Judges 3-5 (Unlikely Heroes)
March 13th

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016

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Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. We recommend that you read at least two versions for added understanding. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verse

Again the Israelites cried out to the Lord, and he gave them a deliverer—Ehud, a left-handed man, the son of Gera the Benjamite.

Joshua 3:15 (NIV)

Summary of Chapters

Chapters 3–16 record the history of the first twelve judges of Israel. The opening trio of chapters tell the stories of the earliest four judges: Othniel (son-in-law of Caleb), Ehud (the Leftie), Shamgar, and Deborah - the only female judge noted in the book of Judges. We learn in these chapters that the Israelites rally around the judges appointed by the LORD, but then quickly lose their way after each judge passes away.

In chapter 3, the author tells us that “the Spirit of the LORD” settled on Othniel, which enabled him to defeat the evil Cushan-Rishathaim, king of Aram. Subsequently, the land and the people were at peace for 40 years – an entire generation. But when Othniel died, the people went back to their evil ways, so the LORD allowed them to be subjected to king Eglon of Moab for eighteen years. In response to prayers from his people, the LORD appointed Ehud, the Leftie, to deliver them from Moab.

Ehud brought an end to Eglon’s rule by executing a crafty ploy, and then led his people to victory with a devastating defeat of the Moabites that was also enabled by God. They were no longer a problem for a very long time. The next judge was Shamgar, who receives only a one verse note in the book, but was apparently blessed with great strength. The author tells us that Shamgar used an oxgoad to kill 600 Philistines. An oxgoad is a tool used by farmers when they drive a team of oxen. An oxgoad had a sharp point at one end that was used to motivate the oxen and a flat point at the other end that was used to scrape mud off a plow. An oxgoad could be as long as eight feet and could serve as a formidable weapon. This tool is still used today by farmers in the Middle East (1).

In chapter five we read about two heroes from the female contingent of Israel. Deborah was the fourth judge and a prophetess. She directed her military leader, Barak, according to the word from the LORD. As a result, Barak scored an impressive victory. However, the leader of the opposing forces, Sisera, had escaped. Sisera had thought he found refuge with Jael, the wife of an ally, but she had lured him into her tent with the intent of killing him, and did so with a tent peg in her own hands. This act fulfilled a prophecy from Deborah to Barak. He had refused to go to battle without her, so she replied:

    “Certainly I will go with you,” said Deborah. “But because of the course you are taking, the honor will not be yours, for the LORD will deliver Sisera into the hands of a woman.”

    - Judges 4:9 (NIV)

Afterwards, Deborah and Barak composed a song to celebrate and commemorate the victory of the LORD.

    Hear O kings! Listen O princes!
       To God, yes to God, I'll sing,
    Make music to God,
       to the God of Israel.

    - Judges 5:3 (MSG)

Reflection and Application

The presence of several unlikely heroes in this section is yet another reminder that God’s standards are not the same as our standards. He sees value where we see weakness and he empowers the ones that he chooses. Don’t be surprised when you see unexpected people blessed by the LORD or when he chooses you to perform an unlikely task.

Left-handed people were so vilified by our ancestors that negative connotations have been built into the language. The word for left in French is gauche, which in English means awkward or crude. In Italian, it is sinistra, which has the same root as the English word sinister, which means evil. In colloquial English, a left-handed compliment means a compliment that is really an insult.

Ehud may have become left-handed as the result of an injury to his other arm or hand, or it may have been a genetic trait in the tribe of Benjamin. In either case, he was probably looked down upon by the righteous people in his tribe. The left-hand side was considered the cursed side. Remember near the end of Deuteronomy, when God had the people stand on two mountains? The ones on the right side issued blessings and the ones on the left side issued curses (Deuteronomy 28). God probably did not do this to imply that left-handed people are wrong, and his designation of Ehud as his second judge made a point regarding God's view of equal opportunity regardless of hand preference.

Regardless of the success of Ehud,the refusal to accept left-handed people as a normal part of the human race was a problem that lingered through history up until as recently as the 20th century. Some of our contemporaries can remember classroom incidents where the instructors would smack students with an oxgoad or a ruler if they tried to write with their left hand (more likely a ruler than an oxgoad, but apparently it stung hard enough to leave an indelible memory). Apparently, these teachers had not reflected on God’s blessing of the left-handed hero in Judges.

Thankfully, most of the world has beyond the prejudice against southpaws. In fact, most of the recent Presidents of the United States are or were lefties, including Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford(2). Is it possible that people who use the opposite hand are actually better suited for national leadership?

The prejudice has been worse for females. For centuries, woman were excluded from the political process and other equal opportunities, despite the obvious evidence in the book of Judges and other books of the Bible that God finds them equally qualified. The stories in Judges Chapter 4 should counter any notion that women are the weaker gender. Which person was the one who needed the accompaniment of the other gender on the military campaign? It was Barak, the man, who needed the leadership and support of Deborah. Who drove a stake through the forehead of a man with her bare hands? It was Jael, a woman. She probably was the one responsible for setting up the tents so was very skilled at driving stakes and had no trouble using that skill for other good causes.

God is always way ahead of us. We now recognize that left-handed people tend to be more creative and have special skills, we even build classroom desks that are suited for left-handed people. In athletics, we recognize the special strategy of the left-handed player in tennis, baseball, or other ball and stick-handling sports. As for woman, our culture now acknowledges that they bring a distinct set of skills and perspectives that are needed in a balanced leadership structure for politics and in our churches and other organizations. Successful female leaders of nations in recent history include Margaret Thatcher of the United Kingdom (1979-1990), Indira Ghandi of India (1966–1977, 1980–1984), Golda Meir of Israel (1969-1974), and Angela Merkel of Germany (2005-current).

This will not be the last time that we will discover unlikely heroes in God’s Book. Every person is equally special in God’s eyes, so we must be careful not to let any prejudice creep into our thinking or assume that we are incapable because of our gender, race, or other attributes.

Most important of all the lessons of these three chapters is that the judges succeeded when they were focused on the LORD. If we keep God at our center we have power over evil and other obstacles.

Deborah celebrated victory by composing a song. Let us “Sing to the LORD”

“Sing to the LORD,” performed by Hillsong United

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

    Related Questions
    1. In what situations have you been overlooked or discriminated against because of your background or natural attributes?
    2. What are the prejudices that are still a problem for the culture in which you live?
    3. What is a perceived weakness in you that God would like to use as a strength?
    Recommended Prayer
    Father in heaven, we recognize that you view all of us as equally special and confess that we drag around our prejudices from situation to situation. Help us, please to view people through your eyes and to also draw strength from you when we are the ones the experience discrimination

    Suggested Prayer Concerns
    Female leaders


    (1) Life Application Study Bible, New International Version, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, M; 1991, p. 382-383
    (2) "Famous Left-Handers", Indiana University website, http://www.indiana.edu/~primate/left.html, 3/11/11

    Looking Ahead

    Tomorrow's reading: Judges 6-8 (Gideon’s Bible Story)

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