Judges can be a difficult book to read and retain. It’s incredibly full of people, places, and events. Then, some of these people, places, and events are given paragraphs of attention… and others? A single verse. In Judges 3:31, we meet Shamgar.

The entirety of chapter three is spent telling the story of Ehud, the left-handed Lone Ranger. If you don’t remember that story then go check it out, unless you just ate. The story is wild, intriguing, slightly comical, and gross. Then, after 30 verses, the author ends with this:

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.

Judges 3:31

That’s it. Can you believe it? On our own, it would be pretty difficult to discern anything about Shamgar. But thankfully, we know just the place to look!

Focus on the Bible: Judges

Recently at Olivetree.com we released a new-to-us commentary series: Focus on the Bible. It’s a well-loved set and we’re excited to offer it! Especially because the volume on Judges is ranked #2 on Bestcommentaries.com. For years, commentary reviewers have praised this particular commentary as being one of the best discussion on Judges.

Now it’s your turn to see what the hype is about! Read the following excerpt from Focus on the Bible to learn about Shamgar.  Dale Ralph Davis, the author, even finds a way to bring about some application.

Focus on the Bible Excerpt: Shamgar

This excerpt is from the Focus on the Bible Commentary Series.

“This note about Shamgar is almost like one of those newsbreaks sandwiched between regular programming on radio or television. The writer slips him in between Ehud and Deborah in the briefest sort of way. Yet ‘he too saved Israel.’ So, if anything, we have a salvation break.

Though scholars have recently lavished some attention on Shamgar, his name is hardly a household word among Christians.

(Well, who would know about you if your life were reduced to one sentence?) Shamgar has been passed over in the church year and hence doomed to oblivion. After all, who ever heard of a Saint Shamgar and All Angel’s Day? Now you know we shan’t be long with Shamgar for we’ve but one verse on him (though note Judges 5:6). But where have you ever seen a book in which Shamgar was given a whole chapter? All by himself? Without being consigned to a footnote amidst all the furor over Ehud? This book then seeks to redress this injustice by including this chapter about Shamgar—and for Shamgar!

Shamgar has taken some vengeance upon the scholarly fraternity, for he has left us with unanswered questions.

Was he an Israelite or not? His name seems to be non-Israelite; some say Hurrian, as it appears as a name in the Nuzi texts. Does ‘son of Anath’ mean ‘son (worshiper?) of the Canaanite goddess Anath or merely a resident of Beth-anath in Galilee (Josh. 19:38; Judg. 1:33), or should we think of a Beth-anath down in Judah (cf. Josh. 15:59); more likely he would meet with Philistines if we place him there? Did Shamgar knock off these Philistines single-handedly or as the leader of the farmers’ militia? Should Shamgar be regarded as a kosher judge or not? Shamgar was probably not an Israelite. That is about all we can know of his roots.

We can be a bit more sure of his ox-goad.

Like its later analogues, such an instrument might be eight feet long and up to six inches in circumference at the larger end. The smaller end was armed with a sharp prick for driving the oxen, the other end with a small spade or iron paddle for cleaning out the plow. That would make quite a bayonet. And who would get up after catching the six-inch end in the jaw or solar plexus?

God’s instruments of deliverance seem to have an interesting if odd collection of tools. Shamgar’s ox-goad joins Ehud’s dagger (3:16), Jael’s hammer (4:21), Gideon’s horns and torches (7:16), the woman’s millstone (9:53), and Samson’s jawbone (not his but a donkey’s; 15:15). God’s deliverances have plenty of color and interest.

However, the literal bottom line of chapter 3 is the bottom line: ‘He too saved Israel.’

So what if Shamgar was not an Israelite? What if he had Canaanite connections? What if we never dig up a biography of Shamgar? What if we never know anything about him? Do we not see here the very glory of Israel’s God? If Yahweh be the maker of heaven and earth, if he has all resources in his hand, then can he not deliver his people not only by many or by few (1 Sam. 14:6) but also by disciples or by pagans? If Yahweh raises up Shamgar as a savior for Israel, surely Cyrus should come as no surprise (Isa. 45:1–7).

And it is particularly the glory of God to save by instruments unknown or scarcely known to us. As the former blind man exclaimed: ‘Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes’ (John 9:30). We don’t know anything about Shamgar and yet he saved God’s people. There is something marvelous about a God like that, something that compels us to bow down before the One who uses Shamgars and ox-goads.”

Keep Learning

Focus on the Bible Commentary

Did you enjoy this excerpt about Shamgar in the book of Judges? If so, you’ll enjoy the Focus on the Bible Commentary on Judges! In fact, you might really enjoy the full set. It’s useful for everyone—really! Without being too technical, the set provides a depth-of-understanding and comprehension to Christians of all backgrounds. Also, these volumes can be a breath of fresh air for the more advanced studier who’s been immersed in more academic commentaries. Use the Focus the Bible Commentary Set not only for study, but also for personal devotions and spiritual growth.

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