Meet Ehud: Killer of Eglon, the Fat King

This cunning, left-handed assassin was Israel's second judge

Ehud Slays Eglon
Eglon Slain by Ehud by James Tissot. SuperStock / Getty Images

Ehud figured prominently in one of the most gruesome episodes in the Bible, a killing so violent it shocks us. When the evil King Eglon of Moab had conquered part of Israel, God raised up Ehud who took violent action to deliver the people.

Question for Reflection

The story of Eglon's murder may seem difficult to relate to as a believer today, but consider this: Ehud was called by God to destroy the enemy of Israel, the evil King Eglon. The enemies we contend with are just as real, but more often than not they are internal enemies. They are pride, greed, jealousy and other foes we face in our battle against sin. Ehud acted immediately and decisively against Eglon. When God shows you an enemy in your life, do you act swiftly and radically to slay the adversary?

The Story of Ehud and the Fat King Eglon

Because of the Israelites' immorality, God raised a wicked king named Eglon over them. This fat Moabite king oppressed the people so severely for 18 years that they cried out to the Lord, who sent them a deliverer. The Lord chose Ehud, a Benjamite, to be the second of the judges, but that title is not used to describe him.

Ehud possessed a special quality for this mission: He was left-handed. He made a double-edged sword about 18 inches long and concealed it on his right thigh, under his clothing. The Israelites sent Ehud to deliver their tribute to Eglon, who was staying in a cool, lattice-enclosed room atop his palace.

Scripture calls Eglon "a very fat man," a description rarely used in the Bible. Malnutrition was very common in the ancient world, so Eglon's obesity may imply that he was a glutton, feasting while his subjects nearly starved.

After leaving the tribute, Ehud sent away the men who had carried it. Then he left, but when he passed some pagan idols near Gilgal, he went back and said to the king, "Your Majesty, I have a secret message for you."

Eglon sent his servants away. Ehud approached the throne. When the king stood, Ehud drew his dagger from its hiding place and thrust it into Eglon's belly.

The king's fat closed in over the handle of the sword, and his bowels emptied in death. Ehud locked the door and escaped. The servants, thinking Eglon was relieving himself in a chamberpot, waited and waited, which let Ehud get away.

When Ehud got to the hill country of Ephraim, he blew a trumpet, rallying the Israelites to him. He led them down to the fords of the Jordan River, which they captured to prevent Moabite reinforcements.

In the battles that followed, the Israelites killed about 10,000 Moabites, allowing no one to escape. After that victory, Moab fell under Israel's control, and there was peace in the land of Israel for 80 years.

Accomplishments of Ehud

Ehud killed a wicked tyrant, an enemy of God. He also led the Israelites in a military victory to destroy the Moabite domination.

Strengths

Ehud cleverly hid his sword in an unexpected place, regained entry to the king, and managed to get Eglon's guard to leave. He killed the enemy of Israel while giving credit for the victory to God.

Weaknesses

Some commentators say Ehud had a weak or deformed right hand.

Ehud lied and deceived to gain his victory, morally questionable acts except in times of war. The way he killed an unarmed man may seem shocking, but he was an instrument of God to free the Israelites from evil.

Life Lessons From Ehud

God uses all types of people to carry out his plans. Sometimes God's ways are incomprehensible to us.

All the elements of this incident worked in an intricate way to answer the Israelites' prayer for relief. God hears the cries of his people, both as a nation and as individuals.

References to Ehud in the Bible

Ehud's story is found in Judges 3:12-30.

Occupation

Ehud served as judge over Israel.

Family Tree

Father - Gera

Key Verses

Judges 3:15
Then the people of Israel cried out to the Lord, and the Lord raised up for them a deliverer, Ehud, the son of Gera, the Benjaminite, a left-handed man. The people of Israel sent tribute by him to Eglon the king of Moab. (ESV)

Judges 3:20-21
Ehud then approached him while he was sitting alone in the upper room of his summer palace and said, "I have a message from God for you." As the king rose from his seat, Ehud reached with his left hand, drew the sword from his right thigh and plunged it into the king's belly. (NIV)

Judges 3:28
"Follow me," he ordered, "for the LORD has given Moab, your enemy, into your hands." So they followed him down and, taking possession of the fords of the Jordan that led to Moab, they allowed no one to cross over. (NIV)