Monthly Archives: January 2017

Five Interpretations of the Story of King Eglon the Moabite, Pt. 5

V

Once upon a time, there was a fat sack of shit that ruled over a land he had no business ruling. He thought he and his allies would be able to do whatever they wanted forever, but the people of the land pointedly disabused him of that notion.

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Five Interpretations of the Story of King Eglon the Moabite, Pt. 4

IV

Cyrus II of Persia, known as Cyrus the Elder, but principally as Cyrus the Great, was the founder of the Achaemenid Empire. Although he himself would only rule for roughly 30 years, his empire would endure for over 200 years. At its largest size, under the rule of Darius I, known as Darius the Great, the Achaemenid Empire stretched from modern day Libya to Ukraine to Kazakhstan to Pakistan.

The Achaemenid Empire was overthrown by the Macedonian Empire of Alexander III of Macedon, commonly known as Alexander the Great. Although smaller in overall size compared to the Achaemenid Empire, Alexander’s armies were able to conquer the empire that took two-hundred and twenty years to build in ten.

King Eglon of Moab is attested in only a single chapter of the Book of Judges. If such a person even existed, he is known for the following: his armies seized a foreign city thirty miles away from his capital. He ruled for eighteen years. He was fat. He soiled himself when he was assassinated. He was apparently so prone to defecation, that it took his servants some time to realize he had died.


Five Interpretations of the Story of King Eglon the Moabite, Pt. 3

III

Imagine a man, physically unimpressive and at best average of intellect and reason. Through accident of birth, this man possessed an inordinate amount of wealth and political power, far more than was ever his due. Now, such good fortune can breed disconnectedness in anyone. There’s a certain subjectivity to reality, and being born into a life where one’s needs are serviced and one’s whims are catered to necessarily informs and affects one’s perception of what the nature of the world is. Eglon the Moabite, unremarkable in every way, had the good fortune to be born the son of a king and a queen, and this is what doomed him.

For a man of his time, he had all that anyone could ever have wanted. Servants. Women. Food and drink in abundant measure. But such was Eglon’s personality that nothing in the world was enough to satisfy him. The nation of Moab was roughly twenty square miles in size, but Eglon wanted a kingdom that would encompass the entire world. In particular, he desired the lands of the Israelites, whom he believed had slandered and mocked him.

While Eglon himself may have lived and died doing nothing more than talking without taking action, the ruler of Ammon to the north and the chiefs of the nomadic Amalek peoples were more ambitious. They saw in Eglon a puppet that could be easily manipulated, a narcissist that could be controlled with carefully applied flattery and criticism. They whispered into his ear, “The Israelites think you weak, O King, but we know you to be great and wise and strong. Surely the Israelites could not stand before the might of the Moabite army. Surely they must be paid back double for their insults and their crimes.”

Manipulated by foreign leaders, Eglon marched his armies across the River Jordan. They captured the city of Jericho and Eglon began demanding concessions from the Israelites, tributes. The Israelites blistered under Eglon’s demands, his inconstancy, his bullying and his egotism. Centuries after this period, the Israelites would welcome foreign intervention with open arms, as when the Persians warred with the Babylonians and in so doing Cyrus the Great liberated the Israelites from Nabonidus’s rule. But Eglon the Moabite was despised, and a plot was enacted to assassinate him. An Israelite leader, Ehud, stabbed the king to death during a tributary, and lead an Israelite army against the Moabite army.

So ended the life of Eglon the Moabite. His kingship was a footnote, and he is remembered mostly as a pawn in the machinations of other rulers.


Five Interpretations of the Story of King Eglon the Moabite, Pt. 2

II

That the king of Moab would come to rule over Israel was, in retrospect, as foregone a conclusion as if it had been ordained by God. The ruling factions of the land had fostered a sense of disillusionment in Israel’s lower class to further their own ends, and this latent tribalism soon gave way to open animosity. The Israelites saw themselves as a people divided and under siege from within, every family and neighborhood and village believing itself to be the “real” Israel.

Into this maelstrom stepped Eglon, a strongman who even though he was an outsider promised to return Israel to an earlier, better era. His propaganda arrived ahead of his armies, and under his direction, the combined forces of the Moabites, Ammonites, and Amalekites seized the city of Jericho. Roughly a fifth of the Israelites were only too happy to deliver their nation into the hands of these conquerers.

Eglon’s reign lasted for eighteen years before he was killed by an assassin and the Moabite army driven back across the River Jordan. The Israelites were able to keep their disparate factions together for eighty years before things once more degenerated to the point where another despot was able to seize power.


Five Interpretations of the Story of King Eglon the Moabite, Pt. 1

I

Because the Israelites did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, the Lord sent King Eglon of Moab against them. Allied with the Ammonites and the Amalekites, King Eglon warred against and defeated Israel, and together he and his allies took possession of the city of palms. So the Israelites would come to live under the rule of King Eglon of Moab for eighteen years. But when the Israelites cried out to the Lord, the Lord raised up for them a deliverer: Ehud, son of Gera the Benjaminite, a left-handed man.

The Israelites sent Ehud with tribute to King Eglon. Ehud made for himself a double-edged blade, a cubit in length, and he hid it on his right thigh under his clothes when he presented the tribute. When Ehud had finished presenting the tribute, he sent the people who carried the tribute on their way. But Ehud himself tarried and said to Eglon, “I have a secret message for you, O king.”

Now, Eglon was a very fat man, gluttonous and greedy in equal measure. So the king said, “Leave us!” and all his attendants went out from his presence. Ehud came to him while he was sitting alone in his chamber, and said, “I have a message from God for you.” Ehud rose from his seat, reached with his left hand, took the dagger from his right thigh, and thrust it into Eglon’s belly. The hilt also went in after the blade, and Eglon’s stomach fat closed over the blade, for Ehud did not draw the sword out of his belly, and Eglon soiled himself as he died. Then Ehud went out into the antechamber, and closed the doors of the chamber on him, and locked them.

After he had gone, Eglon’s servants came. When they saw that the doors of the chamber were locked, they thought, “He must be relieving himself.” So they waited until they were embarrassed for their king, and when Eglon still did not open the doors of the chamber, the servants took the key and opened them. So they found their king lying dead on the floor.

During all this Ehud escaped to the town of Seirah. When he arrived, he sounded the trumpet in the hill country of Ephraim, a signal for the Israelites to gather to him. Together they went down from the hill country, Ehud at their head. He said to them, “Follow after me, for the Lord has given your enemies the Moabites into your hand!” They seized the fords of the River Jordan from the Moabites. During the battle, they killed about ten thousand of the Moabites, all strong, able-bodied men; none of Moab’s army escaped. So Moab was subdued that day, and Israel knew eighty years of peace.


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