Joshua had died. The land of Canaan had been conquered. The nation of Israel had received her inheritance in the promised land. From this time to the onset of the monarchy under king Saul there was a period of a little over 400 years. During this time there was no king in Israel, which means there was no central government. Scripture informs us that, because of this, men did what was right in their own eyes.
It was a strange period of time. After Joshua and the elders of his era died, then the nation of Israel began serving idols. If you recall, in our last broadcast Joshua told the nation of Israel before he died, “You cannot serve Jehovah.” When the heads of the people said they could and would, Joshua told them, “You are witnesses against yourselves.” As it turns out, this was true. The nation of Israel would turn to the idols of the heathen nations around them and serve those idols. God would then sell the people of Israel into the hands of the heathen nations and they would vex them.
After years under the burden of another nation ruling over them, Israel then would repent and turn again to Jehovah. Jehovah would raise up a judge who would deliver the nation from her enemies, and there would be a time of rest. But as time went on, Israel would turn again from serving Jehovah and begin to follow after the gods of the heathen. God would give Israel over into the hands of her enemies again until Israel learned her lesson and returned to Jehovah in repentance. God would then raise up another judge and deliver Israel, and so the cycle continued over and over again. This went on for over 400 years. If there is anything this period reveals to us it is that God is patient and longsuffering toward His people. He is faithful to His promise despite the sin of His people. He does not cast Israel away as she deserved. But in mercy He delivers her over and over again.
It was early in the period of the judges. Othniel, the first judge had died. God had used him as an instrument to deliver the northern tribes from the hand of the king of Mesopotamia. The land had rest for 40 years before Israel strayed again and began to do evil in the sight of the Lord. In Judges 3:12-30 we learn that God strengthened the hand of Eglon, king of Moab. He joined forces with Ammon and Amalek and oppressed the central tribes of the nation of Israel. After 18 years of domination, Israel cried again to Jehovah and He raised up a man named Ehud to deliver Israel.
We are going to consider this judge and the work he performed in delivering Israel. The passage in Judges 3 is too lengthy to read in our broadcast. If you have your Bible present, you can turn to this chapter: Judges 3:12-30. If not, perhaps you can read it for yourselves later.
I. The Deliverer
Eighteen years! It took eighteen years for the people of Israel to cry to Jehovah for forgiveness and deliverance. When Judges 3:12 informs us that the children of Israel did evil in the sight of Jehovah, it refers to her sin of idol worship. You see, the nation of Israel was that nation chosen by God as His covenant people. He had placed His name in her midst and chosen to dwell with her. He was the God of Israel, and this nation was His people. No other people in the world was so highly favored of God. He established His fellowship and friendship with this nation. She was the object of His love. He bound her to Himself.
The sin that Israel committed against Jehovah, therefore, was a heinous one. The children of Israel forsook the Lord God of their fathers. Now they served Baal and Ashtaroth, the gods of the people around them. The worship of Ashtaroth was predominant in Moab, east of the Jordan River. The service of this pagan god allowed for sexual immorality, with its emphasis on the sensual and erotic. It is striking that Israel was worshiping the god of the Moabites, since it is Moab that God now sends to punish Israel.
Evidently, this sin of Israel had become deeply imbedded in the nation. It took 18 years of horrible oppression, subjugation, and bullying by Moab before the people of Israel recognized that it was on account of their sin this was happening. Moab had allied herself with a couple of other nations east of the Jordan River, the Ammonites and Amalekites. Together these nations held a vise-like grip on the nation of Israel. They invaded central Canaan west of the Jordan. There they attacked and captured the city of palm trees. This was a city near to the site of the ruins of Jericho. The Moabites built a garrison there and used this city to guard the straights of the Jordan River to make sure there would be no uprising and attack on Moab from Israel.
We read of Israel’s cry for deliverance in verse 15: “the children of Israel cried unto Jehovah.” We must not suppose that this was simply a cry to be delivered from the hand of the oppressor without repentance over sin. It was not a carnal desire to be relieved of the burden of Moab. Jehovah would not have heard that sort of a cry. No, this cry of the children of Israel was a cry over sin. It was a confession of sin to God. This was a cry of sorrow over the sin of forsaking Jehovah to turn away after the gods of this world. It was a cry of repentance, a turning away from this sin and turning back to Jehovah again. Neither was this cry raised by everyone of the children of Israel. The reprobate wicked in Israel, though perhaps going along with the rest, had no sorrow over sin. It was the elect, believing people in Israel that turned and raised their cry to God. It was this cry Jehovah heard, and His love and mercy for true Israel awoke to send a man to deliver them.
That man was Ehud. Verse 15 records for us that Ehud was left-handed. That is significant, although Ehud was not the only man in Israel that was left-handed. He was from the tribe of Benjamin, which was known for its left-handed men. Scripture records for us that this small tribe in Israel was known for its fighting skill. It had a small army of men of valor that were skilled in warfare. We can assume that Ehud was one of these men. He was equipped physically by God to do the task he was given to do. Other than these men in Benjamin, a left-handed man was a rarity in much of Old Testament times. Most young men, when trained as youth, were taught to use their right hands, though it may not have come naturally to them. Especially this was true of those who fought in battle. When entire regiments of soldiers were trained, they were taught together to use their right hands in battle. So, a soldier using his left hand was not often seen in battle.
But God had equipped Ehud not only physically. God had equipped him spiritually. He was bold and daring. This was not merely because he was this way naturally, although God probably equipped him with these natural gifts too. But we are reminded of the words of Hebrews 11, where we are informed that Ehud was a man of faith who waxed valiant in fight and turned to flight the armies of the aliens. He is to be numbered among those who through faith subdued kingdoms. This speaks to us of the spiritual character of this man of God. He was a leader in Israel, one the people were willing to follow.
The Bible does not teach us that Ehud is a type of Christ in this way, nevertheless he certainly reminds us of Christ. Ehud as a judge and deliverer reminds us of the Captain of our salvation: our Lord Jesus Christ. Christ waxed valiant in fight against our enemies at the cross. He did not hang there passively, but He went the way of the cross as our conquering King. Christ subdued the enemies of God’s people there. He conquered the hold sin and Satan had on them and set them free from the bondage of sin. Furthermore, Christ is our Lord, our Leader, our Deliverer whom we follow into battle. We trust in Him. We follow Him by giving to Him our full allegiance. Not only has He already conquered our foes at the cross, but He will lead us on to final victory at the end of time. When He comes again, we will see Him crush our enemies fully and completely. Of this, Ehud and his victory over Moab is a prime example to us.
II. The Deliverance
This is how the victory over Moab was achieved. Ehud and a small company of men were sent by Israel to bring a present to Eglon, king of Moab. This present was not a gift. It was the tribute money required of Israel by Eglon. Evidently, there was a large enough amount of taxes that it took several men to bring it to Eglon in his palace in Moab. In preparation for this visit Ehud, with the men of Ephraim, plotted together how they intended to rid Israel of Moab. The men of Ephraim would stand ready in the mount of Ephraim near a place named Seriath waiting for Ehud to sound a trumpet and call them to battle.
Ehud then fashioned himself a dagger. A dagger is a blade that is sharpened on both edges. It was a cubit in length, that is, about 18 inches long. That is longer than a knife but shorter than a sword. It was small enough to hide under his garments, yet long enough to do immediate damage when thrust into a person’s body. Ehud tied the dagger on his right thigh and left with the delegation to King Eglon. They carried the tribute money to the king who, no doubt, was sitting on his throne in his palace. The delegation then turned from Eglon and together left the palace.
But Ehud turned again from the delegation of men when they reached the quarries near Gilgal. These quarries may refer to stone quarries where stone was hewn for building. But it is more than likely that it refers to graven or hewn images. The word in the Hebrew is the same. It could very likely have been a place known for the worship of a number of idols set up there. Whatever the case, Gilgal is not the Gilgal where the children of Israel camped after they had crossed the Jordan River into Canaan. It must have been a place east of the river since it did not take long for Ehud to return to the castle of Eglon to carry out his mission.
By the time of Ehud’s return, the king had resorted to his summer parlor. It must have been a porch of sorts, a place of comfort and privacy away from the hustle and bustle of the business of the court. They ushered Ehud into the room. With him, quite obviously, entered the personal bodyguard of the king. They would not allow this Israelite alone with their king. It was not to be trusted, even though the king probably knew Ehud from previous times that Ehud had brought the tribute money to him. But Ehud—and all of this according to God’s providence, let us not forget—convinced the king that what he now was going to reveal to the king was of a very private nature. “O king, I have a secret errand unto thee!”
What could this secret errand be? Was it a private gift meant only for the king? Was it a secret report about a revolt or uprising? We do not know what went through Eglon’s mind at this point. But it was enough under God’s sovereign control to convince the men around him to leave him alone with Ehud. “Keep silence,” Eglon commanded Ehud, until such a time as he could empty the room.
Ehud then, sitting across from Eglon, informs the king that he has a message or a word from God unto the king. It is striking that Ehud does not say from Jehovah. He says a word from God. Now, his reference for sure is to Jehovah, but Ehud uses the name God because in Eglon’s mind this could refer to Ashtaroth or Chemosh. Ehud then arose out of his seat. Eglon makes no move to stop him because he thought Ehud truly had a message from God. It was then that Ehud put forth his left hand, took the dagger, and thrust it into the belly of the king.
Now, we are informed in verse 17 that Eglon was a very fat man. He was not just heavy but obesely fat. The entire blade and the handle of the dagger was buried in his fat. Eglon could not withdraw it, so engulfed in fat was the dagger. So it was that Eglon quickly died. He quickly died too because the blade hit a vital organ. We are told that when the blade went in, the dirt came out. That is a very mild term used here in the English to describe the feces that flowed out of Eglon. The dagger evidently severed the colon and protruded out his backside. It did not take long at all before Eglon died, therefore. Ehud quickly left through the porch of the parlor and shut and locked the doors behind him.
Some commentators condemn Ehud’s actions here. But the Word of God in this passage reveals it as just and honorable. First of all, it was a part of the battle plan that Ehud and the armies of Ephraim settled upon before it took place. Ehud was not acting alone. He was acting as the great deliverer of the covenant. In the second place, his action was, as Ehud said, a message from God unto Eglon and Moab. It was a word of God to them. The message? Do not touch my covenant people, Israel. My church is my beloved whom I have chosen from eternity. This church is purchased in the blood of Jesus Christ and is my son! I love her! I am her God who protects and leads her. You touch my people and you will have to deal with me, the almighty God, who reigns over men and nations! That was God’s word to Eglon and the nation of Moab. And that was revealed in this honorable act of this man of faith, Ehud. God’s ear is open to the cry of His people and He will deliver them.
When the servants of king Eglon, after a time, returned to the summer parlor to check on the king, the doors were shut and locked. They supposed that the king was covering his feet so they waited. We are not sure of the sense of the Hebrew here. Some say that covering his feet meant that the king was taking a nap. The translation, however, can leave the impression that the king was relieving himself. I am inclined to conclude the former of these, only because relieving oneself takes only a matter of minutes, while a nap could take an hour or so. Ehud needed time to escape. A few minutes would hardly give him enough time. Whatever the case, by the time the guards finally unlocked the doors and entered, some time had elapsed. So much time that they were ashamed of themselves. They found their lord dead on the floor of the parlor and immediately sought Ehud.
But Ehud had escaped and had passed beyond the quarries unto a place called Seriath. We read in verses 27, 28 that Ehud then summoned the armies of Israel to do battle. This was Jehovah’s battle against the enemies of His church and covenant. The Lord would give the battle into the hands of Israel. The armies of Israel, according to plan, took the fords of Jordan, that is, that place where the armies of Moab could either escape from Israel or could resupply their troops from Moab. The armies in Moab itself, however, were probably confused and powerless since their leader and king was no longer there to give them orders. The army of Moab in the inheritance of Israel was cut off, and Israel killed of that army 10,000 men, all able-bodied and valiant men. This was a great deliverance—so great that Moab was subdued under the hand of Israel. The nation was rendered so powerless that it no longer troubled Israel. The same must have been true of Ammon and Amalek.
III. The Rest
According to Revelation 19 there comes a day when the Deliverer of the covenant will return to this earth. When He returns it will be with a flaming sword. He will then destroy all the enemies of the church—all those who raised their heads against the people of His covenant. This victory of Ehud is an example of the end of time when Christ comes again to deliver His church from the hands of her enemies. Great will be that victory. The Captain of our salvation, our Lord Jesus Christ, will at that time usher in our eternal rest. This rest will last unto all eternity. It will be the joy of heaven that will never be interrupted by our enemies again.
We read in verse 30 of Judges 3, “So Moab was subdued that day under the hand of Israel. And the land had rest fourscore years.” This rest in Canaan lasted 80 years. It was an earthly type of that rest given us at the end of time. As a type, however, it fails. Because sin yet is found in this life, so also sin is what ruins this earthly rest in Canaan. But the rest that awaits us in heaven will never end because there will be no more sin. Christ the Deliverer of the covenant will have overcome sin in us and will make all things new. We look for that rest as God’s people. And we can be sure that it awaits us. God never forsakes His church, the people of His covenant. For Christ’s sake we too receive the victory.