Shamgar, 3rd Judge in Ancient Israel

Bible References:  Judges 3.31; Judges 5.6-7

Heart of the Story: Shamgar was identified as the third Judge in Israel.

Back Story: After the death of Joshua and Israelite elders who lived during Joshua’s life, the Israelites began to worship gods of the peoples in the land where they lived. As a result, God allowed enemies of the Israelites to oppressed and plundered Israelites. Then, the Israelites repented and return to worship the God of Israel. After the Israelites repented, the Lord raised up Judges to save them from the hands of their enemies because God was pitied the Israelites. Frequently, Israelites remained loyal to God during the life of the Judge; however, after his death, they returned to worship of gods of the peoples of the land.

Story Line: Shamgar was the third Judge. Little is known about his life except that

  • He lived in northwestern Ancient Israel in tribal lands that appear to be in land belong to the tribe of Asher.
  • He is the son of Anath.
  • Shamgar lived and was a Judge at a low point in Israelite’s history. The Song of Deborah (Judges 5.6) said that Shamgar lived when Israelites abandoned highways and travelers (Israelites) used byways (secondary paths).
  • Shamgar’s enemies were Philistines (Judges 3.31) – he killed 600 of them.
  • Shamgar’s weapon was an oxgoad. An oxgoad was usually a strong stick about eight feet long used to prod oxen pulling a plow. Frequently, it was made from wood rather than metal (iron).
  • Shamgar saved Israel.

Pondering Relationships: Because Shamgar’s father’s name was Anath and Anath referred to a Canaanite goddess, scholars proposed that Shamgar was a son of a mixed Israelite-Canaanite marriage. An alternative position was that Shamgar was not an Israelite. He was a mighty warrior in the Egyptian’s pharaoh’s army. The Egyptian unit was dedicated to Anath, the goddess of war. Initially, it seemed strange that a non-Israelite would save the Israelites; but, other places in the Bible show that God is sovreign over all nations not just Israelites.

Scholars noted that the identification of Philistines as an Israelite enemy at this time in Israelite history may be an error. They contended that the Philistines did not enter Ancient Israel until several hundred years in the future.  I tend to believe the Judges’ account that Philistines were enemies of Shamgar in northwestern Israel.  Shamgar killed 600 Philistines, a notable warlike nation.  Whether or not these deaths all occurred at one time was not disclosed in Judges.

Reflection: Shamgar was identified as a relatively minor Judge in Israel; yet he saved the nation. Often we don’t know what our relatively small acts accomplish.

Copyright May 20, 2019. Carolyn A. Roth

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