This is a story in scripture many believers aren’t familiar with. The second judge’s story plays out like a dramatic action movie with the wildest ending.
To begin this story, we have to open up the Bible to the Old Testament. God selected a handful of judges to rule over Israel before the period when kings took charge. The morality of these judges began to degrade throughout the years of their reign. Samuel, the last Judge, was the only exception.
One consistent pattern with the judges was that they chased after other gods constantly. When they would do this, they would lose sight of God. Judges 3:12 says, “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.” When they would lose sight of God, He would place them in the hands of their enemies. During the period of the judges, the Lord would tell the Israelites to know exactly who they were going after.
In the case of Ehud, the left-handed assassin, God allowed the Moabites, the descendants of an incestuous relationship from Abraham’s nephew Lot, to rule over them for a short period. Genesis 19:37 tells us, “The older daughter had a son, and she named him Moab; he is the father of the Moabites today.” When the Israelites became aware of their errors and call on God for release from their oppressors, God would send a judge to both save and rule over them for some time. After the Judge had no rule over Israel any longer, they pursued other gods, continuing the cycle repeatedly.
Now, if you turn to the story of Ehud, something will probably jump right out at you. This particular Judge is left-handed. We are told in Judges 3:15, “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 a tribute to Eglon king of Moab.” This was unique, even during biblical times. This ends up being somewhat of a foreshadowing as Ehud’s left hand helps him take down the king of Moab later in the text.
The left-handed assassin stashes a sword on his right-hand side and pretends to pay tribute to the Moabite king. When the guards examine his left-hand side, thinking he’s a righthanded man, they don’t see a weapon and allow him to continue to the king. Ehud says that he has a secret message he must deliver to the king. Believing this was a message only he is to receive, he tells the guards to exit so he can receive the message privately. King Eglon didn’t know that the message was a sword that he plunged into his gut.
The Bible tells us that King Eglon was a very heavy man. Judges 3:17 says, “He presented the tribute to Eglon king of Moab, who was a very fat man.” Ehud places the entire blade into the king, a fatal kill. The Judge disappears immediately after he locks the doors. The servants see that the doors are closed, but they assume the king had gone out to relieve himself. Judges 3:24 says, “After he had gone, the servants came and found the doors to the upper room locked. They said, ‘He must be relieving himself in the inner room of the palace.’” However, after he didn’t come out for a while, they started to grow concerned and checked on him. This was when they discovered him dead.
This story takes us on a roller coaster ride, full of its own share of twists and turns. Not only is it entertaining, but there are also a number of truths that believers can take away from the story of the left-handed assassin that is worth noting.
First, God uses our unique qualities to do His will. Ehud was left-handed, a characteristic that many would see as an awkward feature, a quirk. However, God was able to use his left hand to carry out His Will. This was essential to carrying out the killing of the Moabite king. If he weren’t left-handed, the guards would have quickly found his sword and put him to death for trying to kill their king.
Next, we see that God can do remarkable things just through one person. You’re probably wondering what happened to Ehud after he killed the king. Following the king’s assassination, the Israelites battle the Moabites, and they experience 80 long years of peace. Nobody could have predicted that one person could have changed the history of the Israelite nation in just one day. It’s also significant what he was able to do when you look at his background. He came from the smallest tribe of Israel, known as the tribe of Benjamin. It would seem unlikely that this particular Judge from a small tribe would take on a powerful warrior country. Yet, God was able to move through him.
Finally, the judges remind us of our very own need to turn back to our Lord. While we may not live under the oppression of a foreign nation, we do entities that try to control us. One of those is sin which can hold us captive. We will need to turn to a similar judge to save us from the holds over us. In the New Testament, Jesus is referred to as a judge. John 5:22 says, “Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son.” Then, in James 5:9, we are told, “Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!” Jesus saves us from our sin. There is no greater gift.