Judges 3:31 MEANING

Judges 3:31
(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" (1 Samuel 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 b?k?r; 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 1 Samuel 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 (1 Samuel 13:19); and this reduced the Israelites to the use of inventive skill in very simple weapons (1 Samuel 17:40; 1 Samuel 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 (bouplegi, II. vi. 134), and that in this very neighbourhood ("near Carmel," Nonnus, Dionys. 20). The Athenians, in their painting of Marathon, in the P?cile, 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.

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).

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.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.

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