Summary: The verse does not state that Shamgar was in fact a judge, but that he also delivered Israel. Therefore, his activity was similar to that of the judges.

Chapter 14

The Judge Shamgar [Judges 3.31]


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.


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.

And after Ehud, there was Shamgar the son of Anath—I happen to believe that "Shamgar's administration in the West was integrated into Ehud's administration of eighty years in the East; and since this administration might have been in power for a long time, so also, this Philistine servitude which is not recognized anywhere else, might have been going on for a long time. Shamgar’s judgeship (if he was actually a judge) appears to have transpired after Ehud’s deliverance but before his death (The historical notice in [1]Judges 4.1continues after Ehud’s death rather than before Ehud’s death.)

The characteristic features of the general narration of the book are absent in this verse. Israel’s sin that leads to judgment is not mentioned, and there is no reference to a Philistine oppression of any specified duration. Rather, the reference seems to be to a rising Philistine menace caused by the continuing infiltration of Philistines into the area. This infiltration had begun as early as the time of Abraham and continued until it reached its apex at the time of Samson. No notification is given of the tribe or family of this judge; and suffering seems to have been local—confined to some of the western tribes. It is possible that Shamgar was not really a judge, since Ehud was the major judge at that time. It should also be noted that he is later mentioned in connection with the woman Jael, who was also not a judge, but somewhat of a local heroine. We may suppose, because the information we have about this man is very sketchy, that Shamgar was only the leader of a band of peasants, who by means of such implements of labor as they could lay their hands on at the moment, achieved the heroic exploit recorded—slew 600 men.

Shamgar’s weapon was an ox goad , a long-handled, pointed stick tipped with metal and used to prod animals. Its length was normally about ten feet, and it was useful as a weapon in times of emergency. The Philistines later became famous for disarming their enemies, and it should be noted that Shamgar may have had no other weapon available to him. With it, he slew six hundred men, which may represent the sum of a lifetime of combat, rather than a single incident. Despite his unknown origin and humble weapon, he was used by God to spare the Israelites. That his exploits were well known is indicated by the reference to him in Deborah’s song. There is no substantial reason for the fanciful exaggerations that have often been given to explain away the historicity of this event (e.g., MacKenzie, pp. 125–126; who believes the incident was inserted at this point to give a reason for the reference to him later in chapter 5). Most liberal commentators look on Shamgar as an insertion by the so-called Deuteronomic historian, believing the book of Judges actually to have been written during the Assyrian period in Israel. This view has been successfully discounted by Y. Kaufmann, The Biblical Account of the Conquest of Palestine, where he shows that Judges 2 & 3 presents a very unfavorable and unidealistic picture of Israel’s history during this early period, which is not the so-called Deuteronomistic viewpoint at all. The details of these chapters must be viewed as very ancient and true to Israel’s history.

The Holy Spirit has chosen to keep the details of Shamgar’s exploits hidden, but there are several points that can be made from a review of past history and the present state of affairs in the Holy Land:

1. THAT the [2]ox-goad, still used in Palestine, is a sufficiently destructive weapon if used by a strong and skillful hand, is evident enough from the description which Mr. Maundrell gives of this implement, having seen many of them both in Palestine and Syria: "It was observable," he says, "that in ploughing they used goads of an extraordinary size; upon measuring of several I found them about eight feet long, and at the bigger end about six inches in circumference. They were armed at the lesser end with a sharp barb for driving the oxen, and at the other end with a small spade or paddle of iron, used to clean the clay from the plow; clay will build up on the plow until it is a hindrance to the proper working of the plow. In the hands of a strong, skillful man, such an instrument must be more dangerous and more fatal than any sword.

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