Judges – Chapter 3

Here Come the Judges! Here Come the Judges!

By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz

The chapter begins with a list of nations that still maintained a presence in Israel: Philistines, Amorites, Hittites, Jebusites, Tzidonites, Hivites and Perizites. They were there to serve as a constant test for the Jews, to see if they would follow G-d’s laws.

The Jews didn’t do so well.

They intermarried with the Canaanite nations and worshipped idols. G-d therefore delivered the nation into the hands of Kushan-Rishasayim, king of Aram-Naharayim (Mesopotamia). The Jews served him for eight years, at which time they cried out to Hashem and He sent them Osniel ben Kenaz, the first Judge. (This was Caleb’s half-brother from Chapter One.) Osniel led the people to victory and they enjoyed forty years of peace.

Osniel was succeeded by Ehud ben Gera, who was left-handed. (That tidbit will be important shortly.) The Jews fell back into their bad habits, so G-d allowed Eglon, king of Moab to take over the land. Eglon was morbidly obese. (That fact, too, will be important soon.)

Ehud went to see Eglon. He strapped a short sword on his right side, which escaped unnoticed. (The overwhelming majority of soldiers were right-handed and wore their long swords on the left. Moab Homeland Security was not all that thorough.) Ehud told Eglon he had a message for him from G-d. Eglon sent his attendants out for privacy. He then stood up out of respect for G-d. Ehud drew his small, concealed sword and thrust it into Eglon’s belly, including the hilt. Ehud left and locked the door behind him.

Excrement was pouring out of Eglon’s wound. His servants smelled it and assumed that the king was relieving himself in his locked chamber. After a while, they became suspicious. They opened the door and found their king dead. Of course, by that time, Ehud was long gone. Ehud summoned the troops who routed the Moabite forces, leading to eighty years of peace.

Ehud was succeeded by Shamgar ben Anas, who was Judge for only a few months. In that time, he defeated the Philistines.

One interesting detail: Despite his position and his huge size, King Eglon of Moab rose out of respect for G-d. G-d rewarded this by allowing one of Eglon’s descendants, the righteous Ruth, to become the ancestor of King David (and, therefore, Moshiach).

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