This week we are in the Book of Judges. For those not familiar with the Bible stories, after Joshua's death, there was no real leadership in Israel. People "did as they thought best", and only in calamities did they think to ask God for a leader to "judge" them. And with a people as stiff-necked as these, there were plenty of calamities to go around. It became a vicious cycle: The people would fall into idolatry, then God would send an enemy to oppress them; they would cry out for help, and God would "raise up a deliverer". The deliverer would defeat the enemy, and you would have peace for so many years, until they started sinning again.
Our verse today involves the second of these judges, a man named Ehud. I'm just going to give you the single verse this time, and paint the story around it.
Judges 3:16 And Ehud made him a sword which had two edges, a cubit in length; and he girded it under his raiment upon his right thigh.
Obviously I have some fill-in to do, but I wanted to set the verse by itself because, despite appearances, the whole point today is in that one verse.
So like I said, this was the second go-round of needing a judge. The enemy was Eglon, king of Moab. He wasn't much of a warrior himself- he was indeed, morbidly obese as we say these days. But he had two things going for him. The first, he was a good diplomat, as he had talked the Ammonites and Amalekites into aiding him. Second, God was mad at Israel and strengthened Eglon to smash Israel. And smash he did, ruling over the tribes for 18 years from his capital in what was and is now called Jericho- but the writer called "the city of palms" because an enemy in the place of God's great victory for Israel was too painful to name.
The preceding verses point out a couple of pertinent facts about our soon to be hero, Ehud. First, he was the one who brought Israel's yearly tribute to Eglon. And as a result, we'll see, it gave him a bit of the trust factor with Eglon. Second, the writer points out an amusing-to-Jews irony. He was a Benjaminite- and one of the translations of the name is "son of my right hand"- and Ehud was left handed. And that also plays a big part. Because where Eglon's guards would search the left thigh of a right-handed person for weapons- easier to draw that way- they wouldn't suspect Ehud being left handed- or strapping a weapon on the right thigh.
So Ehud, thus armed with a hidden sword, brought the yearly tribute (or, his servants did); and after dropping it off, he left with his group until they got to the idols that marked the border between Eglon's kingdom and the rest of Israel. And then Ehud alone went back. He told Eglon he had a "secret matter" to discuss with him. This intrigued Eglon enough- and remember, he trusted Ehud- to tell his guards to get lost, and adjourned to his "upper cool chamber" to hear him. When they got settled in, Ehud told him he had "a message from God" for him. The story said that Eglon then rose ( a monumental effort, I'm sure), and Ehud drew the hidden sword and ran it into his gut. The man was so fat that his rolls swallowed the sword, hilt and all, and he proceeded to spill his guts, so to speak. Ehud snuck out; with the door locked, Eglon's servants thought he was.. er, taking a bathroom break, and Ehud crossed the border a second time. He had the Israelites (the tribe of Ephraim here) blow the shofar and go onto the attack. Moab was defeated, and Ehud judged the people in peace for 40 years.
So where does our verse come in?
Well, I dug into the research, and found a lot of interesting if not pertinent stuff. Mainly a rabbit trail about how the Jews believe that because "Eglon stood out of respect for God", he became part of the lineage of Christ- because Ruth was his daughter. And Ruth was David's great-grandmother. I want you to understand what I am about to say is not out of judgment or meanness, but only a Jewish Lawyer would figure that. BEcause, they are concerned above all with lineages and getting all the right people into all the right families. But let's think real slow about this. Ruth was married to Boaz- her second marriage after marrying a Hebrew immigrant to Moab during a famine. So a Moabite princess- royalty- is going to marry an enemy immigrant. Right. Plus, let's just glance at the timeline. Ruth bears Obed; 30 or so years later, Obed begats Jesse. Jesse has a boatful of kids, of which David was the baby. So say Jesse was 40, that gives us seventy years.
Now, Ehud ushered in what the Bible said was an 80-year period of peace. After a 20-year occupation by the next enemy, there was 40 years of peace; after the next enemy's 7 years, and the next's 18 years, there were additional 40 and 80 year stretches of peace. Then came the whole undated Abimelech ordeal, which tacks on more years, and we haven't even gotten to Samson. Sometime after Samson, Eli judged until he was an old man; likewise, Samuel was an old man when he anointed David as a young teen. So unless Ruth was about 300-400 years old when she married Boaz, that story don't fly.
Of course, they MIGHT be considering that she was a great or two granddaughter of Eglon; after all, the Bible says that Ehud was a son of Gera- and that has to be a DESCENDANT of Gera, since the only other mention of him was that he was the son of the ORIGINAL Benjamin- and for Ehud to be an actual SON son, Gera would have had to been about 500 and still pumping out kids.
Nevertheless, none of that helped me to figure out WHY we were on that particular verse. So I did what God tells us to do- I prayed. And I asked, once again, "What IS the right question?"
And the answer- "What is the verse talking about?" And the answer to that- "The SWORD." Not Eglon, Ehud, Ruth, or Gera- the sword. I had been asking myself, why was the Lord using this trickery to do His work? AND, I caught one more interesting thing: Every other major judge had some mention of being called by God, or talked to by God or an angel. NOT Ehud. Where was God's word to Ehud?
In the sword. Regard: If you know your Bible even casually, you know that there are a ton of references comparing the Word of God to a "two edged sword"- THAT'S why that went into the description. Remember, Ehud told Eglon, he had a "word from God". And when Eglon stood up- whether out of "respect" or some other reason- he GOT the Word of God- the sharp two edged sword- and it destroyed him.
Lesson here: If you are a believer, the Word of God is part of your armor- the sharp two edged sword of the Spirit. If you are an enemy of God- that sword is your doom. Eglon had all that fat, all those guards, all that diplomatic skill- and he fell before God in a puddle on his bathroom floor. Which end of the sword would YOU want to be on?