Judges 3:15-22

3:15 When the Israelites cried out for help to the Lord, he raised up a deliverer for them. His name was Ehud son of Gera the Benjaminite, a left-handed man. The Israelites sent him to King Eglon of Moab with their tribute payment. 3:16 Ehud made himself a sword – it had two edges and was eighteen inches long. 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. 3:19 But he went back once he reached the carved images at Gilgal. He said to Eglon, “I have a secret message for you, O king.” Eglon 10  said, “Be quiet!” 11  All his attendants left. 3:20 When Ehud approached him, he was sitting in his well-ventilated 12  upper room all by himself. Ehud said, “I have a message from God 13  for you.” When Eglon rose up from his seat, 14  3:21 Ehud reached with his left hand, pulled the sword from his right thigh, and drove it into Eglon’s 15  belly. 3:22 The handle went in after the blade, and the fat closed around the blade, for Ehud 16  did not pull the sword out of his belly. 17 

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 This has been replaced by the pronoun (“he”) in the translation for stylistic reasons.

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.

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

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.

tn Heb “the tribute payment.”

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

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

tn Or “idols.”

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

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

11 tn Or “Hush!”

12 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.

13 tn Heb “word of [i.e., from] God.”

14 tn Or “throne.”

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

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

17 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.