3:16 – The Rest of the Story – Our Response 10: Judges

A Bible Study exploring all the 3:16s in the Bible as they illuminate

  • the Human Condition
  • God’s Revelation of His Plan
  • God’s Fulfillment of His Plan
  • Our Response (Current location of study)

And Ehud made for himself a sword with two edges, a cubit in length, and he bound it on his right thigh under his clothes.” – Judges 3:16

The story of Ehud is one of deceit, treachery, and violence. At first glance, this verse is one of those that is not intended to inspire us or set an example for our daily activity. However, before dismissing it, let’s delve into the story and see what we can learn about how we should respond to God.

The story comes from the book of Judges and portrays within its words an outline of the entire book.

  • Israel turns away from God
  • God sends oppressors to discipline them and to call them back to repentance
  • God provides a savior (a judge) who he calls to defeat the oppressors and lead the people back to Him
  • The people repent and the land returns to a peaceful existence
  • [Repeat]

It’s easy to get wrapped up in the lives of the individual judges, the evils of the oppressors, or the sin of the Israelites, but, as with all of Scripture, we need to remember that ultimately God is the focus of the story and we need to see what we can learn about Him and about His call for a response from us. Let’s look now at Ehud’s story in its entirety from Judges 3:12-30.

And the people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, and the LORD strengthened Eglon the king of Moab against Israel, because they had done what was evil in the sight of the LORD. He gathered to himself the Ammonites and the Amalekites, and went and defeated Israel. And they took possession of the city of palms. And the people of Israel served Eglon the king of Moab eighteen years.

All of the stories from Judges are regional in nature. In other words, they deal with local tribes and locations in Israel rather than focusing on the nation and region as a whole. In this story, the focus is the region just north of the Dead Sea. Moab was occupying the territory east of the Dead Sea and conspired with the Ammonites against Israel. They crossed the Jordan and occupied the territory around Jericho (the city of palms), which is not listed on this map because the city itself had been destroyed when Israel had occupied the land. However, it was located in the area where the word “River” in “Jordan River” lies in the map below (from the ESV online study Bible).

Then the people of Israel cried out to the LORD, and the LORD raised up for them a deliverer, Ehud, the son of Gera, the Benjaminite, a left-handed man. The people of Israel sent tribute by him to Eglon the king of Moab. And Ehud made for himself a sword with two edges, a cubit in length, and he bound it on his right thigh under his clothes. And he presented the tribute to Eglon king of Moab.

One lesson we can see from these verses is simply that Ehud had received a clear call from God and he acted in such a way to prepare himself for what God had called him to do. Now, this passage could be used to justify violence “in the name of God”, such as has been done many times over human history. The conquest of Canaan by Israel was a specific historical event that is unique to God’s plan for Israel and is NOT to be construed as an indicator of how God expects His people (Christians) to behave. Let’s keep that high road here and focus on the call of God. God called Ehud to be a “deliverer”, and this can serve as a “type” for Jesus in New Testament times. Jesus was God’s deliverer from the oppressor of sin that plagues all of humanity. Just as Jesus spent his entire life serving God and preparing for the ultimate sacrifice that he made on the cross, so Ehud prepared himself for the difficult task that God had set before him. That’s what the 3:16 verse for this week should compel us in response to God – work to prepare yourself for what God has called you to do. What has God called all of us to do? SHARE THE GOSPEL. Peter said, in 1 Peter 3:13-15, “Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect…” Like Ehud, we are to be zealous for the Lord, but our sword is God’s Word and we are to wield it effectively, but with gentleness and respect.

I’ll let you simply read the rest of the story below. The Hebrew author describes Eglon in a way to paint a picture of the “fattened bull” ready for sacrificial slaughter.

Now Eglon was a very fat man. And when Ehud had finished presenting the tribute, he sent away the people who carried the tribute. But he himself turned back at the idols near Gilgal and said, “I have a secret message for you, O king.” And he commanded, “Silence.” And all his attendants went out from his presence. And Ehud came to him as he was sitting alone in his cool roof chamber. And Ehud said, “I have a message from God for you.” And he arose from his seat. And Ehud reached with his left hand, took the sword from his right thigh, and thrust it into his belly. And the hilt also went in after the blade, and the fat closed over the blade, for he did not pull the sword out of his belly; and the dung came out. Then Ehud went out into the porch and closed the doors of the roof chamber behind him and locked them.

When he had gone, the servants came, and when they saw that the doors of the roof chamber were locked, they thought, “Surely he is relieving himself in the closet of the cool chamber.” And they waited till they were embarrassed. But when he still did not open the doors of the roof chamber, they took the key and opened them, and there lay their lord dead on the floor.

Ehud escaped while they delayed, and he passed beyond the idols and escaped to Seirah. When he arrived, he sounded the trumpet in the hill country of Ephraim. Then the people of Israel went down with him from the hill country, and he was their leader. And he said to them, “Follow after me, for the LORD has given your enemies the Moabites into your hand.” So they went down after him and seized the fords of the Jordan against the Moabites and did not allow anyone to pass over. And they killed at that time about 10,000 of the Moabites, all strong, able-bodied men; not a man escaped. So Moab was subdued that day under the hand of Israel. And the land had rest for eighty years.

Ehud obeyed God and delivered the Israelites. Jesus obeyed God and delivered us from sin. We must obey God as well and share the gift of God’s love and a call to repentance to those to whom He has sent us!

The next study will be from 1 Samuel.

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