Ehud

Based on Judges 3:12-30

God's people have not been listening to him so he has allowed King Eglon of Moab to rule over them. When the people realise their mistake, God chooses Ehud to save them from King Eglon and Ehud discovers that being left-handed can sometimes be an advantage.

Copyright Gavin Owen 2008



Ehud picked up the sword with his right-hand and swung it gently from side to side. It slipped from his fingers and clattered to the ground. Ehud's brothers covered their mouths and sniggered. Ehud sighed; he knew what the problem was, he wasn't right-handed, but he wished he was. Back then most people thought that if you were left-handed you'd never do anything great, and Ehud needed to do something great, something really great. You see, the people of Israel had stopped listening to God and without him on their side they'd lost a war and now they were all slaves. King Eglon of Moab was their master. He was a big, heavy man with an enormous waist and he treated the people of Israel with terrible cruelty. It went on for years until at last the Israelites realised the problem – they needed to turn back to God. So they prayed to Him for help and God told them he would choose a man to rescue them. He'd chosen Ehud.

“Why me?” thought Ehud, “There's no way a leftie can save his people from King Eglon and his army.” So you know what he did? Ehud tried to make himself right-handed. He practised and practised holding his sword in his right hand but he just couldn't do it. His brothers thought that it was hilarious but at least his dad didn't laugh at him. “Son,” he said, “God wouldn't have chosen you if he didn't think you could do the job. Maybe there's a reason why he picked someone left-handed. Think about it.”

Ehud did think about it and soon he realised that being left-handed had its advantages. Because most people were right-handed, King Eglon's guards were trained to watch the right-hand of anyone who came near the king in case they reached for a weapon. If their right hand so much as twitched the guards would be on them in an instant. But if a man was left-handed he might just have time to draw his sword and strike the king before the guards could stop him. Of course, there would be no chance of escaping alive. Even so, Ehud began to prepare for his mission. He started by making a special sword, much shorter than a normal sword and sharpened on both edges. It was small enough for him to strap to his leg and hide beneath his cloak, out of sight of Eglon's guards. Now he needed an excuse to get close enough to King Eglon to use the sword. That was easy, everybody knew that Eglon was greedy, all Ehud had to do was go to the palace with a present for the king and he was sure to be allowed in.

So it was that a few days later Ehud set off for Eglon's palace, followed by a procession of men carrying sacks of treasure. When they reached the palace gates the guards searched them for weapons. Now Ehud had been clever, he'd hung an ordinary sword from the left side of his belt, where any right-handed man would carry it. Just as he hoped the guards took the ordinary sword and looked no further and Ehud entered the palace with the special sword still hidden beneath his cloak.

King Eglon's butler led Ehud and his men to the throne room. There was Eglon, seated on the throne, his huge belly hanging down almost to his knees. Ehud's heart was pounding, there were more guards standing on each side of the king, but if he was quick maybe he could get to Eglon before they could stop him. “Your majesty,” Ehud began, bowing low and then beginning to walk towards the king, “I bring you a gift from the people of Israel.” He hadn't gone more than two paces when the guards drew their swords and pointed them at his throat. “That's far enough,” the butler warned, “Leave your gift on the floor and go.” Ehud looked at his men and nodded. They put down their sacks of treasure and began to back away towards the door. Ehud had to think fast, he had only seconds left. Then suddenly an idea came to him. “Your majesty,” he called out, “I have something else for you, a message from God.” The king raised an eyebrow. “Very well then,” he murmured, “Let's hear it.”

“Your majesty,” Ehud replied, “it is for your ears only.”

The king thought for a few seconds and then slowly stood up. “Come with me,” he commanded, and surrounded by his guards he led Ehud out of the throne room. They followed the king as he heaved himself up the stairs until they came to his private rooms. With a wave of his hand he ordered the guards to wait outside, then he closed the doors and sank down into a chair, breathing heavily.

“Now, what is this secret message from God?” asked the king. “Let me whisper it to you,” said Ehud, bending down towards him. As the king leaned closer to hear what he was going to say Ehud reached under his cloak with his left hand, drew out the special sword and plunged it into the king's belly. The blade sliced through the layers of fat like a hot knife through butter. Eglon's eyes opened wide in astonishment and then he slumped back in his chair; he was dead. Ehud tried to pull the sword back, but it was stuck fast in the folds of the king's stomach and his hand popped out covered in blood.

Ehud looked around, what was he going to do now? It had never occurred to him that he might actually be able to kill the king and then escape. The guards were outside the door, he couldn't go that way, but he locked the doors to stop the guards from coming in. Looking out of a window he saw at once that he was too high up to jump and there was nothing on the walls that he could climb down. He was trapped. Then he spotted it, another door in the corner of the room. He opened it and found that it was the door to the king's toilet. The toilets they had in those days weren't like the ones we have now, this was just a plank of wood with a hole cut in it placed over the top of a pipe that led all the way down to the ground and out of the palace. Looking at it, Ehud could see that the pipe was just wide enough for a man to climb into and just narrow enough to stop him from falling straight to the bottom. He ripped the plank from the top of the pipe and the smell that came out was so awful he thought he was going to be sick. Hardly breathing, Ehud climbed into the pipe, pushed his feet against one side and his back against the other, and trying hard not to think about what had been in the toilet before him, he began to lower himself down. As he made his way to the ground, Ehud heard sounds echoing down the pipe from above – it was the guards knocking on the door, asking the king if everything was alright. Ehud knew he had to hurry. When it reached the ground, the pipe changed direction, running gently downhill right under the walls of the palace to freedom and Ehud crawled along it as fast as he could. A few minutes later he slid out of the end of the pipe and landed in the river with a splash. He lay there for a few moments letting the water wash the disgusting smell from his clothes and his hair. Then he climbed out and he began to run, heading for home.

The next few hours were a blur. When the people of Israel heard the news that King Eglon was dead they were overjoyed. The men grabbed their weapons and with Ehud leading them they attacked Eglon's palace and defeated his army. After years of slavery Israel was free again. That night there was a great feast to celebrate their victory. The people gave thanks to God and promised to listen to him from now on and they gave Ehud a special gift. It was a new sword to replace the one he'd left behind in King Eglon's belly. Ehud waved the sword in salute, holding it high above his head in his left hand. No-one was laughing at him for being left-handed now. In fact no-one ever laughed at Ehud for being left-handed again.

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