Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
Even as many of Israel ... - These words show that the writer has especially in view the generation which came to man's estate immediately after the close of the wars with the Canaanites Jos 23:1. Compare Jdg 2:10.
Lords - Seranim, a title used exclusively of the princes of the five Philistine cities. The title is probably of Phoenician origin.
Joshua appears to have smitten and subdued the Hivites as far north as Baal-Gad, in the valley of Lebanon under Mount Hermon Jos 11:17; Jos 12:7, but no further Jos 13:5. There was an unsubdued Hivite population to the north of Baal-hermon (probably Baal-Gad under Hermon, since it is not synonymous with Hermon; see Ch1 5:23), to the entering in of Hamath: i. e. in the fertile valley of Coele-Syria. Hamath is always spoken of as the extreme northern boundary of the land of Canaan. It was the gate of approach to Canaan from Babylon, and all the north Zac 9:2; Jer 39:5. It formed part of the dominions of Solomon Ch2 8:4, and of the future inheritance of Israel, as described in vision by Ezekiel Eze 47:16.
See Jdg 2:2 note.
And the groves - literally, Asheroth, images of Asherah (the goddess companion of Baal): see Deu 16:21 note.
Here we hold again the thread of the proper narrative, which seems as if it ought to have run thus Jdg 1:1 : Now, etc. Jdg 3:8, therefore (or "and") etc.
Served Chushan-Rishathaim - This is the same phrase as in Jdg 3:14. From it is derived the expression, "the times of servitude," as distinguished from "the times of rest," in speaking of the times of the Judges. Mesopotamia, or Aram-naharaim, was the seat of Nimrod's kingdom, and Nimrod was the son of Cush Gen 10:8-12. Rishathaim is perhaps the name of a city, or a foreign word altered to a Hebrew form. Nothing is known from history, or the cuneiform inscriptions, of the political condition of Mesopotamia at this time, though Thotmes I and III in the 18th Egyptian dynasty are known to have invaded Mesopotamia. It is, however, in accordance with such an aggressive Aramean movement toward Palestine, that as early as the time of Abraham we find the kings of Shinar and of Elam invading the south of Palestine. There is also distinct evidence in the names of the Edomite kings Gen 36:32, Gen 36:35, Gen 36:37 of an Aramean dynasty in Edom about the time of the early Judges. Compare, too, Job 1:17.
Othniel was already distinguished in Joshua's lifetime as a brave and successful leader. See Jos 15:16-17.
And the Spirit of the Lord came upon him - The phrase occurs frequently in this book and in the books of Samuel and Kings. It marks the special office of the Judges. They were saviors (Jdg 3:9 margin; Neh 9:27) called and directed by the Holy Spirit, who endued them with extraordinary wisdom, courage, and strength for the work which lay before them (compare Jdg 6:34; Jdg 11:29; Jdg 13:25; Jdg 14:6, Jdg 14:19), and were in this respect types of Christ the "Judge of Israel" Mic 5:1, in whom "the Spirit of the Lord God" was "without measure" Isa 11:2; Isa 61:1; Mat 12:18-21; Job 1:32; Act 13:2.
The land - means here, as in Jdg 1:2, not the whole land of Canaan, but the part concerned, probably the land of the tribe of Judah. Forty years, here and elsewhere, is (like fourscore years, Jdg 3:30) a round number, perhaps equivalent to a generation.
The "strengthening" Eglon was the special work of God, and because Israel "had done evil," etc. Samuel's comment on the event is to the same effect Sa1 12:9.
The children of Ammon (Bent-Ammon), almost always so spoken of from their ancestor Ben-ammi Gen 19:38, seem to be under the leadership of the king of Moab, as do also the Amlekites: this is perhaps the strengthening spoken of in Jdg 3:12. In Judg. 6 the combination is Midianites, Amalekites, and children of the East, or Arab tribes. In the narrative of Jephthah's judgeship, the Ammonites alone are mentioned; but with a reference to the Moabites, and as if they were one people Jdg 11:24. The Amalekites appear as the constant and bitter foes of the Israelites (Exo 17:8 notes and references); and the naming a mountain in Ephraim, "the mount of the Amalekites" Jdg 12:15 is probably a memorial of this joint invasion of Moabites and Amalekites, and marks the scene either of their occupation, or of some signal victory over them.
The city of palm trees: i. e. Jericho Jdg 1:16, having been utterly destroyed by Joshua, and not rebuilt until the time of Ahab Jos 6:24-26; Kg1 16:34, can only have existed at this time as an unwalled village, - like Jerusalem after its destruction by Nebuzaradan, until Nehemiah rebuilt its waits - and like its modern representative er-Riha, a village with a fortress for the Turkish garrison. This occupation of Jericho should be compared with the invasion in Jdg 10:9, where two out of the three tribes named, Benjamin and Ephraim, are the same as those here concerned, and where Jdg 10:7 the Philistines are coupled with the Ammonites, just as here Jdg 3:31 the Philistines are mentioned in near connection with the Moabites. See Introduction.
But when the children of Israel cried unto the Lord, the Lord raised them up a deliverer - The very same words as are used at Jdg 3:9. See, too, Jdg 2:16, Jdg 2:18, and Neh 9:27.
Ehud "the Benjamite" was of the family or house of Gera Sa2 16:5, the son of Bela, Benjamin's first-born, born before Jacob's descent into Egypt Gen 46:21, and then included among "the sons of Benjamin." The genealogy in Ch1 8:6 intimates that Ehud (apparently written Abihud in Jdg 3:3) became the head of a separate house.
Left-handed - See the margin. The phrase is thought to describe not so much a defect as the power to use left and right hands equally well (compare Jdg 20:16; Ch1 12:2).
A present - i. e. tribute Sa2 8:2, Sa2 8:6; Kg1 4:21; Psa 72:10. The employment of Ehud for this purpose points him out as a chief of some distinction. He would be attended by a numerous suite Jdg 3:18. We may conclude that the destruction of the Benjamites Judg. 20 had not taken place at this time.
Upon his right thigh - The proper side for a left-handed man. It would give him the appearance of being unarmed. The narrative shows clearly that his action was premeditated Jdg 3:21.
Gilgal was in the immediate neighborhood of Jericho Jdg 2:1, where doubtless Eglon held his court at this time Jdg 3:13.
Quarries - Some take the original of this word in its common meaning of carved images or idols (see the margin).
Probably Ehud's first message Jdg 3:19 had been delivered to the attendants, and by them carried to the king. Now Ehud is admitted to the king's presence, into the cool upper chamber.
I have a message from God unto thee - Ehud believed himself to be accomplishing the divine mandate, and so his words were true in a certain sense. But it was also a stratagem to cause the king to rise, that the thrust might be sure. (The king rose at once, in true Oriental respect for a divine message, or from fear, compare Jos 9:24.)
The King James Version and margin give different explanations of the last words of this verse. Others explain it of a vestibule or chamber, through which Ehud passed into the porch where the entrance doors were. He locked the doors, took the key with him; and then retired through the midst of the attendants below (or: more probably, through the door which communicated directly with the outside).
He covereth his feet - Compare the marginal references. The explanation of the phrase as "taking sleep" suits both passages best.
A key - literally, "an opener." Probably a wooden instrument with which they either lifted up the latch within, or drew back the wooden bar or bolt. The chief officer of Eglon's household probably had a second key (compare Isa 22:15, Isa 22:20-22; Isa 37:2).
Seirath - "The forest" or "weald," which evidently bordered on the cultivated plain near Gilgal, and extended into "the mountain or hill country of Ephraim." Once there, he was safe from pursuit (compare Sa1 13:6), and quickly collected a strong force of Ephraimires and probably the bordering Benjamites.
Ehud "went down" from the mountain of Ephraim into the Jordan valley beneath it, straight to the Jordan fords Jos 2:7, so as to intercept all communication between the Moabites on the west side and their countrymen on the east.
The land - i. e. that portion of it which had suffered from the oppression of Moab, probably Benjamin and Ephraim chiefly (see Jdg 3:11).
In judging of the nature of Ehud's act there are many considerations which must greatly modify our judgment. Acts of violence or cunning, done in an age when human society applauded such acts, when the best men of the age thought them right, and when men were obliged to take the law into their own hands in self-defense, are very different from the same acts done in an age when the enlightened consciences of men generally condemn them, and when the law of the land and the law of nations give individuals adequate security. We can allow faith and courage and patriotism to Ehud, without being blind to those defective views of moral right which made him and his countrymen glory in an act which in the light of Christianity is a crime. It is remarkable that neither Ehud nor Jael are included in Paul's list in Heb 11:32.
From this verse and Jdg 5:6 we may gather that Shamgar was contemporary with Jael, and that he only procured a temporary and partial deliverance for Israel by his exploit. He may have been of the tribe of Judah.
An ox goad - An instrument of wood about eight feet long, armed with an iron spike or point at one end, with which to spur the ox at plow, and with an iron scraper at the other end with which to detach the earth from the plowshare when it became encumbered with it. The fact of their deliverer having no better weapon enhances his faith, and the power of his divine helper. At the same time it shows how low the men of Judah were brought at this time, being disarmed by their oppressors Jdg 5:8, as was also the case later Sa1 13:19.