Judges 3 – “Three Chiefs of Israel”

Hebrew-English Text
I. Summary
God sends Othniel to save the Israelites from the king of Aram. God then sends Ehud to kill the king of Moab. Finally, Shamgar kills 600 Philistines with an ox goad.

II. Photo
Ehud deceives the enemy: “Reaching with his left hand, Ehud drew the dagger from his right side and drove it into [Eglon’s] belly.” (v 21)

III. Important Verses
vv 1-4: These are the nations that the LORD left so that He might test by them all the Israelites who had not known any of the wars of Canaan, so that succeeding generations of Israelites might be made to experience war — but only those who had not known the former wars: the five principalities of the Philistines and all the Canaanites, Sidonians, and Hivites who inhabited the hill country of the Lebanon from Mount Baal-hermon to Lebo-hamath. These served as a means of testing Israel, to learn whether they would obey the commandments which the LORD had enjoined upon their fathers through Moses.
vv 5-6: The Israelites settled among the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites; they took their daughters to wife and gave their own daughters to their sons, and they worshiped their gods.
v 9: The Israelites cried out to the LORD, and the LORD raised a champion for the Israelites to deliver them: Othniel the Kenizzite, a younger kinsman of Caleb.
v 31: After him came Shamgar son of Anath, who slew six hundred Philistines with an oxgoad. He too was a champion of Israel.

IV. Outline

1-4. Theological explanation for war and suffering
5-11a. Othniel the Kenizzite
    5-7. The Israelites sin
    8. God delivers them to the king of Aram
    9a. The Israelites call out to God
    9b-10. Othniel the Kenizzite saves the Israelites
    11a. Forty years of peace
11b-30. Ehud the son of Gera
    11b-12a. The Israelites sin
    12b-14. God hands the Israelites to the king of Moab
    15a. The Israelites call out to God
    15b. Ehud is chosen
    15c-26. Ehud’s mission
    27-30a. The Israelites defeat the Moabites
    30b. Eighty years of peace
31. Shamgar son of Anath defeats six hundred Philistines.

V. Comment
Chapter 3 tells the story of three judges, two of whom are “major” (i.e. treated with detail) and one who is “minor.” All three save the Israelites from their oppressors: Othniel saves them from the king of Aram, Ehud saves them from the Moabites, and Shamgar saves them from the Philistines. Modern scholars question the historicity of this account. For example, Butler writes: “The three nations represented here provoke questions. Moab represents the arch enemy from Transjordan, while Aram-Naharaim represents the Syrian threat under David and his successors. D. C. Browning notes, ‘The rise of Aram-Damascus’ power was facilitated by the division of Israel following the death of Solomon” (HIBD, 1548). The Philistines remained the strongest threat among the peoples living in Cisjordan after the division of the monarchy. The narrator probably collected his materials and edited them in this period shortly after the kingdoms divided and placed the three major powers of his day as the victims of the three judges who passed God’s test.” (75)

VI. Works Used
(see “Commentaries” page)
Trent C. Butler, “Judges” (Word Biblical Commentary vol. 8; Nashville: Nelson, 2009).
Collins, John J. “Introduction to the Hebrew Bible,” Word Biblical Commentary vol. 15 (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2004).
Photo taken from http://www.lawofficermagazine.com/Images/373knife-hand_tcm22-177307.jpg