The Judge Ehud Page 3 of 5 (series: Lessons on Judges)
by John Lowe
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.
Ehud begged a private audience, and obtained it in a withdrawing-room, here called a summer parlour. He told the king that he had a secret message for him, who thereupon ordered all his attendants to withdraw, v. 19. There is no way to know whether he expected to receive some private instructions from an oracle, or some private information concerning the present state of Israel, as if Ehud would betray his country.
He (Eglun) was sitting in a summer parlor—Besides the platforms, says Dr. Shaw, which were upon the ancient houses of the East, and which are found there to this day, it is probable that prior to this, as well as at the present, most of the great houses had a smaller one annexed, which seldom consisted of more than one or two rooms and a terrace. Others, built as they frequently are above the porch or gateway. There is a door of communication from them into the veranda of the house, kept open or shut at the discretion of the master of the house. Another door opens from stairs that lead down to a privy, and then to the porch or street, without giving the least disturbance to the house. In these back houses strangers are usually lodged and entertained. And without doubt the apartment in which Eglon received Ehud was like this; near the privy stairs which was where he made his escape, after having killed Eglon. The doors of the Eastern buildings are large, and their chambers spacious, with conveniences that are well adapted to those hotter climates; but in the present passage something more seems to be meant; at least there are now other conveniences in the East to give coolness to particular rooms, which are very common. Eglon's was a chamber; and some contrivance to mitigate the heat of it was the more necessary, as he appears to have kept his court at Jericho, Judges 3:13, 28, where the heat is so excessive as sometimes to prove fatal.
I have a message from God unto thee—debar elohim li aleycha, a word of the gods to me, unto thee. It is very likely that the word elohim is used here to signify idols. Ehud, having gone so far as this place of idolatry, might pretend he had been there worshipping, and that one of the Moabite gods had inspired him with a message for the king; and this was the reason why the king commanded silence, why every man went out of the throne room and why he rose from his seat or throne, that he might receive it with the greatest respect. Eglon, being an idolater, would not have shown such interest in any message coming from the God of Israel.
But, on this occasion, Eglon does pay respect to a message from God. Though a king, though a heathen king, though rich and powerful, though now a tyrant over the people of God, though a fat unwieldy man that could not easily rise nor stand long, though in private and what he did was not under observation, yet, when he expected to receive orders form heaven, he rose out of his seat; whether it was low and easy, or whether it was high and stately, he left it, and stood up when God was about to speak to him, thereby acknowledging that God is his superior. This shames many who are called Christians that act with irreverence and lightly regard it, when a message from God is delivered to them.
Ehud, by calling what he had to do a message from God, plainly affirms a divine commission for his mission; and God’s influencing Eglon to do it did both confirm the commission and facilitate the execution of it. God prompts us by the judgments of his hand, as well as by the judgments of his mouth.
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.
The message was delivered, not to his ear, but immediately, and literally, to his heart, into which the fatal knife was thrust, and was left there. His extreme fatness made him unable to resist or to help himself; probably it was the effect of his luxury and overindulgence. God would show by this circumstance how those that pamper the body do but prepare for their own distress.
Notice is taken of the coming out of the dirt or dung; that was done so that the death of this proud tyrant may appear more embarrassing and shameful. He that had been so very pompous
about his own body, to keep it comfortable and clean, shall now be found wallowing in his own blood and excrements. In this fashion God pours contempt upon princes.
Now this act of Ehud’s is justified because he had special direction from God to do it; God put it into his heart, and let him know also, by the Spirit that came upon him that the urge to do this action was from Himself: the impulses carried with them their own evidence, and allowed him to be fully satisfied with the lawfulness and the success of this daring attempt, both of which he would have had reason enough to doubt. If he is sure that God is directing him to do it, then he is sure both that he may do it and that he will do it; because a command from God is sufficient to make it happen, both against our consciences and against all the world.
We know now that God was agreeable with the method Ehud used which, under that dispensation, He used to avenge his people against their enemies, and to display to the world his own justice. But God will by no means justify any such acts today. No such commissions are given now, and to pretend there are is to blaspheme God. Christ Told Peter to sheathe the sword, and we do not find that he ever asked him to draw it again.
The haft also went in after the blade. Seeing that the instrument was very short, and Eglon very fat, this might readily take place.
And the dirt came out. This was expected: either the contents of the bowels passed through the wound, or he had an evacuation in the natural way because he was frightened and in agony.
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.
Ehud escaped through the porch. It may possibly refer to some form of elaborate roof colonnade. Ehud then locked the double doors of the roof-chamber and escaped undetected. Finding the door locked, the servants assumed that he covereth his feet, a euphemism meaning “go to the bathroom.” This would probably indicate that some sort of plumbing was available in the parlor on the roof.
The statement that they tarried till they were ashamed means they “waited until the point of confusion.”
Cundall (p. 78) suggests that the key was a flat piece of wood fitted with pins that corresponded with holes in a hollow bolt. The insertion of this key in the bolt pushed out the pins of the lock and enabled the bolt to be withdrawn from the socket in the doorpost. Thus, the door could be locked without a key, but could not be unlocked without one.
Providence wonderfully favored Ehud’s escape, after he had done the execution. First, The tyrant fell silently, without any shriek or out-cry, which might have been overheard by his servants. How silently does he go down to the pit, choked up, it may be, with his own fat, which stifled his dying groans, though he had made such a great a noise in the world, and had been the terror of the mighty in the land of the living! Secondly, The heroic executioner of this vengeance, had such a presence of mind that he discovered that he experienced no consciousness of guilt, but a strong confidence in the divine protection. He shut the doors after him, took the key with him, and passed through the guards with such an air of innocence, and boldness, and unconcernedness, that none of the servants and guards suspect that he had done any thing wrong.
The servants that attended the king in the antechamber, in time became curious about the silence surrounding him. When Ehud had gone, they went to the door of the inner parlor, to enquire about their master’s requests, and finding it locked and all quiet, concluded he had lain down to sleep, had covered his feet upon his couch, and gone to consult his pillow about the message he had received, and to dream about it (v. 24), and therefore would not offer to open the door. That is one possible reason for their delay, but most Bible scholars believe that they believed that Eglon was relieving himself. Consequently, by their care not to disturb his sleep they lost the opportunity of revenging his death. See what happens when men make too much of their high position, and force those around them to keep their distance; some time or other it may come against them more than they think it could.