Judges 3 Bible Commentary

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

(Read all of Judges 3)

Verse 1

[1] Now these are the nations which the LORD left, to prove Israel by them, even as many of Israel as had not known all the wars of Canaan;

Had not known — That is, such as had no experience of those wars, nor of God's extraordinary power and providence manifested in them.

Verse 2

[2] Only that the generations of the children of Israel might know, to teach them war, at the least such as before knew nothing thereof;

Teach them war — That by the neighbourhood of such warlike enemies, they might be purged from sloth and security, and obliged them to innure themselves to martial exercises, and to stand continually upon their guard, and consequently to keep close to that God whose assistance they had so great and constant need of.

Verse 3

[3] Namely, five lords of the Philistines, and all the Canaanites, and the Sidonians, and the Hivites that dwelt in mount Lebanon, from mount Baalhermon unto the entering in of Hamath.

Five lords — Whereof three had been in some sort subdued, chap. 1:18. but afterwards recovered their strength.

Canaanites — Properly so called, who were very numerous, and dispersed through several parts of the land, whence they gave denomination to all the rest of the people.

Zidonions — The people living near Zidon, and subject to its jurisdiction.

Baal-hermon — Which was the eastern part about Lebanon.

Verse 4

[4] And they were to prove Israel by them, to know whether they would hearken unto the commandments of the LORD, which he commanded their fathers by the hand of Moses.

To know — That is, that they and others might know by experience.

Verse 6

[6] And they took their daughters to be their wives, and gave their daughters to their sons, and served their gods.

Served their gods — Were drawn to idolatry by the persuasions and examples of their yoke-fellows.

Verse 7

[7] And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and forgat the LORD their God, and served Baalim and the groves.

And the groves — That is, in the groves, in which the Heathens usually worshipped their Baalim or idols.

Verse 8

[8] Therefore the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel, and he sold them into the hand of Chushanrishathaim king of Mesopotamia: and the children of Israel served Chushanrishathaim eight years.

Served — That is, were made subject to him. Mesopotamia was that part of Syria which lay between the two great rivers, Tigris and Euphrates. This lay at such a distance, that one would not have thought Israel's trouble should have come from such a far country: which shews so much the more of the hand of God in it.

Verse 9

[9] And when the children of Israel cried unto the LORD, the LORD raised up a deliverer to the children of Israel, who delivered them, even Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother.

Cried — That is, prayed fervently for deliverance.

Verse 10

[10] And the Spirit of the LORD came upon him, and he judged Israel, and went out to war: and the LORD delivered Chushanrishathaim king of Mesopotamia into his hand; and his hand prevailed against Chushanrishathaim.

Came upon him — With extraordinary influence, endowing him with singular wisdom and courage, and stirring him up to this great undertaking.

Judged Israel — That is, pleaded and avenged the cause of Israel against their oppressors.

Verse 11

[11] And the land had rest forty years. And Othniel the son of Kenaz died.

Forty years — It rested about forty years, or the greatest part of forty years: it being most frequent in scripture to use numbers in such a latitude. Nor is it unusual either in scripture, or in other authors, for things to be denominated from the greater part; especially, when they enjoyed some degrees of rest and peace even in their times of slavery.

Verse 12

[12] And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the LORD: and the LORD strengthened Eglon the king of Moab against Israel, because they had done evil in the sight of the LORD.

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

Verse 13

[13] And he gathered unto him the children of Ammon and Amalek, and went and smote Israel, and possessed the city of palm trees.

City of Palm-trees — That is, Jericho. Not the city which was demolished, but the territory belonging to it. Here he fixed his camp, for the fertility of that soil, and 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; to prevent the conjunction of the Israelites in Canaan with their brethren beyond Jordan; and to secure his retreat into his own country.

Verse 14

[14] So the children of Israel served Eglon the king of Moab eighteen years.

Eighteen years — The former servitude lasted but eight years; this eighteen: for if smaller troubles do not the work, God will send greater.

Verse 15

[15] But when the children of Israel cried unto the LORD, the LORD raised them up a deliverer, Ehud the son of Gera, a Benjamite, a man lefthanded: and by him the children of Israel sent a present unto Eglon the king of Moab.

A Benjamite — This tribe was next to Eglon, and doubtless most afflicted by him; and hence God raiseth a deliverer.

Left handed — Which is here noted, as a considerable circumstance in the following story.

Verse 16

[16] 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 cubit length — Long enough for his design, and not too long for concealment.

His right thigh — Which was most convenient both for the use of his left hand, and for avoiding suspicion.

Verse 17

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

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

Verse 18

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

Sent the people — 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.

Verse 19

[19] But he himself turned again from the quarries that were by Gilgal, and said, I have a secret errand unto thee, O king: who said, Keep silence. And all that stood by him went out from him.

Turned again — As if he had forgot some important business.

Keep silence — 'Till my servants be gone: whom he would not have acquainted with a business which he supposed to be of great importance.

Verse 20

[20] And Ehud came unto him; and he was sitting in a summer parlour, which he had for himself alone. And Ehud said, I have a message from God unto thee. And he arose out of his seat.

A summer parlour — Into which he used to retire from company: which is mentioned as the reason why his servants waited so long ere they went in to him, verse 25.

A message — To be delivered not in words, but by actions. He designedly uses the name Elohim, which was common to the true God, and false ones; and not Jehovah, which was peculiar to the true God; because Ehud not knowing whether the message came; not from his own false god, he would more certainly rise, and thereby give Ehud more advantage for his blow; whereas he would possibly shew his contempt of the God of Israel by sitting still to hear his message.

He arose — In token of reverence to God.

Verse 23

[23] Then Ehud went forth through the porch, and shut the doors of the parlour upon him, and locked them.

Went forth — With a composed countenance and gait, being well assured, that God, who by his extraordinary call had put him upon that enterprise, would by his special providence carry him through it.

Upon him — Upon or after himself.

Locked them — Either pulling it close after him, as we do when doors have spring locks; or taking the key with him.

Verse 24

[24] When he was gone out, his servants came; and when they saw that, behold, the doors of the parlour were locked, they said, Surely he covereth his feet in his summer chamber.

Covereth his feet — This phrase is used only here, and 1 Samuel 24:3. A late judicious interpreter expounds it, of composing himself to take a little sleep, as was very usual to do in the day-time in those hot countries. And when they did so in cool places, such as this summer parlour unquestionably was, they used to cover their feet. And this may seem to be the more probable, both because the summer parlour was proper for this use, and because this was a more likely reason of their long waiting at his door, lest they should disturb his repose. And this sense best agrees with Saul's case in the cave, when being asleep, David could more securely cut off the lap of his garment.

Verse 25

[25] And they tarried till they were ashamed: and, behold, he opened not the doors of the parlour; therefore they took a key, and opened them: and, behold, their lord was fallen down dead on the earth.

Ashamed — Or, confounded, not knowing what to say or think; lest they should either disturb him, or be guilty of neglect towards him.

A key — Another key, it being usual in princes courts to have divers keys for the same door.

Verse 27

[27] And it came to pass, when he was come, that he blew a trumpet in the mountain of Ephraim, and the children of Israel went down with him from the mount, and he before them.

The children of Israel — Whom doubtless he had prepared by his emissaries gathered together in considerable numbers.

Verse 28

[28] And he said unto them, Follow after me: for the LORD hath delivered your enemies the Moabites into your hand. And they went down after him, and took the fords of Jordan toward Moab, and suffered not a man to pass over.

Fords of Jordan — Where they passed over Jordan, that neither the Moabites that were got into Canaan, might escape, nor any more Moabites come over Jordan to their succour.

Verse 30

[30] So Moab was subdued that day under the hand of Israel. And the land had rest fourscore years.

Fourscore years — Chiefly that part of it which lay east of Jordan: for the other side of the country, which lay south-west, was even then infested by the Philistines.

Verse 31

[31] And after him was Shamgar the son of Anath, which slew of the Philistines six hundred men with an ox goad: and he also delivered Israel.

An ox goad — As Samson did a thousand with the jaw-bone of an ass; both being miraculous actions, and not at all incredible to him that believes a God, who could easily give strength to effect this. It is probable Shamgar was following the plough, when the Philistines made an inroad into the country. And having neither sword nor spear, when God put it into his heart to oppose them, he took the instrument that was next at hand. It is no matter how weak the weapon is, if God direct and strengthen the arm.