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1-2 And the Lord had another reason for letting these enemies stay. The Israelites needed to learn how to fight in war, just as their ancestors had done. Each new generation would have to learn by fighting the Philistines and their five rulers, as well as the Canaanites, the Sidonians, and the Hivites that lived in the Lebanon Mountains from Mount Baal-Hermon to Hamath Pass.[a]

Moses had told the Israelites what the Lord had commanded them to do, and now the Lord was using these nations to find out if Israel would obey. 5-6 But they refused. And it was because of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites who lived all around them. Some of the Israelites married the people of these nations, and that’s how they started worshiping foreign gods.

Othniel

The Israelites sinned against the Lord by forgetting him and worshiping idols of Baal and Astarte. This made the Lord angry, so he let Israel be defeated by King Cushan Rishathaim of northern Syria,[b] who ruled Israel eight years and made everyone pay taxes. The Israelites begged the Lord for help, and he chose Othniel to rescue them. Othniel was the son of Caleb’s younger brother Kenaz.[c] 10 The Spirit of the Lord took control of Othniel, and he led Israel in a war against Cushan Rishathaim. The Lord gave Othniel victory, 11 and Israel was at peace until Othniel died about forty years later.

Ehud

12 Once more the Israelites started disobeying the Lord. So he let them be defeated by King Eglon of Moab, 13 who had joined forces with the Ammonites and the Amalekites to attack Israel. Eglon and his army captured Jericho.[d] 14 Then he ruled Israel for eighteen years and forced the Israelites to pay heavy taxes.

15-16 The Israelites begged the Lord for help, and the Lord chose Ehud[e] from the Benjamin tribe to rescue them. They put Ehud in charge of taking the taxes to King Eglon, but before Ehud went, he made a double-edged dagger. Ehud was left-handed, so he strapped the dagger to his right thigh, where it would be hidden under his robes.

17-18 Ehud and some other Israelites took the taxes to Eglon, who was a very fat man. As soon as they gave the taxes to Eglon, Ehud said it was time to go home.

19-20 Ehud went with the other Israelites as far as the statues[f] at Gilgal.[g] Then he turned back and went upstairs to the cool room[h] where Eglon had his throne. Ehud said, “Your Majesty, I need to talk with you in private.”

Eglon replied, “Don’t say anything yet!” His officials left the room, and Eglon stood up as Ehud came closer.

“Yes,” Ehud said, “I have a message for you from God!” 21 Ehud pulled out the dagger with his left hand and shoved it so far into Eglon’s stomach 22-23 that even the handle was buried in his fat. Ehud left the dagger there. Then after closing and locking the doors to the room, he climbed through a window onto the porch[i] 24 and left.

When the king’s officials came back and saw that the doors were locked, they said, “The king is probably inside relieving himself.” 25 They stood there waiting until they felt foolish, but Eglon never opened the doors. Finally, they unlocked the doors and found King Eglon lying dead on the floor. 26 But by that time, Ehud had already escaped past the statues.[j]

Ehud went to the town of Seirah 27-28 in the hill country of Ephraim and started blowing a signal on a trumpet. The Israelites came together, and he shouted, “Follow me! The Lord will help us defeat the Moabites.”

The Israelites followed Ehud down to the Jordan valley, and they captured the places where people cross the river on the way to Moab. They would not let anyone go across, 29 and before the fighting was over, they killed about ten thousand Moabite warriors—not one escaped alive.

30 Moab was so badly defeated that it was a long time before they were strong enough to attack Israel again. And Israel was at peace for eighty years.

Shamgar

31 Shamgar the son of Anath was the next to rescue Israel. In one battle, he used a sharp wooden pole[k] to kill six hundred Philistines.

Footnotes

  1. 3.3 Hamath Pass: Or “Lebo-Hamath.”
  2. 3.8 northern Syria: The Hebrew text has “Aram-Naharaim,” probably referring to the land around the city of Haran (see Genesis 24.10; 25.20; 28.2,6; 31.18,20; 33.18; 35.23-26; 46.8-15; 48.7).
  3. 3.9 Othniel was the son of. . . Kenaz: See the note at 1.13.
  4. 3.13 Jericho: See the note at 1.16.
  5. 3.15,16 Ehud: Hebrew “Ehud the son of Gera.”
  6. 3.19,20 statues: Or “stone idols” or “stone monuments.”
  7. 3.19,20 Gilgal: About a mile and a half from Jericho, where Eglon probably was (see verse 13).
  8. 3.19,20 upstairs. . . cool room: Houses usually had flat roofs, and sometimes a room was built on one corner of the roof where it could best catch the breeze and be kept cooler than the rest of the house.
  9. 3.22,23 he climbed. . . porch: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
  10. 3.26 statues: See the note at 3.19,20.
  11. 3.31 sharp wooden pole: The Hebrew text has “cattle-prod,” a pole with a sharpened tip or metal point at one end.

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