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The Nations Which Remained
v. 1. Now these are the nations which the Lord left to prove Israel by them, to test their faithfulness to Him, even as many of Israel as had not known all the wars of Canaan, the younger generation which enjoyed the fruits of conquest, but did not estimate aright the greatness of the dangers endured by the fathers, and therefore did not sufficiently value the help of God;
v. 2. only that the generations of the children of Israel might know, to teach them war, give them an idea, make them realize the great cost of the boon of freedom and material wealth which they were enjoying, at the least such as before knew nothing thereof, the final object being that they might learn humility and submission to the Law;
v. 3. namely, five lords of the Philistines, those of the five city-states Gaza, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gath, and Ekron, Joshua 13:3, and all the Canaanites, chiefly along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea and in the Jordan Valley, and the Sidonians, the Phenicians, and the Hivites that dwelt in mount Lebanon, from mount Baal-hermon, in the southern Anti-Lebanon, west of Damascus, unto the entering in of Hamath, in the valley of the Orontes.
v. 4. And they, these heathen nations, were to prove Israel by them, to know whether they would hearken unto the commandments of the Lord which He commanded their fathers by the hand of Moses. By being oppressed by their enemies and thereupon delivered by the Lord through the medium of wars, Israel was both to be tested and strengthened in obedience to the Lord.
v. 5. And the children of Israel dwelt among the Canaanites, Hittites, and Amorites, and Perizzites, and Hivites, and Jebusites, all of whom they permitted to live in their midst, making no serious effort to drive them out.
v. 6. And they took their daughters to be their wives, and gave their daughters to their sons, thus entering into the most intimate social relationship with them, and served their gods, the natural consequence of breaking down the barriers which the Lord had erected by His prohibition, Exodus 34:16-23; Deuteronomy 7:3-4. That is almost invariably the progress of apostasy: friendship with the world, marriages with infidels, rejection of the Lord.
Othniel Judge of Israel
v. 7. And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, the usual formula introducing a chapter of oppression and deliverance, Judges 2:11, and forgot the Lord, their God, and served Baalim and the groves, that is, Asherah, for in the heathen worship, the altar was consecrated to Baal, the pillar or treeidol to Astarte, or Ashtaroth, Joshua 2:13.
v. 8. Therefore the anger of the Lord was hot against Israel, it was kindled, it flared up in an angry flame, and He sold them into the hand of Chushan-rishathaim, king of Mesopotamia, some mighty monarch toward the East; and the children of Israel served Chushan-rishathaim eight years, by being obliged to pay heavy tribute money.
v. 9. And when the children of Israel cried unto the Lord, as they felt the severity of the oppression more and more, the Lord raised up a deliverer to the children of Israel, a man who was to save them from the tyrant, who delivered them, even Othniel, the son of Xenaz, Caleb's younger brother, the conqueror of Debir, Joshua 1:13; Joshua 15:16-17.
v. 10. And the Spirit of the Lord came upon him, filling him with extraordinary military ability and valor, as well as the wisdom necessary to decide difficult cases according to the Law, and he judged Israel, restored justice and order, and went out to war; and the Lord delivered Chushan-rishathaim, king of Mesopotamia, into his hand; and his hand prevailed against Chushan-rishathaim, he defeated the oppressor and threw off the burden which was bearing Israel down. Thus the consciousness of God and of the duty toward Jehovah was restored in Israel.
v. 11. And the land had rest forty years, the people being able to follow all the pursuits of peace without outside interference. And Othniel, the son of Kenaz, under whose blameless and happy rule the land had been restored to its former prosperity, died. Thus the children of Israel had received a lesson the force of which was to be impressed upon them for all times, for every proof of God's kindness is intended to make men cling to Him in firm trust.
Ehud and the Moabites
v. 12. And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the Lord; and the Lord strengthened, encouraged, Eglon, the king of Moab, the country southeast of the Dead Sea, against Israel, because they had done evil in the sight of the Lord.
v. 13. And he, Eglon, who evidently combined shrewdness with energy, gathered unto him the children of Ammon, to the northeast, like those of Moab, inveterate enemies of Israel, Deuteronomy 23:3-4, and Amalek, toward the southwest, also ancient enemies of the Lord's people, Exodus 17:10-16, and went and smote Israel, and possessed the city of palmtrees, the fertile oasis in which the ruins of Jericho were located. Evidently not only the tribe of Benjamin, in whose territory the battle was fought, but all Israel, had grown careless, dull, and incapable.
v. 14. So the children of Israel served Eglon, the king of Moab, eighteen years, by a regular payment of tribute, such as he chose to exact.
v. 15. But when the children of Israel cried unto the Lord, being roused from their lethargy once more, the Lord raised them up a deliverer, as before, Ehud, the son of Gera, a Benjamite, a man left-handed, literally, "unpracticed, awkward, with the right hand," because the skill which other people have in their right hand he had in his left; and by him the children of Israel sent a present unto Eglon, the, king of Moab, he being the leader or spokesman of the delegation bearing the proof of their subjection.
v. 16. But Ehud, before setting out on this humiliating mission, made him a dagger which had two edges, a very effective weapon for stabbing at short range, of a cubit length (about twenty inches); and he did gird it under his raiment upon his right thigh, out of sight and on the side from which he could immediately draw.
v. 17. And he brought the present unto Eglon, king of Moab, who had made the oasis of Jericho his headquarters while he held the supremacy over Israel; and Eglon was a very fat man, extremely corpulent, even for an Oriental monarch.
v. 18. And when he, Ehud, had made an end to offer the present, the audience giving him an opportunity to make the observations which he needed, he sent away the people that bare the present, for it was considered a mark of special respect to have a great many bearers for the tribute.
v. 19. But he himself turned again from the quarries, or boundary-stones, that were by Gilgal, unto which point he had accompanied the rest of the delegation, returning to the quarters of the Moabite king, and said, I have a secret errand unto thee, O king; who said, Keep silence, thus bidding Ehud wait until the room was cleared before imparting his secret message, which Eglon naturally thought to be of value to him, especially since the return of Ehud alone seemed to indicate that he did not want his companions to know what he had to say. And all that stood by him, the usual attendants of the king, went out from him, at the king's signal indicating that he wished to be alone with the visitor.
v. 20. And Ehud came unto him, approached nearer to him; and he was sitting in a summer parlor, an inner chamber, opening on an exposed balcony, his private chamber, and a cool retreat, which he had for himself alone. And Ehud said, I have a message from God unto thee. And he arose out of his seat, probably out of respect for this word.
v. 21. And Ehud put forth his left hand, and took the dagger from his right thigh, and thrust it into his (Eglon's) belly;
v. 22. and the haft also went in after the blade; and the fat closed upon the blade, holding it firmly inside the abdomen, so that he, Ehud, could not draw the dagger out of his belly; and the dirt came out, or, the point of the blade came out at the rear.
v. 23. Then Ehud went forth through the porch, the open balcony, and shut the doors of the parlor upon him, and locked them.
v. 24. When he was gone out, with a calmness intended to disarm every suspicion on the part of the king's attendants, his servants came; and when they saw that, behold, the doors of the parlor were locked, they said, Surely he covereth his feet (doeth his easement) in his summer chamber.
v. 25. And they tarried till they were ashamed, these words adding the notion of displeasure and ill humor; and, behold, he opened not the doors of the parlor; therefore they took a key, another key, and opened them, the long silence having filled them with great uneasiness; and, behold, their lord was fallen down dead on the earth.
v. 26. And Ehud escaped while they tarried, and passed beyond the quarries, or the boundary-stones, and escaped unto Seirath, in the foothills toward the northwest.
v. 27. And it came to pass, when he was come, that he blew a trumpet in the mountain of Ephraim, this trumpet-blast being transmitted among the mountains, and the children of Israel, with whom he had evidently agreed upon this signal, went down with him from the mount, and he before them, as their leader.
v. 28. 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, namely, of the Moabites, to pass over and thus to escape. The Moabite army was therefore trapped between the Jordan and the mountains, with their leader dead.
v. 29. And they slew of Moab at that time, in the battle which followed, about ten thousand men, all lusty, literally, "fat," in good physical condition, and all men of valor; and there escaped not a man, Moab was thoroughly vanquished.
v. 30. So Moab was subdued that day under the hand of Israel. And the land had rest fourscore years.
v. 31. And after him, following his example in the west, was Shamgar, the son of Anath, which slew of the Philistines six hundred men with an ox goad, a primitive, but effective instrument or weapon on account of the sharp iron prick at the end; and he also delivered Israel, apparently from a local subjugation. In these narratives both the righteousness and the goodness of the Lord is apparent. For God punishes transgressions of every kind, often with great severity, but when the transgressors turn to Him in true repentance He is glad to send them help and salvation. It is for us to keep our Savior in mind at all times and thus to avoid all wilful sins.
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Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Judges 3". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19