his mission. Now Ehud pretended as if he had left something behind, and went back to the king of Moab’s court, v. 18. Then Ehud begged for a private audience to discuss a secret message. It may be that he went as far as to these images, so that, by telling him that he went as far as the quarries before returning that the king of Moab might be more apt to believe he had a message from God. Then again, Eglon may have thought that Ehud had come to deliver a message, the nature of which a spy would bring, or perhaps he thought Ehud was prepared to bring a special bribe to him personally in addition to the tribute. The fact that the king responded to his secret errand with the statement Keep silence "Privacy" -- a signal for all to withdraw, further suggests that he expected something of a personal nature that he did not want the others to know about, thus, he sent them out, until Ehud and Eglon were alone in the room. It was a very unwise thing for him to be all alone with a stronger man that he had reason to look upon as an enemy; but those that are marked for ruin are infatuated, and their hearts hid from understanding; God deprives them of discretion.
He—turned—from the quarries. Some of the versions understand this word to mean idols or graven images, or some spot where the Moabites had a place of idolatrous worship. Another possibility for the meaning is the boundaries of the two countries: and when Ehud had got this far, he sent away the people that were with him, under the pretense of having a secret message for Eglon, and so he got rid of his attendants, since their presence with him would prove to be a hindrance to the execution of his scheme, and to his escape afterwards.