July 20, 2018

Judges 3:31 (NLT) — 31 After Ehud, Shamgar son of Anath rescued Israel. He once killed 600 Philistines with an ox goad.

Here is what Pastor/Teacher Warren Wiersbe had to say about this one verse:

Only one verse is devoted to Shamgar and it isn’t even stated that he was a judge. Judges 5:6–7 indicates that he was contemporary with Deborah and Barak. “Son of Anath” may mean that he was from the town of Beth Anath in Naphtali (1:33), which was also the tribe Barak came from (4:6; see 5:18). Since Anath was the name of a Canaanite goddess of war, perhaps “son of Anath” was a nickname that meant “son of battle”—that is, a mighty warrior.

What was significant about Shamgar was the weapon that he used. An ox goad was a strong pole about eight feet long. At one end was a sharp metal point for prodding the oxen and at the other end a spade for cleaning the dirt off the plow. It was the closest thing Shamgar could find to a spear because the enemy had confiscated the weapons of the Israelites (5:8; see 1 Sam. 13:19–22).

Here was a man who obeyed God and defeated the enemy even though his resources were limited. Instead of complaining about not possessing a sword or spear, Shamgar gave what he had to the Lord, and the Lord used it. Joseph Parker said, “What is a feeble instrument in the hands of one man is a mighty instrument in the hands of another, simply because the spirit of that other burns with holy determination to accomplish the work that has to be done.” Shamgar may have killed all 600 Philistines at one time in one place (see 2 Sam. 8:8–12), but it’s also possible that 600 is a cumulative total. An ox goad would be an unwieldy weapon to use if 600 soldiers had attacked Shamgar at one time. Since we don’t know the details, we must not speculate. It’s just encouraging to know that God enabled him to overcome the enemy though his resources were limited.

The few words that are recorded about Shamgar give me the impression that he was a man of persistent courage, which, of course was born out of his faith in the Lord. To stand his ground against the enemy, having only a farmer’s tool instead of a soldier’s full military equipment, marks Shamgar out as a brave man with steadfast courage.

Charles Spurgeon once gave a lecture at his Pastor’s College entitled “To Workers with Slender Apparatus.” Shamgar didn’t hear that lecture, but I’m sure he could have given it! And I suspect he would have closed his lecture by saying, “Give whatever tools you have to the Lord, stand your ground courageously, and trust God to use what’s in your hand to accomplish great things for His glory.”

To paraphrase E.M. Bounds, the world is looking for better methods, but God is looking for better men and women who understand the basics: the power of the Holy Spirit, wise strategy, and steadfast courage.
Othniel, Ehud, and Shamgar have shown us the way. Will we follow?

Wiersbe, W. W. (1994). Be available (pp. 31–32). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

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