The Present That Ehud Brought to King Eglon
The First Judge
Judges i: 1, to
would suppose that, after all that God had done for
the Israelites, and after their own promises to
serve him faithfully, they would never turn to the
idols which could not save their own people, the
Canaanites. Yet, when Joshua was no longer living,
and the men who knew Joshua had also died, the
people began to forget their own God and to worship
images of wood and stone.
Perhaps it was not so strange after all. In all the
world, so far as we know, at that time the
Israelites were the only people who did not worship
idols. All the nations around them, the Egyptians,
from whose land they had come, the Edomites on the
south, the Moabites on the east, the Philistines on
the west beside the Great Sea, all these bowed down
to images, and many of them offered their own
children upon the idol-altars.
Then, too, you remember that the Canaanites had not
been driven out of the land. They were there still,
in their own cities and villages everywhere, and
their idols were standing under the trees on many
high places. So the Israelites saw idols all around
them, and people bowing down before them; while they
themselves had no God that could be seen. The
Tabernacle was far away from some parts of the land;
and the people were so busy with their fields and
their houses that few of them went up to worship.
And so it came to pass that the people began to
neglect their own worship of the Lord, and then to
begin the worship of the idols around them. And from
idol-worship they sank lower still into wicked
deeds. For all this the Lord left them to suffer.
Their enemies came upon them from the lands around,
and became their masters; for when God left them
they were helpless. They were made poor, for these
rulers who had conquered them robbed them of all
their grain, and grapes, and olive-oil.
After a time of suffering the Israelites would think
of what God had done for them in other times. Then
they would turn away from the idols, and would call
upon God. And God would hear them, and raise up some
great man to lead them to freedom, and to break the
power of those who were ruling over them. This great
man they called "a judge;" and under him they would
serve God, and be happy and successful once more.
As long as the judge lived and ruled, the people
worshipped God. But when the judge died they forgot
God again, and worshipped idols and fell under the
power of their enemies as before, until God sent
another judge to deliver them. And this happened
over and over again in the three hundred years after
Joshua died. Seven nations in turn ruled over the
Israelites, and after each "oppression," as this
rule was called, a "deliverer" arose to set the
The idols which the Israelites worshipped most of
all were those named Baal and Asherah. Baal was an
image looking somewhat like a man; and Asherah was
the name given to the one that looked like a woman.
These images were set up in groves and on hills by
the Canaanite people, and to these the Israelites
bowed down, falling on their faces before them.
The first nation to come from another land against
the Israelites was the people of Mesopotamia,
between the great rivers Euphrates and Tigris on the
north. Their king led his army into the land and
made the Israelites serve him eight years. Then they
cried to the Lord, and the Lord sent to them Othniel,
who was a younger brother of Caleb. He set the
people free from the Mesopotamians, and ruled them
as long as he lived, and kept them faithful to the
Lord. Othniel was the first of the judges of Israel.
But after Othniel died the people again began to
worship images, and again fell under the power of
their enemies. This time it was the Moabites who
came against them from the land east of the Dead
Sea. Their king at this time was named Eglon, and he
was very hard in his rule over the Israelites. Again
they cried to the Lord, and God called a man named
Ehud, who belonged to the tribe of Benjamin, to set
the people free.
Ehud came one day to visit King Eglon, who was
ruling over the land. He said:
"I have a present from my people to the king. Let me
go into his palace and see him."
They let Ehud into the palace, and he gave to the
king a present; then he went out, but soon came
back, and said:
"I have a message to the king that no one else can
hear. Let me see the king alone."
As he had just brought a present they supposed that
he was a friend to the king. Then, too, he had no
sword on the side where men carried their swords.
But Ehud was left-handed, and he carried on the
other side a short, sharp sword which he had made,
like a dagger. This sword was out of sight under his
He went into the room where King Eglon was sitting
alone, and said, "I have a message from the Lord to
you, and this is the message."
And then he drew out his sword and drove it up to
the handle into the king's body so suddenly that the
king died without giving a sound. Ehud left the
sword in the dead body of the king, and went out
quietly by the rear door. The servants of the king
thought he was asleep in his room, and for a while
did not go in to see why he was so still; but when
they found him dead Ehud was far away.
Ehud blew a trumpet and called his people together,
and led them against the Moabites. They were so
helpless without their king that Ehud and his men
easily drove them out of Israel and set the people
free. Ehud became the second judge over the land.
And after that it was many years before enemies
again held rule over Israel.
The next enemies to Israel were the Philistines, who
lived on the shore of the Great Sea on the west.
They came up from the plain against the Israelites;
but Shamgar, the third judge, met them with a
company of farmers, who drove the Philistines back
with their ox-goads, and so kept them from ruling
over the land.
The First Judge