1 These were the nations the Lord permitted to remain so he could use them to test Israel – he wanted to test all those who had not experienced battle against the Canaanites.tn Heb “did not know the wars of Canaan.”
2 He left those nations simply because he wanted to teach the subsequent generations of Israelites, who had not experienced the earlier battles, how to conduct holy war.tn The Hebrew syntax of v. 2 is difficult. The Hebrew text reads literally, “only in order that the generations of the Israelites might know, to teach them war – only those who formerly did not know them.”sn The stated purpose for leaving the nations (to teach the subsequent generations…how to conduct holy war) seems to contradict 2:22 and 3:4, which indicate the nations were left to test Israel’s loyalty to the Lord. However, the two stated purposes can be harmonized. The willingness of later generations to learn and engage in holy war would measure their allegiance to the Lord (see B. G. Webb, Judges [JSOTSup], 114-15).
3 These were the nations:tn The words “These were the nations,” though not present in the Hebrew text, are supplied in the translation for clarity. the five lords of the Philistines, all the Canaanites, the Sidonians, and the Hivites living in Mount Lebanon, from Mount Baal Hermon to Lebo-Hamath.tn Or “the entrance to Hamath.”
4 They were left to test Israel, so the Lord would know if his people would obey the commands he gave their ancestors through Moses.tn Heb “to know if they would hear the commands of the Lord which he commanded their fathers by the hand of Moses.”
5 The Israelites lived among the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites.
6 They took the Canaanites’ daughters as wives and gave their daughters to the Canaanites;tn Heb “to their sons.” they worshipedtn Or “served”; or “followed” (this term occurs in the following verse as well). their gods as well.
Othniel: A Model Leader
7 The Israelites did evil in the Lord’s sight.tn Heb “in the eyes of the Lord.” They forgot the Lord their God and worshiped the Baals and the Asherahs.sn The Asherahs were local manifestations of the Canaanite goddess Asherah.
8 The Lord was furious with Israeltn Or “The Lord’s anger burned (or raged) against Israel.” and turned them over totn Heb “sold them into the hands of.” King Cushan-Rishathaimtn Or “Cushan the Doubly Wicked.” of Aram-Naharaim. They were Cushan-Rishathaim’s subjectstn Or “they served Cushan-Rishathaim.” for eight years.
9 When the Israelites cried out for help to the Lord, hetn Heb “the Lord.” raised up a deliverer for the Israelites who rescuedtn Or “delivered.” them. His name was Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother.tn “Caleb’s younger brother” may refer to Othniel or to Kenaz (in which case Othniel is Caleb’s nephew).
10 The Lord’s spirit empowered himtn Heb “was on him.” and he led Israel. When he went to do battle, the Lord handed over to him King Cushan-Rishathaim of Aram and he overpowered him.tn Heb “his hand was strong against Cushan-Rishathaim.”
11 The land had rest for forty years; then Othniel son of Kenaz died.
Deceit, Assassination, and Deliverance
12 The Israelites again did evil in the Lord’s sight.tn Heb “in the eyes of the Lord” (also later in this verse). The Lord gave King Eglon of Moab control over Israeltn Heb “strengthened Eglon…against Israel.” because they had done evil in the Lord’s sight.
13 Eglon formed alliances withtn Heb “and he gathered to him.” the Ammonites and Amalekites. He came and defeated Israel, and they seized the City of Date Palm Trees.
14 The Israelites were subject totn Or “the Israelites served Eglon.” King Eglon of Moab for eighteen years.
15 When the Israelites cried out for help to the Lord, hetn Heb “the Lord.” This has been replaced by the pronoun (“he”) in the translation for stylistic reasons. raised up a deliverer for them. His name was Ehud son of Gera the Benjaminite, a left-handed man.tn The phrase, which refers to Ehud, literally reads “bound/restricted in the right hand,” apparently a Hebrew idiom for a left-handed person. See Judg 20:16, where 700 Benjaminites are described in this way. Perhaps the Benjaminites purposely trained several of their young men to be left-handed warriors by restricting the use of the right hand from an early age so the left hand would become dominant. Left-handed men would have a distinct military advantage, especially when attacking city gates. See B. Halpern, “The Assassination of Eglon: The First Locked-Room Murder Mystery,” BRev 4 (1988): 35. The Israelites sent him to King Eglon of Moab with their tribute payment.tn Heb “The Israelites sent by his hand an offering to Eglon, king of Moab.”
16 Ehud made himself a sword – it had two edges and was eighteen inches long.tn The Hebrew term גֹּמֶד (gomed) denotes a unit of linear measure, perhaps a cubit (the distance between the elbow and the tip of the middle finger – approximately 18 inches [45 cm]). Some suggest it is equivalent to the short cubit (the distance between the elbow and the knuckles of the clenched fist – approximately 13 inches [33 cm]) or to the span (the distance between the end of the thumb and the end of the little finger in a spread hand – approximately 9 inches [23 cm]). See BDB 167 s.v.; HALOT 196 s.v.; B. Lindars, Judges 1-5, 142. He strapped it under his coat on his right thigh.
17 He brought the tribute payment to King Eglon of Moab. (Now Eglon was a very fat man.)
18 After Ehud brought the tribute payment, he dismissed the people who had carried it.tn Heb “the tribute payment.”
19 But he went backtn Or “returned” (i.e., to Eglon’s palace). once he reachedtn The words “when he reached” are supplied in the translation for clarification. The Hebrew text simply reads “from.” the carved imagestn Or “idols.” at Gilgal. He said to Eglon,tn The words “to Eglon” are supplied in the translation for clarification. “I have a secret message for you, O king.” Eglontn Heb “he”; the referent (Eglon) has been specified in the translation for clarity. said, “Be quiet!”tn Or “Hush!” All his attendants left.
20 When Ehud approached him, he was sitting in his well-ventilatedtn Or “cool.” This probably refers to a room with latticed windows which allowed the breeze to pass through. See B. Lindars, Judges 1-5, 144. upper room all by himself. Ehud said, “I have a message from Godtn Heb “word of [i.e., from] God.” for you.” When Eglon rose up from his seat,tn Or “throne.”
21 Ehud reached with his left hand, pulled the sword from his right thigh, and drove it into Eglon’stn Heb “his”; the referent (Eglon) has been specified in the translation for clarity. belly.
22 The handle went in after the blade, and the fat closed around the blade, for Ehudtn Heb “he”; the referent (Ehud) has been specified in the translation for clarity. did not pull the sword out of his belly.tn The Hebrew text has “and he went out to the [?].” The meaning of the Hebrew word פַּרְשְׁדֹנָה (parshÿdonah) which occurs only here in the OT, is uncertain. The noun has the article prefixed and directive suffix. The word may be a technical architectural term, indicating the area into which Ehud moved as he left the king and began his escape. In this case Ehud is the subject of the verb “went out.” The present translation omits the clause, understanding it as an ancient variant of the first clause in v. 23. Some take the noun as “back,” understand “sword” (from the preceding clause) as the subject, and translate “the sword came out his [i.e., Eglon’s] back.” But this rendering is unlikely since the Hebrew word for “sword” (חֶרֶב, kherev) is feminine and the verb form translated “came out” (וַיֵּצֵא, vayyetse’) is masculine. (One expects agreement in gender when the subject is supplied from the preceding clause. See Ezek 33:4, 6.) See B. Lindars, Judges 1-5, 146-48, for discussion of the options.
23 As Ehud went out into the vestibule,tn Again the precise meaning of the Hebrew word, used only here in the OT, is uncertain. Since it is preceded by the verb “went out” and the next clause refers to Ehud closing doors, the noun is probably an architectural term referring to the room (perhaps a vestibule; see HALOT 604 s.v. מִסְדְּרוֹן) immediately outside the king’s upper chamber. As v. 24 indicates, this vestibule separated the upper room from an outer room where the king's servants were waiting. he closed the doors of the upper room behind him and locked them.
24 When Ehud had left, Eglon’stn Heb “his.” servants came and saw the locked doors of the upper room. They said, “He must be relieving himselftn Heb “covering his feet” (i.e., with his outer garments while he relieves himself). in the well-ventilated inner room.”tn The Hebrew expression translated “well-ventilated inner room” may refer to the upper room itself or to a bathroom attached to or within it.
25 They waited so long they were embarrassed, but he still did not open the doors of the upper room. Finally they took the key and opened the doors.tn The words “the doors” are supplied. Right before their eyes was their master, sprawled out dead on the floor!tn Heb “See, their master, fallen to the ground, dead.”
26 Now Ehud had escaped while they were delaying. When he passed the carved images, he escaped to Seirah.
27 When he reached Seirah,tn Heb “When he arrived.” he blew a trumpettn That is, “mustered an army.” in the Ephraimite hill country. The Israelites went down with him from the hill country, with Ehud in the lead.tn Heb “now he was before them.”
28 He said to them, “Follow me, for the Lord is about to defeat your enemies, the Moabites!”tn Heb “for the Lord has given your enemies, Moab, into your hand.” The verb form (a Hebrew perfect, indicating completed action from the standpoint of the speaker) emphasizes the certainty of the event. Though it had not yet taken place, the Lord speaks of it as a “done deal.” They followed him, captured the fords of the Jordan Rivertn The word “River” is not in the Hebrew text, but is supplied for clarity. opposite Moab,tn Or “against Moab,” that is, so as to prevent the Moabites from crossing. and did not let anyone cross.
29 That day they killed about ten thousand Moabitestn Heb “They struck Moab that day – about ten thousand men.” – all strong, capable warriors; not one escaped.
30 Israel humiliated Moab that day, and the land had rest for eighty years.
31 After Ehudtn Heb “him”; the referent (Ehud) has been specified in the translation for clarity. cametn Heb “was.” Shamgar son of Anath; he killed six hundred Philistines with an oxgoad and, like Ehud,tn Heb “also he”; the referent (Ehud) has been specified in the translation for clarity. delivered Israel.