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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