Bible Studies

Ehud the Judge/Assassin

Ever notice that the Bible is like an action movie? There are some seriously amazing stories in the Bible. Judges is full of them. Some of these stories can really make people think, whether they believe the Bible is the Word of God or not.

Take Ehud. His story would make a really awesome action movie. It’s recounted in Judges 3:12ff. Here are the highlights:

The Israelites sin. The LORD punishes them by sending Eglon, King of Moab. Eglon gets some allies of his to come with him and they beat up Israel. The Israelites cry out for help, and the LORD sends help for them. Enter Ehud, the assassin. Ehud is left-handed, and the king’s body guards don’t discover his weapon (probably because they didn’t bother to search his right side–his sword would be on opposite hand to make it easier to draw). Ehud asks for a private audience and Eglon grants it. Ehud stabs Eglon so hard that it sinks all the way into the portly man’s flesh. Leaving his blade behind, Ehud escapes and rallies the troops, who unite around their new leader. He then strikes ten thousand Moabites down with his army, and none escape.

Yeah, it could make a pretty epic action movie. But what about a Bible story? How are we supposed to take this story in the context of Scripture? Note once more the beginning of the story: the Israelites did evil (Judges 3:12). Throughout Judges, we see the same pattern: the Israelites do evil, and God punishes them by oppressing them with one of the nations in the area. Then, the Israelites realize their evil, and they cry to God, repentant, and ask Him for help. He delivers them from their enemies, and there is peace in the land.

What can we take away from this story? Does it show another instance of evil in the Bible which Christians must hide? No, rather it shows the story that we can see woven throughout the Scriptures: a story of redemption and peace with God. Because of Jesus, we now live in an era in which we no longer have to wait for a deliverer, as Israel did. We’re told that all people have sinned and fall short (Romans 3:23), just as the Israelites did. And we all deserve punishment. But when we cry out to God, we know there is a redeemer close at hand. God forgives our sins because of Christ, and we can live in peace.

The cycle in Judges is repeated over and over. It reflects a time in which everyone did what they willed (Judges 21:25). God came to His people with the understanding they had. But in our time, we have Jesus who died once for all. The cycle is broken, and we may enjoy eternal peace.

See Judges 3 for more on Ehud.

This is part of a continuing series on “Awesome Person(s) of the Bible.” Other posts can be found here.



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About J.W. Wartick

J.W. Wartick is a Lutheran, feminist, Christ-follower. A Science Fiction snob, Bonhoeffer fan, Paleontology fanboy and RPG nerd.


14 thoughts on “Ehud the Judge/Assassin

  1. Love it. Well Done. Check out my post on St Patrick here for an awesome person who followed God’s lead.

    Posted by Paul S | March 21, 2011, 9:27 AM
  2. Stabbity-stabs? Did Eglon get a fair trial? Is death by stabbing an appropriate punishment for whatever he did?

    Praising lawless, brutal assassins fits right in with all the other contradictory wackiness of the Abrahamic faiths. Apparently killing for God earns medals in your system. That doesn’t make it any less repugnant.

    Or is this only allegory? If so, what lesson of love does it teach?

    Posted by Donald Severs | March 21, 2011, 9:52 AM
    • Don, as I’ve charged, and you’ve yet to respond, there is no meaning on atheism, so I take your moral judgments as nothing more than vacuous subjectivity.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | March 21, 2011, 4:23 PM
      • And, to be fair, even if you’re arguing “on theism”, you frequently commit the fallacy of assuming there is no hierarchical objectivity–your “theism” seems to assume absolutism. But that’s a side issue.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | March 21, 2011, 4:41 PM
      • JW, this is exactly how we have to deal with atheists who talk about morality. Remind that their view is that morality varies arbitrarily by time and place like traffic laws or clothing fashions. They have to right to say how anyone “ought” to act – there is no ought on a materialist universe.

        Posted by Wintery Knight | April 2, 2011, 10:30 PM
  3. Oy. I’m arguing on theism. Ehud is an assassin in a theistic universe and JW is praising him. That requires explaining.

    Euthyphro’s Dilemma is pertinent here:

    “Is what is morally good commanded by God because it is morally good, or is it morally good because it is commanded by God?”

    If Good precedes God, we don’t need him to know what is good. If good is simply what God commands, then he could just as well command the opposite. Even Leibniz rejected this. Further, it leads to absurdities like stoning homosexuals and adulterers.

    Either way, we can’t get anything like human morality from God.

    Whether there is meaning, objective or subjective, in an atheistic universe is another matter entirely. I hold that objective meaning and morality is absent, but subjective meaning is sufficient. Further, there is no good way to choose between the possible theisms. Objective morality loses its luster when the one you choose is just one of many possible ones.

    Posted by Don Severs | April 3, 2011, 5:00 PM
    • As I pointed out, your brand of theism is one tailor made to be refuted. It assumes absolutism as opposed to hierarchicalism.

      Further I almost hate talking about Euthyphro’s Dilemma because it’s like beating a dead, dead, dead horse. There are many ways to circumvent or defeat it, such as the fact that it is based wholly upon a divine command theory of ethics as opposed to an actually theistic ontology of natural law combined with divine command. But a simple way to defeat it is simply to point out that there is a third option.

      To whit, Robert Merrihew Adams states in Finite and Infinite Goods, “The role that belongs to the Form of the Good in Plato’s thought is assigned to God, and the goodness of other things is understood in terms of their standing in some relation, usually conceived as a kind of resemblance, to God.” (p.14). So with a single sentence, Euthyphro is beaten. Euthyphro, of course, was arguing against a theory of divine ethics based solely on divine commands–he reduced ethical theory to commands. That is not theism. Rather, as Adams argues for the course of his phenomenal work, God, on classical theism, is seen to be the kind of Platonic Form of Good. So God’s goodness is not based on something outside of Himself, nor is goodness dependent upon what God commands. Rather, God is ontologically, essentially good, and all actions/judgments are based on their resemblence to Him.

      So, just like the continued use of the argument from religious pluralism, I find the use of Euthyphro’s Dilemma nothing but a red herring. It’s so defeated it may as well be ignored.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | April 3, 2011, 10:42 PM
  4. I am a Christian layperson working on a Sunday School lesson on this text and came across this post and discussion. I found it disturbing. How can Christian commentators endorse political assassination?

    The issue for me is not atheism, but how the story of Ehud squares with the teaching of Jesus, esp Matthew 5:38-48: “But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also…..But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.”

    Posted by Carol White | July 17, 2011, 7:47 AM
    • Carol, I would recommend you look up some resources about OT ethics and things like this. A key things to remember are the fact that God was working in a redemptive way, working through his chosen people in order to bring about salvation for all people. Part of the preservation of this people could have included things such as Ehud’s assassination. I’d recommend some books like Paul Copan’s “Is God a Moral Monster?” and David Lamb’s “God Behaving Badly.” It’s important to remember people like Ehud in the context of the nation of Israel.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | July 17, 2011, 6:34 PM
  5. >how the story of Ehud squares with the teaching of Jesus

    Relax, Carol it doesn’t. We don’t have to rescue scripture when it is clearly immoral. To do so makes us immoral. You are right to be disturbed by the Ehud story.

    But Jesus’ commands shouldn’t be respected because they are scripture, either. If it is a good idea to love your enemies, it is a good idea whether it’s in a scripture or not. If the Bible contains a good idea, the Bible is enhanced by it, not the other way around.

    We can make sense of God’s apparent evil by saying things like “Part of the preservation of this people could have included things such as Ehud’s assassination”. But this ignores his great power. It is hard to believe that assassinations are necessary for God to accomplish his purposes. If God uses assassinations, or the ongoing suffering of children, to accomplish his purposes when he has kinder alternatives, then he is evil.

    Posted by donsevers | July 17, 2011, 6:48 PM
  6. I don’t deny evil an morality exist.

    Posted by donsevers | July 17, 2011, 6:54 PM

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