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Bible Commentaries
Judges 3

Garner-Howes Baptist CommentaryGarner-Howes

Verses 1-4

Judges - Chapter 3

Proving Nations, vs. 1-4

The record proceeds to show how the Lord acted on His word relative to His altered dealing with the Israelites in Canaan. The Lord was dealing now with the younger generation who were unborn at the time of the departure from Egypt, wandering in the wilderness, and conquest of Canaan. In their childhood and youth they had not known war, for the Lord had given them peace throughout the lifetime of godly Joshua and the contemporary elders. The Lord would let them learn about war now, by leaving the heathen nations among them whom they had failed to drive out. The behavior of the younger Israelites in the trials which would come would prove whether they intended to serve the Lord or not, (1 John 2:19).

Those left in the land by the Lord included five lords of the Philistines. These were in the cities of Gaza, Ekron, Askelon, Gath, and Ashdod. These cities had been conquered under Joshua, they were resubjugated by the tribe of Judah (Judges 1:18), but in the end the Philistines were allowed to remain there. For many generations this neglect would cause much trouble for the people of Judah and Israel. Throughout the period of the judges and to the time of David there was constant warfare with Philistia.

The Canaanites left there also soon caused trouble by rising against the conquering Israelites. Though there was no war with the Sidonians, these Phoenician people held most of the cities and good areas in the tribal portion of Asher throughout their history. The Hivites of mount Lebanon exercised a bad influence of the Danites who migrated to that area. As one looks back on events of the time of God’s proving of Israel it must be concluded that they failed the test. How many church members fail this test today? (1 Corinthians 5:7)

Verses 5-11

Judgeship of Othniel, vs. 5-11

The result of the Israelites’ living among the Canaanite tribes, or allowing the pagan people to live among them, was exactly what the Lord had said it would be from the time of Moses (Exodus 34:14-16; De 7:2-4; Joshua 23:12-13). Among these people who served pleasure and lust in their worship the Israelites soon succumbed to their evil practices. This led to intermarriage, against which God had specifically and constantly warned the Israelites. Israel went all the way in their evil, forgetting the Lord, serving the Baalim and the groves.

The hot anger of the Lord allowed them to be subjected to a foreign king, Chushan-rishathaim of Mesopotamia. Although secular history has no record of a Mesopotamian king by this name it does have evidence of his work. He is believed to have been a Hittite king, who took the area of upper Mesopotamia. His desire to control Israel would be due to his need for a buffer zone against Egypt and also to control important trade routes which lay across Israel. His subjection of Israel lasted for eight years before it became severe enough for the Israelites to seek the Lord and to call on Him in repentance. When the Lord heard their cries He raised them up a deliverer.

The deliverer was Othniel, whose brave exploit in capturing Debir from the giants was recorded in both Joshua 15:16-19 and Judges 1:12-15. The relationship of Othniel to Caleb is not clear. In every passage he is called "the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s brother," or "younger brother." Caleb was the son of Jephunneh (see Joshua 15:13 and others), but he is also called the "Kenezite." Thus it is conjectured that Kenaz is the ancestor of both Caleb and Othniel, and not Caleb’s brother. It is concluded on this basis that Othniel was the younger brother of Caleb, and not his nephew as it might otherwise seem.

The Lord gave His Spirit to Othniel, to stir him up to challenge the foreign king and deliver the people. The details of Othniel’s victory over this king, who must have been far stronger physically than the army of Israelites, are not recorded. The record simply says, "The Lord delivered" and Othniel’s "hand prevailed." What other response and result could be expected when men repent and seek the Lord to lead them to the Lord’s battles. Othniel had great influence in Israel for peace during the forty years of his judgeship.

Verses 12-17

Ehud’s Present, vs. 12-17

Now appears that condition which the inspired author of Judges described as occurring during these times in Israel (Judges 2:16-19). As soon as good Othniel passed off the scene the people ignored the forty years of his godly leadership and turned again to their evil ways. Again they suffered servitude to a foreign king, this time for a longer period of eighteen years. And this time the foreign king brought his minions into Israel itself and set up his headquarters in the city of palm trees. This was the rebuilt (but not refortified in violation of Joshua’s curse) city of Jericho. The king was Eglon, of Moab, who succeeded against Israel because of their sin, in contrast to the attempts of an earlier Moabite king, Balak. Balak’s attempts to curse Israel through Balaam failed, for the Israelites were then in obedience to the Lord (Numbers, chapter 22-­24). There came in with him also the Ammonites and Amalekites.

Eventually the Israelites suffered enough that they repented and cried again to the Lord. Again the Lord put it into the heart of one to deliver them. This time He called Ehud, a left-handed man of Benjamin. Ehud was sent to carry the Israelites’s present, the tribute Eglon assessed them, to the king of Moab. Ehud conceived a plot, perhaps secret to his own mind alone. Along with the present the Moabite king was expecting Ehud also prepared a special present. He fashioned a two-edged dagger a cubit (18 inches) long and concealed it under his garments on his right thigh. The dagger was so long it would be difficult to draw straight out of its sheath, so Ehud put it on his right thigh, to be drawn with his strong left hand across the width of his body. The left hand, right thigh, and fat king will be significant in the unfolding of the account.

Verses 18-30

Deliverance from Moab, vs. 18-30

It seems that king Eglon had no suspicion of Ehud, and Ehud seems to have taken measures to insure this by sending away those who had helped to convey the tribute. He then turned back with a purported secret message for the king. That-Eglon had no distrust of Ehud is apparent in that he brought him to his own ultra-private quarters, known as the summer parlor. It was the room arranged for its privacy in a cool, quiet place, where the king was not ordinarily molested. It was the ideal place for Ehud’s plan.

When Ehud announced that he had a message from God for Eglon, the king arose. There is a suggestion in this that he may have begun to suspect Ehud’s motives, but he never had opportunity to escape. Ehud grasped the dagger in his left hand, from his right thigh, the very opposite place from which the weapon would ordinarily be concealed. He plunged the full eighteen inch blade into the fat body of the king. So mighty was Ehud’s thrust that he lost his dagger. It went deep into Eglon’s vitals, and the fat closed over the dagger’s haft so that he could not withdraw it. The haft was the protective shield affixed so that the hand of the one wielding the dagger would not slip down onto the sharp blade in thrusting it. The king’s bowels were spilled out, and he fell down dead in his summer parlor.

Was God pleased with such ruthless, bloody, deceitful means as those of Ehud in the assassination of Eglon? It is evident that He was. Eglon was the enemy of God and God’s people, deceiving them into worship of his false gods. He had treated Israel with disrespect as to their God and the land He had given them. His awful death is but a premonition of the judgment which shall come on all those who defy God and set themselves against Him and His people. He therefore serves the good purpose of warning to others like him.

The servants became alarmed about their king’s failure to call them. At first they hesitated to enter because they supposed he was relieving himself. Finally, when they had secured a key, entered the chamber, and found their king dead, they had tarried long enough for Ehud to make good his escape.

Ehud went into the mountains of Ephraim, probably their southern extension into Benjamin, Ehud’s own tribe. There he blew the trumpet tq draw the people together’to go to battle against the Moabites. The trumpet order for calling the people to war is stated in Numbers 10:1-10. Verse nine particularly applying to this occasion. The trumpet blown from the top of a high mountain would sound far out over the countryside, where it would again possibly be taken up and spread farther.

Ehud challenged those who gathered to follow him to the attack of the Moabites. They took the fords of Jordan, where the Moabites would try to cross in flight back to their own country. Here they caught and slew ten thousand of the Moabite soldiers, with none escaping. That the Lord was with them is evident, for the Moabites were all strong, brave, trained warriors. They simply could not stand against the Lord. As a result of this feat of Ehud the Lord gave the land eighty years of peace under his judgeship.

Verse 31

Shamgar, v. 31

Shamgar is only mentioned here and briefly in Judges 5:6. Nothing more is known of him. Since there is a town called Beth-anath in the tribe of Naphtali, some have conjectured that he was a Naphtalite, while others have suggested Judah. The important thing about him is that he was God’s man at a time when His people needed deliverance. His feat was a mighty singlehanded victory, though perhaps not formidable in a general sense, (1 Corinthians 1:27-28). It did give the Israelites relief for the time. The ox goad, which was his only weapon, was a sturdy implement, and rightly wielded could, indeed, wreak havoc. It is described as being sharpened on the end which was used to goad the ox to turn him to the right or the left when driving him. The other end of this long implement was flattened much like a spade, so that the farmer could use it to scrape the soil from his plowshare. So Shamgar’s ox goad was a spear on one end and a club on the other.

We find from this chapter that 1) The Lord allows us to suffer the bad consequences of our disobedience to discipline and train us; 2) the Lord still raises up those to lead us in His way, and it behooves us to follow them; 3) God will definitely judge and destroy those who oppose themselves to God’s will and His people; 4) God uses little things to accomplish mighty deeds.

Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Judges 3". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/judges-3.html. 1985.
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