-This chapter begins with just a few more verses explaining how Israel’s idolatry led to their posture of servitude to the foreign nations God had promised they could have otherwise dispossessed. The nations that the LORD left to test them in their devotion to Himself and vigilance for war were: the five lords of the Philistines, all the Canaanites, the Sidonians, and the Hivites who lived in Mount Lebanon from Mount Baal-hermon as far as Lebo-hamath. This Israeli generation disobediently took foreign daughters for wives and actually gave their own daughters to the pagans’ sons, plus they served their gods. “The sons of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, and forgot the LORD their God and served the Baals and the Asheroth.” (Judges 3:1-7). Now that the groundwork had been laid for why God did what He did in their midst in the text, we see His anger burn toward them by selling them back into slavery for eight years by the hands of the Mesopotamians, namely King Cushan-rishathaim. But, when the children of Abraham cried out to the LORD, God raised up for them a “deliverer,” Othniel, the brother of righteous Caleb and son of Kenaz of the tribe of Judah. “The Spirit of the LORD came upon him, and he judged Israel.” He took the Hebrews out to war, and the LORD gave Cushan-rishathaim into their hand. The land had rest after that episode for 40 years, and then Othniel passed away (Judges 3:8-11).
-The second period of the judges begins again with Israel returning to their evil practices in departure from their One-true Living God. So the LORD strengthened Eglon, the king of Moab, and he came against Israel gathering together the sons of Ammon and Amalek. From the eastern side of the Jordan, these invaders came and defeated Israel. They ended up possessing the city of the palm trees (probably around the remains of Jericho) of the Jordan Valley. Israel served Eglon for 18 years providing tribute under bondage inside their Promised Land. But when they cried out to the LORD, finally, the LORD again raised up a leader to once again “deliver.” This time it was Ehud, the son of Gera who was a Benjamite and left-handed at that. An unusual characteristic gave Ehud the opportunity to assassinate the foreign oppressor. He made himself a sword with two cutting edges a cubit in length (about 18 inches). He bound this weapon to his right thigh and went to pay Eglon his demanded tribute in Gilgal, near the Jordan River. He presented the tribute and then asked the people who’d helped him bring it to leave. “But he himself turned back from the idols which were at Gilgal,” and said, “I have a secret message for you, O king.” He asked that he keep silent and was able to get all who attended the king to depart for this secret word. Ehud came to King Eglon, who was described as “a very fat man,” while he was on his cool roof chamber (because this area can be very warm) sitting alone. Ehud approached him and said, “I have a message from God for you.” As Eglon arose from his seat Ehud stretched out his dominant left hand taking his sword from his right thigh (an unexpected maneuver) and thrust it into his enemy’s blubbery belly. The piercing went so deep, and Eglon was so fat, that the handle of the sword went into him after the blade and the fat closed over the blade. So the sword was not withdrawn and refuse came out of the slain king. Ehud calmly went out into the vestibule and shut the doors of the roof chamber behind him locked up. After some time after Ehud had departed, the king’s servants came and looked and perceived that the doors were locked. They assumed everything was alright and that the king was just relieving himself in privacy of the cool room. They waited until they became anxious, and eventually determined to get the keys and check on him. When they did this, they discovered their king fallen dead on the floor. The delay had allowed Ehud to escape. He passed by the idols and went to Seirah. There in the hill country of Ephraim he blew the trumpet of war and summoned the sons of Israel to action. Leading the way, Ehud took these warriors back down into the valley. They pursued the Moabites and destroyed every one of them, about 10,000 robust and valiant men, before they could escape back across the Jordan. The LORD had given their enemies into their hands once again. “So Moab was subdued that day under the hand of Israel. And the land was undisturbed for eighty years (Judges 3:12-30).”
-After Ehud came a third judge, Shamgar the son of Anath. He struck down 600 Philistines with an oxgoad as another savior of Israel (Judges 3:31). Thus in chapter 3 we get details on 25% of the judges listed in the book.
-*Application* This narrative chapter is definitely themed around the concept of crying out to the LORD when we have fallen short of His glory and made a mess of things. God will many times let us suffer when we know we are going in the wrong direction. We too face tests and trials that the LORD allows in an effort to draw us back to Him when distance has been created by our unfaithfulness. This unfortunately is just the nature of the human. We need His discipline, and His corrective measures are a demonstration that, in fact, He does care (Hebrews 12:5-13). Let’s all thank Him for His ultimate Deliverer, Jesus Christ, who gives us back the victory every time we cry to Him in repentant distress and fight the good fight in His strength going forward. Let’s also praise Him for the periods of peace that follow by His grace.
Verses to Memorize: Judges 3:9, 15