Judges 3:12-30 – Ehud


Judges 3:12-30


Ehud, a Benjaminite, and left-handed, tricks and defeats the Moabite king, Eglon.


Once again, Israel disobeys, resulting in eighteen years of oppression by Eglon (“Young Bull”), king of Moab, a small region in the Transjordan east of the Dead Sea. The cyclical pattern that forms the framework of Judges reminds us that Eglon is merely the means for God’s disciplining of Israel. The story also emphasizes that Eglon is incredibly fat (vv. 17, 22).

We also receive descriptive information about Ehud. He is left-handed despite coming from the tribe of Benjamin (“Right-handed”). The Latin word “sinister” also derives from left-handedness and points to the definite advantage a left-handed warrior had in hand-to-hand combat where unfamiliarity and surprise can make the difference.

Under the guise of bringing Benjamin’s tribute, Ehud assassinated Eglon, whose gruesome demise initiates a spate of horrific deaths in Judges. This one is distinctive for the macabre, somewhat scatological humor with which it is related. “Sinister” Ehud tricks Eglon by producing a hidden double-edged sword while the obese king is “relieving himself” in the royal privy. The king is so fat that the sword penetrates all the way to the hilt releasing that which Eglon was seeking to eliminate from another opening. Thus Eglon, the “Baby Bull,” becomes the “fatted calf” in Ehud’s sacrifice, and Ehud makes his escape as Eglon’s servants patiently wait outside the cool chamber for their master to “finish.” The story concludes with impressive defeats of the confused Moabites by the tribes of Benjamin and Ephraim.