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Origen and Ehud

“Let’s observe how Ehud, whose name means “praise,” discharged his leadership.  History teaches us, in its writings about King Eglon, how this most wise Ehud with particular skill and, if I may say, cunning but praiseworthy deception, would kill the tyrant Eglon, whose name means “round” or “circular.”  It was necessary, then, to have the quality of judges of our people as was this Ehud, whose name means “praise,” so to cut through all his rolling motion and circuit of evil ways and to destroy the king of the Moabites  But Moabite is translated as “flow” or “effusion.”  Who can the ruler or leader of this flowing and dissolute people be seen or understood to be, therefore, other than the word of that philosophy which adjudges pleasure to be the highest good, a philosophy which the word of the gospel, which has been compared to a sword[1], killed and destroyed?  And this prophetic word would become enclosed within their belly and lowest stomach by means of the “ambidextrous” judge’s arguments, to extinguish the Moabites by assertion of the truth, enclosing also every sense of perverse doctrine and dull understanding “which extols itself and rises against the spiritual knowledge of Christ,”[2] so that by acting thus and by doing battle with the word of God, each judge of the church may also become a praising Ehud, about whom the Lord would say, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few, so I will set you over many.”[3] – Origen, Homilies on Judges 4.1[4]

The idea of Origen’s that as the ACCS puts it “Ehud’s slaying of Eglon symbolizes how the sword of the gospel destroys hedonistic philosophy,”[5] is a rather intriguing one.

It is of course only one man’s homiletical approach to the story, but one that I found interesting.  Aside from Origen’s odd answer for what the names of these Characters means, (perhaps he’s guessing from Greek or Latin and not Hebrew?).  Eglon means likely something like “young bull” or “fat calf,” while Ehud’s name is less certain, although it is similar to the Hebrew word eḥad, “one” and could possible mean loner[6].

One could note that in the LXX, that Eglon is not described as fat, but handsome[7], but I would suppose that either could fit well into the case that Eglon fit the mantra of “Eat, Drink, be merry, for tomorrow we die.” Since after all Eglon did happen to be very fat.  But if one takes a look at Eglon’s name meaning fat calf, then one might also take a look at Ehud’s dagger as being something of a “sacrificial dagger” for the “sacrificial calf,” and see the story as a bit of irony there[8].

As for Ehud, he is presented for the most part as a decent guy, no Othniel, but what Benjaminite would be?  He’s a trickster here, whereas Othniel isn’t, (to be fair, his deed is shown in a good light, as Origen notes)[9].  Ehud’s hand is described literally in the Hebrew as his being restricted in the right hand[10], while once again (as we’re dealing with Church Fathers) one should point out that the LXX has it as an ambidextrous[11].”  One could even look at the various problems he had just because of his family association, if one were to look at it in that light[12].  One could just point at Ehud and see nothing but underdog about the guy.  Origen notes that Ehud is a praising Judge, of course his only real praise of sorts is his battle cry found in Judges 3.28.  Although Ehud would indeed have much to praise Yahweh for after the sort of victory he has.

In looking at the Ehud and Eglon one story, one sees a story of irony, in which the underdog wins, the weaker hero versus the power villain of sorts.  In it one sees that God’s agent is the one who will gain the victory, while those who oppose God and by extension his people will be brought down in some fashion, not that anyone should be going around assassinating in the name of God today, although one should probably be going around doing right actions in God’s name.

– Le Belle Inconnu

 


[1] Ephesians 6.17; Hebrews 4.12

[2] See 2 Corinthians 10.5

[3] See Matthew 25.21ff

[4] Found in Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1-2 Samuel, Volume 4 of Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture

[5] ACCS p. 112

[6] See Boling p. 85, also Hamlin pp. 70, 73

[7] As noted by Schneider p.49, “And he presented the gifts to King Eglom of Moab.  And Eglom was a very handsome man.” Judges 3.17 NETS

[8] Brettler as pointed out by Matthews 61

[9] Matthews 60

[10] Schneider 49

[11] “And the sons of Israel cried out to the Lord, and the Lord raised up a for them a deliverer, Aod son of Gera son of Iemeni, an ambidextrous man. And the sons of Israel sent gifts to King Eglom of Moab by his hand.” Judges 3.12 NETS

[12] Refer particularly to Schneider pp.47-8

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