One of the odder characters in the Old Testament (one of the Judges we sadly didn’t have time to look at in our bible studies this semester) is Ehud. Ehud is an early judge in this book, and this story takes some weird turns during its course. But we can still see God working in Ehud’s life.
Check out Judges 3:12-30 for the full story, then keep reading!
What is going on here?
This story fits into the classic cycle which can be seen repeated throughout the book of Judges: after the Israelites do evil in the eyes of the Lord, then the Lord gives them over to their enemies. When the Israelites repent and cry out to God in their suffering, he then raises up a Judge to rescue them and bring peace (until that Judge dies).
And Ehud goes through this cycle without a hitch.
The Israelites (right on schedule), turn away from God and face subjection to their enemies: in this case King Eglon. And he is shown to be a bad king- he is self-indulgent, which the author tells us in a roundabout way by describing him as a ‘very fat man’. The other thing we know is that they had come in and taken over the City of Palms, which was another name for Jericho- the first city the Israelites famously conquered when they crossed the Jordan to take the land God has promised them (check out Joshua chapters 5 and 6).
Ehud is sent to Eglon to present him with a tribute from Israel, but while everyone else heads home, he returns and tells the King he has a secret message from God for him- spoiler alert, it’s a sword.
After spending a long time politely not trying to interrupt the king (if you want to know why, you’ll have to read the story itself), his advisors figure out he is dead, but it is too late- Ehud has rallied the Israelites against Moab, and leads them to victory (huzzah). And they have 80 years of peace.
It’s fairly straightforward, but the author doesn’t hold back on the gruesome details (or toilet humour).
Ehud the judge
So what For the Israelites, Ehud wasn’t the leader they were expecting. We aren’t told a huge amount about Ehud:
He is a Benjamite, a descendant of Gera.
He is left-handed.
He made his own sword.
And he is the Judge the Lord raised up.
That’s about it really, apart from what we can see of his character from how the story unfolds. We can see he is smart, and knows how to make the most of opportunities.
There are some parts of this which are significant: particularly the fact that Ehud is described as left-handed. In Judges 20 we are told there is an entire group of Benjamite fighters who train to be left-handed, as a formidable fighting force. But for Ehud, the wording indicates that he is restricted to using his left hand- possibly this indicates that his right hand is permanently injured or damaged, restricting him to use a non-dominant hand. He is not the military leader people would expect.
The fact that he made his own weapon also indicates that he may not be a fighter who already possessed a weapon. But these unexpected factors are exactly what allows him to get through to the king with this weapon- firstly he is clearly not seen as a threat, because the King is happy to meet with him privately. Secondly, the author states clearly and repeatedly that Ehud straps his weapon to his right thigh because he is left-handed, suggesting that this is significant- having this weapon on the opposite side of his body allowed him to conceal it more easily.
Expect the unexpected…
When we look at the Judges, often they are not who we expect God to work through to rescue his people. They have weaknesses and flaws. The methods they use often aren’t ones we would encourage in our leaders. And even though the Judges were chosen and empowered by God to rescue Israel, this doesn’t mean we should see them as heroes. If you were in our Small Groups this semester, you would know that as we go through the book of Judges these rescuers become more and more ambiguous in their character and actions- we see that they are flawed people.
But God works through them for his plan, and even though they aren’t perfect, they trusted God- check out Hebrews 11:32. But Ehud isn’t really the hero of this story- God is.
He gives them this deliverer (3:15), and God is the one who gives them victory over their enemies (3:28). Throughout the bible, God is the one who rescues us when we can’t rescue ourselves. We see this most clearly in Jesus.
The name Ehud means ‘where is the majesty/glory?’, and in this story, Ehud doesn’t claim this for himself- he points Israel clearly to God as the one who saved them. God deserves the glory, because he is the one who is always faithful and rescues us from our biggest problem.
Ultimately, this is a story that teaches us about God and what he is like- he is the hero of the story, working through the unexpected Judge!
Read through the story of Ehud- how can we see God working, and what stands out to you from what this story teaches us about God and what he is like?
Flinders ES- Lauren B