Today we will continue our discussion of the Judges of Israel. Last week we looked at the first judge, Othniel (Judges 3:11), who kept the people on the straight and narrow for forty years. Once Othniel died, the children of Israel returned to their idolatrous ways (3:12). As an act of reformation by God, He disciplined them, bringing Eglon the king of Moab against them. Eglon allied with the nations of Ammon and Amalek to go to war against Israel. Israel lost the war and the people became servants of Eglon and the Moabites. For eighteen years Israel lived under the bondage of Eglon, and needlessly so. How interesting is the pride of Jacob’s children here! Consider how, earlier in this chapter, they served the king of Mesopotamia for eight years, but once they gained reason and turned from their idols to cry out to God for help, God sent Othniel to deliver them and bring them peace and freedom again. Now, after forty years of freedom under Othniel, the people are taken into the hand of Eglon because of their sins, and wouldn’t you think they would immediately realize what they need to do? No, not immediately anyway. It took them eighteen years to have a reformed heart to cry to God for help. Notice, in Judges 3:15, how the “prodigal son” returns eighteen years later, and the Father is there to deliver them from the mess they are in. It is a wonderful lesson from the bible, that if we turn to God from our very messy lives of sin, He is there with open and forgiving arms. To deliver the people from their punishment, God chooses a man among them to be their leader for the next eighty years; his name is Ehud. His description is simple: of the tribe of Benjamin, and left-handed. Pointing out that he was left-handed seems to be due to the added stealth by which he was able to breach and conquer.
The details of how Ehud led the people to deliverance are unique, and to many, they may be difficult to stomach. Ehud began by crafting his own sword of eighteen inches in length; shorter than the usual sword. This was still sizeable to accomplish what he planned to use it for, but still short enough to be concealed under the clothing of his right thigh. The point that Ehud made it himself is either because weapons were removed from the land of Israel by their conqueror, or because there was not a short enough weapon for concealability being easily obtainable at that time. Now Ehud was the one appointed to bring Israel’s tribute to King Eglon. When he brought the tribute to Eglon, he got him alone by saying “I have a secret message from God for you.” Once alone, Ehud drew his sword and thrust it into his belly. King Eglon was extremely obese; specifically, verse seventeen says that he was, in Hebrew, me’ôd bârı̂y’, that is, vehemently fat. So then, when the sword went in, the fat closed over the sword, and the sword came out of his behind. Ehud fled the scene, locking the door on his way out. The king’s attendants did not immediately find Eglon’s body because they found the door locked and assumed he was using the bathroom. After waiting for an unreasonable amount of time, they became embarrassed for the king and finally proceeded to unlock the door. Upon entry, they found King Eglon dead and Ehud was long gone.
But this isn’t the last we see of Ehud, nor is this the last time that Moab sees him; for Ehud had only cut the head off of the snake, now it was time for the whole snake to die. Ehud fled only so far as to gather the troops of Israel and to turn right back around and lead them into battle against the Moabites, The army of Israel, led by Ehud, slew about 10,000 mighty men of Moab. After eighteen years of a loss of liberty, Israel finally enjoyed freedom again, and Ehud tells them why: “the LORD has delivered your enemies the Moabites into your hand.” The land of Israel had rest for the next eighty years. What a lesson to be learned! After eighteen years under Moab, Israel cries out to God for help at last, and what does the LORD do? He gives them eighty years of peace! And their peace would have been prolonged further if they hadn’t forgotten about God once again, turning back to the worship of Idols.
Article by Tanner Campbell.