We take a BRIEF look at Israel’s third judge. The information on him is sparse but God felt him worth including.
After 80 years of rest from war, the people apparently angered God again. This time the Philistines were their oppressors. We aren’t given any information on how long they were under the Philistines hand. We aren’t even told that they cried out to the Lord. But God was faithful to them and brought them another deliver/judge.
All of Shamgar’s exploits are not shared with us. The only action we hear about is one battle where he used an oxgoad to kill 600 Philistines. This isn’t even a weapon for warfare. It is an implement used to make the ox move again when he stops. It isn’t designed to hurt the ox, only make him uncomfortable. It is a farmer’s tool.
Did Shamgar come straight from the fields for this battle? Was he defending his property from Philistine raiders? Did he even own a sword? How many other battles did he fight against the Philistines?
We KNOW there had to be more because we are told “He also saved Israel” (verse 31b). Killing 600 men, even at the same time would not be enough to free Israel. The Philistines were a large group of people. He could have rousted one of the Philistines’ regiments of a thousand during the battle we hear about.
I just finished reading the first four of The Davidic Chronicles by Greg S. Baker. I’m anxiously awaiting the final book to be released (it just got released so I updated the link). In the first book we are introduced to life after Philistine rule. The people had little to no weaponry as the Philistines killed or took their smiths. They were left with farm implements, slings, and whatever other weapons they could create to use in battle. I know that the books are Biblical Fiction but I wonder if this is a good representation of fact and explains Shamgar’s choice of weapon.
These books also speak a lot about the number of troops used in battles. Again, Biblical Fiction but based on scripture and historical evidence. Six hundred was a large number but certainly not enough to destroy the Philistine forces.
When looking at my bible helps, it suggests that Shamgar might not have even been and Israelite.
“The third judge was Shamgar, mentioned only here and in (Judges) 5:6. Shamgar’s name is apparently Hurrian, not Israelite, and his designation as ‘son of Anath’ probably refers to the Canaanite warior goddess Anath. If so, it is ironic that God used a non-Israelite warrior to deliver Israel from its enemies” (ESV Study Bible notes on Judges 3:31).
Israel didn’t drive out all the inhabitants when they took the land. They lived among the people in many places. Shamgar might have been a descendant of one of those who remained. He could also have been a foreigner who adopted Israel’s God as his own. Who knows the mind of God? Who can fathom His works? Who can tell what He can do with a heart that is surrendered to Him? He can even do amazing miracles with those who are actively working against Him. If ever in doubt, look at the work He accomplished using Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin in Jesus’ day. They were intending exactly the opposite of what happened. God used them without their knowledge.
When looking for pictures of oxgoads on Google I came across a meme featuring one. I think it speaks succinctly of Shamgar’s service to God and Israel. “Start where you are – Use what you have – Do what you can – And it will be enough!” That message is as true for Shamgar as it is for each of us.
If the Lord is in it, HE will make it happen. The battle belongs to the Lord. But His soldiers need to do their part. He gives us skills and resources that He intends us to use for Him. We ALL have to start with what we have before He will give us more. We have to prove ourselves faithful and willing to step into the role He has prepared for us.
Father God, thank You for sharing Your stories with me. When I was first looking at this judge I was thinking about how he was not much more than a footnote in the list. How You shared so little about him with me. I wonder what else happened in his life. But You directed me to look a little deeper at him. He inspires me now. I’ve never cared about becoming “famous”, especially by the worlds standards but I do want to make a difference for You. Shamgar didn’t strive to make a name for himself. He simply stepped up, using what You had given him, to do the job that was at hand. He gave You his heart and hands. YOU did the rest! Use me like that Lord!