- A general account of Israel's enemies, verse 1-7.
- A particular account of Othniel, verse 8-11, Of Ehud, verse
- 12-30. and of Shamgar, verse 31.
Had not known - That is, such as had no experience of those wars, nor of God's extraordinary power and providence manifested in them.
Teach them war - That by the neighbourhood of such warlike enemies, they might be purged from sloth and security, and obliged them to innure themselves to martial exercises, and to stand continually upon their guard, and consequently to keep close to that God whose assistance they had so great and constant need of.
Five lords - Whereof three had been in some sort subdued, chap. 1:18. but afterwards recovered their strength. Canaanites - Properly so called, who were very numerous, and dispersed through several parts of the land, whence they gave denomination to all the rest of the people. Zidonions - The people living near Zidon, and subject to its jurisdiction. Baal-hermon - Which was the eastern part about Lebanon.
To know - That is, that they and others might know by experience.
Served their gods - Were drawn to idolatry by the persuasions and examples of their yoke-fellows.
And the groves - That is, in the groves, in which the Heathens usually worshipped their Baalim or idols.
Served - That is, were made subject to him. Mesopotamia was that part of Syria which lay between the two great rivers, Tigris and Euphrates. This lay at such a distance, that one would not have thought Israel's trouble should have come from such a far country: which shews so much the more of the hand of God in it.
Cried - That is, prayed fervently for deliverance.
Came upon him - With extraordinary influence, endowing him with singular wisdom and courage, and stirring him up to this great undertaking. Judged Israel - That is, pleaded and avenged the cause of Israel against their oppressors.
Forty years - It rested about forty years, or the greatest part of forty years: it being most frequent in scripture to use numbers in such a latitude. Nor is it unusual either in scripture, or in other authors, for things to be denominated from the greater part; especially, when they enjoyed some degrees of rest and peace even in their times of slavery.
Strengthened Eglon - By giving him courage, and power, and success against them.
City of Palm-trees - That is, Jericho. Not the city which was demolished, but the territory belonging to it. Here he fixed his camp, for the fertility of that soil, and because of its nearness to the passage over Jordan, which was most commodious both for the conjunction of his own forces which lay on both sides of Jordan; to prevent the conjunction of the Israelites in Canaan with their brethren beyond Jordan; and to secure his retreat into his own country.
Eighteen years - The former servitude lasted but eight years; this eighteen: for if smaller troubles do not the work, God will send greater.
A Benjamite - This tribe was next to Eglon, and doubtless most afflicted by him; and hence God raiseth a deliverer. Left handed - Which is here noted, as a considerable circumstance in the following story.
A cubit length - Long enough for his design, and not too long for concealment. His right thigh - Which was most convenient both for the use of his left hand, and for avoiding suspicion.
The present - Which was to be paid to him as a part of his tribute.
Sent the people - He accompanied them part of the way, and then dismissed them, and returned to Eglon alone, that so he might have more easy access to him.
Turned again - As if he had forgot some important business. Keep silence - 'Till my servants be gone: whom he would not have acquainted with a business which he supposed to be of great importance.
A summer parlour - Into which he used to retire from company: which is mentioned as the reason why his servants waited so long ere they went in to him, verse 25. A message - To be delivered not in words, but by actions. He designedly uses the name Elohim, which was common to the true God, and false ones; and not Jehovah, which was peculiar to the true God; because Ehud not knowing whether the message came; not from his own false god, he would more certainly rise, and thereby give Ehud more advantage for his blow; whereas he would possibly shew his contempt of the God of Israel by sitting still to hear his message. He arose - In token of reverence to God.
Went forth - With a composed countenance and gait, being well assured, that God, who by his extraordinary call had put him upon that enterprise, would by his special providence carry him through it. Upon him - Upon or after himself. Locked them - Either pulling it close after him, as we do when doors have spring locks; or taking the key with him.
Covereth his feet - This phrase is used only here, and 1 Samuel 24:3. A late judicious interpreter expounds it, of composing himself to take a little sleep, as was very usual to do in the day-time in those hot countries. And when they did so in cool places, such as this summer parlour unquestionably was, they used to cover their feet. And this may seem to be the more probable, both because the summer parlour was proper for this use, and because this was a more likely reason of their long waiting at his door, lest they should disturb his repose. And this sense best agrees with Saul's case in the cave, when being asleep, David could more securely cut off the lap of his garment.
Ashamed - Or, confounded, not knowing what to say or think; lest they should either disturb him, or be guilty of neglect towards him. A key - Another key, it being usual in princes courts to have divers keys for the same door.
The children of Israel - Whom doubtless he had prepared by his emissaries gathered together in considerable numbers.
Fords of Jordan - Where they passed over Jordan, that neither the Moabites that were got into Canaan, might escape, nor any more Moabites come over Jordan to their succour.
Fourscore years - Chiefly that part of it which lay east of Jordan: for the other side of the country, which lay south-west, was even then infested by the Philistines.
An ox goad - As Samson did a thousand with the jaw-bone of an ass; both being miraculous actions, and not at all incredible to him that believes a God, who could easily give strength to effect this. It is probable Shamgar was following the plough, when the Philistines made an inroad into the country. And having neither sword nor spear, when God put it into his heart to oppose them, he took the instrument that was next at hand. It is no matter how weak the weapon is, if God direct and strengthen the arm.