Who was Ehud? Ehud served as the second judge of Israel following Othniel. After Othniel’s death, the people of Israel sinned and fell to the king of Moab, serving him for 18 years (Judges 3:13–14). When the Israelites cried out for help, God sent Ehud to serve as judge.
Facts about Ehud include that he was the son of Gera and belonged to the tribe of Benjamin. He was also noted as a left-handed man (Judges 3:15). This detail would become important to the success of his mission.
Beginning in Judges 3:16, we read that Ehud made himself a small sword (about 16 inches long) and strapped it to his right thigh under his clothes—had Ehud been right-handed, he would have carried the sword on his left side. Next, he visited the Moabites’ King Eglon under pretense of paying a tribute. When Ehud was checked for weapons, his small sword was apparently missed as it was in an unexpected location.
Following the presentation of his tribute, Ehud said that he had a secret message for the king. Everyone left the room except Ehud and King Eglon. Ehud then pulled out his sword and stuck it into the king’s stomach. The king was obese, and the sword disappeared inside his belly. Ehud left the sword and escaped through a porch opening.
When Eglon’s servants later found the king dead, Ehud had already escaped and rallied the people of Israel. Going to the town of Seraiah, located in Ephraim, Ehud sounded a horn or shofar. The Israelites cut off the Moabites at the Jordan River. Judges 3:29 records that about 10,000 Moabites were killed in the battle. Once free from Eglon’s rule, the Israelites enjoyed 80 years of peace, the longest peaceful period recorded during the time of the judges (Judges 3:30).
While this account is one of the more graphic scenes in Scripture, it is also very insightful. The original readers would have seen the power of God in this story for a variety of reasons. First, a lone man walked into the king’s palace, assassinated the king, and walked out without being captured. This was a highly unexpected event that involved great risk. Second, one battle changed the next 80 years of Israel’s history. Ehud’s story involves more than removing a wicked leader; it includes a change in national history for an entire generation. Third, Ehud’s success is a story of freedom. Just as God had redeemed Israel from Pharaoh and the land of Egypt when they cried out for help, God redeemed Israel from their bondage under King Eglon when they turned to Him.
What can we learn by asking the question, “Who was Ehud?” Ehud’s actions offer a valuable look at how God can change the course of a nation in a single day when He responds to the cries of His people. Further, we see God being faithful to His promise to help Israel when they repented of their sins and turned to Him—a lesson relevant still today.