John Scarsbrook, Killamarsh, England

Part 3 of 9 of the series The Days when the Judges ruled

Category: Exposition

EHUD – The Scourge of Moab, Judges 3. 12-30

SHAMGAR –The Slayer of Philistines, Judges 3. 31

I recall as a boy having a morbid fascination with the story of Ehud. The daring plan, the intrigue and the gory details of Eglon’s assassination at the hands of this brave young man all appealed to the impressionable mind. What we have, however, in Judges chapter 3 is more than just an exciting narrative; there are important spiritual lessons to be learned.

Enemies close to home
The brief record of Ehud is introduced by the ominously familiar phrase in the book of Judges, ‘the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the Lord’, 3. 12. For forty years, the restraining influence of Othniel’s presence had brought a measure of rest and order to the land. Yet, now once more, the patience of God has been tried, and retribution falls. This time the Lord’s chosen scourge is not from far off Mesopotamia, but on their very borders, and indeed, related to them! Moab was a descendent of Lot and his daughter, as was Ammon who is seen in association with Moab in this chapter. The third opponent of Israel at this time is Amalek, a descendent of Esau, and an inveterate enemy of the people of God. Such a confederacy teaches us the nature and activity of the flesh; that part of our make-up which responds to the temptations of the adversary. Failure to withstand those temptations leaves us feeling guilty, weak and vulnerable; in need of cleansing and restoration. Israel needed to learn those lessons too, so for eighteen years they are brought under the yoke of Eglon the king of Moab.

Eglon, it would appear, had no ambition to possess the whole land; he just gained a foothold in Jericho, the city of palm trees. We recall that at this time Jericho was a ruined city and under the curse of God, an eloquent illustration of those worldly characteristics which can be used by the flesh to bring the people of God into bondage. How accurate is the picture language of scripture! We need only to allow a seemingly small part of our life to be ruled by the flesh for our enjoyment of life as Christians to be marred.

Enter the deliverer

When they cried to Him, ‘the Lord raised up . . . Ehud’. How encouraging it is to note that in every trial and in every difficulty, even when brought about by the sin of His people, our God provides a pathway through the troubles, and, when needed, He draws us back to Himself. The Lord heard the cry of His people and, in mercy, responded.

Ehud was a descendant of Jacob’s youngest son Benjamin, whom he so named as ‘son of my right hand’. Yet the first thing we read of Ehud is that he was ‘a man left-handed’. Some expositors suggest that the meaning is more inclined to be both-handed, ambidextrous, but the word as given by Strong’s Concordance literally means ‘shut up or impeded of the right hand’, in other words, it may well have been that Ehud had an evident weakness or disability which rendered his right arm useless. But what may have seemed a disadvantage in the eyes of men, is turned into a positive advantage by God to deliver His people!

We are not told just why Ehud was chosen to carry the present, which most likely was the tribute exacted from Israel by Eglon, to the Moabite king. We do know that he did not travel alone, yet Ehud’s journey was taken with a single purpose in view. Strapped closely to his right thigh, reaching from hip to knee, was a formidable weapon; carefully crafted, double edged and lethal. With this he planned the defeat of Moab and its allies. Our thoughts must surely go to that other ‘sharp two-edged sword’, ‘the word of God’, Heb. 4. 12; Rev. 1. 16. Our first step in overcoming the flesh and the temptations which arise from it is to make the word of God our own. To spend time finding out what the scriptures teach in any given situation and then apply them to our lives. Just as Ehud spent time crafting his dagger, so time spent with the word of God will always be rewarded.

Eglon, the man of the flesh

In chapter 3, verse 17 we are ushered into the presence of King Eglon. The first thing we notice, in fact we cannot miss, is that he is ‘a very fat man’. Years of indulgence, ‘fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind’, had taken their toll. What an appropriate character to illustrate the words of the prophet, ‘Moab hath been at ease from his youth, and he hath settled on his lees’, Jer. 48. 11.

The present handed over, the Israelites take their leave of the king. But Ehud’s mission is not finished. At the quarries of Gilgal he stops and turns again. The memories come flooding back: Gilgal, the place of Israel’s circumcision, the cutting off of the flesh, the reproach of Egypt rolled away, victory and the old corn of the land to feed upon. How could the people of God allow themselves to be subservient to such as Eglon?

Eglon was relaxing in his private summer house. He had no reason to suspect harm from this young Benjamite with the feeble right arm. Soldiers had swords visibly carried on the left hip, Ehud appeared unarmed. The world, and the adversary may consider the believer to be weak and vulnerable, but we have for our constant use ‘the whole armour of God’, Eph. 6. 11. Part of that armour is ‘the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God’. The psalmist knew something of this when he wrote, ‘Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee’, Ps. 119. 11.

What a ‘message from God’ Ehud had for Eglon! Swiftly, unexpectedly, the message was delivered, driven home with devastating force and left firmly embedded in its target as a witness to others. Mere men always underestimate the dynamic power of God’s word. The smoke which hung over Sodom and Gomorrah declared it. The writing on Belshazzar’s wall proclaimed it. Above all, an empty tomb proved the power of God’s word to an unbelieving world!

Escape to safety

The victory accomplished, Ehud now wanted to put a distance between himself and the evidence of his triumph. He left and locked the door, with no desire to return. If the Lord gives us victory in our battles with the flesh, be thankful, move on, turn the key on that experience and look to Him for strength to face the next assault. Ehud escaped, but not content to just fade into anonymity, he blew a trumpet in Mount Ephraim and rallied the nation to take the fight to the enemy.

It would seem that the Moabites tried to flee from Jericho, back over the Jordan, to their own land. But Ehud had anticipated this and cut off their escape by taking the fords. Another great victory ensued, ‘there escaped not a man’, and the land had rest for eighty years. Oh that we too might be able to apply the sword of the Spirit in our constant battles with our closest enemy, the flesh.

Enemies from another quarter

In just one brief verse we are introduced to another man whom God raised up, who ‘also delivered Israel’. In Shamgar we see a man who will use what God has given him, insignificant and unorthodox though it is, and he will use it to advantage.

The enemy now comes not over the eastern border of the land, but from the west. We need to appreciate that just like Israel our adversaries are all around and we cannot be complacent. This is the first time that we encounter the Philistines as a real enemy of the people of God. They had been an irritant to Isaac in contending for the wells which Abraham had dug in Genesis chapter 26, but now they are a military opponent.

The Philistines represent formal religion. They were in the land, but had not come by way of the Red Sea and Jordan like the true people of God. They had ‘a form of godliness’ in their idolatrous worship, but it proved powerless in the presence of the true God, 1 Sam 5. 1-5.

When Shamgar was suddenly confronted by a host of Philistines intending him harm, all he had to hand was an ox goad. This agricultural tool was used to keep the oxen in a straight furrow when ploughing, and to keep them moving forward. Empty religion of whatever persuasion will always seek to lead others astray. To turn them aside from the truth of God’s word, and hold others back from progress in the path of discipleship.

How fitting that God used an ox goad in the hand of Shamgar to defeat the Philistines, and to leave on record the exploits of a man who ‘out of weakness was made strong’ and ‘waxed valiant in fight’, Heb 11. 34. May we be prepared to be used by God, even in times of seeming weakness, to gain victories for His glory.

To be continued

There are 34 articles in
ISSUE (2008, Volume 63 Issue 4)

Adoration and the woman of Luke chapter 7

Angola Beloved

‘ prayer, believe that you have received it and it will be yours’

Beyond Bars. Looking inside the inside story

Bits & Bobs

2008 China’s Year!

The Christ of Prophecy (1/1)

The Christian calling to be an apologist

Collecting the Lord’s bounty

Counsel Magazine




‘Go Ye into the whole World’ - But how?

Gospel Work and other Activities

The Gospel Yesterday and Today

Happily Ever After? Avoiding the pains of divorce

Is that you Lord? Hearing the voice of the Lord

Jacob and the Angels

Lessons from Antioch (1)

‘Look at the ant ... ’

Parenting Adolescents - Bouderies and Caring Support

Parkside Hall, Maidenhead

Put off and put on

Question Time

Rebuilding the wall

Sensual Religion

The Song of Solomon (4)

Hark! Soon the trumpet soundeth

Stepping stones . . . through the Bible day by day

The Dawn of Heaven breaks

A Time to Weep

Views from the News

Walk Before God

There are 10 articles in this series

The Days when the Judges ruled (1)

OTHNIEL - the Lion of God (2)

Samson a model of inconsistency


Deborah - a mother in Israel (4)

Gideon - the weak confounding the mighty (5/1)

Gideon - the weak confounding the mighty (5/2)

ABIMELECH the ‘Bramble King’ (6)

JEPHTHAH - A Man of Contradictions (7)

SAMSON - A model of Inconsistency (8/1)

There are 75 articles by this author

The Privilege

The Responsibility

The John Ritchie Library

The Church at Philadelphia

The Days when the Judges ruled (1)

OTHNIEL - the Lion of God (2)


Deborah - a mother in Israel (4)

Gideon - the weak confounding the mighty (5/1)

Gideon - the weak confounding the mighty (5/2)

ABIMELECH the ‘Bramble King’ (6)

JEPHTHAH - A Man of Contradictions (7)

SAMSON - A model of Inconsistency (8/1)

Samson a model of inconsistency


The Throne of His father David

Church Gatherings - Part 1

Church Gatherings - Part 2 - Teaching and being taught

Church Gatherings - Part 3 - The Breaking of Bread

Developing and renewing eldership

Manasseh and Amon

Josiah - Part 1

Josiah - Part 2

Jehoahaz to Zedekiah

Poisoned Soul – the deadly effects of bitterness - Paul Young

Living with the glory of the Lord – Ezekiel’s Prophecy - Malcolm Davis

Indispensible Ordinance: Baptism, the Lord’s Supper and the Head Covering - Romel Ghossain

The New Calvinists, Changing the Gospel - E. S. Williams

Learning to Lead – Next Generation - David Clarkson and Stephen McQuoid

Travel with Jonathan Edwards – A God-centred life, an enduring legacy

Their Finest Hour - Esther

A Study of First Thessalonians: The Model Church, Gary McBride

The Riches of Divine Wisdom, David Gooding

Wisdom for Fools – 101 Proverbs to Live By, Shane Watson

Then came a Rich Man of Arimathea

Looking for the Glory – An Exposition of the Epistle to Titus - Adam D. Thropay

If it wasn’t for the Lighthouse Bill and Irene Ridgeway

Nathan the Prophet

Gleanings from the book of Ruth - Alex Dryburgh

How to Master the Bible - Martin Anstey

The Land and People of Israel, what does the future hold? - Drew Craig

Stories from Luke’s Gospel - Robert Craig

TheExtent of the Atonement - James Morison

TheNature of the Atonement - James Morison

Day by Day – Through the Bible Edited - Ken Totton

Insects of the Bible - Tom H. Ratcliffe

Precious Seed 70th Anniversary Edition

Beginnings: Old Testament Overview Volume 1 - Richard Catchpole

Christian Frontline Series: The Christian and Money - Hansruedi Graf

God’s weeping prophet and wayward people: Jeremiah’s prophecy and Lamentations - Malcolm C. Davis




Pocket Commentary Series – 1st John

New Treasury of Bible Doctrine: ‘Things most surely believed’

Character Studies in the Book of Proverbs - Part 1

Character Studies in the Book of Proverbs - Part 2: The Wise Man and His Companions

False Apocalypse, False Gospel, False Witnesses - Donald C. B. Cameron.

The People’s Bible – The remarkable history of the King James Version - Derek Wilson

Character Studies in the Book of Proverbs - Part 3: The fool and his friends

Their Finest Hour - Peter

Truth and Training from Titus - Stephen G. Baker

His Coming – A Guide to Future Events - Various Authors

New Testament Priests, Speak Up! - Mike Stephenson

Character Studies in the Book of Proverbs - The Sluggard - Part4

Fellowship is Enjoyed

Character Studies in the Book of Proverbs The Proud Man - Part 5

Character Studies in the Book of Proverbs - The Talebearer - Part 6

Character Studies in the Book of Proverbs - The Righteous Man - Part 7

Character Studies in the Book of Proverbs - Women of Vice, Voice and Virtue - Part 8

Old Testament Women who appear in the New Testament - Lot's Wife

Old Testament women who appear in the New Testament - Tamar  

An Assembly of the Lord’s people will be a people among whom - The Scriptures are Obeyed - Part 11

Seven Postures of Christ - Mervyn Wishart

Shepherding the Sheep - Mark Sweetnam and Walter Boyd