“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.
And he gathered unto him the children of Ammon and Amalek, and went and smote Israel, and possessed the city of palm trees. So the children of Israel served Eglon the king of Moab eighteen years.” (Judges 3:12-14)
My mom lived in the epicenter of the dustbowl as a child. During the 1950’s there was another drought and I remember having trouble finding our way home and having to shovel dirt out of the house after a dust storm, but I still had no real concept of what she had experienced when she described her childhood. Having been to young to remember the dust storms, my siblings had even less understanding.
Watching a documentary of the dust bowl, I was shocked to begin to understand how much worse the “dirty thirties” were than what I had experienced. My siblings were even more shocked than I was, but only my brother who had been through one of the Haboobs in Phoenix really understood what the storms were like. Her descriptions had were incapable of conveying her experience. Even the pictures and films could only hint at what it was really like.
For forty years after Othniel delivered Israel from Chushanrishathaim, Israel had had peace. Most of the older people had died off, and the younger ones no longer remembered the sin that had caused then to be over come, or the results. Their knowledge of God and his power was based solely on the stories they had heard, rather than personal experience. They didn’t understand the stories any better than we understood Mom‘s. Because they didn’t understand, they felt that the law was overly restrictive and began to relax their standards.
Because of their sin, God allowed Eglon, king of Moab, in Present day Jordan along the eastern edge of the Dead Sea to conquer Israel and subjugate them for eighteen years in order to teach them the importance of his commands. Eglon was supported in his efforts by the Ammonites, another tribe descended from Lot from around present day Amman Jordan. A group of Esau’s descendants, the nomadic and warlike Amalekites also assisted him.
“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.” (Judges 3:15)
Once Israel realized they needed God’s blessings and called out for help, He called a man named Ehud to deliver them. Like many of the Benjamites, he was left handed as we see in Judges 20:16. “Among all this people there were seven hundred chosen men lefthanded; every one could sling stones at an hair breadth, and not miss.” Think what a major league pitching staff that would be. The children of Israel chose him to deliver a gift to Eglon in hopes of obtaining his favor.
"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. And he brought the present unto Eglon king of Moab: and Eglon was a very fat man.
And when he had made an end to offer the present, he sent away the people that bare the present. 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. 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.
And Ehud put forth his left hand, and took the dagger from his right thigh, and thrust it into his belly: 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.” (Judges 3:16-22)
After delivering the gift, Ehud sent home the men who had transported the gift and told Eglon he had a secret proposition for Eglon. A typical political leader, Eglon was to capitalize on a secret deal and sent away all who might overhear the offer.
Meeting with Eglon in a private chamber, Ehud stabbed him with an eighteen inch dagger. Eglon was so fat that the entire dagger including the handle sank into his belly. Apparently he struck a bone and could not get the dagger out so he left it in his belly. Eglon clearly got the message that he was no longer king.
“Then Ehud went forth through the porch, and shut the doors of the parlour upon him, and locked them. 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. 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.” (Judges 3:23-25)
After killing Eglon, Ehud just locked the doors to the private parlor and left. The servants assumed Eglon was taking a nap and didn’t investigate for several hours, giving Eglon a lot of time to escape.
“And Ehud escaped while they tarried, and passed beyond the quarries, and escaped unto Seirath. 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.
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. 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. So Moab was subdued that day under the hand of Israel. And the land had rest fourscore years.” (Judges 3:26-30)
Leaving Moab’s army leaderless, Ehud assembled Israel’s army in Ephraim, declaring that God would give them the victory. Taking control of the crossing of Jordan, they killes about ten thousand Moabite soldiers who were attempting to escape and subjugated Moab. As a result they experienced a period of eighty years of peace that lasted until between 1600 and 1550 BC.
“And after him was Shamgar the son of Anath, which slew of the Philistines six hundred men with an ox goad: and he also delivered Israel.” (Judges 3:31)
Little is know of Shamgar’s Judge ship. Deborah gives a small insight in Judges 5:6-7. “In the days of Shamgar the son of Anath, in the days of Jael, the highways were unoccupied, and the travellers walked through byways. The inhabitants of the villages ceased, they ceased in Israel…” The highways were so dangerous that people only traveled secretly on back roads. Raiders were such a problem that people were forced to desert the villages and flee to the cities for protection.
Armed with only a pointed stick, Shamgar must have appeared an easy target to roving bands of Philistine terrorists. After he killed six hundred of them with his stick, the terrorists stopped causing trouble. We are not told how long Israel was free as a result of his influence, and he is not said to have judged Israel.