Judges 3



1 And these are the nations which Jehovah let·​·stay to tempt Israel by them, all those that had not known all the battles of Canaan;

2 only that the generations of the sons of Israel might·​·know, to teach them war, only those who knew not before;

3 five satraps* of the Philistines, and all the Canaanites, and the Zidonians, and the Hivites that dwell in the mountain of Lebanon, from Mount Baal-hermon to the coming·​·in of Ḥamath.

4 And they were there to tempt Israel by them, to know whether they would hearken unto the commandments of Jehovah, which He commanded their fathers by the hand of Moses.

5 And the sons of Israel dwelt among the Canaanites, the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites;

6 and they took their daughters unto them for wives, and gave their daughters unto their sons, and served their gods.

7 And the sons of Israel did evil in the eyes of Jehovah, and forgot Jehovah their God, and served the Baalim and the groves.

8 And the anger of Jehovah was·​·fierce against Israel, and He sold them into the hand of Cushan-rishathaim king of Aram-naharaim; and the sons of Israel served Cushan-rishathaim eight years.

9 And the sons of Israel cried unto Jehovah, and Jehovah raised·​·up a saviour to the sons of Israel, and he saved them; Othniel the son of Kenaz, the brother of Caleb, younger than he.

10 And the spirit of Jehovah was upon him, and he judged Israel, and went·​·out to war; and Jehovah gave Cushan-rishathaim, king of Aram, into his hand; and his hand was·​·strong against Cushan-rishathaim.

11 And the land was quiet for forty years; and Othniel the son of Kenaz died.

12 And the sons of Israel did evil again in the eyes of Jehovah, and Jehovah made· Eglon, the king of Moab, ·firm against Israel, because they did evil in the eyes of Jehovah.

13 And he gathered unto him the sons of Ammon and Amalek, and went and smote Israel, and possessed the city of palm·​·trees*.

14 And the sons of Israel served Eglon king of Moab eighteen years.

15 And the sons of Israel cried to Jehovah, and Jehovah raised·​·up a saviour for them, Ehud the son of Gera, a Benjaminite, a left-handed* man, and by his hand the sons of Israel sent a gift·​·offering to Eglon the king of Moab.

16 And Ehud made for himself a sword, and it had two mouths*, a gomed* in length; and he did·​·gird it under his robe upon his right thigh.

17 And he offered the gift to Eglon king of Moab; and Eglon was a very well fed* man.

18 And it was, when he completed offering the gift·​·offering and sent·​·away the people that bore the gift·​·offering;

19 that he himself turned·​·back from the graven images which were by Gilgal, and said, I have a secret word unto thee, O king; and he said, Keep·​·silent! And all that stood by him went·​·out from him.

20 And Ehud came unto him; and he was sitting in the cool upper·​·room, which was for himself alone; and Ehud said, I have a word of God for thee, and he arose from off his throne.

21 And Ehud put·​·forth his left hand, and took the sword from upon his right thigh, and fixed it in his belly:

22 and the haft also came·​·in after the blade*; and the fat closed over the blade, so that he drew not the sword from his belly; and it went·​·out the hind·​·parts.

23 And Ehud went·​·out by the ante-chamber and closed the doors of the upper·​·room upon him and locked them.

24 And he went·​·out, and his servants came·​·in; and they saw and behold, the doors of the upper·​·room were locked, and they said, Surely he covers his feet in the cool chamber.

25 And they waited until they were·​·ashamed; and behold, no·​·one opened the doors of the upper·​·room; and they took the key and opened it; and behold their lord had fallen to the earth dead.

26 And Ehud escaped while they lingered, and he passed·​·by the graven images, and escaped unto Seirath.

27 And it was, when he was come, that he sounded a shophar* in the mountain of Ephraim, and the sons of Israel went·​·down with him from the mount and he before them.

28 And he said, Pursue after me, for Jehovah has given your enemies, the Moabites, into your hand. And they went·​·down after him and captured the fords of the Jordan to Moab, and allowed* not a man to cross·​·over.

29 And they smote of Moab at that time about ten thousand men, all vigorous* and all men of valor; and there escaped not a man.

30 And Moab was humbled that day under the hand of Israel. And the land was quiet for eighty years.

31 And after him was Shamgar the son of Anath, and he smote of the Philistines six hundred men with a cattle goad; and he also saved Israel.


Exploring the Meaning of Judges 3      

Napsal(a) Rev. Julian Duckworth

Judges 3: In which we hear about the nations who remain in the land; and about the judges Othniel, Ehud, and Shamgar.

This chapter begins with a very important set of statements about the nations still undefeated in the land. First, it says that the Lord would test Israel by means of these nations; secondly, that this test would “teach [the new generations] war”; and finally, that this would reveal whether or not Israel would obey the Lord. The text goes on to say that Israel now took the daughters of other nations to be wives, and also gave their own daughters to the sons of other nations.

Being ‘tested’ by the Lord refers to the temptations and spiritual conflicts we must experience during regeneration. The Lord does not test in order to make us falter, or to see how much we can endure. Rather, the testing is to make us stronger and more steadfast in our intention to follow the Lord (see Swedenborg’s work, True Christian Religion 126).

The new generations who would not have known war stand for those future states, in which we might begin to let go, and forget what the Lord has done for us. While all external wars should cease, we will always need to quell the spiritual wars within us. The key to victory is in our willingness to obey the Lord’s commandments. This wish to obey the Lord must be imprinted in our hearts and minds (see Swedenborg’s work, Doctrine of Faith 50).

‘Taking the daughters of other nations as wives’ describes the ways in which the spiritual marriage of good and truth in us becomes perverted. When our evil desires harm truths, and false ideas harm genuine loves, our sense of what is right becomes so distorted that we have no principles left to follow.

Because Israel kept forgetting the Lord and worshipping other gods, the Lord raised judges to deliver Israel. This chapter tells the stories of three judges, and we will examine the spiritual meaning of each.

The first judge discussed in this chapter was Othniel (see Judges 1). Israel was taken by Chushan-Rishathaim, the king of Mesopotamia, for eight years. His name means ‘the blackness of injustice”. Othniel delivered Israel from captivity, and there was peace for forty years. Spiritually, this describes our power, given to us by the Lord, to break free from evil wishes and thoughts. The number ‘forty’ describes the temptations we must overcome in doing this (see Swedenborg’s work, Arcana Caelestia 8098).

The next judge, Ehud, ruled at the time when Eglon, a Moabite king, took Israel captive for eighteen years. Ehud made a long, double-edged dagger and went to the king to pay tribute. When those with him were leaving, he stayed and said to King Eglon, “I have a gift for you from God”, and plunged the dagger into the king’s belly so that his fat covered the blade. Then he left, locking the doors behind him, and Eglon’s servants eventually found their king dead. Ehud then attacked, and freed Israel from the Moabites.

The meaning of this graphic event is to show the power of the truth when it is used to combat evil. Eglon was fat, representing the seemingly large and imposing nature of evils. The double-edged dagger stands for the power of the Word. It went straight into the king’s fat belly, which stands for the absolute power of the Word to tear down evils and falsities. This then allows us to reassert our leading intentions, and return to our service for the Lord (see Apocalypse Revealed 52).

The third and final judge mentioned in this chapter was Shamgar, who killed six hundred Philistines with an ox goad and delivered Israel. The Philistines – who later became a major enemy of Israel – stand for the belief that faith alone will save us, without any need for good actions in life. This can have an insidious influence on us and needs constant attention, represented by the number six hundred. The ox goad (prodder) indicates that we need to keep pushing ourselves to do good, just as an ox is prodded to work strenuously (Arcana Caelestia 1198).

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Thanks to the Kempton Project for the permission to use this New Church translation of the Word.