Judges 3:12-18: Ehud, Part 1

[circa 1354 BC] Verse 12:[1] (Judg. 2:19) And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the LORD: and the LORD strengthened (1 Sam. 12:9) Eglon the king of Moab against Israel, because they had done evil in the sight of the LORD.

[Evil in the sight of the Lord] A thing ungrateful to God, who sees all things (Vatablus).

[Who strengthened Eglon against them] That is, by adding courage and strength, by furnishing occasions (Martyr, Lapide, Bonfrerius), by removing impediments, and by weakening the strength of the Hebrews (Lapide).

Strengthened Eglon, by giving him courage, and power, and success against them.


Verse 13:[2] And he gathered unto him the children of Ammon and (Judg. 5:14) Amalek, and went and smote Israel, and possessed (Judg. 1:16) the city of palm trees.

[He gathered unto him[3]] Who? Either, God (Cajetan in Bonfrerius, Martyr); or, King Eglon gathered to himself (thus Munster, Pagnine, Tigurinus, Martyr, Septuagint). Both are true, for, with God helping, Eglon joined to himself (Menochius). The Hebrew words are able to be rendered in either way (Bonfrerius).

[Ammon and Amalek] It was an easy thing to join these to himself as allies in war. 1. He was in the middle between them. 2. The Ammonites were almost always confederate with the Moabites.[4] 3. He added the Amalekites, etc.; they had an old hatred against the Israelites[5] (Bonfrerius).

[He possessed the city of palm trees] That is, Jericho (Jonathan, Junius and Tremellius, Piscator, Lapide, Bonfrerius), as it is evident out of Judges 1:16, and out of Deuteronomy 34:3 (Junius) and 2 Chronicles 28:15. Not that the city of Jericho was standing at that time, but that they were fortifying that territory and the neighboring places around with garrisons (Bonfrerius). The city of Jericho was inhabited by the Israelites before this time, and yet the curse of Joshua had not touched them.[6] Evidently that had regard to the family and kin of Rahab, lest they should restore it as a Canaanite city: And Hiel, who, undertaking this in the time of Ahab, was punished, was of her stock (Lightfoot). Now, the reasons why he was possessing those places rather than others were various (Bonfrerius). For this was a most fertile and wealthy region, and was near Jordan, so that from Moab, situated on the other side of Jordan, it was an easy passage to Jericho; and so that, with the fords of Jordan occupied, he might separate the Trans-Jordanian Israelites from the Cis-Jordanian Israelites, lest they should be able to help each other (Lapide, Bonfrerius).

[He possessed] Hebrew: they possessed.[7] He possessed, not by himself, but by his men, who he sent to occupy those places (Bonfrerius). Others understand a certain city in the territory of Jericho possessed by him (Vatablus).

The city of palm trees: that is, Jericho, as may be gathered from Deuteronomy 34:3; Judges 1:16; 2 Chronicles 28:15. Not the city, which was demolished, but the territory belonging to it. Here he fixed his camp, partly for the admirable fertility of that soil; and partly because of its nearness to the passage over Jordan, which was most commodious, both for the conjunction of his own forces, which lay on both sides of Jordan; and to prevent the conjunction of the Israelites in Canaan with their brethren beyond Jordan; and to secure his retreat into his own country, which therefore the Israelites prevented, Judges 3:28.


Verse 14:[8] So the children of Israel (Deut. 28:49) served Eglon the king of Moab eighteen years.


[circa 1336 BC] Verse 15:[9] But when the children of Israel (Judg. 3:9; Ps. 78:34) cried unto the LORD, the LORD raised them up a deliverer, Ehud the son of Gera, a Benjamite (or, the son of Gemini[10]), a man lefthanded (Heb. shut of his right hand;[11] Judg. 20:16): and by him the children of Israel sent a present unto Eglon the king of Moab.

[Son of Gemini] That is, of the tribe of Benjamin (Lapide, Bonfrerius, Menochius, Tirinus). For Shimei was also a son Gimini of the tribe of Benjamin, 2 Samuel 16:5;[12] 19:18; 1 Kings 2:8[13] (Lapide). בֶּן־הַיְמִינִי, Ben-jemini, which is often rendered son of Jemini, is able to be a patronymic name, and to signify the same thing as a Benjamite. Where the oppression of the tyrant was greater, thence the Savior comes forth (Bonfrerius).

A Benjamite; Hebrew, the son of Gemini, who was of the tribe of Benjamin, 2 Samuel 16:11; 19:17; 1 Kings 2:8. This tribe was next to him and doubtless most afflicted by him; and hence God raiseth a deliverer.

[Who was making use of both hands as a right hand] But no one makes use of the right hand as a right hand, since it is the right hand itself; nor the lest hand as a right hand, for it is the left (Montanus’ Commentary).

[אִ֥ישׁ אִטֵּ֖ר יַד־יְמִינ֑וֹ] A man stopped up, or, shut up, or closed (contracted [Munster], seized [Pagnine], impeded [Jonathan], impotent [Syriac], withered [Arabic]) in his right hand (Montanus, Tigurinus, Piscator, Osiander, Junius and Tremellius). Thus a great many of the Hebrews; likewise Cajetan, Forster,[14] Mercerus, Buxtorf,[15] Schindler,[16] and a great many others (Malvenda). Lefthanded, or a lefthanded man, who was making use only of his left hand, and whose right hand was contracted, and he was not able to make use of it (Vatablus, similarly Castalio, Piscator, Drusius, Montanus’ Commentary). Which Scripture here commemorates, whereby it might commend that deed and work of God as all the more extraordinary (Munster). God is wont generally to use the infirm and inept to accomplish illustrious deeds (Martyr). The verb אָטַר/atar is found only once in Scripture, Psalm 69:15 (Malvenda), where they translate it, let not the pit shut, etc.[17] (Bonfrerius). But אִטֵּר/itter occurs only twice, here, and in Judges 20:16[18] (Malvenda). [This translation is not satisfying to others, namely, to the patrons of the Vulgate version.] One Jerome is worth more to me than all the Rabbis (Bonfrerius). But the Septuagint also has ἀμφοτεροδέξιον/ambidextrous. This is of great advantage and glory to a soldier, Homer’s Iliad 2 concerning Asteropaios.[19] Hipponactes in Galen,[20] I am ambidextrous, and in striking I do not miss (Lapide). Moreover, those Benjamites in Judges 20 are commended because they are אִטֵּרִים/itterim. But what is the commendation to be lefthanded, since the use of the righthand is better? And who would believe that so many warriors of one city would be lefthanded? but all were able to be ambidexterous, since by use and frequence exercise this is able to be acquired (Bonfrerius). With respect to the verb אָטַר, 1. It is able to be translated otherwise in Psalm 69:15, let it not encircle/crown over me (Jerome), for the mouth of a round pit, while it is covered with a circular lid, is crowned, as it were, by it; so that אָטַר is related to עָטַר, to crown, to encircle. Let not the pit open its mouth upon me, in the Chaldean and Marinus,[21] that is, that it might devour me. Thus in this place, according to them, he is said to be open in his right hand, who on either side has a right hand open and unencumbered to fight (Lapide). 2. But let us grant that אָטַר signifies this (Bonfrerius): Then the ambidexterous man is said to be closed, that is, shut up, restricted, enclosed in his right hand, because he, making use of either hand as a right hand, is surrounded and protected on both sides completely by a right hand as a defender (Lapide): or because, although he is able to make use of the right hand, nevertheless, when he pleases and wishes to make use of the left, he closes and restrains the right (Bonfrerius). I rather believe that he was lefthanded, from verse 21. That sort of man is wont to be strenuous, active, and daring (Malvenda).

Lefthanded; which is here noted, partly as a mark of his courage, and strength, and activity; see Judges 20:16; and principally as a considerable circumstance in the following story, whereby he might more advantageously and unsuspectedly give the deadly blow.


Verse 16:[22] But Ehud made him a dagger which had two edges, of a cubit length; and he did gird it under his raiment upon his right thigh.

[A two edged sword, וְלָ֛הּ שְׁנֵ֥י פֵי֖וֹת] And to it two mouths[23] (Montanus, similarly the Septuagint), that is, it had two edges (Lapide, Junius, Piscator, Vatablus); it was cutting from either direction (Vatablus).

[Of the length of the palm[24]] Or, of a span (Septuagint), of the length that can be held in the hand (Syriac). Now, understand palm here, not the lesser, or of four fingers, but the greater, or a spithama, which is of twelve fingers, or half a cubit (Bonfrerius out of Lapide). Moreover, the lesser cubit is equal to the spithama (Lapide).

[גֹּ֣מֶד אָרְכָּ֑הּ] A cubit the length of it (Montanus, Jonathan, similarly Munster, Pagnine, Tigurinus, Junius and Tremellius, Arabic, Drusius, Hebrews in Munster). גֺּמֶד is found only once in Scripture, and that is here; and and all interpret it as cubit, from the other word גַּמָּדִים/Gammadim, Ezekiel 27:11, which they render Pygmies, that is, of a cubit in height (Malvenda). [Concerning which see the things to be noted on that place, σὺν θεῷ, Lord willing.] He chose one of a cubit in length, so that it might be more easily hidden (Martyr).

A cubit length; long enough for his design, and not too long for carriage and concealment.

[On his right thigh] Either, 1. after the manner of Easterners; Lipsius on Tacitus.[25] The Barbarians were bearing their swords on the right side: the Gauls in Diodorus’ Historical Library[26] 5; the Germans in Strabo;[27] the Parthians in Valerius Flaccus’ Argonautica[28] 6, distinguished for his gauntlets, distinguished for the scimitar on his right side. So also the Romans, as some maintain from Polybius;[29] but they err. The contrary is evident from Josephus’ Jewish War 3:3, and Cæsar’s Commentary 5 “concerning a Repulse” (Lipsius in Gataker[30]). Or, 2. so that the thing might be less liable to suspicion; for strikes that proceed from the left hand are wont hardly to be feared and to be guarded against (Bonfrerius). Or, 3. so that with the left hand, in which alone he was strong, he might be able to draw it conveniently (Martyr).

Upon his right thigh; which was most convenient, both for the use of his left hand, and for the avoiding of suspicion.


Verse 17:[31] And he brought the present unto Eglon king of Moab: and Eglon was a very fat man.

The present was to be paid to him as a part of his tribute.

[Exceedingly thick, בָּרִ֖יא מְאֹֽד׃] Very fat (Jonathan, Pagnine, Montanus, Junius and Tremellius, Tigurinus), or, thick (Munster). They that live in pleasures, and eat and drink in great abundance, are wont to be such (Martyr).

A very fat man, and therefore more unwieldy and unable to ward off Ehud’s blow.


Verse 18:[32] And when he had made an end to offer the present, he sent away the people that bare the present.

[He followed his companions] Hebrew: and he sent away the people,[33] so that he might be the less encumbered for the deed, and lest he should bring danger to others, should he fail to succeed (Menochius, similarly Bonfrerius). It was easier to snatch one from danger than many, and a crowd is often wont to be an impediment in conducting a matter, especially when it is secret (Bonfrerius). Conspiracies communicated to many rarely succeed (Martyr).

He sent away the people that bare the present: He accompanied them part of the way, and then dismissed them, and returned to Eglon alone, that so he might have more easy access to him, and privacy with him; and that he might the better make his escape.

[1] Hebrew: וַיֹּסִ֙פוּ֙ בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל לַעֲשׂ֥וֹת הָרַ֖ע בְּעֵינֵ֣י יְהוָ֑ה וַיְחַזֵּ֙ק יְהוָ֜ה אֶת־עֶגְל֤וֹן מֶֽלֶךְ־מוֹאָב֙ עַל־יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל עַ֛ל כִּֽי־עָשׂ֥וּ אֶת־הָרַ֖ע בְּעֵינֵ֥י יְהוָֽה׃

[2] Hebrew: וַיֶּאֱסֹ֣ף אֵלָ֔יו אֶת־בְּנֵ֥י עַמּ֖וֹן וַעֲמָלֵ֑ק וַיֵּ֗לֶךְ וַיַּךְ֙ אֶת־יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל וַיִּֽירְשׁ֖וּ אֶת־עִ֥יר הַתְּמָרִֽים׃

[3] Hebrew: וַיֶּאֱסֹ֣ף אֵלָ֔יו.

[4] See Genesis 19:37, 38.

[5] See Exodus 17:8-16.

[6] See Joshua 6:26.

[7] Hebrew: וַיִּירְשׁוּ.

[8] Hebrew: וַיַּעַבְד֤וּ בְנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ אֶת־עֶגְל֣וֹן מֶֽלֶךְ־מוֹאָ֔ב שְׁמוֹנֶ֥ה עֶשְׂרֵ֖ה שָׁנָֽה׃

[9] Hebrew: וַיִּזְעֲק֣וּ בְנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵל֮ אֶל־יְהוָה֒ וַיָּקֶם֩ יְהוָ֙ה לָהֶ֜ם מוֹשִׁ֗יעַ אֶת־אֵה֤וּד בֶּן־גֵּרָא֙ בֶּן־הַיְמִינִ֔י אִ֥ישׁ אִטֵּ֖ר יַד־יְמִינ֑וֹ וַיִּשְׁלְח֙וּ בְנֵי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֤ל בְּיָדוֹ֙ מִנְחָ֔ה לְעֶגְל֖וֹן מֶ֥לֶךְ מוֹאָֽב׃

[10] Hebrew: בֶּן־הַיְמִינִי.

[11] Hebrew: אִטֵּ֖ר יַד־יְמִינ֑וֹ.

[12] 2 Samuel 16:5, 11:  “And when king David came to Bahurim, behold, thence came out a man of the family of the house of Saul, whose name was Shimei, the son of Gera:  he came forth, and cursed still as he came….  And David said to Abishai, and to all his servants, Behold, my son, which came forth of my bowels, seeketh my life:  how much more now may this Benjamite (בֶּן־הַיְמִינִי, or, son of Gemini) do it? let him alone, and let him curse; for the Lord hath bidden him.”

[13] 1 Kings 2:8:  “And, behold, thou hast with thee Shimei the son of Gera, a Benjamite (בֶן־הַיְמִינִי, or, son of Gemini) of Bahurim, which cursed me with a grievous curse in the day when I went to Mahanaim:  but he came down to meet me at Jordan, and I sware to him by the Lord, saying, I will not put thee to death with the sword.”

[14] Johann Forster (1495-1556) was a German Hebraist, author of Dictionarium Hebraicum.

[15] John Buxtorf (1599-1664) labored as Professor of Oriental languages at Calvinistic Basel.  His scholarship in Hebrew and Rabbinic learning was such that he was known as “Master of the Rabbis.”  He produced an important Lexicon Hebraicum et Chaldaicum.

[16] Valentine Schindler (died 1604) was a Lutheran Hebraist.  He was Professor of Oriental Languages at Wittenberg and at Helmstadt, and he published Lexicon Pentaglotton: Hebraicum, Chaldicum, Syriacum, Talmudico-Rabbinicum, et Arabicum.

[17] Psalm 69:15:  “Let not the waterflood overflow me, neither let the deep swallow me up, and let not the pit shut (תֶּאְטַר) her mouth upon me.”

[18] Judges 20:16:  “Among all this people there were seven hundred chosen men lefthanded (אִטֵּ֖ר יַד־יְמִינ֑וֹ); every one could sling stones at an hair breadth, and not miss.”

[19] Asteropaios was an ambidexterous leader of the Pæonians, allied to the Trojans, in the Trojan War.  He engaged in one-on-one combat with Achilles; although Asteropaios was defeated by Achilles and killed, he was the only Trojan to have the distinction of drawing Achilles’ blood.

[20] Claudius Galenus of Pergamum (129-200 AD) was an innovative Greek physician.

[21] Marcus Marinus was a sixteenth century Hebrew scholar and papal inquisitor/ censor.  He deleted from the Basel Talmud five chapters, which reflected negatively upon Christianity.

[22] Hebrew: וַיַּעַשׂ֩ ל֙וֹ אֵה֜וּד חֶ֗רֶב וְלָ֛הּ שְׁנֵ֥י פֵי֖וֹת גֹּ֣מֶד אָרְכָּ֑הּ וַיַּחְגֹּ֤ר אוֹתָהּ֙ מִתַּ֣חַת לְמַדָּ֔יו עַ֖ל יֶ֥רֶךְ יְמִינֽוֹ׃

[23] A woodenly literalistic rendering.

[24] Thus the Vulgate.

[25] Justus Lipsius (1547-1606) was a Flemish philologist and historian.  He produced an edition of Tacitus.

[26] Diodorus Siculus (c. 90-c. 30 BC), a Greek historian, wrote the massive Bibliotheca Historica in forty books.  Unhappily, only fifteen books have survived.

[27] Geography 4:4.

[28] Gaius Valerius Flaccus was a first century Roman poet.  Only his Argonautica, a poetic account of Jason’s quest for the Golden Fleece, survives.

[29] Polybius (c. 203-120 BC) was a Greek historian, remembered for his The Rise of the Roman Empire, or The Histories.

[30] Thomas Gataker (1574-1654) was an English churchman, theologian, and critic, of great reputation in his own day.  On account of his great learning, he was invited to sit as a member of the Assembly of Divines at Westminster.  His abilities as a critic are on display in his commentaries on Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Lamentation, found in the English Annotations.

[31] Hebrew: וַיַּקְרֵב֙ אֶת־הַמִּנְחָ֔ה לְעֶגְל֖וֹן מֶ֣לֶךְ מוֹאָ֑ב וְעֶגְל֕וֹן אִ֥ישׁ בָּרִ֖יא מְאֹֽד׃

[32] Hebrew: וַֽיְהִי֙ כַּאֲשֶׁ֣ר כִּלָּ֔ה לְהַקְרִ֖יב אֶת־הַמִּנְחָ֑ה וַיְשַׁלַּח֙ אֶת־הָעָ֔ם נֹשְׂאֵ֖י הַמִּנְחָֽה׃

[33] Hebrew: וַיְשַׁלַּח֙ אֶת־הָעָ֔ם.

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