Judges - 06 Ehud

Chapter 6

Second Recovery under Ehud
Pergamos and Compromise
Third Enemy: Canaan

Ehud, a Defective Judge
For their deliverance, in His mercy, God raised a very unlikely man! His name means “confession” (F. W. Grant), or “united” (BDB) and he was a son of Gera, a word meaning “pilgrimage” or “combat” (Jackson). There also seems to be the element of praise involved in his name.

If these suggestions are true, Ehud represents a man who stands out from mere profession.  His clear confession as a spiritual pilgrim was marked by a life that demonstrated reality, something that should characterize every believer. It is also the character that a leader among the saints, one who would be exercised to deliver God’s people, must display. The result is that from the united character he displayed, God got praise and honor and God’s people were restored. Gera was a son of Benjamin, the smallest tribe of Israel, but a tribe out of which came many mighty men. The last son of another Gera mentioned in our Bible is found in 2 Samuel 16:5, Shimei. Instead of blessing God’s people, we know him for his act of cursing David, God’s king. This son of Gera, Ehud, was a man used of God to bless.

Benjamin, whose name means “son of my right hand,” was the last son of Jacob. Rachel wanted to call him “Ben-ammi,” signifying “son of my sorrow,” but Jacob overruled in the name. The two names speak of the two-fold character of Christ; Ben-ammi pertains to His suffering and sorrow while Benjamin speaks of His exaltation and glory. Ehud, being of Benjamin, would speak to us of a man who is linked spiritually and is in fellowship with the triumphant and glorified Man at God’s Right Hand, our Lord Jesus Christ. Such a man can move in power to accomplish a victory for God and His people, and it is the position that we all should know personally in our lives for God. Only such leaders can overcome the flesh and deliver themselves and God’s people.

Eglon and Moab
In addition, Eglon and Moab were primarily intruding upon the territory of Benjamin (and Ephraim, apparently), so this enemy was depriving them of the inheritance that God had given them. Is not this the case, whether in the period of Smyrna, Pergamos or presently? In the case of Smyrna, the enemy was seeking to vanquish the testimony of Christ by force; in Pergamos, the world sought accommodation and compromise so that the church became united with the world. When the flesh and self gain power in the lives of believers, there is always a loss of spiritual territory that God wants them to enjoy.

We think of Scriptural principles and practices that were given us in contrast to compromise with the world during that time of favor pictured by Pergamos. We relate that era represented in the letter to the assembly in Pergamos (Revelation 2:12-17) to the period of church history during which there was world favor. Constantine professed conversion to Christianity, and the result was that instead of being persecuted, to be a believer was popular.

However, the simplicity of assemblies gathered under the leadership of local elders gave way to a hierarchy of pastors, bishops, archbishops and ultimately, popes that God’s Word never taught. The requirement for reality of life to prove the genuineness of profession was succeeded by reception into churches of those who simply agreed with accepted doctrines. The necessity of genuine conversion to God as a work of the Holy Spirit was supplanted by using the rite of baptism to make converts. The list could go on, but to summarize, unscriptural practices were introduced that catered to the flesh, which resulted in sad effects in the church sphere that are yet seen in their domination today.

On an individual level, how many saints who once continued well for God and the honor of Christ have lost the priceless spiritual possessions that they once claimed and enjoyed? Whenever the flesh and self are allowed an entrance and are not judged, the result will be loss in truth, principles, and practices among us. Ehud clearly speaks to us of an exercised man who is aware of how much has been lost personally and collectively, and in his concern for this and the honor of God, is willing to be used to deliver them.

It is notable that Ehud, while raised up of the Lord to deliver Israel, is not said to have had the Spirit of God come on him for that work. It seems to indicate a lower level of spirituality in him than Othniel demonstrated (3:10). Yet, even with that consideration, he was a man who encouraged the Lord’s people (3:28) and who God used to deliver them. It shows us that God can use those who have an exercise and are yielded to His hand, even if they may not have the same degree of spiritual power as others might possess.

Ehud’s Limitation
In addition, God calls attention to the fact that he was “left-handed.” The men of Benjamin seem to be characterized by being left-handed (Judges 20:16, 1 Chronicles 12:2). In the case of Ehud, however, this may be more than a family, inherited trait. In this case, the expression means, “one defective in the right hand, or shut of the right hand.” If so, it indicates that he was not one who could depend on his own power of self. In this sense, we learn that God can raise and use those who do not have the ability that others might possess, since it is not ability nor inability that matters in the things of God. He can give ability and is able to use whomsoever He will. To be fair, though, some writers say that this means that he had the unique ability to use both hands equally (Barnes, Clarke, and Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, etc.) However, Keil and Delitzsch say that it indicates one who could not use his right arm effectively. Whatever it may be, he was one who was available for God’s use and was evidently exercised for this work, since he had prepared a dagger, or short sword, to bring about the deliverance of God’s people.

Ehud’s Preparation
Ehud was the man in charge of the delegation that brought the yearly tribute to Eglon in Jericho. He may have been a man of some standing in Israel; such a man would sense his own responsibility to seek to deliver his own people. Surely there are those in a similar position among saints today who would willingly give all they have to restore the saints and deliver them from adverse conditions. We need them in every day! Knowing this ahead of time, he evidently began to prepare in view of using the occasion to defeat this evil foe.

This only reinforces the truth that preparation in secret, alone with God, and in anticipation of the opportunity to be used, is essential for any service. There are many among the saints who have greater ability in every area of life, including possession of gifts given by God and including natural abilities that could be directed toward His service. However, through lack of discipline, lack of exercise or through lack of desire, they waste their time and lives in activities that result in their being useless for God’s work. One simply cannot stand in public and effectively minister to the saints to help and deliver them if he has not spent time in secret with God, whetting the Sword of the Word and learning how to use it effectively. It is serious business to be used by God to bring deliverance and blessing, and this cannot come through the work of those who are occupied with material gain or personal pleasure. Those who are most used of God have paid a price to do so through learning the truths of God’s Word by diligent application to its study and by developing the ability to use it properly. This is the advice of Paul to Timothy (2 Timothy 2:15) that was essential in his day of departure.

His main preparation consisted of making the short, sharp two-edged sword that he used to deal with Eglon. No doubt, he had devised the purpose that he would take advantage of when he was involved in delivering the tribute money to Eglon. He not only had the plan, but he had made the preparation in view of action. This sharp, two-edged sword is certainly symbolic of the Word of God. The Lord, writing to the church in Pergamos, said that He was the one who had the sword with two edges (Rev. 2:12). There were conditions that He discerned and revealed to them that required the use of the Word of God applied in its power. It is not, at this point, its work to comfort and assuage the troubled. It is its work to reveal, convict, correct and instruct in the truth of God (2 Timothy 3:16-17). A sword with two edges would cut both ways. Some may be able to use the sword mightily to expose and correct the faults of others, but they may be reluctant to use that same sword on themselves. Any leader who would be effective in delivering saints must be one whose life is exposed and transparent to the Word of God and who is constantly being assessed by its ability to judge the individual believer, including himself. To apply Divine truth to others without having applied it in its force to ourselves is to tread in unfelt territory to our own ruin rather than the blessing of the saints.

Ehud bound the sword on his right thigh under his clothing (Judges 3:16). It was there so it would be ready to use with his left hand, and in that position it was also not being displayed outwardly so as to call the attention of Eglon. Think of the words of Hebrews 4:12 in this regard: “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”  We think also of 1 Peter 3:15, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:” We need those today, as in every day, who can use the Word of God effectively to accomplish whatever work is for the honor of God and the blessing of His people. It isn’t through public display of the Word as if to flaunt its qualities and professed power; it is through its intelligent use that the enemy is overcome and the saints delivered.

Ehud’s Performance
After leading the delegation of those who bore the tribute gift (minchah, the word signifying a gift from an inferior to a superior…the same word as “meat offering” or “meal, gift offering” in Leviticus 2) to Eglon, Ehud sent them away. It seems that he accompanied them as far as the “quarries” at Gilgal, then turned back. “Quarries” means “graven” and is usually used for graven images (Deuteronomy 7:5, 25). Unless there had been very serious departure so that graven images were set up in this most sacred place (possible, in view of the conditions), it seems to speak of the stones that were brought up out of Jordan and placed at Gilgal when Israel crossed over (Joshua 4:8, 21-24). They commemorated God’s power to bring them into the land of His promise by annulling the power of death, pictured by Jordan. Their passing through the Red Sea pictures the believer’s death to the old man and the world; it is emphasized that Israel went into the Red Sea (Exodus 14:22) but not that they came out.

In Jordan, the emphasis is on the fact that they came out, or “passed over,” rather than that they went in (Joshua 3:6, 11, 14, 16, 17). Jordan seems to suggest the resurrection of the believer with Christ to walk in newness of life. These events together embrace the great truths that are expressed in baptism. We died with Christ and were raised to walk in newness of life in fellowship with our risen Lord. In Joshua’s words to Israel in Joshua 4:21-24, they were to remind their children that the stones were the evidence of the power of God so that they might fear the Lord their God all the days. Had they not failed to appreciate the delivering power of their God and His great purpose for bringing them over and into the land?

F. C. Jennings says that

“‘Quarries’ should be ‘boundaries;’ they are the boundary stones dividing between different estates or countries. . . it is the boundary between faith and unbelief; between the Church and the world. It is the “cross of the Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified to me and I to the world (Gal. 6:14).”

Ehud, returning to his conflict with Eglon after contemplating the stones at Gilgal, would have been reinforced in his confidence in God and the assurance that he was linked with the God of all power. This is what is always needed when there is any work to be done for God, especially when dealing with such a formidable enemy as the flesh! This truth would be reinforced even more by the mention of “Gilgal.” This word means “rolling” and it was the location where the men of Israel were circumcised the second time (Joshua 5:2). The conflict ahead for Ehud was based on the principle expressed at Gilgal, which was the need for judgment on the flesh, cutting it off and removing it under condemnation of God. It was an exercise of separation from the binding power of a world system that is completely contrary to God and His Word.

Ehud’s Conflict
Ehud returned with a secret errand (word, message) for Eglon. It was a message from God. It teaches us that it requires more than our own word to overcome this enemy; it is essential to apply the power of God’s Word to the flesh and all that pertains to it. This is also a private work. There is work to be done in public, but there is also the need for a work to be done privately. This applies to each one of us individually, but it also speaks of the work of an overseer who is spiritual, as he seeks to restore an erring one in the spirit of meekness (Galatians 6:1). Only one who has applied the Word to himself can effectively use it to deal with others to restore them as well.

Eglon in his summer parlor, (“upper room of coolness”) expresses the desire of the flesh for ease and self-indulgence. The prominence of those who sought (and still do) positions of authority over others, setting aside the principles of church truth taught in God’s Word, is an expression of fleshly ambition and desire for self-indulgence. Pergamos was a time during which the flesh within had more opportunity than ever to express and indulge itself. Pleasure was now available instead of persecution. Suffering was a thing of the past; now it was satisfaction in worldly activities. We have the same danger today, don’t we?

Ehud recognized that there was no use negotiating with the flesh. Promises avail nothing, compromise is deadly, and nothing will do but to put the sword of God’s Word to it to destroy its power. This is exactly what he did, using the sword that he had prepared to kill this terrible enemy of the saints. What he was doing was not primarily for self; it was on behalf of the Lord’s people. When he plunged that sword into Eglon’s belly (symbol of the center of his indulgence), it also revealed what was within this king. The awful contents that were covered by respectability were exposed. This shows us that the Word of God is living and powerful, truly able to expose what is within and to judge it according to God so as to bring deliverance (Hebrews 4:12-13).

Ehud’s Leadership
After returning again to Gilgal, having destroyed the enemy that held them, he called all Israel to the battle that would result from his personal exploit. Those Moabites who they took at the fords of Jordan were all men like their leader...fat men (Judges 3:29). Is not it remarkable that there seems to be no lack of strength on the side of the flesh in its combat with the saints? But the believer, acting in the power of God and the Word of God, is able to defeat such an enemy and to overcome him for the deliverance of the saints.

Is not this what we particularly need in our day? Just as in past days, there is a need for leaders to act personally to judge the flesh and to lead the saints by spiritual power, so that the intruding and controlling principles that are connected with the flesh will be overcome and the saints delivered.

We do notice, however, that it only says that “Moab was subdued that day under the hand of Israel” (3:30). In contrast to other enemies, this one was not destroyed or completely overcome. It tells us that the enemy represented by Moab is a constant foe to the individual believer as well as to assembly testimony, and it repeatedly raises its ugly head to cause divisions, strife and great problems that have resulted in ruin to church testimony. The desire for place, the fighting for prominence and the constant efforts to assert oneself never cease, and this tendency must be combated constantly by the same weapon, the proper use of the Word of God.

Prolonged Peace under Ehud
It was of God’s mercy that the land had rest for 80 years under the leadership of Ehud. Though a weak judge in many ways, he seemed to be marked by dependence on God that enabled him to preserve peace among Israel for a longer period of time than any other. Perhaps we do not need “strong” men in our assemblies, for they tend to assert themselves in their own strength. They have a tendency to think that they have great abilities that others should recognize and through which they are able to accomplish great things. The weak man is truly the strongest in God’s economy, for he knows that he must depend on God and keep close through his constant communion with the Lord to fulfill the work.

Paul stated the principle in 2 Corinthians 12:9, saying, “And he said unto me, my grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” Such a man has greater power and effectiveness in God’s things than any man who has wonderful personal ability in the natural realm. Would that God raised up many such men in our midst, men who are truly spiritual, controlled by the Spirit of God and led by the Word of God, so that we might have such peace for an extended period as well!

Further Foes to Combat!
However, the believer’s foes have never ceased to exist. If we believe that there are no more enemies to overcome, we only deceive ourselves, and we will surely fail in our pathway of Christian life.

Shamgar’s Victory
During this time (3:31) we read about Shamgar, who used an ox goad (a very unusual weapon, but typical of Judges) to deliver Israel. Only one verse is devoted to his history, but we gather that he worked in the western area of Israel to combat the rising force of the Philistines while Ehud was more to the east. “After this,” seems to indicate that his victories occurred after Ehud’s, but it is best to place him within the 80 years of rest. An ox goad, in the hands of a strong and capable man, would be able to wreak great damage on a foe. We learn that it was often 8 feet in length and as much as 6 inches in diameter at its large end, with the other end sharpened to a point. One can imagine the potential for such an instrument! Shamgar was evidently a man who, from his daily life and work, knew how to use an ox goad.

This teaches us that it is a believer’s instrument, developed by daily use, which is skillful to destroy God’s enemies. It reminds us of Hebrews 5:14, “But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” What Shamgar used in this case was a tool that he had exercised in his daily life, and this suggests that we need to develop  our use of God’s  Word by daily study and application if we desire to be effective in the spiritual warfare. Then, the Philistines would not suspect an ox goad when an Israelite farmer was carrying it! This instrument of death appeared to be common place to them, not worth their consideration, but in the hands of Shamgar, it had great power for deliverance. God’s Word means little to the unsaved, yet it is the “sword of the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:17). F. C. Jennings says in this regard,

“The oxgoad in itself would be a fitting emblem of the Word of God. If, as Ecclesiastes tells us, “the words of the wise are as goads, ”that is: sharp, pointed, effective to stir up, and to send along the pilgrim way any who would linger here, then the words of divine perfect wisdom must have peculiarly that character. I see therefore in this “oxgoad” only another figure of the divine Word.”

The text does not say whether he killed 600 Philistines at one time or over a longer period; either way, it was a great work of deliverance. Whether or not God had actually called him to be a judge (he is never spoken of as a judge), he was an exercised man who was not willing to allow the Philistines to make inroads into God’s people’s territory. What he did was important enough for the Divine record to include his exploit for us to emulate. He was evidently a minor judge who was of sufficient importance for God to include him in the Divine record. He did more than the other “minor” judges, in that he is the only one who brought about deliverance for Israel. God records the work and achievements of those who may not be so important as compared with others.

Regarding the tendency toward departure in Israel, we learn in chapter 4:1 that Israel was still the same; they had not changed after 80 years of rest. We are no different; what was written of them, that they “did evil in the sight of the Lord,” expresses the same natural tendency in any of us also. Even with constant vigilance, we often are not aware that the greatest enemy lies within! Carelessness, thinking that we stand (1 Corinthians 10:12), will only decrease our care and expressed dependence on God for protection and deliverance.

The Next Enemy, Canaan
A period of relative peace prevailed for 80 years following Ehud’s victory over Moab. Some extra-Biblical sources give an indication why this was possible, apart from Israel possibly continuing in a measure of faithfulness to God during that time. One element, no doubt used of God to hold their enemies at bay, was that Egypt was actively moving in the southern part of Canaan and was exercising strong control in the region. This effect would have hindered Israel’s neighboring nations from moving offensively against God’s people (“Distressing Days of the Judges”, Leon Wood). God can and does use contentions between nations to hinder their activities of oppression toward His people when need be. However, that Egyptian influence apparently waned, and it gave opportunity for Jabin and Sisera to increase Canaanite domination and oppression of Israel. This was evidently coupled with Israel’s increasing departure from the Lord that resulted in God bringing discipline on His people once again.

Judges 4 records the next enemy that Israel had to combat and overcome. It was Canaan under the leadership of Jabin that was God’s instrument to judge His people when they did evil in His sight.

In passing, one might note that it was during this particular time that the events of the book of Ruth occurred. This shows us that not all Israel departed from the Lord and sunk into idolatry. While Ebimelech took his family into Moab (the previous enemy conquered by Ehud) and there they perished except for Naomi, Boaz remained in the land and flourished as a “man of wealth” who was faithful to the Lord. It seems to show us that one doesn’t need to follow the majority and more than that, SHOULD NOT follow the majority, since they are usually wrong. The standards of Christian conduct should never be dictated by the mores of the world, or even by those of carnal believers. God gives us a rule of conduct and clear guidelines to lead us in a pathway of consistent faithfulness to Him under all circumstances of our lives. We also learn from that example, that choosing the apparently easier pathway as did Elimelech will result in disaster for a believer, whereas the more difficult choice of obeying the Lord will eventually result in spiritual prosperity and ability to bless others. Which will we choose? The results make this choice very important!

Jabin and Sisera
We have noticed the origin of Canaan, going back to Ham as his forefather, and have seen that this was one of the evil nations that God was determined to judge through His people. Judah had gone with Simeon and had fought with the Canaanites in Judges 1, but we also have noticed that Canaan’s power was not overcome (1:29, 30, 32, 33) and here we find a resurgence of its efforts. In this case, Canaan is being led by Jabin, the King who dwelt in Hazor.

It is notable that we find the same nation and the same-named king in Joshua 11:1. This one is not the same king; perhaps it was a title of the ruler, but it suggests that this principle comes up once and yet again. Jabin means “intelligent,” or “he will understand,” (Jackson, Hitchcock) and this suggests an exaltation of man’s wisdom rather than dependence on God’s. If this links with the period of church history represented by Pergamos, we can see the correlation. That period of compromise with the world that allowed the same world and its thinking to penetrate and be accepted in the church was surely marked by a display of man’s wisdom. It seemed right, and surely it resulted in a lessened persecution because of the favor now received from the world under the emperor Constantine. However, the end result was a further step downward in declension away from the truth of God and faithfulness to Him.

Hazor is suggestive in that it means “an enclosure, a village,” (Gesenius) and is not this indicative of the desire of man for security that can be obtained by association with others providing mutual protection? Under the protective wing of the government of Rome, more departure took place, even though there were faithful men who stood for the truth. In such an environment, a clear, un-compromising expression of one’s convictions is more difficult than when we are separate and identified with God alone, even though such a stand may cost more.

Jabin had a captain over his army named Sisera (“battle-array,” Gesenius) who dwelled at Harosheth of the Gentiles. Harosheth seems to be identified with a location presently called Tell el-Harbej, on the south bank of the Kishon  River at the foot of Mt. Carmel, and some thirty miles southwest of Hazor (Distressing Days of the  Judges, Leon Wood). Harosheth seems to mean “carving, engraving, workmanship,” (Gesenius, Jackson) and these together suggest the activity of the world in its wisdom to set itself against the truth of God in active warfare.

This was the period of church history when great attempts were made by the enemy to rob the church of precious and essential truths by false teachings. Some of these were Arianism (attack on the deity of Christ), Appollinarianism (attack on the true humanity of Christ), and Nestorianism (making our Lord two persons). These errors had to be combated by faithful men in that day, men such as Athanasius and others. These heresies represented the intelligence of men apart from the wisdom of God, and they would have resulted in ruin to the church. Thankfully, they were combated and refused by the majority.

Linked with that warfare was the workmanship of men that can seem so attractive to the carnal believer, the artifices of those who would add to the simplicity of God’s Word and thus take away from its spiritual power. Is this not what took place during the time represented by Pergamos and moving into Thyatira? Wasn’t it during that time that the use of vestments, incense, processionals, infant baptism, and predominance of the clergy (“doctrine of the Nicolaitanes” Revelation 2:15), began to become accepted and assumed a recognized place among the church along with many erroneous practices? The Lord also refers to those who “hold the doctrine of Balaam” (Revelation 2:14), and it was his instigation that caused the breakdown of separation between God’s people and the Moabites, bringing God’s judgment on both. All this could be developed further, but it seems clear that Canaan has a parallel spiritually with the world system that would embrace and amalgamate with itself all that which is supposed to be purely and solely for Christ.

This oppression by Jabin over Israel caused them to cry unto the Lord. This was a proper response, but it was also the result of the severity of the oppression. We would cry also, if we were oppressed by the overwhelming power of an enemy who had 900 chariots of iron! However, if there had been proper exercise of soul on their part resulting in their maintaining the desired relationship with the Lord, they would not have been crying to God for deliverance now. Do we learn from this? Carelessness in our associations and relationships with the world along with accommodation to the desires of the flesh ultimately result in our finally awakening to the realization of how far we have gotten away. However, even then, the cry of God’s people is always heard by Him Who knows and sees all, and in their acknowledged weakness and dependence on God, room is provided for God to come in to deliver them from their enemy. We will see that deliverance in the next chapter.