Question: "Who was Shamgar?"
Answer: Shamgar was the third judge of Israel whose heroic actions led to peace in Israel for an unspecified period of time.
One verse of the Bible summarizes his period of leadership. Judges 3:31 says, “After Ehud came Shamgar son of Anath, who struck down six hundred Philistines with an oxgoad. He too saved Israel.”
We are only told that 1) Shamgar’s leadership followed Ehud’s, 2) he was the son of Anath, 3) he killed 600 Philistines with an oxgoad, and 4) he saved Israel. Because the name Anath referred to a Canaanite goddess, some have suggested Shamgar was a son of a mixed Israelite-Canaanite marriage or had some other connection with the Canaanites, though the text is unclear.
The Philistines were a sea-faring people who lived in Canaan during the period of the Judges. Since the Philistines were known as warriors, the fact that Shamgar killed 600 of them on his own was an amazing—or even miraculous—accomplishment. An oxgoad was usually a strong stick about eight feet long used to prod oxen pulling a plow. Using what was perhaps a crude, ancient version of a bow staff, Shamgar destroyed the enemies of Israel. Judges 3:31 does not specify whether his success came in one battle (as with Samson) or in a series of battles. The only other judge to show such strength would be Samson, whose heroic feats of strength would later eclipse those of Shamgar.
Judges 5:6 also mentions Shamgar and his times. Deborah and Barak’s song records, “In the days of Shamgar son of Anath, / in the days of Jael, the highways were abandoned; / travelers took to winding paths.” From these words, we discover that in Shamgar’s time people traveled carefully and in much fear due to oppression by the Philistines (and possibly other enemies).
Little else is known concerning Shamgar. His period of leadership bridged the time between Ehud and Deborah. God used one man with one simple weapon to rescue His people from oppression. This example of God working through one person to change the lives of many applies today. We are each called to live for God, knowing that our actions can have tremendous influence over many people. Further, God often chooses to use unknown people to accomplish great achievements to bring glory to His name.