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Judges 3:12-30

Deceit, Assassination, and Deliverance

3:12 The Israelites again did evil in the Lord’s sight. 1  The Lord gave King Eglon of Moab control over Israel 2  because they had done evil in the Lord’s sight. 3:13 Eglon formed alliances with 3  the Ammonites and Amalekites. He came and defeated Israel, and they seized the City of Date Palm Trees. 3:14 The Israelites were subject to 4  King Eglon of Moab for eighteen years.

3:15 When the Israelites cried out for help to the Lord, he 5  raised up a deliverer for them. His name was Ehud son of Gera the Benjaminite, a left-handed man. 6  The Israelites sent him to King Eglon of Moab with their tribute payment. 7  3:16 Ehud made himself a sword – it had two edges and was eighteen inches long. 8  He strapped it under his coat on his right thigh. 3:17 He brought the tribute payment to King Eglon of Moab. (Now Eglon was a very fat man.)

3:18 After Ehud brought the tribute payment, he dismissed the people who had carried it. 9  3:19 But he went back 10  once he reached 11  the carved images 12  at Gilgal. He said to Eglon, 13  “I have a secret message for you, O king.” Eglon 14  said, “Be quiet!” 15  All his attendants left. 3:20 When Ehud approached him, he was sitting in his well-ventilated 16  upper room all by himself. Ehud said, “I have a message from God 17  for you.” When Eglon rose up from his seat, 18  3:21 Ehud reached with his left hand, pulled the sword from his right thigh, and drove it into Eglon’s 19  belly. 3:22 The handle went in after the blade, and the fat closed around the blade, for Ehud 20  did not pull the sword out of his belly. 21  3:23 As Ehud went out into the vestibule, 22  he closed the doors of the upper room behind him and locked them.

3:24 When Ehud had left, Eglon’s 23  servants came and saw the locked doors of the upper room. They said, “He must be relieving himself 24  in the well-ventilated inner room.” 25  3:25 They waited so long they were embarrassed, but he still did not open the doors of the upper room. Finally they took the key and opened the doors. 26  Right before their eyes was their master, sprawled out dead on the floor! 27  3:26 Now Ehud had escaped while they were delaying. When he passed the carved images, he escaped to Seirah.

3:27 When he reached Seirah, 28  he blew a trumpet 29  in the Ephraimite hill country. The Israelites went down with him from the hill country, with Ehud in the lead. 30  3:28 He said to them, “Follow me, for the Lord is about to defeat your enemies, the Moabites!” 31  They followed him, captured the fords of the Jordan River 32  opposite Moab, 33  and did not let anyone cross. 3:29 That day they killed about ten thousand Moabites 34  – all strong, capable warriors; not one escaped. 3:30 Israel humiliated Moab that day, and the land had rest for eighty years.

1 tn Heb “in the eyes of the Lord” (also later in this verse).

2 tn Heb “strengthened Eglon…against Israel.”

3 tn Heb “and he gathered to him.”

4 tn Or “the Israelites served Eglon.”

5 tn Heb “the Lord.” This has been replaced by the pronoun (“he”) in the translation for stylistic reasons.

6 tn The phrase, which refers to Ehud, literally reads “bound/restricted in the right hand,” apparently a Hebrew idiom for a left-handed person. See Judg 20:16, where 700 Benjaminites are described in this way. Perhaps the Benjaminites purposely trained several of their young men to be left-handed warriors by restricting the use of the right hand from an early age so the left hand would become dominant. Left-handed men would have a distinct military advantage, especially when attacking city gates. See B. Halpern, “The Assassination of Eglon: The First Locked-Room Murder Mystery,” BRev 4 (1988): 35.

7 tn Heb “The Israelites sent by his hand an offering to Eglon, king of Moab.”

8 tn The Hebrew term גֹּמֶד (gomed) denotes a unit of linear measure, perhaps a cubit (the distance between the elbow and the tip of the middle finger – approximately 18 inches [45 cm]). Some suggest it is equivalent to the short cubit (the distance between the elbow and the knuckles of the clenched fist – approximately 13 inches [33 cm]) or to the span (the distance between the end of the thumb and the end of the little finger in a spread hand – approximately 9 inches [23 cm]). See BDB 167 s.v.; HALOT 196 s.v.; B. Lindars, Judges 1-5, 142.

9 tn Heb “the tribute payment.”

10 tn Or “returned” (i.e., to Eglon’s palace).

11 tn The words “when he reached” are supplied in the translation for clarification. The Hebrew text simply reads “from.”

12 tn Or “idols.”

13 tn The words “to Eglon” are supplied in the translation for clarification.

14 tn Heb “he”; the referent (Eglon) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

15 tn Or “Hush!”

16 tn Or “cool.” This probably refers to a room with latticed windows which allowed the breeze to pass through. See B. Lindars, Judges 1-5, 144.

17 tn Heb “word of [i.e., from] God.”

18 tn Or “throne.”

19 tn Heb “his”; the referent (Eglon) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

20 tn Heb “he”; the referent (Ehud) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

21 tn The Hebrew text has “and he went out to the [?].” The meaning of the Hebrew word פַּרְשְׁדֹנָה (parshÿdonah) which occurs only here in the OT, is uncertain. The noun has the article prefixed and directive suffix. The word may be a technical architectural term, indicating the area into which Ehud moved as he left the king and began his escape. In this case Ehud is the subject of the verb “went out.” The present translation omits the clause, understanding it as an ancient variant of the first clause in v. 23. Some take the noun as “back,” understand “sword” (from the preceding clause) as the subject, and translate “the sword came out his [i.e., Eglon’s] back.” But this rendering is unlikely since the Hebrew word for “sword” (חֶרֶב, kherev) is feminine and the verb form translated “came out” (וַיֵּצֵא, vayyetse’) is masculine. (One expects agreement in gender when the subject is supplied from the preceding clause. See Ezek 33:4, 6.) See B. Lindars, Judges 1-5, 146-48, for discussion of the options.

22 tn Again the precise meaning of the Hebrew word, used only here in the OT, is uncertain. Since it is preceded by the verb “went out” and the next clause refers to Ehud closing doors, the noun is probably an architectural term referring to the room (perhaps a vestibule; see HALOT 604 s.v. מִסְדְּרוֹן) immediately outside the king’s upper chamber. As v. 24 indicates, this vestibule separated the upper room from an outer room where the king's servants were waiting.

23 tn Heb “his.”

24 tn Heb “covering his feet” (i.e., with his outer garments while he relieves himself).

25 tn The Hebrew expression translated “well-ventilated inner room” may refer to the upper room itself or to a bathroom attached to or within it.

26 tn The words “the doors” are supplied.

27 tn Heb “See, their master, fallen to the ground, dead.”

28 tn Heb “When he arrived.”

29 tn That is, “mustered an army.”

30 tn Heb “now he was before them.”

31 tn Heb “for the Lord has given your enemies, Moab, into your hand.” The verb form (a Hebrew perfect, indicating completed action from the standpoint of the speaker) emphasizes the certainty of the event. Though it had not yet taken place, the Lord speaks of it as a “done deal.”

32 tn The word “River” is not in the Hebrew text, but is supplied for clarity.

33 tn Or “against Moab,” that is, so as to prevent the Moabites from crossing.

34 tn Heb “They struck Moab that day – about ten thousand men.”

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