Judges 3

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1 Now these are the nations which Yahweh left, to prove Israel by them, even as many [of Israel] as had not known all the wars of Canaan;

2 only that the generations of the children of Israel might know, to teach them war, at the least such as before knew nothing of it:

3 [namely], the five lords of the Philistines, and all the Canaanites, and the Sidonians, and the Hivites who lived on Mount Lebanon, from Mount Baal Hermon to the entrance of Hamath.

4 They were [left], to prove Israel by them, to know whether they would listen to the commandments of Yahweh, which he commanded their fathers by Moses.

5 The children of Israel lived among the Canaanites, the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites:

6 and they took their daughters to be their wives, and gave their own daughters to their sons and served their gods.

7 The children of Israel did that which was evil in the sight of Yahweh, and forgot Yahweh their God, and served the Baals and the Asheroth.

8 Therefore the anger of Yahweh was kindled against Israel, and he sold them into the hand of Cushan Rishathaim king of Mesopotamia: and the children of Israel served Cushan Rishathaim eight years.

9 When the children of Israel cried to Yahweh, Yahweh raised up a savior to the children of Israel, who saved them, even Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother.

10 The Spirit of Yahweh came on him, and he judged Israel; and he went out to war, and Yahweh delivered Cushan Rishathaim king of Mesopotamia into his hand: and his hand prevailed against Cushan Rishathaim.

11 The land had rest forty years. Othniel the son of Kenaz died.

12 The children of Israel again did that which was evil in the sight of Yahweh: and Yahweh strengthened Eglon the king of Moab against Israel, because they had done that which was evil in the sight of Yahweh.

13 He gathered to him the children of Ammon and Amalek; and he went and struck Israel, and they possessed the city of palm trees.

14 The children of Israel served Eglon the king of Moab eighteen years.

15 But when the children of Israel cried to Yahweh, Yahweh raised them up a savior, Ehud the son of Gera, the Benjamite, a man left-handed. The children of Israel sent tribute by him to Eglon the king of Moab.

16 Ehud made him a sword which had two edges, a cubit in length; and he wore it under his clothing on his right thigh.

17 He offered the tribute to Eglon king of Moab: now Eglon was a very fat man.

18 When he had made an end of offering the tribute, he sent away the people who bore the tribute.

19 But he himself turned back from the quarries that were by Gilgal, and said, "I have a secret errand to you, king." The king said, "Keep silence!" All who stood by him went out from him.

20 Ehud came to him; and he was sitting by himself alone in the cool upper room. Ehud said, "I have a message from God to you." He arose out of his seat.

21 Ehud put forth his left hand, and took the sword from his right thigh, and thrust it into his body:

22 and the handle also went in after the blade; and the fat closed on the blade, for he didn't draw the sword out of his body; and it came out behind.

23 Then Ehud went forth into the porch, and shut the doors of the upper room on him, and locked them.

24 Now when he was gone out, his servants came; and they saw, and behold, the doors of the upper room were locked; and they said, "Surely he is covering his feet in the upper room."

25 They waited until they were ashamed; and behold, he didn't open the doors of the upper room: therefore they took the key, and opened [them], and behold, their lord was fallen down dead on the earth.

26 Ehud escaped while they waited, and passed beyond the quarries, and escaped to Seirah.

27 It happened, when he had come, that he blew a trumpet in the hill country of Ephraim; and the children of Israel went down with him from the hill country, and he before them.

28 He said to them, "Follow me; for Yahweh has delivered your enemies the Moabites into your hand." They followed him, and took the fords of the Jordan against the Moabites, and didn't allow any man to pass over.

29 They struck of Moab at that time about ten thousand men, every lusty man, and every man of valor; and there escaped not a man.

30 So Moab was subdued that day under the hand of Israel. The land had rest eighty years.

31 After him was Shamgar the son of Anath, who struck of the Philistines six hundred men with an oxgoad: 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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