The Story of Ehud and Eglon

Ehud and Eglon

Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), Chairwoman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, distributed a Bible to each committee member at the committee’s first meeting on January 31, and invited them to read through it in 2023.

Good. More folks ought to see what’s in the Bible. And not just the stories that they taught in Sunday school. Like for instance the story of Ehud and Eglon. You can find it in Judges Chapter 3.

Yahweh was angry at the Israelites (Yahweh was frequently angry at the Israelites) so he sent Eglon, the King of Moab, to torment them. Joining forces with the Ammonites and Amalekites, King Eglon attacked Israel and captured the city of Jericho.

After 18 years Yahweh relented and sent Ehud to deliver Israel from the subjugation of King Eglon.

Now Ehud was a left-handed man, which was as rare in those days as it is today. When the Israelites sent Ehud to King Eglon, Ehud cleverly strapped an 18 inch sword to his right thigh; he knew that the king’s men would search his left thigh for hidden weapons but not his right. 

By the way, the Bible describes King Eglon as a very fat man, and the name “Eglon” means “fatted calf” so perhaps you can get an idea of where this story is going.

Anyway, Ehud presented the tribute to King Eglon, and then he whispered, “I have a secret message for you.” 

So King Eglon stupidly sent all his attendants away.

Whereupon Ehud pulled out the sword with his left hand and plunged it into King Eglon’s belly. The Bible tells us that King Eglon was so fat that even the handle sank into his belly. And oh, yes, the king’s bowels discharged, i.e, he shit himself.

Ehud left the sword in the king and the fat closed in over it. Then he made his escape and locked the door behind him.

When the king’s servants found the doors locked, and presumably smelling something, well, shitty, they decided the king must be using his privy and waited. Eventually, they used a key to enter and found the king dead—and quite a mess to clean up.

Professor Amy-Jill Levine, in her series of lectures on the Old Testament for The Great Courses, says this story, filled with sexual and scatological imagery, must have been a favorite of ancient Israelites, especially of soldiers. They would have gotten a good laugh over it.

Here it is in the New International Version:


12 Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord, and because they did this evil the Lord gave Eglon king of Moab power over Israel.
13 Getting the Ammonites and Amalekites to join him, Eglon came and attacked Israel, and they took possession of the City of Palms.[a]
14 The Israelites were subject to Eglon king of Moab for eighteen years.

15 Again the Israelites cried out to the Lord, and he gave them a deliverer—Ehud, a left-handed man, the son of Gera the Benjamite. The Israelites sent him with tribute to Eglon king of Moab.
16 Now Ehud had made a double-edged sword about a cubit[b] long, which he strapped to his right thigh under his clothing.
17 He presented the tribute to Eglon king of Moab, who was a very fat man.
18 After Ehud had presented the tribute, he sent on their way those who had carried it.
19 But on reaching the stone images near Gilgal he himself went back to Eglon and said, “Your Majesty, I have a secret message for you.” The king said to his attendants, “Leave us!” And they all left.

20 Ehud then approached him while he was sitting alone in the upper room of his palace[c] and said, “I have a message from God for you.” As the king rose from his seat,
21 Ehud reached with his left hand, drew the sword from his right thigh and plunged it into the king’s belly.
22 Even the handle sank in after the blade, and his bowels discharged. Ehud did not pull the sword out, and the fat closed in over it.
23 Then Ehud went out to the porch[d]; he shut the doors of the upper room behind him and locked them.

24 After he had gone, the servants came and found the doors of the upper room locked. They said, “He must be relieving himself in the inner room of the palace.”
25 They waited to the point of embarrassment, but when he did not open the doors of the room, they took a key and unlocked them. There they saw their lord fallen to the floor, dead.

26 While they waited, Ehud got away. He passed by the stone images and escaped to Seirah.
27 When he arrived there, he blew a trumpet in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites went down with him from the hills, with him leading them.

28 “Follow me,” he ordered, “for the Lord has given Moab, your enemy, into your hands.” So they followed him down and took possession of the fords of the Jordan that led to Moab; they allowed no one to cross over.
29 At that time they struck down about ten thousand Moabites, all vigorous and strong; not one escaped.
30 That day Moab was made subject to Israel, and the land had peace for eighty years.



a. Judges 3:13 That is, Jericho

b. Judges 3:16 That is, about 18 inches or about 45 centimeters

c. Judges 3:20 The meaning of the Hebrew for this word is uncertain; also in verse 24.

d. Judges 3:23 The meaning of the Hebrew for this word is uncertain.

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