And Ehud said, I have a message from the Deity unto thee. Then he arose from his seat. דְּבַר אֱלֹהִים is a commission from a higher being. He does not say Jehovah, for this is the name of the Israelitish God, with whom Eglon has nothing to do. We are not however to assume that the God of Eglon is meant; for what can Ehud the Israelite announce from Chemosh! It is therefore probable that by Elohim a superior prince is to be understood, whose liegeman or satrap Eglon was, as was already intimated above,—a human possessor of majesty and authority. As it is not to be supposed that the capital of Moab was transferred from Rabbah to the small bit of territory which had been acquired across the Jordan, Eglon in Jericho is not to be looked on as lord of all Moab. The relation in which he stood to the mother-country was most likely that of a vassal or feudal baron. That he is styled king does not contradict this. The potentates of single cities were all called “kings,” as the Greeks called them τύραννοι, without on that account being anything more than dependents of more powerful states and princes.[FN33] It suits the rôle which Ehud wishes to be ascribed to him, that he should also have relations with the transfluvial Moab, a fact which of course must be kept profoundly secret. Thus Eglon’s rising is explained. The same honor was due to a message from the superior lord as to his presence. Like reverence was shown to royal letters even, as appears from the narrative of Herodotus concerning a message to Oroetes; and from it, the fidelity of those whom the message concerned was inferred (Herod. iii128). The same mark of honor was paid to parents and aged persons. From this custom the ecclesiastical usage of standing during the reading of the Gospel, is also to be derived. Eglon rises out of respect for the דְּבַר אֱלֹהִים. This has been the constant explanation. The diverging view of Bertheau[FN34] does not commend itself. The Talmud—understanding the words, however, of the God of Israel—already deduces from them the lesson, that if a stranger thus rose up to receive a message from God, much more is it the duty of an Israelite so to do (Sanhedrin, 60 a).
Judges 3:21-24. Immediately Ehud put forth his left hand. Ehud made use of a pretext, in order to cause Eglon to rise. He was surer of his thrust if his victim stood. Eglon’s attention must be wholly diverted, that the attack, entirely unresisted, might be the more effective. In such sudden assaults, bulky people like Eglon are at a disadvantage. Cimber pressed closely on Cæsar, as if to make most urgent entreaty for his brother (Plut, Cœsar, 86). Parmenio was stabbed by cleander, while cheerfully reading a letter (Curtius, vii2, 27). The instance most like Eglon’s case, is that of King Henry III. of France. Clement, to secure an interview, had provided himself with a commission from a friend of the king. When he arrived, the king was sitting on his close-stool. Hoping to hear of an understanding with his opponents, Henry bade the messenger draw near; whereupon the monk stabbed him in the abdomen (cf. Ranke, Französ. Gesch., i171). Ehud’s thrust, though left-handed, was powerful. The dagger, together with its short handle, buried itself in the fat of the Prayer of Manasseh, and came out behind. לַהַב signifies a flame; then the blade of a sword, which glitters and burns like a flame. In a mediæval writing, the following words occur: “Sîn swert flamnieret an sîner hant[FN35] (Müller’s Mittelh. Wörterb., iii336). In technical language we also speak of flaming blades (geflammten klingen).
And came out behind, וַיֵּצֵא הַפַּרְשְׁדֹנָה. The ancient doubt as to this word, which occurs but once, and about which opinions are still divided, appears from the divergent renderings of the Septuagint and the Targum. It is certain, however, in the first place, that the Greek rendering προστάδα, can have little weight; for it arose from the similarity of the word in the text to מְּרוּכְדָא, current at the time, and meaning προστάς, vestibule. In the second place, the addition of Ehud after the second וַיֵּצֵא ( Judges 3:23), shows that another subject begins, and that therefore the first וַיֵּצֵא can refer only to the sword, not to the man. Further, since הַפַּרְשְׁדֹנָה is provided with ה local, it manifestly denotes that part of the body toward which the course of the sword was directed, while וַיֵּצֵא testifies to the actual perforation of the body. Now, as the sword was thrust from before into the abdomen (בֶּטֶן), there would be no doubt as to the part where it emerged, even if the etymology, which has here to deal with an onomatopoetic word, did not make this perfectly plain. Parshedon is the Greek πρωκτός, and belongs to the same family as the Lithuanian persti, Lettish pirst, Polish pierdziec, Russian perdjet, Greek πέρδειν, Sanscrit pard, Latin pedere, Gothic fairtan, Old High German fërzan (cf. Pott, Etymolog. Forsch., i245; Grimm. Wörterb., iii1335). The sword emerged behind through the fundament. The king fell down without uttering a sound. Ehud did not delay, but went out unhindered through the balcony. The attendants had entirely withdrawn from the alijah: Ehud takes advantage of this circumstance, and locks the door to it, in order to delay the moment of discovery. The heedless conduct of the unsuspecting attendants supports his boldness. As soon however as they see him go out,—an earlier return to their lord is not lawful,—they endeavor to enter the alijah. Ehud had gone away so calmly, that they suspect nothing. They are not even surprised when they find the doors fastened. Serarius has properly directed attention to the aversion felt by the ancients to the least degree of exposure when complying with the necessities of nature. This applies especially to kings, inasmuch as subjection to these necessities, too plainly proved them men. Of Pharaoh, the Jewish legend says that he wished to appear like a god, above the need of such things. “He covers his feet,” is a euphemism, taken from the descent of the long garments (Cf. Bochart, Hierozoicon, i677).
Judges 3:25-30. And they waited long, בּוֹשׁעַד. These words add the notion of displeasure and ill humor to the idea of waiting (cf. 2 Kings 2:17; 2 Kings 8:11). At length they comprehend that something extraordinary must have taken place. They procure another key, with which they open the doors, and find their lord—dead. Ehud’s artifice, however, had succeeded. While they delayed (הִתְמַהְמְהָם, from מַהְמַה, morari, is onomatopoetic), he had got beyond the border, as far as Seirah. This place, which according to Judges 3:27 belonged to the mountains of Ephraim, is unknown. It bounded the territories of Benjamin on the north. Ehud reached it by way of the border which ran by Gilgal, which shows that both these places were north of Jericho. It is evident that he had agreed with the Israelites to give the signal there, in case he were successful. His trumpet-blast was transmitted among the mountains. Israel flocked together, and heard of the unprecedentedly fortunate deed. The people saw in it the firm resolve, which gives victory. The plan of battle had also been already determined by Ehud. It was of the last importance to cut the terrified and leaderless Moabites off from the assistance of their transjordanic friends. Hence, the first care of Israel is to seize the ford of the river. The ford in question was manifestly no other than that which, directly east of Jericho, half an hour north of Wady Heshban, is still in use. Seetzen called it el-Mökhtaa, Robinson el-Helu[FN36] (Ritter xv484, 547, Gage’s transl. iii4, 49). That the occupation of this ford decides the victory, proves clearly that Eglon was not king of all Moab, but only of the Moab on this side of the Jordan. It was a terrible retribution, a sort of “Sicilian vespers,” which Israel, rising up after long subjection, inflicted on Eglon and his people. The falling foes were men of might. אִישׁ שָׁמֵן expresses the distinction (das Ansehn),[FN37]אִישׁ חַיִל the warlike character and abilities, of the smitten enemies. Moab was thoroughly vanquished, and Israel had rest for eighty years.
The exploit of Ehud doubtless surpasses all similar deeds of ancient history in the purity of its motive, as well as in the energy and boldness of its execution. Harmodius and Aristogiton, however celebrated by the Athenians, were moved to kill Hipparchus by private interests (cf. Thucyd. vi56). Blind warrior fury fills Mucius Scævola, as also Theodotus (Polyb. v81), the would-be murderer of Ptolemæus, and they fail of success. Ehud was equally bold and pure. He risked his life for no interest of his own, but for his people. And not merely for the external freedom of his nation, but for the maintenance and honor of its divine religion, which was inseparably linked with freedom. It was against the mortal enemy of Israel—against one lying under the ban, and shut out from the congregation of Israel—that he lifted up his sword. He exposed himself to a fearful peril, in order, if successful, to give therewith a signal of courage and comfort to his people. To be sure, if he did not succeed, the hatred and oppression of the enemy would increase in violence. But for that very reason men saw the more clearly that God had raised him up to be a deliverer. And yet, where in Israel are those praises of Ehud, which in Athens resounded for centuries in honor of Harmodius? Scævola’s deed[FN38] is celebrated as one of the nation’s heroic performances. The historian makes him say (Livy, xi12): “As an enemy have I slain the enemy.” It is true, the remarkable act has had the honor of being minutely handed down, even to the least details of its progress. But all this was to point out the sagacity and energy of the strong left-handed man. Not one word of praise is found. On the contrary—and this fact deserves attention—the remark usually made of other Judges, is here wanting: it is not said that “the Spirit of Jehovah was upon him.” Nor is it said, as of Othniel, that he “judged Israel.” Neither are we told that the rest and peace of Israel were connected with his life and death. Subsequent exegesis called him the Wolf, with which Benjamin is compared (Midrash, Ber. Rabba, cap89, p87-a). As the wolf throws himself on his prey, so had Ehud thrown himself on Eglon. They saw in Ehud’s deed the act of a mighty Prayer of Manasseh, influenced by zeal for God; but the “Spirit of Jehovah” inspires neither suck artifice nor such murder. So much the less could the act of Ehud, however brilliant under the circumstances, be made to exculpate similar deeds. So much the less could the crimes that defile the pages of Christian history, such as those committed against Henry III. and Henry IV, use it as a cover for themselves.[FN39] Although Eglon was a heathen, a foreigner, a tyrant, an enemy actually engaged in hostilities, the Scripture speaks of Ehud only as a deliverer, but never of his deed as sprung from the Spirit of God. How much more disgraceful are murder and treason against one’s own king, countrymen, and fellow Christians! It was an insult to Christianity, a sin against the Holy Ghost, when in answer to Clement’s question, whether a priest might kill a tyrant, it was determined that “it was not a mortal sin, but only an irregularity” (Ranke, Franz. Gesch., i473); or when Pope Paul V. exclaimed, with reference to the murder of Henry IV. by Ravaillac: “Deus gentium fecit hoc, quia datus in reprobum sensum.” Worse than the dagger is such doctrine.[FN40]
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
Ehud, the Judge with the two-edged sword.—1. Israel was again in bondage on account of sin. And the compassion of God was not exhausted, although no deliverer came out of Judah. In the kingdom of God, the great and rich may indeed become instruments of God’s will; but his power is not confined to them. If no one arises in Judah, some one in Benjamin does. If it be not Othniel, Caleb’s nephew, it is some unknown person who comes to rescue his people. Neither the name, nor the physique, is material. Deliverance may be begun with the left hand.
2. Ehud kills Eglon, the tyrant of Israel; yet he is not properly a murderer, but only a warrior. However, it is better to conquer as Othniel and Gideon conquered. He did it, not for private revenge, nor from fanaticism, but for the just freedom of Israel and its religion. He did it against Moab, and not against one who shared his own faith and country. God raised him up; but yet the Word of God does not approve his deed. He was a deliverer of Israel; but there hangs a shadow nevertheless over his official activity. Therefore, no murderous passion can appeal to him. By him no tyrant-murder, no political assassination, is exculpated. And this not simply because in Christian states and churches there can be no Eglons or Moabs.—Starke: “The Jesuit principle that it is right to put an heretical prince out of the way, will never be valid until a person can be certain of having such a calling from God to it, as Ehud undoubtedly had.”—His cause was pure; which cannot be said of any other assassination in history,—Christian history not excepted,—down to the murder of the North American President Lincoln; not even of those instances which remind us (as Mallet, Altes und Neues, p92, so beautifully did with reference to G. Sand, the murderer of Kotzebue) of the words of the Lord: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”
Gerlach: We are not to think that the deed of Ehud, in the manner of its accomplishment, is set before us as an example; but we must also beware lest, because the manner is no longer allowable, we be led to deny the operation of the Holy Ghost by whom this deliverer of his people was impelled.
3. Because Ehud’s cause was pure, his deed was followed by peace and freedom. That can be said of no other similar deed. He first searched out the enemy in his hiding-place, and then triumphed over him in the battlefield. He shows himself,—1, a true Israelite by faith; 2, a true son of Benjamin, who was compared with the wolf, by his strength. He drew his sword, not for the sake of war, but of peace. Therefore, Israel had peace through him until he died.
Ehud may not improperly be considered a type in spirit of him who likewise sprang from Benjamin—of Saul who first ravened like a wolf, but became patient and trustful like a lamb; of the Apostle who called the Word of God a two-edged sword that pierces through the conscience; of Paul, whose symbol in the church is the sword through which as martyr he lost his own life, after he had saved the lives of thousands by the sword of the Spirit.
FN#17 - Judges 3:12.—וַיְחַזֵּק: the same word is used Exodus 4:21, etc, Joshua 11:20; but is here, as Bachmann remarks, to be explained not by those passages, but by Ezekiel 30:24. It implies here the impartation not so much of strength as of the consciousness of it.—Tr.]
FN#18 - Judges 3:15.—אִטֵּר: Dr. Cassel, schwach, weak. “Impeded” would be the better word. Against the opinion of some, that Ehud’s right hand was either lamed or mutilated, Bachmann quotes the remark of Schmid that it would have been a breach of decorum to send such a physically imperfect person on an embassy to the king. It may be added that this explanation of אִטֵּר is at all events not to be thought of in the case of the700 chosen men mentioned in Judges 20:16.—Tr.]
FN#19 - Judges 3:15.—Dr. Cassel translates this clause: “when [als; i. e. Jehovah raised up Ehud as a deliverer, when] the sons of Israel sent a present by him to Eglon, the king of Moab.” But it is altogether simpler and better to take the clause as an independent progressive sentence, as in the E. V. So Bachmann also.—Tr.]
FN#20 - Judges 3:18.—יְשַׁלַּח: dismissed them by accompanying them part of the way back, cf. Genesis 12:20; Genesis 18:16; etc.—Tr.]
FN#21 - Judges 3:19.—דְּבַר־סֵתֶר: Dr. Cassel translates, “a secret word.” But “errand” is better; because like דָּבָר, it may be a word or message, or it may be a commission of a more active nature. Bachmann quotes Chyträus: rem, negotium secretum habeo apud te agendum. Song of Solomon, he goes on to remark, in Judges 3:20 “דְּבַר־אֱלהִֹים לִי אֵלֶיךָ, is not necessarily, ‘I have a word from God to say to thee;’ but may mean, ‘I have a commission from God to execute to thee.’ It would be preferable, therefore, to conform the English Version in Judges 3:20 to Judges 3:19, rather than the reverse.—Tr.]
FN#22 - Judges 3:20.—The rendering given above is Dr. Cassel’s, except that he puts the verb (ישֵׁב) in the pluperfect, which can scarcely be approved. He translates בַּעֲלִיַּת הַמְּקֵרָה by Obergeschoss des kühlhauses, which we can only represent by the awkward phrase: “upper story of the cooling-house.” It would be better, however, to take מְקֵרָה as containing an adjective idea, descriptive of the ’alijah: “cool upper story.” Cf. Bachmann.—Tr.]
FN#23 - Judges 3:22.—The term פַּרְשְׁדוֹן occurs only here, and is of exceedingly doubtful interpretation. Bachmann assumes that the וַיֵּצֵא which precedes it has Ehud for its subject, and then—by a course of reasoning far too lengthy and intricate to be here discussed—comes to the conclusion that פַּרְשְׁדוֹן denotes a locality, which in the next verse is more definitely indicated by מִסְדְּרוֹן. The latter term, he thinks, is best understood “of the lattice-work by which the roof was inclosed, or rather of the inclosed platform of the roof itself.” Accordingly he conceives the text to say that Ehud issued forth from Eglon’s private apartment “upon the flat roof, more definitely upon the inclosed plat from or gallery.”—Tr.]
FN#24 - Judges 3:29.—Dr. Cassel: angesehene Leute, cf. the Commentary; but it seems better to hold fast to the E. V. The expression is literally: “fat men,” i. e. well-fed, lusty men, of great physical strength. So Bachmann also.—Tr.]
FN#25 - It certainly appears that he had done so temporarily, but by no means that he had done so permanently.—Tr.]
FN#26 - The importance of this observation has been overlooked with reference to other lands as well as Palestine. The general fact that the sea-side was the right side, has been constantly ignored. That was the reason why Jacob Grimm (Gesch. der Deutschen Sprache, p990, etc.) failed to understand why among the Indians, Romans, etc, the south side of the mountains was the right, and the north side the left. The same idea prevailed among the Greeks. That in Roman augury “to the left” was more favorable than “to the right,” originated only in another view of the object which was supposed to produce good fortune. The sea-side was the free side.
FN#27 - Cf. Benfey, Griech. Grammat., i240.
FN#28 - This is the opinion of Grimm (Deutsch. Wörterb., ii1222). However, the view of Klemm (Waffen und Werkzeuge, p172) may nevertheless serve to find the original stymology of the word. [Luther has Schwert, sword.—Tr.]
FN#29 - Schiller, in his ballad entitled Die Bürgschaft.—Tr.]
FN#30 - Hence they also translate טוֹב by ἀστεῖος, Exodus 2:2, where, to be sure, it rather signifies “beautiful.”
FN#31 - Transferred to God, Exodus 23:15 : “None shall appear before me empty.”
FN#32 - To this interpretation of the pesilim, Bachmann (who agrees with our author in rejecting the commonly received “stone-quarries”) objects that it is not in accordance with he usual meaning of the word. He thinks that the pesiim were idolatrous images set up either by the apostate Israelites themselves, or by Eglon, “as boundary-marks of the territory immediately subject to him, and as signs of his supremacy.” He seems inclined to prefer the latter alternative, because of “the fact that Ehud does not feel himself and those with him secure until he has passed the pesilim.”—Tr.]
FN#33 - Thus the king of Hazor was king paramount over all the kings of his vicinity ( Joshua 11:10).
FN#34 - Bertheau says: “Divining the purpose of Ehud, he rose up to defend himself.”—Tr.]
FN#35 - “His sword flamed in his hand.”—Tr.]
FN#36 - Robinson’s map locates El-Helu not directly east, but southeast of Jericho, not north but south of Wady Heshban (cf. Bibl. Res. i535). It appears that the words “directly east” belong to Seetzen, and must in Ritter’s opinion be made to conform to Robinson’s location of El Helu. Cf. Gage’s Ritter, iii49. Van de Velde’s map places El-Helu southeast of Jericho, a short distance north of W. Heshban.—Tr.]
FN#37 - Bertheau: “שָׁמֵן, the fat, i. e. (in contrast with persons of starved appearance) the well-fed and opulent man; cf. Latin opimus; hence, the man of consequence.” But compare note8 under “Textual and Grammatical.”—Tr.]
FN#38 - In Plutarch’s Parallels of Greek and Roman History (n2), the same history is given of a Greek, Neocles, who made an attempt against Xerxes like that of Scævola against Porsenna.
FN#39 - Excellent remarks are found in the work of Hugo Grotius, De Jure Belli et Pacis, lib1. cap4. (ed. Traj, 1773), p178. Serarius declines to treat the subject, under the feeble pretext of lack of time, p92. (Compare Bayle, Dictionnaire, s. v. Mariana, ii2051, e.)
FN#40 - Wordsworth: “Some have raised objections to this act of Ehud, as censurable on moral grounds: and they have described him as a ‘crafty Israelite,’ taking an unfair advantage over an unwieldy corpulent Moabite; others have apologized for it, on the plea that it is not to be measured by what way call the standard of our ‘enlightened modern civilization’ compared with what they term the ‘barbarous temper of those times.’ But surely these are low and unworthy motives.” He then quotes with approbation from Bp. Sanderson and Dr. Waterland, the gist of whose remarks (Sanderson’s however being made with immediate reference to the act of Phinehas, Numbers 25.) Isaiah, that the Lord raises up deliverers for Israel, and divinely warranted their actions, which actions, however, form no precedents for those who have not similar divine authority. But it is surely not an improper question to ask, whether, when God raised up a hero, endowed him with faith and zeal, with strength and energy, to secure certain results, He also, always and necessarily, suggested or even approved the methods adopted not only as a whole but even in detail.—Tr.]
Shamgar smites six hundred Philistines with an ox—goad
31And after him was Shamgar the son of Anath, which [and he] slew [smote] of the Philistines six hundred men with an ox-goad; and he also , too,] delivered Israel.
EXEGETICAL AND DOCTRINAL
After him. After his example. Following Ehud’s example,[FN41] Shamgar smote the Philistines. That the expression is not to be taken of time, as if on the death of Ehud Shamgar had succeeded him, is evident from Judges 4:1. Moreover, if that were the meaning, a statement of the years of Shamgar would not be absent. The hypothesis of Josephus, that he governed one year, is untenable. Accordingly, the other Jewish expositors have properly assigned the exploit of Shamgar to the time of Ehud, i.e. to the period of eighty years.