Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Now these are the nations which the LORD left, to prove Israel by them, even as many of Israel as had not known all the wars of Canaan;
Jud 3:1-4. Nations Left to Prove Israel.
1. these are the nations which the Lord left, to prove Israel—This was the special design of these nations being left, and it evinces the direct influence of the theocracy under which the Israelites were placed. These nations were left for a double purpose: in the first instance, to be instrumental, by their inroads, in promoting the moral and spiritual discipline of the Israelites; and also to subserve the design of making them acquainted with war, in order that the young, more especially, who were total strangers to it, might learn the use of weapons and the art of wielding them.
Only that the generations of the children of Israel might know, to teach them war, at the least such as before knew nothing thereof;
Namely, five lords of the Philistines, and all the Canaanites, and the Sidonians, and the Hivites that dwelt in mount Lebanon, from mount Baalhermon unto the entering in of Hamath.
And they 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.
And the children of Israel dwelt among the Canaanites, Hittites, and Amorites, and Perizzites, and Hivites, and Jebusites:
Jud 3:5-7. By Communion with These the Israelites Commit Idolatry.
5-7. the children of Israel dwelt among the Canaanites—The two peoples by degrees came to be on habits of intercourse. Reciprocal alliances were formed by marriage till the Israelites, relaxing the austerity of their principles, showed a growing conformity to the manners and worship of their idolatrous neighbors.
And they took their daughters to be their wives, and gave their daughters to their sons, and served their gods.
And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and forgat the LORD their God, and served Baalim and the groves.
Therefore the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel, and he sold them into the hand of Chushanrishathaim king of Mesopotamia: and the children of Israel served Chushanrishathaim eight years.
Jud 3:8-11. Othniel Delivers Israel.
8-11. sold them—that is, "delivered them"
into the hand of Chushan-rishathaim—or, Chushan, "the wicked." This name had been probably given him from his cruel and impious character.
served Chushan-rishathaim eight years—by the payment of a stipulated tribute yearly, the raising of which must have caused a great amount of labor and privation.
And when the children of Israel cried unto the LORD, the LORD raised up a deliverer to the children of Israel, who delivered them, even Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother.
9. when the children of Israel cried unto the Lord—In their distress they had recourse to earnest prayer, accompanied by humble and penitent confession of their errors.
Othniel—(See on Jos 15:16; Jud 1:13). His military experience qualified him for the work, while the gallant exploits he was known to have performed, gained him the full confidence of his countrymen in his ability as a leader.
And the Spirit of the LORD came upon him, and he judged Israel, and went out to war: and the LORD delivered Chushanrishathaim king of Mesopotamia into his hand; and his hand prevailed against Chushanrishathaim.
10. The Spirit of the Lord came upon him and he judged Israel, and went out to war—Impelled by a supernatural influence, he undertook the difficult task of government at this national crisis—addressing himself to promote a general reformation of manners, the abolition of idolatry, and the revival of pure religion. After these preliminary measures, he collected a body of choice warriors to expel the foreign oppressors.
the Lord delivered Chushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia into his hand; and his hand prevailed against Chushan-rishathaim—No details are given of this war, which, considering the resources of so potent a monarch, must have been a determined struggle. But the Israelitish arms were crowned through the blessing of God with victory, and Canaan regained its freedom and independence.
And the land had rest forty years. And Othniel the son of Kenaz died.
11. Othniel … died—How powerful the influence of one good man is, in church or state, is best found in his loss [Bishop Hall].
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.
Jud 3:12-30. Ehud Slays Eglon.
12-14. the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the Lord—The Israelites, deprived of the moral and political influences of Othniel, were not long in following their native bias to idolatry.
the Lord strengthened Eglon the king of Moab—The reigning monarch's ambition was to recover that extensive portion of his ancient territory possessed by the Israelites. In conjunction with his neighbors, the Ammonites and the Amalekites, sworn enemies of Israel, he first subjected the eastern tribes; then crossing the Jordan, he made a sudden incursion on western Canaan, and in virtue of his conquests, erected fortifications in the territory adjoining Jericho [Josephus], to secure the frontier, and fixed his residence there. This oppressor was permitted, in the providence of God, to triumph for eighteen years.
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.
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.
15. Ehud the son of Gera—descended from Gera, one of Benjamin's sons (Ge 46:21).
left-handed—This peculiarity distinguished many in the Benjamite tribe (Jud 20:16). But the original word is rendered in some versions "both-handed," a view countenanced by 1Ch 12:2.
by him the children of Israel sent a present unto Eglon the king of Moab—the yearly tribute, which, according to Eastern fashion, would be borne with ostentatious ceremony and offered (Jud 3:18) by several messengers.
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.
16. Ehud made him a dagger … and he did gird it … upon his right thigh—The sword was usually worn on the left side; so that Ehud's was the more likely to escape detection.
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.
19. quarries—rather, "graven images" (De 7:25; Jer 8:19; 51:52); statues of Moabite idols, the sight of which kindled the patriotic zeal of Ehud to avenge this public insult to Israel on its author.
I have a secret errand unto thee, O king: who said, Keep silence—"Privacy"—a signal for all to withdraw.
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.
20. a summer parlour—Hebrew, "chamber of cooling"—one of those retired edifices which Oriental grandees usually have in their gardens, and in which they repose during the heat of the day.
And Ehud put forth his left hand, and took the dagger from his right thigh, and thrust it into his belly:
21-26. Ehud put forth his left hand—The whole circumstance of this daring act—the death of Eglon without a shriek, or noise—the locking of the doors—the carrying off the key—the calm, unhurried deportment of Ehud—show the strength of his confidence that he was doing God service.
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.
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.
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.
27. he blew a trumpet in the mountain of Ephraim—summoned to arms the people of that mountainous region, which, adjoining the territory of Benjamin, had probably suffered most from the grievous oppression of the Moabites.
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.
28. they went down after him, and took the fords—(See on Jos 2:7). With the view of preventing all escape to the Moabite coast, and by the slaughter of ten thousand men [Jud 3:29], Ehud rescued his country from a state of ignominious vassalage.
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.
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.
31. after him was Shamgar—No notice is given of the tribe or family of this judge; and from the Philistines being the enemy that roused him into public service, the suffering seems to have been local—confined to some of the western tribes.
slew … six hundred men with an oxgoad—This instrument is eight feet long and about six inches in circumference. It is armed at the lesser end with a sharp prong for driving the cattle, and on the other with a small iron paddle for removing the clay which encumbers the plough in working. Such an instrument, wielded by a strong arm, would do no mean execution. We may suppose, however, for the notice is very fragmentary, that Shamgar was only the leader of a band of peasants, who by means of such implements of labor as they could lay hold of at the moment, achieved the heroic exploit recorded.