Ehud, also spelled Aod, was the second judge raised by God to deliver the Israelites from their enemies (Judges 3:12-30). The name Ehud is closely related to Judah, which means I will give thanks or He that praises. He rescued the nation of Israel from 18 years of oppression by the Moabites. He was a left-handed man who tricked the King of Moab and killed him.
Let us now read the story of the Israelite judge who cleverly carried out the brutal murder of the Moabite King, Eglon.
Table of Contents
Background of the Story
After the death of the first judge of Israel, Othniel, the people once more sinned against the Lord. As punishment for their rebelliousness, God strengthened the hands of the Moabites, Israel’s archenemy, and gave the Israelites into the hands of the Moabite King.
Eglon, the king of Moab, forged an alliance with the Ammonites and Amalekites, who were equally hostile to God’s chosen people, and together they successfully waged war against Israel and occupied the “City of Palms.” According to 2 Chronicles 28:15, this city is identified as Jericho. For the next eighteen years, the children of Israel served Eglon.
Israel then repented for their transgressions and cried to the Almighty One. The Creator as a merciful father immediately sent them a judge to defeat their enemies and restore peace in the land.
Ehud in the Bible
Ehud was the son of Gera of the tribe of Benjamin, the smallest tribe of Israel. He was one of the many people appointed to carry the tribute of Israel to the King of Moab. He made a double-edged dagger, 18 inches long, which was useful for a stabbing thrust. He strapped it to his right thigh, concealing it under his clothes.
Advantage of Ehud’s Left Handedness
Being left-handed was an advantage for Ehud as people did not expect him to hide his sword on his right thigh. Normally, right-handed people would wear or keep their swords on the left side because it is easier and faster to draw out the weapon with the right hand (from the opposite side of the body).
Eglon’s bodyguards would have searched anyone seeking admittance to their monarch and who entered the king’s chambers. The guards would have assumed that Ehud was right-handed, therefore checking only his left side and overlooked the sword he kept on his right side. This gave the depiction of Ehud being unarmed and harmless, as he carried no weapon on the customary left thigh. As a lefty, he managed to get in with a sharp sword, tucked away in his clothes.
(Note that southpaw people also have a tactical advantage in a fight against the majority of people who are often right-handed.)
Private Audience of Ehud with Eglon King of Moab
After delivering the tax money, Ehud asked the people who carried the tribute to leave. However, Ehud went as far as the stone images near Gilgal with them but asked them to continue their journey home while he turned back to meet Eglon again.
Eglon was a very fat king, who was sitting upstairs in the cool private chamber of his summer palace.
Ehud told Eglon that he had a secret message for his majesty. The king said, “Quiet!” The king’s servants, who were his stewards, left his presence. Eglon thus allowed Ehud to meet him in private. Ehud approached Eglon and told him, “I have a message from God for you.”
The Killing of Eglon and Ehud’s Escape
When Eglon heard this, he rose from his seat. At that moment, Ehud pulled the dagger out (with his left hand from his right thigh) and thrust it into the king’s abdomen, killing him. Even the handle sank in after the blade, and the fat closed over the sword. Ehud did not pull the dagger out, and Eglon’s intestines came out. Ehud shut and locked all the doors of the upper room behind him and escaped through the porch.
Too much time had elapsed when the servants came back to check on their king. They found the doors locked and assumed that their king was attending to his personal needs in the inner room of the palace. They waited to the point of embarrassment and unlocked the door with a key. What they saw, stunned them. Their master was dead on the floor.
The Conquering of Moab
Meanwhile, Ehud passed beyond the stone images at Gilgal and went to the town of Seirah in Ephraim. He sounded the shofar (an ancient musical horn used for Jewish religious purposes) in the mountains of Ephraim and gathered the children of Israel, who went down with him. He then led the children of Israel against the Moabites, saying, “The Lord has delivered your enemies the Moabites into your hand.”
The Israelites seized the fords (crossing or bridges or wadable spots) of the Jordan River, leading to Moab, and did not allow anyone to cross over. They invaded Moab itself, killing about 10,000 Moabite men, all stout men of valor, vigorous, able-bodied, and strong. Not one man escaped. That day the nation of Moab was subjugated under the rule of Israel.
After the death of Eglon, Israel enjoyed peace for about 80 years and Ehud governed the longest of all the judges (eighty years).
The story of Ehud is one of the most colorful stories in the Scriptures, which is about how a left-handed Israelite judge freed the country from Moabite domination. The word Eglon is akin to the Hebrew word meaning fattened calf, often one prepared for sacrifice. Eglon becomes a sacrifice at the hand of Ehud, with a sword that went unnoticed.
This story of Ehud gives us a clear picture that this was a victory granted to the Israelites by the Supreme Being.
Major Takeaway of the Story of Ehud
God Accepts Everyone Irrespective of Their Background
The story of Ehud shows that God accepts anyone, as left-handedness was often associated with darkness or deception. Being left-handed was a disadvantage as it was not a culturally accepted social norm of leadership in ancient Israel. Left-handed in those days meant “someone bound/restricted in his right hand.”
Our series on Bible heroes, who trusted God in the middle of difficult times, were powerfully used by the Almighty despite their faults and failings, will inspire you to believe the Supreme Being for the impossible.