Ehud Frees Israel
Taught September 24, 2023
Table of Contents
Watch & Listen
For the past couple of weeks, we have followed Joshua and the children of Israel as they entered into the Promised Land and began to take possession of the land. Our lesson this week takes us into the period of time between after Joshua’s passing away and Saul’s reign as king of Israel. This week, we will be taking a look at Ehud, a judge of Israel.
The Days After Joshua
At the end of the book of Joshua, we will see that his conquest came to an end and the Lord gave rest to Israel from their enemies (Josh. 23:1). Scripture shows us that Joshua died old and advanced in age. Joshua truly lived a blessed life and had seen much in his day; he lived in the bondage of Egypt, was freed from that bondage, wandered in the wilderness for forty years, and then led a successful conquest through the Promised Land.
One of the final things that Joshua did was gather the people to make a covenant at Shechem (Josh. 24:1). In this address to the people, Joshua called on Israel to serve the Lord in sincerity and in truth (Josh. 24:14). At the same time, Joshua warned the people that if they were to go out and serve other gods, then the Lord would turn from them, do them harm, and consume them (Josh. 24:19-20).
Though they promised Joshua that they would serve the Lord (Josh. 24:21-22), and even desired to go against those Canaanites that tried to fight against them after the passing of Joshua, Israel soon fell into great sin. Joshua’s death is mentioned in the book of Joshua and recounted in the book of Judges. In the book of Judges, we are specifically told that a generation of Israel rose after his death that did not know the Lord (Judg. 2:7-10).
The opening of the book of Judges is one of great shame, to be honest with all of you. When it came to fully completing the conquest of the Promised Land, the twelve tribes failed to possess all of the land, in its entirety, that God had given to them.
In Judges 1, we’ll see where three of the twelve tribes – Judah, Simeon, and Benjamin – enjoyed some success, yet they were a bit disobedient in that they did not follow God’s instructions in total truth; there was a case of them doing more than what God instructed them to do. As for the other nine tribes, they didn’t drive out the inhabitants of cities as they were supposed to do (Deut. 7:1-5).
So when you combine those failures with the rising of a generation that did not know the Lord – meaning they did not recognize Him – you end with a great mess of sin. During the time period of the judges, Israel went on a roller coaster ride of great highs and severe lows; they enjoyed some times where they were greatly blessed and then there were times that were completely awful for them.
Our lesson today takes a look at a time where the roller coaster was at the bottom of the slope. Israel had done evil in the sight of the Lord and we are told that the Lord strengthened Eglon, the king of Moab, to go against Israel (Judg. 3:12). The king gathered together his allies, Ammon and Amalek (names that will sound very familiar to readers of the book of Genesis), to defeat Israel and take Israel’s possessions (Judg. 3:13-14). In defeat, the children of Israel were made to serve Eglon for 18 years (Judg. 3:14).
The Rise of Ehud
So, our lesson picks up today with Israel serving Eglon. Those 18 years of service weren’t too kind for Israel as we see them crying out to God for His help. The Lord heard their cries, and raised up a deliverer for them – Ehud (v.15).
Coming out of God’s love
Now, before we get into Ehud’s story, I believe that the opening verse actually says a great deal about the Lord, doesn’t it? What do you think this verse says about the character of the Lord?
You see, the fact that the Lord heard their prayers and then attended to their needs speaks to God’s love. Again, let me be clear, Israel was living in great disobedience – they had turned away from God and did wickedness in His eyes. Though they were living sinfully, I want you to recognize that the Lord had not forsook Israel; God did not abandon them in their sin.
This, again, should be a reminder for all of us that the Lord does not leave nor forsake His children (Deut. 31:6). Israel, especially during the period of the judges, represents mankind’s relationship with the Lord while dwelling in this sinful world. We must remember that God gave His only begotten Son to the world at a time when they world was lost in sin; He raised up His only begotten Son at a time hate for the Lord was pouring out His chosen people.
You and I, even as sincere believers, we must come to recognize that we certainly aren’t perfect; we are going to have moments where we do wickedness in the Lord’s eyes. So, in those moments, I would say that it is a good thing for us to see and remember that the Lord does not leave us nor forsake us. God has not only given us His only begotten Son but He has open His doors to us so that we may enter in at any time and lay our burdens on Him; He will have mercy on us and forgive us of our sins should we confess them to Him (1 John 1:9).
A judge and deliverer
God could have easily abandoned Israel during the days of the judges but He did not. In our scripture today, we will see that He raised Ehud, who became a judge of Israel. The judges weren’t necessarily leaders in the image of a Moses or Joshua, nor were the leaders in the image of a David or Solomon. Judges, essentially, were like military commanders over the army of Israel, or whatever army could be scrambled together at that time.
Ehud was raised up for the purpose of delivering the children of Israel from Eglon’s rule over them. We are told that Ehud came from the tribe of Benjamin; Benjamin was the youngest son of Jacob (Israel) and was also the tribe of King Saul (1 Sam. 9:1-2). One more specific thing we are told is that Ehud was left-handed (this information plays a role a few verses later).
Now, we will see that Ehud had devised a plan for Israel to be rid of Eglon. Eglon made himself a double-edged dagger that was a cubit in length and hid it under his clothes on his right thigh (v.16). Most biblical dictionaries state that the measure of a biblical cubit was 17.5 inches, or 1.5 feet.
Ehud designed a ruse to set Eglon up for an easy kill with the dagger he had made for himself. Ehud planned to bring Eglon a tribute (a gift) and would kill the man after presenting the tribute to him. So, scripture shows that Ehud presented the gift to Eglon, which scripture tells he was a fat man (v.17); not the ideal image of a king but lots of kings were built this way back then as it kind of showed the life they lived.
After he had finished presenting his gift to Eglon, he turned to say that he had a secret message for the king (vss.18-19). This secret message intrigued the king as he sent those that had attended out from him. It was in that moment where Ehud then approached the king and told him that he had a message from God and took his dagger with his left hand and stabbed it as deep as it could go into Eglon (vss.20-22). It took a great amount of time for Eglon’s servants to even realize what had happened, and by the time they arrived, Ehud was long gone (vss.24-25).
The Sunday School book skips over a motivational moment for Israel that I want to share with you. I want to share this with you because of how Israel had suffered for 18 years and had cried out for deliverance from Eglon. Until this moment, during those 18 years, nobody had stood up to the king and nobody had inspired Israel to fight to be freed.
Ehud, after killing Eglon, escaped to Seirah and blew his trumpet in the mountains of Ephraim. The children of Israel went down with him from the mountain and Ehud said to them, “Follow me, for the Lord has delivered your enemies the Moabites into your hand (Judg. 3:26-28).”
To me, this moment is so important to capture because it shows that Israel’s victory over Moab was not by their own strength and their own might. Again, I reiterate to you that Israel had not done anything to rise up against Eglon for 18 years! Israel did not move until the Lord raised Ehud to lead them.
Ehud was clearly moving at the behest of God and he inspired Israel to follow him in a like manner. Ehud’s actions stirred up a revolt which led to the defeat of Moab. Scripture tells us that at that time, Israel killed ten thousand men of Moab and not a man escaped (vss.29-30). From 18 years of suffering, we are told that rest was brought to the land for 80 years.
So, here is another case where faith according to God’s word has the ability to inspire and to motivate. Something that you and I as believers can and should do is inspire all of those around us. We never know what kind of suffering those around us may be going through, however, when we move by faith, we can sound the trumpet and inspire them to move in faith as well.