1These are the nations the Lord allowed to remain, so that through them he might test Israel, all those who had not experienced any of the Canaanite wars— 2to teach warfare to those generations of Israelites who had never experienced it: 3#a. [3:3] Jos 13:2–5. the five lords of the Philistines,#The Philistines: a people of Aegean origin who settled on the coastal plain of southern Canaan in the twelfth century B.C.; from their name derives the geographic designation Palestine. Israel competed for control of the country against a group of their cities: Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Gath, and Ekron. and all the Canaanites, the Sidonians, and the Hivites who lived in the mountain region of the Lebanon between Baal-hermon and Lebo-hamath. 4These served as a test for Israel, to know whether they would obey the commandments the Lord had enjoined on their ancestors through Moses. 5So the Israelites settled among the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites.#b. [3:5] Ex 3:8, 17; 23:23; 33:2; 34:11; Dt 7:1; 20:17; Jos 3:10; 24:11. 6They took their daughters in marriage, and gave their own daughters to their sons in marriage,#c. [3:6] Ex 34:16; Dt 7:3; Jos 23:12. and served their gods.
II. STORIES OF THE JUDGES
7#d. [3:7–8] Jgs 2:11–14. Then the Israelites did what was evil in the sight of the Lord; they forgot the Lord, their God, and served the Baals and the Asherahs,#The Asherahs: Asherah was an important goddess, whose presence in the cult was represented by a wooden pole, also called an “asherah”; see notes on Ex 34:13 and Dt 7:5. Here the plural is used to refer to goddesses in general. 8and the anger of the Lord flared up against them. He sold them into the power of Cushan-rishathaim,#Cushan-rishathaim: this king is not known from other biblical or extrabiblical sources. His title, “king of Aram Naharaim,” indicates that he was a Mesopotamian ruler. king of Aram Naharaim; and the Israelites served Cushan-rishathaim for eight years. 9But when the Israelites cried out to the Lord,#e. [3:9] Jgs 3:15; 4:3; 6:6, 7; 10:10; 1 Sm 12:8, 10. he raised up a savior for them, to save them. It was Othniel, son of Caleb’s younger brother Kenaz.#f. [3:9] Jgs 1:13. 10The spirit of the Lord came upon him,#g. [3:10] Jgs 6:34; 11:29; 13:25; 14:6, 19; 15:14; 1 Sm 11:6. and he judged Israel. When he marched out to war, the Lord delivered Cushan-rishathaim, king of Aram, into his power, and his hold on Cushan-rishathaim was firm. 11So the land was at rest for forty years,#h. [3:11] Jgs 3:30; 5:31; 8:28. until Othniel, son of Kenaz, died.
12Again the Israelites did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, so he strengthened Eglon, king of Moab, against Israel because they did what was evil in the sight of the Lord. 13Taking the Ammonites and Amalek as allies, he went and defeated Israel, taking possession of the City of Palms. 14So the Israelites served Eglon, king of Moab, for eighteen years.
15But when the Israelites cried out to the Lord, he raised up for them a savior, Ehud, son of Gera, a Benjaminite who was left-handed.#Left-handed: this detail is important because it shows why Ehud is able to conceal a weapon on his right thigh (3:16). There is also a wordplay involved, since “Benjaminite” in Hebrew could also mean “right-handed man.” The Israelites would send their tribute to Eglon, king of Moab, by him. 16Ehud made himself a two-edged dagger a foot long, and strapped it under his clothes on his right thigh. 17He presented the tribute to Eglon, king of Moab; now Eglon was a very fat man. 18When he had finished presenting the tribute, he dismissed the troops who had carried the tribute. 19But he himself turned back at the sculptured stones near Gilgal, and said, “I have a secret message for you, O king.” And the king said, “Silence!” Then when all his attendants had left his presence, 20Ehud went in to him where he sat alone in his cool upper room. Ehud said, “I have a word from God for you.” So the king rose from his throne. 21Then Ehud with his left hand drew the dagger from his right thigh, and thrust it into Eglon’s belly. 22The hilt also went in after the blade, and the fat closed over the blade because he did not withdraw the dagger from the body.
23Then Ehud went out onto the porch, shutting the doors of the upper room on Eglon and locking them. 24When Ehud had left and the servants had come, they saw that the doors of the upper room were locked, and thought, “He must be easing himself in the cool chamber.” 25They waited until they were at a loss when he did not open the doors of the upper room. So they took the key and opened them, and there was their lord lying on the floor, dead.
26During their delay Ehud escaped and, passing the sculptured stones, took refuge in Seirah. 27On his arrival he sounded the horn in the mountain region of Ephraim, and the Israelites went down from the mountains with him as their leader. 28“Follow me,” he said to them, “for the Lord has delivered your enemies the Moabites into your power.”#i. [3:28] Nm 21:34; Dt 2:24; Jos 2:24; Jgs 4:7, 14; 7:7, 9, 15. So they followed him down and seized the fords of the Jordan against the Moabites, permitting no one to cross. 29On that occasion they slew about ten thousand Moabites, all of them strong warriors. Not one escaped. 30So Moab was brought under the power of Israel#j. [3:30] Jgs 8:28; 11:23; 1 Sm 7:13. at that time; and the land had rest for eighty years.#k. [3:30] Jgs 3:11; 5:31; 8:28.
31After him there was Shamgar,#Shamgar is the first of the so-called minor judges; cf. Introduction. son of Anath,#l. [3:31] Jgs 5:6. who slew six hundred Philistines with an oxgoad.#m. [3:31] Jgs 15:15; 2 Sm 23:8, 18. He, too, was a savior for Israel.