THE PRESENT THAT EHUD BROUGHT TO KING EGLON
Judges i: 1, to iii: 31.
OU would suppose that, after all that God had done for
the Israelites, and after their own promises to serve
him faithfully, they would never turn to the idols
which could not save their own people, the Canaanites.
Yet, when Joshua was no longer living, and the men who
knew Joshua had also died, the people began to forget
their own God and to worship images of wood and stone.
Perhaps it was not so strange after all. In all the
world, so far as we know, at that time the Israelites
were the only people who did
 not worship idols. All the nations around them, the
Egyptians, from whose land they had come, the Edomites
on the south, the Moabites on the east, the Philistines
on the west beside the Great Sea,—all these bowed down
to images, and many of them offered their own children
upon the idol-altars.
Then, too, you remember that the Canaanites had not
been driven out of the land. They were there still, in
their own cities and villages everywhere, and their
idols were standing under the trees on many high
places. So the Israelites saw idols all around them,
and people bowing down before them; while they
themselves had no God that could be seen. The
Tabernacle was far away from some parts of the land;
and the people were so busy with their fields and their
houses that few of them went up to worship.
And so it came to pass that the people began to neglect
their own worship of the Lord, and then to begin the
worship of the idols around them. And from
idol-worship they sank lower still into wicked deeds.
For all this the Lord left them to suffer. Their
enemies came upon them from the lands around, and
became their masters; for when God left them they were
helpless. They were made poor, for these rulers who had
conquered them robbed them of all their grain, and
grapes, and olive-oil.
After a time of suffering the Israelites would think of
what God had done for them in other times. Then they
would turn away from the idols, and would call upon
God. And God would hear them, and raise up some great
man to lead them to freedom, and to break the power of
those who were ruling over them. This great man they
called "a judge;" and under him they would serve God,
and be happy and successful once more.
As long as the judge lived and ruled, the people
worshipped God. But when the judge died they forgot God
again, and worshipped idols and fell under the power of
their enemies as before, until God sent another judge
to deliver them. And this happened over and over again
in the three hundred years after Joshua died. Seven
nations in turn ruled over the Israelites, and after
each "oppression," as this rule was called, a
"deliverer" arose to set the people free.
The idols which the Israelites worshipped most of all
were those named Baal and Asherah. Baal was an image
some-  what like a man; and Asherah was the name given to the
one that looked like a woman. These images were set up
in groves and on hills by the Canaanite people, and to
these the Israelites bowed down, falling on their faces
The first nation to come from another land against the
Israelites was the people of Mesopotamia, between the
great rivers Euphrates and Tigris on the north. Their
king led his army into the land and made the Israelites
serve him eight years. Then they cried to the Lord,
and the Lord sent to them Othniel, who was a younger
brother of Caleb, of whom we read in Story 40.
He set the people free from the Mesopotamians,
and ruled them as long as he lived, and kept them
faithful to the Lord. Othniel was the first of the
judges of Israel.
But after Othniel died the people again began to
worship images, and again fell under the power of their
enemies. This time it was the Moabites who came against
them from the land east of the Dead Sea. Their king at
this time was named Eglon, and he was very hard in his
rule over the Israelites. Again they cried to the Lord,
and God called a man named Ehud, who belonged to the
tribe of Benjamin, to set the people free.
Ehud came one day to visit King Eglon, who was ruling
over the land. He said:
"I have a present from my people to the king. Let me go
into his palace and see him."
They let Ehud into the palace, and he gave to the king
a present; then he went out, but soon came back, and
"I have a message to the king that no one else can
hear. Let me see the king alone."
As he had just brought a present they supposed that he
was a friend to the king. Then, too, he had no sword on
the side where men carried their swords. But Ehud was
left-handed, and he carried on the other side a short,
sharp sword which he had made, like a dagger. This
sword was out of sight under his garment.
He went into the room where King Eglon was sitting
alone, and said, "I have a message from the Lord to
you, and this is the message."
And then he drew out his sword and drove it up to the
handle into the king's body so suddenly that the king
died without giving a sound. Ehud left the sword in the
dead body of the king, and
 went out quietly by the rear door. The servants of the
king thought he was asleep in his room, and for a while
did not go in to see why he was so still; but when they
found him dead Ehud was far away.
Ehud blew a trumpet and called his people together, and
led them against the Moabites. They were so helpless
without their king that Ehud and his men easily drove
them out of Israel and set the people free. Ehud became
the second judge over the land. And after that it was
many years before enemies again held rule over Israel.
The next enemies to Israel were the Philistines, who
lived on the shore of the Great Sea on the west. They
came up from the plain against the Israelites; but
Shamgar, the third judge, met them with a company of
farmers, who drove the Philistines back with their
ox-goads, and so kept them from ruling over the land.