The Sixth in a Series of Sermons on the Book of Judges
You have probably heard me say that the Bible is an “earthy” book. I say this because of passages like the one before us. When we read the account of Ehud–the shifty left-handed assassin–and Eglon–the obese bad guy–it becomes clear that we can’t expect the Bible to conform to the socially accepted standards of Victorian England. To the prudish Victorian’s chagrin, the Bible describes bodily functions, it depicts all kinds of sinful behavior (including sexual behavior) and the Bible makes no bones about how foolish and sinful people can be. In the very “earthy” passage we are covering this Lord’s Day, the author of Judges takes delight in poking fun at Eglon’s weight and even describes a crowd of people waiting outside the toilet while Eglon relieves himself. The Bible doesn’t tell us these things to entertain us or make us laugh. The Bible (in this case the author of Judges) describes what really happened in the days of Ehud–one of the judges whom God raised up to rescue Israel from their enemies. That said, what did happen is funny, and the author of Judges intentionally uses this humor to make an important theological point. God will rescue his people in the most surprising and mysterious of ways. And human behavior, while sinful, is often times so foolish as to be funny.
We resume our series on the Book of Judges. Last time, we covered the bare-bones account of Othniel in Judges 3:7-11. Othniel was a man whom God raised up to rescue Israel from eight years of oppression at the hands of Cushan-rishathaim, king of Mesopotamia. In that very brief account, there are virtually no details given about what happened. We are only told that when YHWH called Othniel to rescue Israel from king “double-evil” from the east, YHWH placed his Spirit upon Othniel, who was then empowered to led Israel to victory over their enemy. That victory over Cushan-rishathaim, ensured that Israel would have forty years of peace. But even in this short report of Othniel, we see the familiar pattern found throughout this section of Judges. Israel turns away from YHWH and so YHWH sends an oppressor. The people of God then cry out to YHWH for help, before YHWH has pity on his people and sends them a rescuer (deliverer, judge), who then defeats those oppressing Israel. The outcome is that Israel enjoys a time of peace, before the whole process repeats itself.
But unlike the account of Othniel, our passage for this Lord’s day is replete with all kinds of interesting information–in fact, there may be too much information here. We learn that YHWH’s chosen deliverer is an assassin named Ehud, who is distinguished because he is “left-handed.” This is significant, because if you were to look up “right hand” in a concordance, you’ll find a significant number of references to God’s “right-hand” which he is said to stretch out, the symbol of his might and power. But Ehud, Israel’s unlikely deliverer, is left-handed. In fact, as one writer tells us, this whole account of Israel’s second judge is “left-handed,” meaning that what happens in this passage is totally unexpected, especially if we contrast this account with the earlier business-like account of Othniel which had no similar details.
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