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Bible Commentaries

L. M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible

Judges 3

 

 

Verses 1-31

THE NATIONS LEFT TO TEST ISRAEL

(vv. 1-6)

The younger Israelites had not learned war, and were faced now with learning it by means of the nations left in the land, for God is not going to exempt any believer from the conflict that is necessary if we are to possess the territory He has given us. We tend too easily to simply rest on the fact of the conquests of our fathers and settle down in a self-complacent attitude that soon works havoc.

These remaining enemies included five lords of the Philistine (v. 3), whose defeat recorded in Judges 1:18 (at least of three of the five) was evidently not total, for those cities, Gaza, Ashkelon and Ekron are found later under Philistine control (1 Samuel 7:17). The Philistines (meaning "wallowers") are those who adopt the truth outwardly, but only to wallow in it, assuming a form of godliness but having no vital enjoyment of it(2 Timothy 3:5). This evil too frequently attacks the Church of God today, and enslaves some.

The Canaanites ("traffickers") were also determined to stay in the land. They represent the mercenary spirit of seeking material gain from spiritual things, an evil that Israel failed to banish from their land. The Sidonians (meaning "hunters") were also a test to Israel. Hunting is generally seen in scripture in an unfavorable light, as David expresses to Saul, "For the king of Israel has come out to seek a flea, as when he hunts a partridge in the mountains" (1 Samuel 26:20). This spirit of inquisition has terribly affected the Church of God through the years. There are those who hunt out what they claim to be evil and have by this means exterminated more true believers than they have heretics. Added to these were the

Hivites (meaning "livers"). They stand for the hypocrisy of claiming that a decent life without any confession of Christ is sufficient to give one a favorable position before God. This is a subtle enemy indeed. May we be preserved from this wickedness.

Verse 4 tells us those nations were left to test Israel, but verse 5 immediately follows to show that they failed the test, for they intermingled by marriage among these nations and served their idols. Added also to these nations mentioned in verse 3 were the Hittites ("children of fear"), Amorites ("sayers"), Perizzites ("squatters") and Jebusites ("treaders down"), so that all these evils very soon afflicted the Israelites. Such being the case, they forgot the Lord their God and served the Baals and Asherahs (v. 7). Once the thin edge of the wedge of evil begins its work, it is not long before it brings a complete cleavage. If once we welcome evil, we shall soon find that it is far too strong for us, and we become slaves.

DELIVERANCE THROUGH OTHNIEL

(vv. 8-11)

Because of Israel's harmful associations with the evils in the land, God send an enemy from a distant place, Mesopotamia, to conquer Israel and hold them in hard bondage for eight years (v. 8). Mesopotamia means "exalted" and the name of its king, Chushan-Rishathaim means "blackness of doublewickedness." Likely his mother did not give him that name, but God does, for it is the greatest wickedness for one to exalt himself to the heights of highest honor, as the Anti Christ will (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4). This enemy of Israel therefore reminds us of "every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God" (2 Corinthians 10:5). This kind of pride amongst the people of God calls for the sternest self-judgment, for we are worthy only of humiliation, not of exaltation.

Why did Israel take so long to cry out to the Lord for deliverance from such oppression? Because they had accustomed themselves to serving idols and were probably expecting the idols to help them. Thus God allowed time for them to learn that their idols were no help against their enemies, but when they turned to Him He graciously answered by raising up Othniel as a deliverer (v. 9). Othniel, Caleb's younger brother, had proven himself faithful to God before this (Judges 1:12-13). His name means "lion of God," so that he was a suitable instrument for God to use against Mesopotamia, meaning "exalted." Fleshly exaltation appears strong, but it is strong only in black wickedness. The lion, the strongest of beasts, emphasizes strength, but "lion of God" reminds us of Paul's words, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (Philippians 3:13). When we give the place of highest exaltation to the Lord Jesus, as is only right, then we should know how to cast down the proud exaltation of the flesh, in the strength of the Lord.

By the power of the Spirit of God Othniel judged Israel and went out to war (v. 10). No details are given as to how he defeated Chushan-Rishathaim, but the fact is reported that God gave this enemy into Othniel's hand so that his power was broken. Little is said as to the prowess of Othniel in whatever engagements that may have taken place, for the emphasis is on God's faithful grace in delivering Israel. Yet Othniel was a faithful, devoted man of God, for he judged Israel forty years during which the land had peace (v. 11). Forty years of no recorded history is in itself a commendable testimony to good government. Then Othniel died.

ANOTHER DELIVERER -- EHUD

(vv. 12-30)

Again turning from the Lord and falling into sin, Israel suffered from Moab, Ammon and Amalek, with Eglon, king of Moab taking the lead in this oppression (vv. 12-13). They were able to take possession of the city of palms, Jericho, which Israel had before taken by the power of God when entering the land (Joshua 6:1-27). The same power of God could have certainly enabled Israel to hold Jericho, but Israel had displaced God with his idols. Thus, Eglon made Jericho his headquarters in Israel. Jericho's name means "fragrant," speaking of pleasant, favorable circumstances, which were most suitable for a man like Eglon.

Moab is the very picture of self-satisfied, self-indulgent religion such as is seen in Laodicea, "I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing" (Revelation 3:17). "Moab has been at ease from his youth; he had settled on his dregs, and has not been emptied from vessel to vessel, nor has he gone into captivity. Therefore his taste remained in him, and his scent has not changed" (Jeremiah 48:11).

Such a religion is most attractive to fleshly people, so that Moab attracts Ammon and Amalek (v. 13). Ammonmeans "peoplish," and its king was called Nahash (2 Samuel 10:2),meaning "serpent." Thus, Ammon stands for sectarian religion that emphasizes the people, but is energized by Satan. Those who advocate satanic teaching are glad to indulge in fleshly evil also. Amalekmeans "licking up." This was the first enemy that attacked Israel when they came out of Egypt (Exodus 17:8). It speaks of the lusts of the flesh, the details of sinful desire that "licks up" all proper exercise. These are indeed devastating enemies when they are submitted to, and Israel submitted for 18 years (v. 14).

Only after this long period of degradation did they finally cry out to the Lord, who is always ready to hear and respond to need when it is confessed. On this occasion He raised up a Benjamite named Ehud, meaning "I will give thanks." He illustrates the positive attitude of thanking God in the midst of affliction. He was left handed, yet Benjamin's name means "son of my right hand." The right hand is seen as the hand of power in scripture, and the left hand speaks of weakness. Ehud had learned the lesson, "when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:10). Depending on God, he became a bold man of faith.

Ehud was sent by Israel to carry tribute to the king of Moab at Jericho (v. 15). But he had prepared himself by having fastened under his clothes on his right thigh a dagger he had made himself. It was double edged and about 18 inches long (v. 16). Eglon was a very fat man, a suitable representative of the self-indulgence of which Moab speaks (v. 17).

Ehud presented the tribute of Israel to Eglon, then left with his attendants, but sent them away while he turned back alone, to tell Eglon he had a secret message for him (v. 19). Eglon had no suspicion of one man alone, and specially after Ehud had brought Israel's tribute to him. He would be interested also to know what the secret message was, so he ordered his servants out, while Ehud was allowed to come into his upper bedroom (v.20). Eglon was seated, but rose up when Ehud told him, "I have a message from God for you." With no delay Ehud quickly took his dagger with his left hand and plunged it so hard into Eglon's belly that the hilt of the dagger went in also (v. 22). What an indication is this that the judgment of God is upon those "whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame -- who set their mind on earthly things" (Philippians 3:19).

Working quickly, Ehud went out, locking the doors behind him, and leaving. The servants of Eglon were surprised to find the doors locked, but thought Eglon must have private matters to engage him (v. 24). Finally, after waiting a long time, they used a key to open the doors and found their master dead (v.25). But Ehud had had plenty of time to escape.

However, this evil enemy, Moab, had enslaved Israel for 18 years. Israel had called on God for deliverance (v.15). Now they must be prepared to act in subjection to God, to break thepower of Moab's oppression. Ehud blew a trumpet in the mountains of Ephraim, taking advantage of the weakened condition of Moab. The Lord worked in the hearts of the children of Israel to impel them to follow Ehud, who led them to the areas of Jordan near Jericho (v. 28), where they monitored the fords leading away from Israel toward Moab. Since Moab was only using Jericho as a headquarters in Israel, and Israel was taking control in its own land, the Moabites wanted to escape back to their land. But with the fords taken, the men of Moab could not escape and Israel was able to kill 10,000 men of the enemy, all stout men of valor (v. 29). The word "stout" has the meaning of "oily" or well fed, not necessarily strong, but living off the fat of the land. Thus the wealthy, easy going religion of Moab was defeated by the faith of Ehud in leading Israel. This victory was so decisive that Israel's land was at peace for 80 years (v. 30).

SHAMGAR (v. 31)

The Philistines were always a thorn in the side of Israel, just as their successors, the Palestinians, are today. After Ehud (possibly before Ehud had died, but after his work of deliverance) Shamgar, the son of Anath is briefly mentioned as having killed 600 Philistines with an ox-goad. He evidently had no better weapon, but used what he had very effectively, just as we too should use what the Lord puts in our hand, whether for defeating enemies or for the blessing of His people. Both of these ends were accomplished in Shamgar's victory. His history is confined only to one verse, but it is in scripture for eternity.

 


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Bibliography Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Judges 3:4". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/lmg/judges-3.html. 1897-1910.

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