The First Three – Judges 3

The Israelites continued their cycle of disobedience and redemption and in the process violated the covenant between their ancestors and God. The Lord’s anger was kindled against the Israelites as he reneged on his part of the covenant. He called out the tribes of Israel and said that he would no longer drive out the nations that were allotted by Joshua before he died.

I will use them to test Israel and see whether they will keep the way of the LORD and walk in it as their ancestors did.” The LORD had allowed those nations to remain; he did not drive them out at once by giving them into the hands of Joshua.

Judges 2:22-23 (NIV)

God already knew what was in the hearts of the Israelites but the scripture says that He used the neighbouring countries to test them, whether they would keep his commands. The King James Version says that the Lord wanted to prove Israel using its neighbouring countries. He tests us to make us stronger to walk in his ways. Getting tested by God is not a trial but rather for our benefit as it gives us an opportunity to realise how deeply rooted we are in His promises.

When we undertake vocational training or an online course in something that we are already an expert in, we are most probably getting ourselves certified for a job requirement. Working in that field day in and day out, would have made us a subject-matter-expert but only by acquiring certification for the course, can we prove to ourselves and our future employers how deep-rooted we are in our concepts of that course. Just like getting a certification in our field of expertise is not a trial for us, similarly, if we are faithful to Christ, getting certified by Him should not be considered a trial for us. However, there are other trials that satan brings out in our lives because of our own desires. God tests us to grant us entry into heaven but satan tests us to restrict our entry from His kingdom.

These are the nations the LORD left to test all those Israelites who had not experienced any of the wars in Canaan (he did this only to teach warfare to the descendants of the Israelites who had not had previous battle experience)

Judges 3:1-2 (NIV)

God wants them to depend on Him then why does He want them to learn warfare? By equipping the Israelites with the skills of combat, God is giving them a chance to evaluate their faith. This is the same God who helped the Israelites conquer Jerico without any weapons but only instruments. He equipped a shepherd boy with His Spirit so that he could fight off bears, lions and even nine feet giants. The shepherd boy grew up to be king David who learned to depend on God in every circumstance beyond his fighting abilities. God expected the Israelites seasoned in warfare, to go into battles and realise that more than their combat skills, they needed to return to their faith and trust in God in every circumstance.

However, the Israelites turned their backs on God and reneged on their part of the covenant when they assimilated with the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites (Judges 3:5). They not only lived among the people that God warned them against but they even gave their daughters in marriage to them and served their idols as their gods. God wanted them to live among them but not to adopt their lifestyle. We should not adopt the disbelief, fear and struggles of the world around us but with the help of God support them during their time of need.


The son of Kenaz and the son-in-law of Israel’s former leader Caleb, Othniel, was the first judge of Israel. When the Israelites further corrupted themselves in pursuit of the local fertility gods, baals and asherahs, that angered the Lord. He gave them into the hands of Cushan-Rishathaim king of Aram Naharaim, to whom the Israelites were subject for eight years. However, God relented when they cried out to Him and raised a deliverer from within them. The Spirit of the Lord came upon Othniel and he went to war against the king of Aram. The Lord gave victory to the Israelites through Othniel and there was peace in the land for forty years, till the death of the judge.

Throughout the book of Judges, we will see the cyclical nature of Israel’s faith, where it increases and reduces based on the judges who led them. God sends His Spirit and draws out a leader among them but no sooner that leader dies, the Israelites are back to their own ways. When Moses went to obtain the ten commandments from God on Mount Sinai, the people assumed that he was dead and carved out their own god. Israel was always lost like a sheep without a shepherd as it did not have its own faith to stand on.


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.

Judges 3:12-14 (NIV)

When the Israelites cried out to the Lord, he gave them another deliverer, Ehud, a southpaw who was from the Benjamite tribe. Ehud crafted a double-edged sword and hid it by strapping it to his right thigh under his clothing. In the guise of bringing a tribute to Eglon, the king of Moab, Ehud found a way to sneak back and assassinate the corpulent leader of the Moabites. When panic struck the servants and the guards when they found the body of their king, Ehud used that opportunity to muster up the troops and brought the sword down on the oppressor of His people.

At that time they struck down about ten thousand Moabites, all vigorous and strong; not one escaped. That day Moab was made subject to Israel, and the land had peace for eighty years.

Judges 3:29-30 (NIV)

It is clear that Ehud was a judge raised by God but unlike Othniel, the scripture does not mention any instances of the Spirit of God descending upon him. He rose from the tribe of Benjamites after being subjugated to the brutal reign of the Moabites for eighteen years. His way of killing Eglon does not seem according to the plan of God, rather, seems like his pent-up frustration of eighteen years bursting out. Moreover, this uncalled attack was carried out during peace time which does not seem to align with brandishing out such a heinous act.

When Solomon asked for and received wisdom from the Lord, he could have used it in a myriad of ways to help his fellow Israelites come closer to God. However, he used his wisdom to amass great wealth for himself and eventually led the people to worship the gods of his many wives. Our God does not carry out a Trojan horse type of tactic but carries out His brand of justice in plain view for all to see. God was ready to win wars for the Israelites but they wanted to carry out their own brand of justice. We must learn from people like Ehud and Solomon, who were chosen by God but still failed miserably because of their lack of faith in Him.


After Ehud came Shamgar son of Anath, who struck down six hundred Philistines with an oxgoad. He too saved Israel.

Judges 3:31 (NIV)

After Ehud, came Shamgar and while he is called the son of Anath, he doesn’t seem to be from the tribes of Israel (at least according to his name) and probably belonged to the region of Beth Anath. He used a simple ranch instrument to ward off six hundred Philistinian men and thus shot to fame because of this extraordinary feat. However, in the days of the prophetess Deborah, she spoke about how Israel was in a bad state during the days of Shamgar.

“In the days of Shamgar son of Anath,
in the days of Jael, the highways were abandoned;
travelers took to winding paths.
Villagers in Israel would not fight;
they held back until I, Deborah, arose,
until I arose, a mother in Israel.

Judges 5:6-7 (NIV)

What we must understand is that God can work through anyone as there was nothing special about Ehud, Othniel and even Shamgar, a gentile chosen to lead God’s people. If God gives us a task, rest assured, He will lead us with His Spirit till its fruition. In the above accounts, we saw that the people were far from perfect, their methods were crude and their weapons were primitive but the common factor among those three was God’s grace. God’s will was carried out through these imperfect people whom He sent to save His people. Whenever we cry out to our God, we can take solace in the knowledge that He is already working on a plan.

God always responded to the cry of the Israelites and in the same way, whenever we want to come back to His fold, He is there to welcome us with open arms. Like the Israelites, we might give importance to the earthly leaders that He has appointed for us but He wants us to look beyond them and desire His perfect peace.

Discussion Questions

  • Why does God want to test the Israelites?
  • God wants them to depend on Him then why does He want them to learn warfare?
  • Does the peace in the land depend on an individual leader’s faith?
  • The Assassination of Eglon provided relief to Israel as the land was in peace for the next eighty years but was it according to the will of God?


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