Judges 3:31
And after him was Shamgar the son of Anath, which slew of the Philistines six hundred men with an ox goad: and he also delivered Israel.
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(31) Shamgar.—Mentioned here alone, and alluded to in Judges 5:6.

The son of Anath.—There was a Beth-anath in Naphtali, but Shamgar could hardly have belonged to Northern Israel. We know nothing of Shamgar’s tribe or family, but, as neither his name nor that of his father is Jewish, it has been conjectured that he may have been a Kenite; a conjecture which derives some confirmation from his juxtaposition with Jael in Judges 5:6. Shamgar means “name of a stranger” (comp. Grershom, “a stranger there”). Samgar-Nebo is the name of a Babylonian general (Jeremiah 39:3).

Six hundred men.—It has been most needlessly assumed that he slew them single-handed, and not, as is probable, at the head of a band of peasants armed with the same rude weapons as himself. If he slew 600 with his own hand, the whole number that perished would almost certainly have been added. There is, indeed, no impossibility (even apart from Divine assistance, which is implied though not expressly attributed to him) in the supposition that in a battle which may have lasted for more than one day a single chief may with his own hand have killed this number, for we are told that in a night battle against Moawijah, Ali raised a shout each time he had killed an enemy, and his voice was heard 300 times in one night; and a story closely resembling that of Shamgar is narrated of a Swedish peasant; but the question here is merely one of interpretation, and nothing is more common in Scripture, as in all literature, than to say that a leader personally did what was done under his leadership, e.g., “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands” (1Samuel 18:7).

With an ox goad.—The LXX. (Codex B) and Vulgate have “with a ploughshare;” and the Alexandrian Codex of the LXX. renders it “besides the oxen.” These translations are not tenable. The phrase occurs here alone—bemalmad ha bākār; literally, “with a thing to teach oxen.” There can be little doubt that an ox-goad is meant. In the East they are sometimes formidable implements, eight feet long, pointed with a strong sharp iron head. The use of them—since whips were not used for cattle—is alluded to in 1Samuel 13:21; Acts 9:5. Being disarmed, the Israelites would be unable to find any more effective weapon (Judges 5:6; Judges 5:8). Disarmament was the universal policy of ancient days (1Samuel 13:19); and this reduced the Israelites to the use of inventive skill in very simple weapons (1Samuel 17:40; 1Samuel 17:43). Samson had nothing better than the jawbone of an ass (Judges 15:15). Similarly the Thracian king Lycurgus is said to have chased the Bacchanals with an ox-goad (bouplêgi, II. vi. 134), and that in this very neighbourhood (“near Carmel,” Nonnus, Dionys. 20). The Athenians, in their painting of Marathon, in the Pœcile, represented the gigantic rustic, Echetlus, who was supposed to have slain so many of the Persians, with his ploughshare (Pausan. i. 15, § 4). Comp. Hom. Iliad, vi. 134.

He also delivered Israel.—Josephus (Antt. v. 4, § 3), following some Jewish hagadah, says that Shamgar was chosen judge, but died in the first year of his office. This may have been a mere inference, from his being passed over in Judges 4:1. He does not mention his deed of prowess.

Jdg 3:31. After him was Shamgar — He was the third judge of the Israelites, and delivered them from some small oppressions which they suffered from the Philistines. The sacred text gives us no further particulars concerning him than that he slew six hundred of them with an ox-goad; or, as the Latin and Greek versions render it, with a plough-share. Indeed the Hebrew מלמד הבקר, malmad habakar, signifies any instrument by which oxen are broken to labour. The Philistines, it seems, were more careful than any other nation to strip the Israelites of all their military weapons whenever they had them in subjection; and if this was the case at present, it is likely that the expression means only such rustic instruments as he could lay his hand on. It is probable he was following the plough when the Philistines made an inroad into the country, and having neither sword nor spear, when God put it into his heart to oppose them, he took up the instrument which was next at hand. “It is no matter,” says Henry, “how weak the weapon is, if God direct and strengthen the arm. An ox- goad, when God pleaseth, shall do more than Goliah’s sword. And sometimes he chooseth to work by such unlikely means, that the excellence of the power may appear to be of God,” and that he may have all the glory. If we may believe Mr. Maundrell, however, he saw goads used in Palestine which were of an extraordinary size, several of them being about eight feet long, and at the thicker end six inches in circumference. They were armed, he tells us, at the smaller end, with a sharp prickle for driving the oxen, and at the other end with a small spade or paddle of iron, strong and massy, for cleansing the plough from the clay that is wont to encumber it in working. And he conjectures it was with such a goad as one of these that Shamgar made this prodigious slaughter, and judges that such an instrument “was not less fit, perhaps fitter, than a sword for such an execution.” See Journey from Aleppo, p. 110. It is evident, however, that the sacred writer here does not attribute the slaughter made, and victory obtained by Shamgar, to the excellence of the weapon which he used, but to the power of God. 3:31 The side of the country which lay south-west, was infested by the Philistines. God raised up Shamgar to deliver them; having neither sword nor spear, he took an ox-goad, the instrument next at hand. God can make those serviceable to his glory and to his church's good, whose birth, education, and employment, are mean and obscure. It is no matter what the weapon is, if God directs and strengthens the arm. Often he works by unlikely means, that the excellency of the power may appear to be of God.From this verse and Judges 5:6 we may gather that Shamgar was contemporary with Jael, and that he only procured a temporary and partial deliverance for Israel by his exploit. He may have been of the tribe of Judah.

An ox goad - An instrument of wood about eight feet long, armed with an iron spike or point at one end, with which to spur the ox at plow, and with an iron scraper at the other end with which to detach the earth from the plowshare when it became encumbered with it. The fact of their deliverer having no better weapon enhances his faith, and the power of his divine helper. At the same time it shows how low the men of Judah were brought at this time, being disarmed by their oppressors Judges 5:8, as was also the case later 1 Samuel 13:19.

31. after him was Shamgar—No notice is given of the tribe or family of this judge; and from the Philistines being the enemy that roused him into public service, the suffering seems to have been local—confined to some of the western tribes.

slew … six hundred men with an oxgoad—This instrument is eight feet long and about six inches in circumference. It is armed at the lesser end with a sharp prong for driving the cattle, and on the other with a small iron paddle for removing the clay which encumbers the plough in working. Such an instrument, wielded by a strong arm, would do no mean execution. We may suppose, however, for the notice is very fragmentary, that Shamgar was only the leader of a band of peasants, who by means of such implements of labor as they could lay hold of at the moment, achieved the heroic exploit recorded.

Slew six hundred men with an ox-goad; as Samson did a thousand with the jaw-bone of an ass; both being miraculous actions, and not at all incredible to him that believes a God, who could easily give strength both to the persons and to their weapons to effect this. And after him was Shamgar the son of Anath,.... That is, after the death of Ehud, when the people of Israel were in distress again from another quarter, this man was raised up of God to be a judge and deliverer of them; but who he was, and who his father, and of what tribe, we nowhere else read:

which slew of the Philistines six hundred men; who invaded the land, and came in an hostile manner into it; or rather, as it seems from Judges 5:6; they entered as a banditti of thieves and robbers, who posted themselves in the highways, and robbed travellers as they passed, so that they were obliged to leave off travelling, or go through bypaths, and not in the public road; and this man, who seems to have been called from the plough to be a judge of Israel, as some among the Romans were called from thence to be dictators and deliverers of them from the Gauls:

with an ox goad; which he had used to push on his oxen with at ploughing, cleared the country of them, and with no other weapon than this slew six hundred of them, either at certain times, or in a body together; which is no ways incredible, being strengthened and succeeded by the Lord, any more than Samson's slaying a thousand men with the jawbone of an ass, Judges 15:15. So Lycurgus is said to put to flight the forces of Bacchus with an ox goad (q) which is said to be done near Carmel, a mountain in Judea, which makes it probable that this is hammered out of the sacred history; or that Shamgar and Lycurgus are the same, as Bochart conjectures (r). The ox goad, as now used in those parts, is an instrument fit to do great execution with it, as Mr. Maundrell (s), who saw many of them, describes it; on measuring them, he found them to be eight feet long, at the bigger end six inches in circumference, at the lesser end was a sharp prickle for driving the oxen, and at the other end a small spade, or paddle of iron, for cleansing the plough from the clay:

and he also delivered Israel, from those robbers and plunderers, and prevented their doing any further mischief in the land, and subjecting it to their power, and so may very properly be reckoned among the judges of Israel; but how long he judged is not said, perhaps his time is to be reckoned into the eighty years of rest before mentioned; or, as Abarbinel thinks, into the forty years of Deborah, the next judge; and who also observes, that their Rabbins say, Shamgar judged but one year.

(q) Homer. Iliad. 6. ver. 135. (r) Hieozoic. par. 1. l. 2. c. 39. col. 385. & Canaan. l. 1. c. 18. col. 446. (s) Journey to Aleppo, &c. p. 110, 111.

And after him was Shamgar the son of Anath, which slew of the Philistines six hundred men with an ox {l} goad: and he also delivered Israel.

(l) So that it is not the number, nor the means that God regards, when he will get the victory.

31. Shamgar the son of Anath] was unknown to the author of Jdg 4:1, who passes at once from Ehud to Deborah. Shamgar is often reckoned as one of the minor Judges, but the account given of him is not modelled on the form of Jdg 10:1-5, Jdg 12:8-15; no date is attached to the period of his activity, and he is not included in the chronology of the Book. It is clear that this brief notice was inserted after the Dtc. compiler had done his work. Further, an exploit against the Philistines in the period between Ehud and Deborah comes too early; the Philistines do not appear in history as enemies of Israel till the time of Saul (in the Samson story they are not yet the aggressors); the verse would be more in place after Jdg 16:31, and there in fact some mss. of the LXX actually insert it as well as here (so Aldine edn. of LXX, Syro-Hexaplar and Slav. Versions). Its present position is no doubt due to the mention of Shamgar ben Anâth in Jdg 5:6, which gives the impression that he was an oppressor, not a deliverer, of Israel in the days just before Deborah: he has no connexion with the Philistine country; the area of the oppression lies in the district of the northern tribes. This is all that we know of Shamgar1[30]. His name is foreign; cf. Sangara, a Hittite king of Carchemish in the time of Ashurnasipal and Shalmaneser II1[31] (the Samgar-nebo of Jeremiah 39:3 is probably a textual error); no Israelite could have been called ‘son of (the goddess) Anâth,’ who was worshipped in early times in Syria and Palestine, as appears from the old Canaanite place-names, Anathoth, Beth-anath etc.2[32] It is curious that one of the allies of the Hittite king Sangara just mentioned bears the name Bur-anati (king of Jasbuki3[33]). The exploit here recorded resembles that of Samson in Jdg 15:14 f., and still more closely that of Shammah ben Agee, one of David’s mighty men, at Lehi, 2 Samuel 23:11 f. (which has been influenced by Samson’s story); cf. also 2 Samuel 21:15-22. It is probable that the author of this verse derived his particulars in a general way from these sources, and attached them to the Shamgar of Jdg 5:6.

[30] Nestle in Journ. Th. St. xiii. p. 424 f. shews that in some early Latin chronologies Shamgar was both placed after Samson, and regarded as an oppressor though also as a judge!

[31] Keilinschriftliche Bibliothek i. p. 139.

[32] See further NSI., p. 80 f.

[33] KB. i. 159. This has been pointed out by Ball in Smith’s Dict. of the Bible2, s.v. Ishbak.

an ox goad] A pole from 6 to 8 feet long, with a pointed end of iron, the κέντρον of Acts 26:14; it could be used readily as a spear.Verse 31. - Of the Philistines. This is an isolated movement of the Philistines, alluded to in Judges 10:11, but of which we have no further details. In Judges 10:6 we read of Israel worshipping the gods of the Phllistines, and of an alliance between the Ammonites and Philistines to vex Israel; but the precise connection between the events of the two chapters, or the exact time when either occurred, cannot be determined with certainty. Nothing more is known of Shamgar, except the mention of him in Deborah's song (Judges 5:6).

When the servants of Eglon came (to enter in to their lord) after Ehud's departure and saw the door of the upper room bolted, they thought "surely (אך, lit. only, nothing but) he covers his feet" (a euphemism for performing the necessities of nature; cf. 1 Samuel 24:3), and waited to shaming (cf. 2 King dg 2:17; Judges 8:11), i.e., till they were ashamed of their long waiting (see at Judges 5:28). At length they opened the door with the key, and found their lord lying dead upon the floor.

Ehud's conduct must be judged according to the spirit of those times, when it was thought allowable to adopt any means of destroying the enemy of one's nation. The treacherous assassination of a hostile king is not to be regarded as an act of the Spirit of God, and therefore is not set before us as an example to be imitated. Although Jehovah raised up Ehud as a deliverer to His people when oppressed by Eglon, it is not stated (and this ought particularly to be observed) that the Spirit of Jehovah came upon Ehud, and still less that Ehud assassinated the hostile king under the impulse of that Spirit. Ehud proved himself to have been raised up by the Lord as the deliverer of Israel, simply by the fact that he actually delivered his people from the bondage of the Moabites, and it by no means follows that the means which he selected were either commanded or approved by Jehovah.

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