Judges 3

1 These are the nations the LORD left to test all those Israelites who had not experienced any of the wars in Canaan
2 (he did this only to teach warfare to the descendants of the Israelites who had not had previous battle experience):
3 the five rulers of the Philistines, all the Canaanites, the Sidonians, and the Hivites living in the Lebanon mountains from Mount Baal Hermon to Lebo Hamath.
4 They were left to test the Israelites to see whether they would obey the LORD’s commands, which he had given their ancestors through Moses.
5 The Israelites lived among the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites.
6 They took their daughters in marriage and gave their own daughters to their sons, and served their gods.


7 The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD; they forgot the LORD their God and served the Baals and the Asherahs.
8 The anger of the LORD burned against Israel so that he sold them into the hands of Cushan-Rishathaim king of Aram Naharaim,[a] to whom the Israelites were subject for eight years.
9 But when they cried out to the LORD, he raised up for them a deliverer, Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother, who saved them.
10 The Spirit of the LORD came on him, so that he became Israel’s judge[b] and went to war. The LORD gave Cushan-Rishathaim king of Aram into the hands of Othniel, who overpowered him.
11 So the land had peace for forty years, until Othniel son of Kenaz died.


12 Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD, and because they did this evil the LORD gave Eglon king of Moab power over Israel.
13 Getting the Ammonites and Amalekites to join him, Eglon came and attacked Israel, and they took possession of the City of Palms.[c]
14 The Israelites were subject to Eglon king of Moab for eighteen years.
15 Again the Israelites cried out to the LORD, and he gave them a deliverer—Ehud, a left-handed man, the son of Gera the Benjamite. The Israelites sent him with tribute to Eglon king of Moab.
16 Now Ehud had made a double-edged sword about a cubit[d] long, which he strapped to his right thigh under his clothing.
17 He presented the tribute to Eglon king of Moab, who was a very fat man.
18 After Ehud had presented the tribute, he sent on their way those who had carried it.
19 But on reaching the stone images near Gilgal he himself went back to Eglon and said, “Your Majesty, I have a secret message for you.” The king said to his attendants, “Leave us!” And they all left.
20 Ehud then approached him while he was sitting alone in the upper room of his palace[e] and said, “I have a message from God for you.” As the king rose from his seat,
21 Ehud reached with his left hand, drew the sword from his right thigh and plunged it into the king’s belly.
22 Even the handle sank in after the blade, and his bowels discharged. Ehud did not pull the sword out, and the fat closed in over it.
23 Then Ehud went out to the porch[f] ; he shut the doors of the upper room behind him and locked them.
24 After he had gone, the servants came and found the doors of the upper room locked. They said, “He must be relieving himself in the inner room of the palace.”
25 They waited to the point of embarrassment, but when he did not open the doors of the room, they took a key and unlocked them. There they saw their lord fallen to the floor, dead.
26 While they waited, Ehud got away. He passed by the stone images and escaped to Seirah.
27 When he arrived there, he blew a trumpet in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites went down with him from the hills, with him leading them.
28 “Follow me,” he ordered, “for the LORD has given Moab, your enemy, into your hands.” So they followed him down and took possession of the fords of the Jordan that led to Moab; they allowed no one to cross over.
29 At that time they struck down about ten thousand Moabites, all vigorous and strong; not one escaped.
30 That day Moab was made subject to Israel, and the land had peace for eighty years.


31 After Ehud came Shamgar son of Anath, who struck down six hundred Philistines with an oxgoad. He too saved Israel.

Judges 3 Commentary

Chapter 3

The nations left to prove Israel. (1-7) Othniel delivers Israel. (8-11) Ehud delivers Israel from Eglon. (12-30) Shamgar delivers and judges Israel. (31)

Verses 1-7 As the Israelites were a type of the church on earth, they were not to be idle and slothful. The Lord was pleased to try them by the remains of the devoted nations they spared. Temptations and trials detect the wickedness of the hearts of sinners; and strengthen he graces of believers in their daily conflict with Satan, sin, and this evil world. They must live in this world, but they are not of it, and are forbidden to conform to it. This marks the difference between the followers of Christ and mere professors. The friendship of the world is more fatal than its enmity; the latter can only kill the body, but the former murders many precious souls.

Verses 8-11 The first judge was Othniel: even in Joshua's time Othniel began to be famous. Soon after Israel's settlement in Canaan their purity began to be corrupted, and their peace disturbed. But affliction makes those cry to God who before would scarcely speak to him. God returned in mercy to them for their deliverance. The Spirit of the Lord came upon Othniel. The Spirit of wisdom and courage to qualify him for the service, and the Spirit of power to excite him to it. He first judged Israel, reproved and reformed them, and then went to war. Let sin at home be conquered, that worst of enemies, then enemies abroad will be more easily dealt with. Thus let Christ be our Judge and Lawgiver, then he will save us.

Verses 12-30 When Israel sins again, God raises up a new oppressor. The Israelites did ill, and the Moabites did worse; yet because God punishes the sins of his own people in this world, Israel is weakened, and Moab strengthened against them. If lesser troubles do not do the work, God will send greater. When Israel prays again, God raises up Ehud. As a judge, or minister of Divine justice, Ehud put to death Eglon, the king of Moab, and thus executed the judgments of God upon him as an enemy to God and Israel. But the law of being subject to principalities and powers in all things lawful, is the rule of our conduct. No such commissions are now given; to pretend to them is to blaspheme God. Notice Ehud's address to Eglon. What message from God but a message of vengeance can a proud rebel expect? Such a message is contained in the word of God; his ministers are boldly to declare it, without fearing the frown, or respecting the persons of sinners. But, blessed be God, they have to deliver a message of mercy and of free salvation; the message of vengeance belongs only to those who neglect the offers of grace. The consequence of this victory was, that the land had rest eighty years. It was a great while for the land to rest; yet what is that to the saints' everlasting rest in the heavenly Canaan.

Verse 31 The side of the country which lay south-west, was infested by the Philistines. God raised up Shamgar to deliver them; having neither sword nor spear, he took an ox-goad, the instrument next at hand. God can make those serviceable to his glory and to his church's good, whose birth, education, and employment, are mean and obscure. It is no matter what the weapon is, if God directs and strengthens the arm. Often he works by unlikely means, that the excellency of the power may appear to be of God.

Cross References 54

  • 1. S Exodus 15:25; Judges 2:21-22
  • 2. S Joshua 13:3
  • 3. S Genesis 10:14
  • 4. S Genesis 10:17; S Exodus 3:8
  • 5. S Deuteronomy 3:8
  • 6. S Numbers 13:21
  • 7. S Exodus 15:25; Deuteronomy 8:2; Judges 2:22
  • 8. Psalms 106:35
  • 9. S Joshua 3:10
  • 10. S Joshua 11:3; Ezra 9:1
  • 11. Ezra 10:18; Nehemiah 13:23; Malachi 2:11
  • 12. S Exodus 34:16; Deuteronomy 7:3-4
  • 13. S Deuteronomy 7:16
  • 14. Deuteronomy 4:9; S Deuteronomy 32:18; Judges 8:34; Psalms 78:11,42; Psalms 106:7; Jeremiah 23:27
  • 15. S Exodus 34:13; S Judges 2:11,13; 1 Kings 16:33; 2 Chronicles 34:7; Isaiah 17:8
  • 16. Judges 2:14; Psalms 44:12; Isaiah 50:1; Isaiah 52:3
  • 17. ver 10
  • 18. S Genesis 24:10
  • 19. ver 15; Judges 6:6,7; Judges 10:10; 1 Samuel 12:10; Psalms 106:44; Psalms 107:13
  • 20. S Deuteronomy 28:29; Nehemiah 9:27
  • 21. S Joshua 15:17; Judges 1:13
  • 22. S Numbers 11:25,29; Numbers 24:2; Judges 6:34; Judges 11:29; Judges 13:25; Judges 14:6,19; Judges 15:14; 1 Samuel 11:6; 1 Samuel 16:13; 1 Kings 18:46; 1 Chronicles 12:18; 2Ch Numbers 24:20; Isaiah 11:2
  • 23. ver 8
  • 24. S Genesis 10:22
  • 25. ver 30; S Joshua 14:15; Judges 5:31; Judges 8:28
  • 26. S Exodus 16:35
  • 27. S Joshua 15:17
  • 28. S Judges 2:11,14
  • 29. 1 Samuel 12:9
  • 30. S Genesis 19:38; Judges 10:11
  • 31. S Genesis 14:7
  • 32. S Judges 1:16
  • 33. Jeremiah 48:1
  • 34. S ver 9; Psalms 78:34; Psalms 107:13
  • 35. ver 16; Judges 4:1
  • 36. Judges 20:16; 1 Chronicles 12:2
  • 37. ver 17,18; 2 Samuel 8:2,6; 1 Kings 4:21; 2 Kings 17:3; Esther 10:1; Psalms 68:29; Psalms 72:10; Psalms 89:22; Ecclesiastes 2:8; Isaiah 60:5; Hosea 10:6
  • 38. S ver 15
  • 39. S ver 15
  • 40. Job 15:27; Psalms 73:4; ver 12
  • 41. Amos 3:15
  • 42. Nehemiah 8:5
  • 43. 2 Samuel 2:16; 2 Samuel 3:27; 2 Samuel 20:10
  • 44. 1 Samuel 24:3
  • 45. 2 Kings 2:17; 2 Kings 8:11
  • 46. S Leviticus 25:9; Judges 6:34; Judges 7:18; 2 Samuel 2:28; Isaiah 18:3; Jeremiah 42:14; 1 Samuel 13:3
  • 47. S Genesis 19:37
  • 48. S Joshua 2:24; S Judges 1:2; Judges 7:9,15
  • 49. S Numbers 13:29; S Joshua 2:7; Judges 7:24; Judges 12:5
  • 50. S Genesis 36:35
  • 51. S ver 11
  • 52. Judges 5:6
  • 53. S Joshua 23:10
  • 54. Joshua 13:2; Judges 10:11; Judges 13:1; 1 Samuel 5:1; 1 Samuel 31:1; 2 Samuel 8:1; Jeremiah 25:20; Jeremiah 47:1

Footnotes 6

  • [a]. That is, Northwest Mesopotamia
  • [b]. Or "leader"
  • [c]. That is, Jericho
  • [d]. That is, about 18 inches or about 45 centimeters
  • [e]. The meaning of the Hebrew for this word is uncertain; also in verse 24.
  • [f]. The meaning of the Hebrew for this word is uncertain.

Chapter Summary


This chapter gives an account of the nations left in Canaan to prove Israel, and who became a snare unto them, Jud 3:1-7; and of the servitude of Israel under the king of Mesopotamia for their sins, from which they were delivered by Othniel, Jud 3:8-11; and of their subjection to the Moabites, from which they were freed by Ehud, who privately assassinated the king of Moab, and then made his escape, Jud 3:12-30; and of the destruction of a large number of Philistines by Shamgar, with an ox goad, Jud 3:31.

Judges 3 Commentaries

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