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Curious Takeaways

confronting us with God's style.

Judges 3:26–31

But Ehud had escaped while they delayed, and passed beyond the stone images and escaped to Seirah. And it happened, when he arrived, that he blew the trumpet in the mountains of Ephraim, and the children of Israel went down with him from the mountains; and he led them. Then he said to them, “Follow me, for the LORD has delivered your enemies the Moabites into your hand.” So they went down after him, seized the fords of the Jordan leading to Moab, and did not allow anyone to cross over. And at that time they killed about ten thousand men of Moab, all stout men of valor; not a man escaped. So Moab was subdued that day under the hand of Israel. And the land had rest for eighty years.

After him was Shamgar the son of Anath, who killed six hundred men of the Philistines with an ox goad; and he also delivered Israel.

The LORD’s blessing on Ehud is obvious. Eglon didn’t cry out when he was stabbed in the gut, which is amazing. This makes Ehud’s getaway a piece of cake. He’s long gone before anyone discovers what happened.

Clearly buoyed by this, Ehud raises an army and confidently blocks the exits. Then he wipes out all the Moab warriors stationed on the west side of the Jordan. This leads to an extraordinary period of peace, twice as long as they had after Othniel.

Then we get a curious, one-verse description of Shamgar the son of Anath. Shamgar is not a Hebrew name and Anath is the name of a Canaanite warrior god. It might be that calling Shamgar the son of Anath just means he’s a mighty warrior. In any case, we know almost nothing about the guy.

It isn’t clear that Shamgar should be called a judge based on such scant evidence, though that’s the consensus based on his supernaturally powerful action and that he “delivered Israel.

But Shamgar’s deliverance doesn’t get assigned a separate time period of peace. Nor do we see a separate cycle of Israel forgetting about the LORD and crying out for deliverance.

Thus it seems that Shamgar’s feat of killing 600 Philistines with an ox goad was part of why the land had rest for 80 years. “The land” didn’t consider his singular act to be a war that disrupted its rest.

There are two significant takeaways from the one sentence description of Shamgar’s “ministry.” First, the Old Testament just reports the facts, without any spin. This can feel way too terse for the modern reader. We’re used to, at minimum, some “storytelling” embellishment.

Second, the irony just lays there, confronting us with God’s style. It’s not easy to get used to how God’s ways are not our ways. Absent any storytelling, or “color commentary,” we don’t see why God would choose a non-Israeli to be a judge.

And we don’t get an answer; we’re just left scratching our heads.

Maybe that’s there just to loosen us up. The next judge is a girl.

These Monday—Friday DEEPs are written by Mike Slay. The Weekend DEEPs are written by Matt Richardson. To subscribe to all the DEEPs click here:

The weekly study guides, which include the Monday–Friday devotionals plus related questions for discussion or meditation, are available for download here:

Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.

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