Judges 3 Bible Study Ehud, the Fat Man & Power of Praise!

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Book of Judges Bible Study - The Message of Judges: Chapter Three

Ehud, the Fat Man and the Power of Praise!

by I Gordon


In the last study we looked at the first enemy to totally dominate the nation of Israel in the land - that doubly wicked Cushan, the King of Aram. Through Othniel, God's appointed deliverer, victory was achieved however and the land had peace and rest for 40 years. Victory at last... until the next slimy enemy showed up...

Eglon - One big fat king of Moab!

Judges 3:12-14,17 Once 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. Getting the Ammonites and Amalekites to join him, Eglon came and attacked Israel, and they took possession of the City of Palms. The Israelites were subject to Eglon king of Moab for eighteen years... Now Eglon was a very fat man.

'Once again...' is the sorry tale that is told in the book of Judges. 'Once again', we read in this first verse, that the Israelites did evil in the sight of the Lord. So once again an enemy is allowed to rise up and conquer Israel. Now the actual historical account of what happened is fascinating. Read it all in Judges 3:12-30. Won't take long! Obviously you've got Eglon, the ever so slightly large enemy. You've got Ehud, a left-handed deliverer with a handy little two edged sword. Throw in a little cunning and some good old-fashioned trickery and we've got ourselves the making of an intriguing action-packed blockbuster! As interesting as the story is historically however, for this study I am going to delve a little deeper into some of the meanings of the characters within the story, which could benefit our lives today.

So first of all, we are confronted with a new enemy. The cycle of sin continues as Eglon, King of Moab, takes control of the Promised Land. The Moabites, strangely enough, are descendants of Moab. Now Moab was a relative of the Israelites, as he was born through an incestuous relationship between Lot and his eldest daughter. (Gen 19:30-38) As a type, Moab speaks to us of profession.  [1]  Profession in this sense means to profess to be something that inwardly you are not. Moab was physically related to God's people, yet had no connection spiritually, and was in fact an enemy of God's people. So it is with 'profession' in that people can attend church and outwardly look 'Christian', yet never come to know Jesus as their own Lord and Saviour.  [2] 

Now, I hope you are not in this category of people for the rest of this study is not going to be concerned with those that are not truly born again Christians. You see, even as a true Christian it is easy to simply 'go through the motions' so we all have to be on our guard. It speaks to us of those times when, having departed from our first love, we carry on through the motion of being a 'good Christian', yet we are devoid of the inner reality of God's importance and presence in our life  [3]  . Eglon, the king of Moab is a warning for all of us to guard against this. In this regard it is also interesting to note that Eglon's name is derived from the root word meaning ' circle', and in the meaning of his name we are given this same thought once again of someone going round and round, through the motions, without ever getting anywhere! There is however deliverance from this enemy and here comes our hero now!

Enter Ehud the Left-Handed Benjamite!

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.

Now, if I could attach sound files to this document I would definitely add the Rocky theme (which, incidentally, I can't get out of my head and have been whistling while I write this study!), because there is a scrap a-cumin! Here comes Ehud, the deliverer from this enemy of profession. Again, when we look at the meanings of names of the people involved it is very instructive for us. Our hero, Ehud, means 'I will give praise', or 'I will give thanks'. Now, we are going to have a quick look at the power of praise because it is taught consistently throughout the word of God, but before we do let's just have a look at where this fellow Ehud comes from...

We read above the Ehud is the son of Gera. The name Gera literally means to 'chew the cud'. 'Chewing the cud' in the Bible is always symbolic of meditation (chewing over the word of God in your mind). It is probably for this reason that William MacDonald, in his Believers Bible Commentary, says that the name Gera means 'meditation'. So we have a great little picture here of what can conquer the enemy of profession - meditation (Gera) that gives birth to praise (Ehud) will do it! Surely if we saw more of what God has already done for us in Christ then our praise for God would be more real and freer in coming. Christians have more than enough things to praise God for already for we have been given Christ, but we don't always see it! The answer? Good old-fashioned meditation  [4]  ! Think and chew over the word of God. Ask that the Holy Spirit would reveal more of what is yours 'in Christ' and dwell on these things (1 Cor 2:12). Find friends that you can talk these types of things over with. God will honour you for it. Many Christians are simply 'going through the motions', round in circles under the influence of the fat man Eglon, but I wonder whether they ever give serious consideration to the word of God and to meditating on it's truth? Especially to the key truths concerning Jesus and the results of His death and resurrection... key truths that the Apostle Paul always focuses on in his epistles.

The Power of Praise 

Now, this meditation has an outlet. As Gera was the Father of Ehud, so our meditation should give birth to praise and thankfulness. (Note to those with a very short term memory: As mentioned earlier Gera means meditation and Ehud means 'I will give thanks/praise') Praise and thankfulness - so simple, so important, yet so neglected!  [5]  If we are honest we would have to admit that there have been many times when our hearts have been more like that of the grumbling Israelites in the wilderness than the forgiven and thankful heirs of God that we really are  [6]  .

But there is a power in praise and thankfulness  [7]  , and its importance in our lives is taught consistently throughout the Bible.  [8]  Notice also that Ehud's name means 'I will give praise/thanks'. It's a small point, but one that should be noted in that it shows there is a decision of the will to be made. 'I will give praise'! All of us will be tested on this! There will always be times when trials and darkness surround you and praise is slow in coming. It is then, at that very moment, that you need to make a conscious decision to lift up your shield of faith and praise God despite how your circumstances seem.

The End of the Fat Man! (Defeat of the enemy)

Judges -21 Now Ehud had made a double-edged sword about a foot and a half long, which he strapped to his right thigh under his clothing. He presented the tribute to Eglon king of Moab, who was a very fat man... Ehud then approached him while he was sitting alone in the upper room of his summer palace and said, 'I have a message from God for you.' As the king rose from his seat,  Ehud reached with his left hand, drew the sword from his right thigh and plunged it into the king's belly.

We have seen so far how the enemy, this King of Moab, took his place of rule in Israel and dominated them for 18 years. We have also seen how God raised up Ehud, the son of Gera, as the Judge and deliverer of Israel from this tyrant. Finally, in the passage previously mentioned, we read how judgement was executed and victory was obtained! We read that Ehud made for himself a two-edged sword which he plunged into the belly of this Moabite Humpty-Dumpty, bringing his rule to a somewhat dramatic end! So what instruction is there in this passage for you and me? And no, making weapons and taking the law into our own hands wasn't what I was thinking!

There is a type here of the warfare that New Testament believers encounter and engage in. Our double-edged sword is not man-made but has been given to us from above.

Heb 'For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit.'.

Eph 'Take the... sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.'

The defeat of the enemy comes firstly through meditating on the word of God, then in allowing that meditation to overflow in praise and thankfulness. And finally, we see from this passage in Judges that the enemy is defeated as the double-edged sword is thrust into the enemy's side. For us, (and especially when trials arise) this means using the word of God as Jesus did to defeat the enemy in the wilderness. It means declaring the truth of the word, declaring the promises of God. It means using the truth of God's word as your basis of praise and thankfulness to Him. It means renewing your mind with its truth when the arrows of doubt from the enemy flood in. Submit yourself to God, resist the enemy (with the use of your sword!) and he will flee from you!

In this manner the cycle of sin is defeated and the enemy of empty profession is destroyed.

[1] ↩  The older writers took Moab as a picture of profession. William MacDonald does in the Judges section in his 'Believers Bible Commentary.' William Newell in his 'Old Testament Studies' comments on the book of Ruth stating 'It should be noted that it is to Moab that they went, not to Edom (indulgence of the flesh); not to Egypt (the godless world outright); but to Moab, the place of mere profession. A 'name to live', a 'form of godliness' with neither the life nor the power...' Likewise, Samuel Ridout, in his commentary on Judges speaks of Moab saying 'Profession bears the closest resemblance to divine realities - profession without reality. Profession may claim natural relationship to faith; it may say we are the people of God, we are separate from the world, we belong to Christ. But all these things mark mere empty profession, and thus the king of Moab governs God's people.'

[2] ↩  John Bunyan's 'Pilgrim's Progress' is amazing! He deals with 'empty profession' in the form of two characters 'Formalist and Hypocrisy'. As Christian is going on his travels to the Celestial City (heaven), he spies these two men tumbling over the side of the wall to get into the way. He asks them why they didn't go back to the beginning and go through the gate (salvation through Jesus) and they explain that the gate is considered too far by their countrymen, and that it's ok because people have been avoiding the gate and jumping over the wall for over 1000 years! And while Formalist and Hypocrisy think that there are few differences between them, and that they obey the laws as well as Christian, Christian points out that they don't have any robes (righteousness), God's mark on their forehead (ownership), nor do they posses the scroll (the assurance of salvation).

[3] ↩  If you want a good case study of this that you can do in your own time, have a look at the nation of Israel in 1 Sam 4. Having lost the reality and importance of God, they go into battle against the Philistines thinking that it, the ark of the covenant (not God), will deliver them from their enemies. Talk about just going through the religious motions! Beware any religious 'formula' that doesn't give God His rightful place in the center of it! A great defeat occurs, the ark is lost, and Eli the Priest dies because of the shock! Read the entire chapter and then contrast it with another battle against the Philistines four chapters on in 1 Sam 7. This time the importance of God's place in their lives is back! No empty profession here... And though they go out in fear, God gives them a wonderful victory because the focus of their hearts is right!

[4] ↩  Just a couple of well-known verses about Meditation as a timely reminder...
Josh 1:8 'This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous and then you will have success.

Psalm 1:1-3 'How blessed is the man whose... delight is in the law of the Lord and in His law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season. (See also 119:97-99, 1 Tim 4:15)

[5] ↩  There is a really interesting picture of praise back in the first chapter of Judges that should be mentioned. William Newell brings this out in his book 'Old Testament Studies'. You may remember that the Lord chose Judah as the first tribe to go and take their inheritance. (Judges 1:1-2) This is not surprising as Judah was the kingly tribe from which the Messiah would come. (Gen 49:8-12) Now Judah took his eyes off God and subsequently could not drive out their enemies. Judah's failure leads to the successive failure of Benjamin, Manasseh, Ephraim, Zebbulun, Asher and Napthtali. Until finally we read in the first chapter of Judges of Dan's total retreat in the face of the enemy. My point? Well, remembering that Judah, God's kingly tribe, means 'praise', William Newell writes 'Praise failing, universal unbelief sets in, and total failure follows.' The tribes of Israel's failure began when Judah (praise) failed. Remember this... in fact I'll say it again. 'Praise failing, unbelief sets in and total failure follows'. Next time in gets hard, don't let your praise fail. Don't let unbelief set in!

[6] ↩  The great legendary unforgettable Christian, George Herbert (ok, I've never heard of him either!) said, 'Thou who has given so much to me, give one thing more - a grateful heart!'

[7] ↩  I had to drive to a different city for work recently so I grabbed an old Keith Green tape I hadn't listened to for ages. One song really stood out called 'When I hear the praises start.' Here are some of the lyrics and by them you can tell he knew the power of resting and praising - Oh, alright. I'll even sing it for you!

'My son, my son, why are you striving? You can't add one thing to what's been done for you. I did it all when I was dying. Rest in your faith, my peace will come to you. For when I hear the praises start, I want to rain upon you, blessings that will fill your heart. Oh I see no stain upon you. Because you are my child and you know me, to me you're only holy, nothing you've done, remains, only what you do for me.'

[8] ↩  For your own study, please have a look and meditate on the following verses - Psalm 50:23, 2 Chron 20:1-30 (this is a fantastic passage on the power of praise and is a corresponding passage to this one in Judges for it again shows the power of praise over the Moabite enemy! The whole chapter is awesome but in context with what we are saying, especially note verses 20-22. As a side note I think I will write this chapter as a separate study cause it deserves a lot of attention!) Isaiah 54:1, 61:3, Psalm 98, 100:4, Eph 5:19-20, Heb 13:15.