Judges 3

Judges 3: On the Other Hand

In this chapter we will meet our first three judges, Othniel, Ehud, and Shamgar.   Most of us by now have learned life can be difficult at times. Hardships, trials, tears, pain, even death, and adversity come to all of us. The lessons we must learn are endurance and whole-hearted trust in Gods’ goodness and sovereignty. It is through these times of adversity our Father matures our faith. Our Heavenly Father never places more on us that we can bear and He balances our lives with times of prosperity and peace. But we must be careful during those times of ease we do not become complacent and lulled into a sense of well-being. Our enemy after all goes about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. But perhaps more dangerous is he comes sometimes like a sly serpent arousing our curiosity about things God told us to avoid. Curiosity not only killed the cat- it killed Adam and Eve and brought the curse of death to mankind. Complacency may have been the first step- after all they lived in perfection.  Complacency can give a false sense of security which leads to curiosity about what God has forbidden which causes us to reach out for that which we are told not to reach out to. And when we do- the process of conformity by the world system begins. This is the deceitfulness of sin which can often provide pleasure for a season. Like the wine which sparkles in the cup, but in the end stings like a deadly viper.

Over and over in the Bible we see God’s people suffering hardships. It is interesting God has chosen to reveal Himself to us as our Father.  If you were fortunate enough to have a good earthly father, who even though flawed, was someone you knew had your best interests at heart and would do whatever he could to help you. Good fathers also knew what and when discipline was needed and when it was not.  We can trust in our Heavenly Father’s goodness, sufficiency and sovereignty to provide all our needs.  In fact when fear, worry and anxiety arise in our lives during times of adversity, they are evidence of where our faith fails to trust in our Heavenly Father’s goodness. The enemy of our soul wants us to doubt our Father’s goodness, His wisdom and love for us.   It seems the more we trust God and His goodness, the less anxiety we suffer.  However, the opposite is also true and the less we trust God and His goodness, the more anxiety we suffer.

Now as Judges 3 starts out we see it is God who has left five rulers of five nations that surround Israel to test all of those who had not fought in any wars. God had left Israel surrounded by the enemy so they lived in danger constantly. Attack was an ever present danger which required reliance on their God as an ever present help in time of need. Three thousand years later, the nation of Israel is still surrounded by the same enemies and is still at war and in ever present danger.

God used these nations in the time of Judges to teach warfare to the descendants of Israel who had not had previous battle experience. God used the enemy to not only teach His People how to fight, but also to test the people to see whether they would obey the Lord’s commands. Even as we study this time in the history of Israel, we see they are at war with the enemy that surrounds them. We also realize we are at war also with this enemy and for both us and Israel we are in ever present danger. God expects us to expect attacks. Peter said we should not consider fiery trials as something unusual but part of the life of a believer.

We will need what Israel needed in this time where disobedience had created a problem. Israel was to be a blessing to all nations. Their allegiance to the one and only True God was to result in obedience to His commands and the promised blessings would be a witness to the pagan nations around them and win them to faith in the True and Living God. But Israel failed in their responsibility and ‘went a whoring after other gods’. As a result they intermarried with the enemy and the pagan nations begin to convert Israel to their false gods and idols.

What Israel needed then is what America needs now. We need: a leader(s),  raised up by God , on whom the Spirit of the Lord rests; we need courage and a scriptural strategy for it is not by might or power but by His Spirit we will win the battle.

We must first understand the enemy and his strategy, his schemes. For our struggles are not against flesh and blood but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against spiritual forces of evil in heavenly realms.  ( Ephesians 6) The enemy uses the time tested weapons to tempt us:  lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes and pride of life. He also will continually attack and undermine the Word of God- using half-truths a seemingly scientific evidence and logic to refute the supernatural power of God and His Word.

God uses the enemy to train us in battle. Our weapons are not carnal, or earthly, but mighty and divine to the pulling down of strongholds.(2 Corinthians 10)    God will allow the enemy to do only what He permits for His purpose for His people. ( Job 1)  God also uses the enemy and these times of adversity to teach us to trust Him and His Goodness.

Now in these first two judges- we see why Othniel is selected- he is a proven, courageous veteran of warfare; he is a whole-hearted follower of God and his commands. He is just the kind of man you would expect God to choose.  He is perfect for the job. In fact, America has in times past chosen experienced warriors to be our Presidents. Those who had successfully learned how to conduct themselves in battle and war. We like to elect heroes, courageous men who have been tested in battle and proved to be courageous. So the selection of Othniel  does nor surprise us- for he is a hero.  Everyone likes a hero. Ehud, on the other hand ,  is an unlikely hero.

Lets’ note the cycle leading up to the first judge.

  1. They ( the Israelites ) intermarried with the enemy and served their idols. They did evil in the eyes of the Lord and served Baal.
  2. God sold them into slavery to the enemy who oppressed them for eight years.
  3. They cried out to God .
  4. God raised up for them a deliverer, Othniel.
  5. He saved them.
  6. The Spirit of the lord was upon Othniel and he became Israel’s judge and they had peace for 40 years.

I still remember those years of slavery to alcohol leading up to the summer of 1977, when in absolute misery, I cried out to the Lord. Looking back I realize God used the enemy of my soul to bring me to cry out to Him to save me.

We like flesh and blood heroes and leaders, don’t we? But human beings are mortal and Othniel died and the revival and period of restoration ended and we read:  “ 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.”  He got the Ammonites and Amalekites to join him in war and the attacked Israel and took possession of the City of Palms- Jericho.

This is why we need an immortal hero who will never die and never leave us nor forsake us. There is only one isn’t there?  And His name is Jesus! May you find Him now.

The period of peace and prosperity ended with the death of Othniel. This is why we need the Lord Jesus to rule and reign over us- for He has declared: “ I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive forever and ever.” ( Revelation 1:18)  Only Jesus can bring eternal peace for He  is eternal.

Once again, the Israelites fall into their backsliding ways and do evil and God sends judgment in the form of a new oppressive enemy, King Eglon.   For the next 18 years they are enslaved by this king. Then in  Judges 3: 15, we see the cycle in its familiar turning: “ 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.”

Remember the name Benjamin means the ‘ son of my right hand.’.  The right hand is significant in the Bible as the hand of power and might. The right hand was most commonly the sword hand with the sword and scabbard being worn on the left side. The Resurrected Lord Jesus sits at the right hand of God.  Some believe Ehud was left-handed because his right hand and arm were disabled in some way and he was physically handicapped. He had to use the weaker arm and hand-Ehud had to use the other hand.

This causes us to reflect for a moment as to what we expect our leaders to be- heroic, battle tested, wise and fearless. But Paul writes: “ Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many of you were influential; not many of you were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of the world and the despised things – and the things that are not- to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before Him. It is because of Him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God- that is our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore as it is written: Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

It was the thorn in his flesh that Paul beseeched the Lord to remove three times. The Lord answered and told Paul – his grace was sufficient and in weakness His strength was made perfect. What a discovery for Paul!  He realized when he was weak he was strong. Our powerlessness is where Our Lord’s power is made perfect.(2 Cor. 12)

Our handicaps and perceived disadvantages are where the Lord’s strength is made perfect. David was probably a 14 or 15 year old shepherd boy- of average size and strength- no match for Goliath a giant and most ferocious warrior in the land. Undefeated in hand-to hand combat. David came to him in the name of the Lord Almighty , the God of the armies of Israel. We all know the story of David.  Yet we seem to want Goliaths on our side.  WE praise them as ‘ giants’ in their field of endeavor. We want them to lead our team, our businesses, our schools, our churches, our government.

Ehud’s left-handedness lulled Eglon, a very fat king into a sense of this man is no threat , he cannot even handle a sword for his right hand and arm are useless.

Ehud used his disadvantage to his advantage.

He prepared a strategy by forging a two edged dagger that was 18 inches long and could be concealed on his right thigh. When the king’s security men looked at Ehud they saw a man who did not even wear a sword on his  left hand side and if he had, they would have disarmed him before he went before the king.

After paying his tribute to the king, Ehud had a plan. He told the king he had a message from God. The king was so proud Israel’s God had a message for him and believing Ehud not to be a physical threat, ordered his servants outside the room.  As the fat Eglon rose from his seat, ‘ Ehud reached with his left hand, drew his sword and plunged it into the king’s belly. Even the handle sank in after the blade, which came out his back.”

He then locked the door behind him and told his servants the king had gone to the bathroom and made his escape before his body was discovered.

In fact in the story of Ehud and David we see some truths we must not ignore:

*To overcome giants and adversity we must prepare.

* We must obey our Father.

* We must handle criticism well.

* We learn little battles will prepare us for the larger battles.

In the story of Ehud and Othniel we see two heroes- one the perfect candidate, Othniel, a tested warrior and hero who rallies the people and saves the day. The other is the less likely hero, more like what Paul described in I Corinthians 1. Then you realize that is exactly what God did when He sent His Only Son to be our Savior. The Lord Jesus did not come into this world the way one would expect the Savior of mankind to come. He was born in a manger, an outsider who grew up as a simple carpenter in a town where nothing good ever came from- Nazareth. Listen how Isaiah described the Lord : “ He had not beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces , he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” ( Isaiah 53)  He was an outsider who through what was considered defeat was victorious.

Are  you prepared or being prepared by the Lord through the test of adversity now?

Are you obedient to your Father?

Do you handle criticism well?

Are you learning the lessons the Lord is teaching you through adversity?

Like the nation of Israel, we seem to learn the lessons the hard way. Then we go along and after a period of peace and prosperity we seem to get lulled into that sense of well- being and let our guards down. The enemy comes slithering in- and our hearts which are deceitful above all things and desperately wicked began to rationalize behavior that God has said to avoid or there would be consequences.


Do we not today in our churches look for better methods and better men- strong, proven and tested in battle to lead us?

What we need  is the power of the Holy Spirit.   Even Othniel could not have done it in his own strength. The Word of God tells us:  “ The Spirit of the Lord came upon him, so that he became Israel’s judge and went to war.” ( Judges 3: 10)

Interesting here we see the role of the Holy Spirit as the One who empowers us. He fell upon one man to lead the others. But on the Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came to indwell each true believer. So we have within us- what fell upon Othniel.

The weaker I am Paul learned, the more I depend on the Lord and the more I depend on Him , I realize when I am weak – I am strong.

I have nothing to offer the Lord. Nor do any of us.

When we have talents and abilities- we can come to depend upon them to solve our problems and fight in our own strength.

Yet the Word of God tells us- ‘ apart from Him I am nothing. But it tells us- I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!”

He is our Rock. The Rock of Age.

“ Nothing in my hand I bring, Simply to the Cross I cling. “

We can trust in God with all our hearts and lean not to our own understanding, in all our ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct our paths. Proverbs 3.

On the other hand, we can trust in our own abilities and wisdom and clever strategies to grow God’s kingdom.  But it is God who does it and He seems to favor the weak, and the foolish.

The enemy depends on people who use their strength- who use and favor their right hands, their human strengths.

Ehud was effective because he used the other hand. A hand known for weakness.

Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to the cross I cling.

I have put my hand in His hand. He upholds me with His Right Hand- though I stumble I will not be cast down.

He is my Right Hand.

Copyright © 2010 Linda Benthal
Last modified: 08/12/14