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.

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