Judges – Lesson 4 .. Judges Chapter 3:1-31


Last week, we finished up our study on the second chapter of the book of Judges.  We talked about how the children of Israel promised to do good, but failed and went back to worshipping false gods.  They allowed the heathen nations to live with them, even though God had commanded that they all be driven out.   This came back to haunt them again and again.  If we as Christians let the world dictate our lifestyle, we too will pay the price, and our witness and testimony will not be effective. 

I.  The Nations Left in the Land 

Judg 3:1  Now these are the nations which the LORD left, to prove Israel by them, even as many of Israel as had not known all the wars of Canaan;

Judg 3:2  Only that the generations of the children of Israel might know, to teach them war, at the least such as before knew nothing  thereof;

Judg 3:3  Namely, five lords of the Philistines, and all the Canaanites, and the Sidonians, and the Hivites that dwelt in mount Lebanon, from mount Baalhermon unto the entering in of Hamath.

Judg 3:4  And they were to prove Israel by them, to know whether they would hearken unto the commandments of the LORD, which he commanded their fathers by the hand of Moses. 

The people that remained in the land were the five lords of the Philistines.  We remember them from the record of Samson fighting them and killing so many when he brought down the whole building on top of them all by pulling down the support pillars.   This was after they had taken him and put out his eyes and made him to work for them grinding.   It states here in the text in verse 3 that these five had apparently kept together and stayed united. 

We have a record of the five cities of these Philistine lords in 1 Samuel Chapter 6. 

1 Sam 6:16  And when the five lords of the Philistines had seen it, they returned to Ekron the same day.

1 Sam 6:17  And these are the golden emerods which the Philistines returned for a trespass offering unto the LORD; for Ashdod one, for Gaza one, for Askelon one, for Gath one, for Ekron one; 

Three of these cities had been reduced in part. 

Judg 1:18  Also Judah took Gaza with the coast thereof, and Askelon with the coast thereof, and Ekron with the coast thereof. 

The Canaanites, the Sidonians, and the Hivites were the ones that dwelt in Mount Lebanon, while the Hivites held the land from Mount Hermon to Hamath.   The five lords of the Philistines lived in the five cities we just read.   Even though they had been smitten to some extent, they make a comeback with the help of the other two cities.  These Philistines gave the greatest disturbance to Israel of any of the natives of the land, particularly in the latter days of the judges.  They were never put to silence until the times of David. 

1 Sam 17:44  And the Philistine said to David, Come to me, and I will give thy flesh unto the fowls of the air, and to the beasts of the field.

1 Sam 17:45  Then said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied.

1 Sam 17:46  This day will the LORD deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee; and I will give the carcases of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel.

1 Sam 17:47  And all this assembly shall know that the LORD saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the Lord's, and he will give you into our hands.

1 Sam 17:48  And it came to pass, when the Philistine arose, and came and drew nigh to meet David, that David hasted, and ran toward the army to meet the Philistine.

1 Sam 17:49  And David put his hand in his bag, and took thence a stone, and slang it, and smote the Philistine in his forehead, that the stone sunk into his forehead; and he fell upon his face to the earth.

1 Sam 17:50  So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and smote the Philistine, and slew him; but there was no sword in the hand of David. 

I suppose this was one of the greatest feats of faith and courage ever recorded in the Word of God.  As a child, this was my favorite Bible story because I used to think if there was a David that God would help to slay a giant with a slingshot, what would he do for a David today.   And as I've grown older, I have found that there are no battles in this life that God won't help you win when you put Him first in your life. 

These Philistines were left here to prove Israel.  In our lives, sometimes we face things that don't make sense, but it may be God's way of getting us prepared to do an even greater work for Him than we are doing today.   The Philistines were used by God to teach Israel that they had not really known war hardship.

Verse 4 says that they were also left in the land to find out whether Israel would hearken unto the commandments of the Lord.   Sometimes the tough times are times of trial and testing, and this may be our times of greatest growth. 

What commandments were in question that the nation of Israel might follow? 

Deu 7:1  When the LORD thy God shall bring thee into the land whither thou goest to possess it, and hath cast out many nations before

thee, the Hittites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites,

seven nations greater and mightier than thou;

Deu 7:2  And when the LORD thy God shall deliver them before thee; thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no

covenant with them, nor show mercy unto them:

Deu 7:3  Neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto

thy son.

Deu 7:4  For they will turn away thy son from following me, that they may serve other gods: so will the anger of the LORD be kindled against

you, and destroy thee suddenly.

Deu 7:5  But thus shall ye deal with them; ye shall destroy their altars, and break down their images, and cut down their groves, and burn

their graven images with fire. 

God had told the people to do all of these things, and we know that up to this point, they sure had not done all of them. 


 II. The First Apostasy and Servitude 

Judg 3:5  And the children of Israel dwelt among the Canaanites, Hittites, and Amorites, and Perizzites, and Hivites, and Jebusites: 

Not only were the people of God in the same land, but they dwelt among these other groups.  It appears from this that the Canaanites still were the ones deciding who could live in what land.


Judg 3:6  And they took their daughters to be their wives, and gave their daughters to their sons, and served their gods. 

The marrying of the Jewish daughters and sons to the Canaanites were results of the Canaanites remaining in the land.  This was not pleasing to the Lord.   He had repeatedly told them not to do this and to drive them utterly from the land.   If we as Christians keep on serving and running with the people of the world, soon our salt will not be solid like God wants it to be.    God wants separated, consecrated people to serve Him.  That means that we shouldn't love the things of this world, and people should be able to tell by our actions, our speech, and our dress that we are not like them.   The people of Israel let their daughters be married to the Canaanites and the men married the Canaanite women.  Note what the next verse says. 

Judg 3:7  And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and forgat the LORD their God, and served Baalim and the groves. 

A small sin will lead to bigger sin.  The poor drunk in the gutter never thought that one sip at a party of a martini would one day lead to a life ruined.  But Satan starts small and works his way up.  What did Satan say to Eve?  "Hath God said?"  Just get us to question God, and he has us heading in a downward spiral.  Now the people were serving the false gods, the very thing that God had warned them about.  We will see all through the book of Judges this cycle repeated..  They would serve God for a while, but when a judge died, they slid back to their old ways.  It was not until the Babylonian Captivity that lasted over 400 years did the people learn not to serve false idols. 

Judg 3:8  Therefore the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel, and he sold them into the hand of Chushanrishathaim king of Mesopotamia: and the children of Israel served Chushanrishathaim eight years. 

The anger of the Lord was kindled against the people due to their evil actions.   The first oppression that God brought came from the kind of Mesopotamia, Chushan-rishathaim.  It lasted for 8 years. 

Matthew Henry commented this about their false idol worship. 

How wickedly Israel mingled themselves with those that did remain. One thing God intended in leaving them among them was to prove Israel (v. 4), that those who were faithful to the God of Israel might have the honour of resisting the Canaanites’ allurements to idolatry, and that those who were false and insincere might be discovered, and might fall under the shame of yielding to those allurements. Thus in the Christian churches there must needs be heresies, that those who are perfect may be made manifest, 1 Co. 11:19. Israel, upon trial, proved bad. 1. They joined in marriage with the Canaanites (v. 6), though they could not advance either their honour or their estate by marrying with them. They would mar their blood instead of mending it, and sink their estates instead of raising them, by such marriages. 2. Thus they were brought to join in worship with them; they served their gods (v. 6), Baalim and the groves (v. 7), that is, the images that were worshipped in groves of thick trees, which were a sort of natural temples. In such unequal matches there is more reason to fear that the bad will corrupt the good than to hope that the good will reform the bad, as there is in laying two pears together, the one rotten and the other sound. When they inclined to worship other gods they forgot the Lord their God. In complaisance to their new relations, they talked of nothing by Baalim and the groves, so that by degrees they lost the remembrance of the true God, and forgot there was such a Being, and what obligations they lay under to him.       [1]


III. Othniel, The First Judge 

Judg 3:9  And when the children of Israel cried unto the LORD, the LORD raised up a deliverer to the children of Israel, who delivered them, even Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother. 

God heard the peoples cries, and he gives them the first judge of Israel after the death of Joshua.  Othniel was the son of Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother.  

Josh 15:14  And Caleb drove thence the three sons of Anak, Sheshai, and Ahiman, and Talmai, the children of Anak.

Josh 15:15  And he went up thence to the inhabitants of Debir: and the name of Debir before was Kirjathsepher.

Josh 15:16  And Caleb said, He that smiteth Kirjathsepher, and taketh it, to him will I give Achsah my daughter to wife. 

These verses in Joshua show that Othniel was also the son-in-law of Caleb.  He as a notable man at the time of the oppression of Mesopotamia.  This probably helped when he began to gather men to fight against this king.


Judg 3:10  And the spirit of the LORD came upon him, and he judged Israel, and went out to war: and the LORD delivered Chushanrishathaim king of Mesopotamia into his hand; and his hand prevailed against Chushanrishathaim.

Judg 3:11  And the land had rest forty years. And Othniel the son of Kenaz died. 

We can note several things about Othniel.   The first is that his life qualified him to be the deliverer of Israel.  They accepted his leadership and followed him to war against the great king of Mesopotamia.  We are told that he judged Israel and went out to war.  And most importantly, it shows in verse 10 that God was the one who delivered the king into his hands.  This first judge was a great blessing to Israel, for his good leadership, by the Spirit of the Lord was maintained for 40 years. (the remainder of his life.)

J. Vernon McGee said this about the first judge of Israel. 

Othniel was the first and one of the better judges. There is no great criticism leveled against him. He saved his people from the oppression of Chushan-rishathaim. The only thing is that he was not capable in himself. He did not become leader of Israel because of his outstanding ability but because he was Caleb’s nephew and had married Caleb’s daughter. And yet God used him. It is amazing what kind of men God will use. Maybe that is the reason He can use you and me. This book should certainly encourage us, friend.

All of the judges were “little men.” There was not a big one in the lot. These men were used of God because they were—and I have to say it—odd characters. Their very oddness caused God to use them.

The biography of Othniel was that he was the son of Kenaz, who was Caleb’s brother. The Spirit of God came upon him, and he delivered the children of Israel from oppression. He died. In a very few verses we have the life and death of this man. He had a lot going for him, but there was no glamour or anything spectacular connected with his life. Most biographies are much like this.   [2]



IV. The Second Apostasy and Servitude 

Judg 3:12  And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the LORD: and the LORD strengthened Eglon the king of Moab against

Israel, because they had done evil in the sight of the LORD. 

Once again the children of Israel do evil in the sight of the Lord.  And we know that what we sow is what we will reap. 

Gal 6:7  Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.

Gal 6:8  For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life


Gal 6:9  And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. 

We need to be sowing good seeds that will come up blessings to us after a few months.  One of the toughest things to teach to a teenager is that they need to look at the long view.  Almost always, when we have choices to make, to do the right thing is not what brings immediate satisfaction or gratification.  And young people want it right now.  But

as you grow older, you learn from all your failures, and you see the holes in the road before you fall into them, and you drive around.  God help us to convey that God's way is always the right way.  We will never fail when we trust the Lord and do it His way.  God greatly blessed Israel when they wholly followed Him, but they paid the price when they went their own way.  Man is slow to learn from the chastening hand of God. 

Num 32:23  But if ye will not do so, behold, ye have sinned against the LORD: and be sure your sin will find you out.


Moses warned Rueben, Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh that their sins would find them out.  Ours will too.  Nothing is hidden from God.  We may look good in the eyes of man, but if our heart is not right, God knows, and he is the one that counts. 

God brought the king of Moab against Israel at this time.   Remember when Baalim was hired to curse Israel, but was unable to do so because God blessed them.


Num 23:1  And Balaam said unto Balak, Build me here seven altars, and prepare me here seven oxen and seven rams.

Num 23:2  And Balak did as Balaam had spoken; and Balak and Balaam offered on every altar a bullock and a ram.


Num 23:8  How shall I curse, whom God hath not cursed? or how shall I defy, whom the LORD hath not defied?

Num 23:9  For from the top of the rocks I see him, and from the hills I behold him: lo, the people shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned

among the nations.

Num 23:10  Who can count the dust of Jacob, and the number of the fourth part of Israel? Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my

last end be like his!

Num 23:11  And Balak said unto Balaam, What hast thou done unto me? I took thee to curse mine enemies, and, behold, thou hast blessed

them altogether.

Num 23:12  And he answered and said, Must I not take heed to speak that which the LORD hath put in my mouth?


Num 24:10  And Balak's anger was kindled against Balaam, and he smote his hands together: and Balak said unto Balaam, I called thee to

curse mine enemies, and, behold, thou hast altogether blessed them these three times.

Num 24:11  Therefore now flee thou to thy place: I thought to promote thee unto great honour; but, lo, the LORD hath kept thee back from


Num 24:12  And Balaam said unto Balak, Spake I not also to thy messengers which thou sentest unto me, saying,

Num 24:13  If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot go beyond the commandment of the LORD, to do either good or

bad of mine own mind; but what the LORD saith, that will I speak?

Num 24:14  And now, behold, I go unto my people: come therefore, and I will advertise thee what this people shall do to thy people in the

latter days.


Judg 3:13  And he gathered unto him the children of Ammon and Amalek, and went and smote Israel, and possessed the city

of palm trees. 

Othniel possessed the city of palm trees which was most likely Jericho. Eglon had set his headquarters there to collect tribute from Israel.


Joshua destroyed Jericho in his conquest of the land and put a curse on the man that rebuilds it. 

Josh 6:26  And Joshua adjured them at that time, saying, Cursed be the man before the LORD, that riseth up and buildeth this city Jericho: he

shall lay the foundation thereof in his firstborn, and in his youngest son shall he set up the gates of it. 


Judg 3:14  So the children of Israel served Eglon the king of Moab eighteen years. 

The children served in Moab 18 years under King Eglon.



V.  Ehud, the Second Judge 

Judg 3:15  But when the children of Israel cried unto the LORD, the LORD raised them up a deliverer, Ehud the son of Gera, a Benjamite, a man lefthanded: and by him the children of Israel sent a present unto Eglon the king of Moab. 

The people cry out again unto the Lord.  Sort of like a child that goes out in the backyard and gets hurt.  They come running to Mommy.  She fixes the problem, and he returns and hurts himself again.  And he runs to Mother again.  That was the way Israel was.  They caused a lot of self-inflicted pain and agony to themselves.  But God was good, and he raised up Ehud, a man from the tribe of Benjamin, to deliver Israel.   He was a left handed man.   By him, a present was sent to the Eglon, the king of Moab.   

Judg 3:16  But Ehud made him a dagger which had two edges, of a cubit length; and he did gird it under his raiment upon his right thigh.


Ehud made a dagger about 18" long and strapped it on his right side.  He had intentions of putting Eglon to death.


Judg 3:17  And he brought the present unto Eglon king of Moab: and Eglon was a very fat man.

Judg 3:18  And when he had made an end to offer the present, he sent away the people that bare the present.


After he made the delivery, he sent his people on and turned back to wait on the king.


Judg 3:19  But he himself turned again from the quarries that were by Gilgal, and said, I have a secret errand unto thee, O king: who said,

Keep silence. And all that stood by him went out from him.

So when the king returned, Ehud says he has a secret errand unto thee, and the king gave him a private audience.


Judg 3:20  And Ehud came unto him; and he was sitting in a summer parlour, which he had for himself alone. And Ehud said, I have a message from God unto thee. And he arose out of his seat. 

Eglon arose out of his seat.  This could have been due to his fear of hearing God's name mentioned.  He could have arose out of reverence to God, but that is unlikely. 

Judg 3:21  And Ehud put forth his left hand, and took the dagger from his right thigh, and thrust it into his belly:

Judg 3:22  And the haft also went in after the blade; and the fat closed upon the blade, so that he could not draw the dagger out of his belly;

and the dirt came out. 

Ehud took the dagger and thrust it into the belly of Eglon and put him to death.


Judg 3:23  Then Ehud went forth through the porch, and shut the doors of the parlour upon him, and locked them.

Judg 3:24  When he was gone out, his servants came; and when they saw that, behold, the doors of the parlour were locked, they said,

Surely he covereth his feet in his summer chamber. 

Ehud calmly exited and locked the door as if nothing had happened at all.  He was able to escape the Moabites by being to calm and collected.


Judg 3:25  And they tarried till they were ashamed: and, behold, he opened not the doors of the parlour; therefore they took a key, and

opened them: and, behold, their lord was fallen down dead on the earth.

Judg 3:26  And Ehud escaped while they tarried, and passed beyond the quarries, and escaped unto Seirath. 

After some time, the servants open the door and find their king dead.  This time allowed Ehud to safely escape and rally the Israelites after him.  They first came to Seirath, a rugged forested area in the mountains along the border between Benjamin and the tribe of Ephraim.  He proceeded into the mountains and blew the war trumpet to call all the people to fight against the Moabites.    The people came and made Ehud their leader. 

Judg 3:27  And it came to pass, when he was come, that he blew a trumpet in the mountain of Ephraim, and the children of Israel went

down with him from the mount, and he before them.

Judg 3:28  And he said unto them, Follow after me: for the LORD hath

delivered your enemies the Moabites into your hand. And they went

down after him, and took the fords of Jordan toward Moab, and

suffered not a man to pass over. 

Ehud states that the Lord had delivered the Moabites into their hands.  It appears that the first move they made was to take the fords of the Jordan to keep anyone form escaping. 

Judg 3:29  And they slew of Moab at that time about ten thousand men,

all lusty, and all men of valour; and there escaped not a man.

Judg 3:30  So Moab was subdued that day under the hand of Israel.

And the land had rest fourscore years. 

They slew about 10,000 men and not even one man escaped.  When God fights your battles, you are very, very effective.  The land then had rest for 80 years.


VI.  Shamgar becomes the Third Judge 

Judg 3:31  And after him was Shamgar the son of Anath, which slew of

the Philistines six hundred men with an ox goad: and he also delivered


Not a lot was said about this judge, but most likely he was a farmer in one of the tribes.  He slew 600 men, and deliver Israel from the Philistines.



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[1]Henry, Matthew, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Bible, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers) 1997.

[2]J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible commentary [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1981 by J. Vernon McGee.