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Well, first I apologize for the delay in posting in this series. I was, as many know, busy with some other stuff.
Today, we are taking a little trip to the Book of Judges, Chapter 3, and the story of Israel’s second Judge Ehud. In many ways, this is the same story we see repeated over and over in the book of Judges. Israel would fall away from God “And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the Lord…” v 12. They would do what was right in their own eyes, God’s patience would run out, and He would send a foreign invader to chastise the nation.
In this case, the one chosen to exact judgment upon Israel was King Eglon, king of Moab, and his allies the Ammonites and Amekelites. As the text says, they smote Israel for 18 years until the nation(as it did repeatedly,) repented and called out to God. God then raised up a judge, Ehud, and our story follows in a quick recap.
God raised up Ehud and he immediately began to take care of business. He made himself a dagger, was admitted to King Eglon’s court, and assassinated the King. Ehud escaped safely and returned home. He rallied the troops, so to speak, and Israel delivered a sound defeat to their enemies and enjoyed 80 years of peace. That’s it right? No, there is a lot here, but we will be brief.
First, Ehud was left-handed. Or was he? The English translations all say left-handed, but apparently, the original text is actually a Hebrew idiom meaning something to the effect of,” a man bound/restricted in his right hand.” That’s an interesting thing. It could refer to a man not naturally left-handed but as the result of some affliction involving his right hand. There’s also another possibility. Over in another place in judges we see this: “Among all this people there were seven hundred chosen men lefthanded; every one could sling stones at an hair breadth, and not miss.” Judges 20:16. Some seem to think this is a reflection indicating this might be men from the tribe of Benjamin specifically trained to be ambidextrous.
Does it really matter? Not so much. All that really matters is that this enabled Ehud to perfectly execute his rather nefarious plan, and execute his intended target King Eglon. Our story relates that Ehud gained an audience with the King under the subterfuge of bringing Israel’s tribute to the king. Once alone with the King, he informed him that he had a private message for him, and the King sent his people out. Ehud then reached with his LEFT hand to his RIGHT thigh, withdrew the dagger he had crafted just for the occasion, and plunged it into King Egon’s fat belly. In fact, he plunged in it so deeply that the King’s fat closed around it and the dagger disappeared. This was not a pretty picture at all. “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.” Judges 3:22. The dirt came out…perforated intestine. As I said, this was graphic.
How did this matter? Well, most people are right-handed, and no doubt Ehud was searched before being granted the audience with the King. It would have been quite easy for this dagger on the right thigh to be missed. Friends, that’s God’s providence.
We have to hand it to Ehud. He was focused, fearless and relentless. He was also quite ingenious and inventive. He had planned his operation meticulously and executed it with extreme prejudice, so to speak. It seems clear he had some sort of calling from God, as we are told that God raised him up.
Was Ehud morally out of bounds here? I have no clue. God commands us to not kill, meaning we are not to commit murder. Yet, time and time again, God’s people are granted the authority and even the mandate to slay enemies. Was that the case here? Did God call Ehud up, and then Ehud went rogue and implemented his own plan? Again, we can’t say for certain. I will only add this. I don’t see any condemnation at any point regarding Ehud. In fact, the end result was just as God had planned, I would say.
One thing that does seem clear is that God’s providence is an amazing thing. Often the most seemingly insignificant detail can be the very thing that has impact for years or decades. Another lesson is one we see over and over in the Book of Judges. Regardless of what we have done, upon our calling to God and repentance, our God is quick to come to our aid and save us.