1-2And the Lord had another reason for letting these enemies stay. The Israelites needed to learn how to fight in war, just as their ancestors had done. Each new generation would have to learn by fighting 3the Philistines and their five rulers, as well as the Canaanites, the Sidonians, and the Hivites that lived in the Lebanon Mountains from Mount Baal-Hermon to Hamath Pass.#3.3 Hamath Pass: Or “Lebo-Hamath.”
4Moses had told the Israelites what the Lord had commanded them to do, and now the Lord was using these nations to find out if Israel would obey. 5-6But they refused. And some of them even married Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites who lived all around them. That's how they started worshiping foreign gods.
7The Israelites sinned against the Lord by forgetting him and worshiping idols of Baal and Astarte. 8This made the Lord angry, so he let Israel be defeated by King Cushan Rishathaim of northern Syria,#3.8 northern Syria: The Hebrew text has “Aram-Naharaim,” probably referring to the land around the city of Haran (see Genesis 24.10; 25.20; 28.2,6; 31.18,20; 33.18; 35.23-26; 46.8-15; 48.7). who ruled Israel eight years and made everyone pay taxes. 9The Israelites begged the Lord for help, and so he chose Othniel to rescue them. Othniel was the son of Caleb's younger brother Kenaz.#3.9 Othniel was the son of … Kenaz: See the note at 1.13. 10The Spirit of the Lord took control of Othniel, and he led Israel in a war against Cushan Rishathaim. The Lord let Othniel win, 11and Israel was at peace until Othniel died about 40 years later.
12Once more the Israelites started disobeying the Lord. So he let them be defeated by King Eglon of Moab, 13who had joined forces with the Ammonites and the Amalekites to attack Israel. Eglon and his army captured Jericho.#3.13 Jericho: See the note at 1.16. 14Then he ruled Israel for 18 years and forced the Israelites to pay heavy taxes.
15-16The Israelites begged the Lord for help, and the Lord chose Ehud#3.15,16 Ehud: Hebrew “Ehud the son of Gera.” from the Benjamin tribe to rescue them. They put Ehud in charge of taking the taxes to King Eglon, but before Ehud went, he made a double-edged dagger. Ehud was left-handed, so he strapped the dagger to his right thigh, where it was hidden under his robes.
17-18Ehud and some other Israelites took the taxes to Eglon, who was a very fat man. As soon as they gave the taxes to Eglon, Ehud said it was time to go home.
19-20Ehud went with the other Israelites as far as the statues#3.19,20 statues: Or “stone idols” or “stone monuments.” at Gilgal.#3.19,20 Gilgal: About two and a half kilometers from Jericho, where Eglon probably was (see verse 13). Then he turned back and went upstairs to the room#3.19,20 upstairs … room: Houses usually had flat roofs, and sometimes a room was built on one corner of the roof where it could best catch the breeze and be kept cooler than the rest of the house. where Eglon had his throne. Ehud said, “Your Majesty, I need to talk with you in private.”
Eglon replied, “Don't say anything yet!” His officials left the room, and Eglon stood up as Ehud came closer.
“Yes,” Ehud said, “I have a message for you from God!” 21Ehud pulled out the dagger with his left hand and shoved it so far into Eglon's stomach 22-23that even the handle was buried in his fat. Ehud left the dagger there. Then after closing and locking the doors to the room, he climbed through a window onto the porch#3.22,23 he climbed … porch: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text. 24and left.
When the king's officials came back and saw that the doors were locked, they said, “The king is probably inside relieving himself.” 25They stood there waiting until they felt foolish, but Eglon still didn't open the doors. Finally, they unlocked the doors and found King Eglon lying dead on the floor. 26But by that time, Ehud had already escaped past the statues.#3.26 statues: See the note at 3.19,20.
Ehud went to the town of Seirah 27-28in the hill country of Ephraim and started blowing a trumpet as a signal to call the Israelites together. When they came, he shouted, “Follow me! The Lord will help us defeat the Moabites.”
The Israelites followed Ehud down to the Jordan valley, and they captured the places where people cross the river on the way to Moab. They would not let anyone go across, 29and before the fighting was over, they killed about 10,000 Moabite warriors—not one escaped alive.
30Moab was so badly defeated that it was a long time before they were strong enough to attack Israel again. And Israel was at peace for 80 years.
31Shamgar the son of Anath was the next to rescue Israel. In one battle, he used a sharp wooden pole#3.31 sharp wooden pole: The Hebrew text has “cattle prod,” a pole with a sharpened tip or metal point at one end. to kill 600 Philistines.