Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Judges 3-5 Beware sitting alone in cool roof chambers

From Judges 3-5

Jdg 3.1-6; Story; Israel to be tested by the LORD is amongst other nations and intermarries
Jdg 3.7-11; Story; The LORD raises up the judge Othniel
Jdg 3.12-30; Story; The LORD raises up the judge Ehud. Fat closes over his blade in the toilet.
Jdg 3.31; Story; The LORD raises up the judge Shamgar
Jdg 4.1-16; Story; The LORD raises up the judge Deborah vs. Barak
Jdg 4.17-24; Story; Sisera fled away on foot to the tent of Jael. Big mistake.
Jdg 5.1-31; Song; The Song of Deborah and Barak

Passage and Comments
So far in Judges we read about the repeated pattern which cycles through. When the LORD raises up a judge he doesn’t always defeat the foreign nation in an expected way. Ehud as we are about to see, delivers Israel in a deceptive way.
12 And the people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, and the LORD strengthened Eglon the king of Moab against Israel, because they had done what was evil in the sight of the LORD. 13 He gathered to himself the Ammonites and the Amalekites, and went and defeated Israel. And they took possession of the city of palms. 14 And the people of Israel served Eglon the king of Moab eighteen years. (Jdg 3.12-14)
Israel follows the pattern previously described, they did what was evil in the LORD's sight 'again' (Jdg 3.12). The LORD raises up a foreign power to discipline them and so Israel gets defeated and put under foreign rule. One can hopefully see, that being under foreign rule is a sign of poor relations between God and Israel.
15 Then the people of Israel cried out to the LORD, and the LORD raised up for them a deliverer, Ehud, the son of Gera, the Benjaminite, a left-handed man. The people of Israel sent tribute by him to Eglon the king of Moab. 16 And Ehud made for himself a sword with two edges, a cubit in length, and he bound it on his right thigh under his clothes. (Jdg 3.15-16)
Israel cries out and the LORD ever faithful raises up Ehud. I don't think there is anything significant about his name. But he is about to become famous. If a sword has two edges it means it can cut both ways. The statement suggests most swords were single sided. Ehud made a short sword, a weapon he could thrust into someone. Normally people were right handed and they didn't have metal detectors. If someone wanted to see if you had a weapon they would look at your left thigh because that was the side the right hand would draw from. By putting it on the right thigh Ehud concealed the weapon from the normal means of detection.

17 And he presented the tribute to Eglon king of Moab. Now Eglon was a very fat man. 18 And when Ehud had finished presenting the tribute, he sent away the people who carried the tribute. 19 But he himself turned back at the idols near Gilgal and said, “I have a secret message for you, O king.” And he commanded, “Silence.” And all his attendants went out from his presence. (Jdg 3.17-19)

Note the reference to idols. These are not God's people and live in rebellion against God. Ehud declares he has a secret message for the king. Guess what that is? The king is a very fat man, picture Jabba the Hut. The king trusts Ehud and sends everyone out of the room except Ehud who is armed with a concealed short sword. At that moment the king has to go to the toilet (cf. Jdg 3.24)... What?!?
20 And Ehud came to him as he was sitting alone in his cool roof chamber. And Ehud said, “I have a message from God for you.” And he arose from his seat. 21 And Ehud reached with his left hand, took the sword from his right thigh, and thrust it into his belly. 22 And the hilt also went in after the blade, and the fat closed over the blade, for he did not pull the sword out of his belly; and the dung came out. 23 Then Ehud went out into the porch and closed the doors of the roof chamber behind him and locked them. (Jdg 3.20-23)
The 'dung' is probably his bowels and entrails. Ehud closes the door on the king and the grizzly murder scene.
24 When he had gone, the servants came, and when they saw that the doors of the roof chamber were locked, they thought, “Surely he is relieving himself in the closet of the cool chamber.” 25 And they waited till they were embarrassed. But when he still did not open the doors of the roof chamber, they took the key and opened them, and there lay their lord dead on the floor. (Jdg 3.24-25)
He killed their leader and escaped. In doing so Ehud won a major victory over Moabites.
26 Ehud escaped while they delayed, and he passed beyond the idols and escaped to Seirah. 27 When he arrived, he sounded the trumpet in the hill country of Ephraim. Then the people of Israel went down with him from the hill country, and he was their leader. 28 And he said to them, “Follow after me, for the LORD has given your enemies the Moabites into your hand.” So they went down after him and seized the fords of the Jordan against the Moabites and did not allow anyone to pass over. 29 And they killed at that time about 10,000 of the Moabites, all strong, able-bodied men; not a man escaped. 30 So Moab was subdued that day under the hand of Israel. And the land had rest for eighty years. (Jdg 3.12-30)
So after escaping, Ehud marshals Israel's armies together and the obliterate the Moabites. Then Israel has rest from their work.

Story of Israel
Unfortunately this same pattern will continue many times through Judges. One aspect of Israel's history it is important to grasp is that if Israel is under foreign rule that indicates something is wrong. They are being punished. We will see this pattern continue. God being faithful to the covenant sends foreign nations to discipling and punish Israel when they are disobedient. Even when they return from exile, they are still under foreign rule.

Story of Jesus
One aspect I am reminded of after Jesus died and rose again which bears resemblance to this death scene is that of king Herod in Acts. Herod is eaten by worms. The apostles are spreading the gospel and they are being persecuted by the foreign powers around them. This time however the suffering and persecution of the believers is a sign they are following in Jesus steps. Herod had imprisoned Peter, who was then rescued by an angel (Acts 12). Following this Herod gets people to declare him a god, he does not give God the glory.
21 On an appointed day Herod put on his royal robes, took his seat upon the throne, and delivered an oration to them. 22 And the people were shouting, “The voice of a god, and not of a man!” 23 Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last. 24 But the word of God increased and multiplied. (Acts 12:21–24)
The last line highlights that God still works in strange ways to remove opposition to the spread of the gospel.