This story is gross and funny – and not the sort of thing you’d expect to find in the Bible. It is about an act of individual courage and outrageous audacity, in a dangerous personal mission to slay an enemy king.
Ehud, the hero of the story, was a shining example of what the Israelites did best: adapting to a situation and making the most of what they had.
No wonder he was a hero to his people.
This hero was Ehud, from the tribe of Benjamin. He was left-handed – there were an unusually large number of left-handed people in the tribe of Benjamin. This point is important to the story.
Ehud decided to assassinate King Eglon of Moab, who was oppressing the Israelites. He made a double-edged sword, sharp on both edges (see photograph in top left column). This was unusual for that time since most swords were curved, with only one sharp edge.
Because he was left-handed, he fastened his sword directly onto his right thigh instead of his left, hiding it under his clothes.
Then he went to deliver tribute to Eglon – conquered people paid onerous taxes to their overlords. He was the leader of the delegation, and his servants carried the goods. Naturally they were all searched for weapons, but Ehud’s sword was not where a sword would normally be, so it was missed by the guards.
Canaanite sickle sword. This is the type of sword Eglon's guards would have expected Ehud to carry.
At this point in the story, the Bible makes the point that the king to whom the taxes were bening paid, Eglon was an enormously fat man, not a warrior, not kingly, but a figure of fun.
When the tribute had been presented, Ehud sent away his assistants and asked for a private audience with Eglon. This was granted. All his attendants left.
Alone with the king in a small private chamber, Ehud pulled the sword from its hiding place and thrust it into the fat man’s belly.
He pushed it so deep into the man’s bowels that the hilt of the sword disappeared under folds of flesh. The Bible says that ‘the dirt came out’ – dirt being a euphemism for
excrement or faeces. This too is an important point, because it meant the small room stank.
Having done the deed Ehud left, locking the door behind him. Then he left the palace.
The Bible narrative emphasises three things about the weapon Ehud used:
It also stresses the fact that he was left-handed.
Why? Because these details explain the success of Ehud’s key tactical move in managing to gain entrance to the chamber of the King without his guards’ discovering that Ehud was armed. His sword was short,
sharp on both edges like a dagger, and he kept it on his right thigh instead of the usual left.
21 Ehud reached with his left hand, drew the sword from his right thigh and plunged it into the king’s belly.
Where it happened
Note the territory of the Tribe of Benjamin and Jericho north of the Dead Sea
Bible Study Resource for Archaeology
Ehud tricked his enemy, King Eglon, and murdered him; with Bible text, pictures and map