The Second Apostasy
Dr. Joe Temple


As we begin this study, keep in mind that the book of Judges falls naturally into three divisions. The first division we refer to as the approach or the background of the book, in which we were told that the children of Israel did not follow all of God's injunction in expelling people from the land and set the stage for the sad history which is recorded in the book of Judges. We told you that the history of the book of Judges is a history of declension, of revival, of declension, of revival. We have been studying the book of Judges on the basis of these various declensions or departures from the truth.

We come to this study of the second declension, and we want to read the whole story as it is recorded in the Word of God, and then we will endeavor to learn the lesson from it that God would have us learn. We read from chapter 3, verses 12-31 of the book of Judges:

Judges 3

12And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the LORD: and the LORD strengthened Eglon the king of Moab against Israel, because they had done evil in the sight of the LORD.
13And he gathered unto him the children of Ammon and Amalek, and went and smote Israel, and possessed the city of palm trees.
14So the children of Israel served Eglon the king of Moab eighteen years.
15But when the children of Israel cried unto the LORD, the LORD raised them up a deliverer, Ehud the son of Gera, a Benjamite, a man lefthanded: and by him the children of Israel sent a present unto Eglon the king of Moab.
16But Ehud made him a dagger which had two edges, of a cubit length; and he did gird it under his raiment upon his right thigh.
17And he brought the present unto Eglon king of Moab: and Eglon was a very fat man.
18And when he had made an end to offer the present, he sent away the people that bare the present.
19But he himself turned again from the quarries that were by Gilgal, and said, I have a secret errand unto thee, O king: who said, Keep silence. And all that stood by him went out from him.
20And Ehud came unto him; and he was sitting in a summer parlour, which he had for himself alone. And Ehud said, I have a message from God unto thee. And he arose out of his seat.
21And Ehud put forth his left hand, and took the dagger from his right thigh, and thrust it into his belly:
22And the haft also went in after the blade; and the fat closed upon the blade, so that he could not draw the dagger out of his belly; and the dirt came out.
23Then Ehud went forth through the porch, and shut the doors of the parlour upon him, and locked them.
24When he was gone out, his servants came; and when they saw that, behold, the doors of the parlour were locked, they said, Surely he covereth his feet in his summer chamber.
25And they tarried till they were ashamed: and, behold, he opened not the doors of the parlour; therefore they took a key, and opened them: and, behold, their lord was fallen down dead on the earth.
26And Ehud escaped while they tarried, and passed beyond the quarries, and escaped unto Seirath.
27And it came to pass, when he was come, that he blew a trumpet in the mountain of Ephraim, and the children of Israel went down with him from the mount, and he before them.
28And he said unto them, Follow after me: for the LORD hath delivered your enemies the Moabites into your hand. And they went down after him, and took the fords of Jordan toward Moab, and suffered not a man to pass over.
29And they slew of Moab at that time about ten thousand men, all lusty, and all men of valour; and there escaped not a man.
30So Moab was subdued that day under the hand of Israel. And the land had rest fourscore years.
31And 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.

This is the story of the second declension, and I suppose it would be wise to point out to you one or two things in the story, not by way of spiritual application but simply by explanation, so that you might be able to understand the story itself.

Ehud's Plan for Deliverance

God, as was His custom, raised up a deliverer for Israel. Eglon was the king of Moab, who was ruler over Israel during this second declension. Ehud was raised up to do battle against the Moabites. Ehud followed a very cunningly devised plan. We do not know whether God gave him this plan. We do not know whether he devised it very cunningly himself, but this we must keep in mind: He was raised up of God and so was led in whatever plan he devised to deliver the children of Israel. The plan he devised was a very cunning one. He was a left-handed man, so he bound his dagger on his right thigh. Individuals who would go in to see the king naturally would be searched for weapons. The weapon would not be where it would commonly be expected to be, and so he was able to go in to the presence of the king with the dagger on the right thigh, since he was a left-handed man.

As he did go into the presence of the king, he bore him a present–more likely a tribute–which would be expected from captive people. When he told him he had a present for him, that was not too unusual. When he told him he had a message from God for him, the king, according to Oriental custom in reverence to any god whether he happened to worship him or not, stood to his feet, and there in the summer parlor–that is an outdoor house where he went to cool himself in the summertime–Ehud slew Eglon, plunging the dagger into his body. He very quietly closed the door and locked it. That gave him plenty of time to get away, because the servants, of course, would not dare to disturb the king when the king had ordered them out of his presence in order to receive the message Ehud had for him. When it did seem that he tarried longer than usual, they thought that he covered his feet in his summer chamber (they thought that he was taking a nap), and they sure enough dared not disturb him while he was doing a thing like that; but when it was longer than needed to be, they did investigate, as you know from our story, and they found their king dead. But by this time, Ehud had rallied round him the Israelites and they were able to do battle against the Moabites and have victory. This was God's deliverance.

There is a reference to another deliverer by the name of Shamgar. But we should look upon this man, not as a deliverer because the children of Israel went into declension again, but rather as a deliverer who was needed as well as was Ehud for the victory against the Philistines this time, who would have naturally invaded the land, not necessarily because the children of Israel had been disobedient.

I think one other word might need explanation from a natural standpoint and that is the word found in verse 26, where you read:

Judges 3

26And Ehud escaped while they tarried, and passed beyond the quarries, and escaped unto Seirath.

The word “quarries” here refers to the memorial stones which the children of Israel raised when part of them stayed on one side of Jordan and part of them stayed on the other side of Jordan. This is the natural explanation of the story we have read in order that we might have all of the facts clear in our minds. You will recall that we said we were going to study the book of Judges not merely from a historical standpoint, but from a spiritual, typical standpoint, keeping in mind that the declensions into which the children of Israel fell represents the ups and downs of the average Christian experience.

Profession Without Possession

You will remember that in the first declension, from which they were delivered by Othniel, they had a problem in relation to their incomplete obedience. They intermingled, they intermarried, and then they went into idolatry. This second declension was due to what we are going to refer to as “profession without possesion.” It was going to be due to the fact that they professed to be a spiritual people when actually they were not possessed by the Spirit of God.

If you fix that fact in your mind, “profession without possession,” then we will be able to build our message around it, and you will be able to understand the gist of the Word of God about which we have been speaking. You will recall that when we began our studies, each declension was going to follow a fourfold outline. There would be a word about the disobedience of which they were guilty. There would be a word about the discipline which God administered. There would be a word about the deliverer whom God raised up, and then there would be a word concerning the deliverance which was provided.

As you rethink the portion of the Word of God which we read, you realize that the disobedience of the children of Israel is not definitely named, nor is it explicitly stated. You might even wonder what their disobedience was, so permit me to say to you that their disobedience was indicated by their discipline. That is, if you say, “How did they disobey God?”, you ask how they were disciplined. When you know how they were disciplined, you will have some idea of their disobedience because their discipline would naturally be commensurate with their disobedience. Even though we will look at their discipline in detail later, I think as we look at it from a typical standpoint right now, we will be able to understand what the disobedience was. Let us notice here again in verse 12 of Judges, chapter 3:

Judges 3

12And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the LORD: and the LORD strengthened Eglon the king of Moab against Israel, because they had done evil in the sight of the LORD.
13And he gathered unto him the children of Ammon and Amalek, and went and smote Israel, and possessed the city of palm trees.
14So the children of Israel served Eglon the king of Moab eighteen years.

If we look at the typical instruction, which is found in the names and the words related to the discipline of God, we will have some idea what their disobedience was. I have referred to the fact that it was due to profession without possession and that is brought to my attention by the fact that God strengthened Moab against the children of Israel. “Moab” stands for profession without possession. “Moab” stands for a false pride. “Moab” stands for individuals acting as if they have something when they do not have it. “Moab” stands for men presuming upon the grace of God by acting as though they were in a right relationship with God and they were not. Moab indicates to all that the children of Israel inwardly were out of fellowship when outwardly they were emphasizing the idea that they were.

The Pursuit of Materialism

We may ask ourselves why they were out of fellowship, and we have a suggestion in the name of Eglon, who was king of Moab. Eglon was the name of a Canaanite city, as well as the king of Moab. The root meaning of the word “Eglon,” is “wheel” or “an endless round of empty activities.” I think one of the clearest descriptions of the meaning of the word “Eglon,” and one of the clearest illustrations of what Israel's sin actually was, is described in the book of Ecclesiastes, chapter 1, verses 2-3.

Ecclesiastes 1

2Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.
3What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun?

The wise man goes ahead to describe what Bible scholars have referred to as the “endless wheel of nature”–that is, one thing succeeding another and repeating itself endlessly so that, in verse 10, we could read:

Ecclesiastes 1

10What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun? Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us.

We suggest, as we turn back to the book of Judges, that Israel at this particular time was involved in an endless round of activity which God looked upon as empty vanity. “Vanity of vanities, …all is vanity.” What was this empty pursuit that robbed them of their possession of the things of God? What was this empty pursuit that took its toll upon their spiritual life and made it necessary for God to deal with them in discipline? One word suggests to me what it was and that one word is related to the king of Moab. In Judges, chapter 3, verse 17, we read:

Judges 3

17And he brought the present unto Eglon king of Moab: and Eglon was a very fat man.

It is of very little significance to us to know that Eglon was a very fat man. What particular value is that to us? I think the value is found in the symbolic meaning of the word “fat” in the Scriptures. If you remember when we were studying the book of Deuteronomy, we read of a concern that God had in relation to the nation of Israel. It's described in Deuteronomy, chapter 31, verse 20. God said:

Deuteronomy 31

20For when I shall have brought them into the land which I sware unto their fathers, that floweth with milk and honey; and they shall have eaten and filled themselves, [notice carefully now] and waxen fat; then will they turn unto other gods, and serve them, and provoke me, and break my covenant.

Notice the statement, “filled themselves and waxen fat.” What was God saying? God was saying that He was afraid that when Israel, in the land, became prosperous, they would forget Him. The word “fat” in the Scripture is typical of a prosperity that encourages people to forget God. The Holy Spirit prompted the Psalmist to express this same truth in the Word of God, when in verse 69 of Psalm 119 he said:

Psalms 119

69The proud have forged a lie against me: but I will keep thy precepts with my whole heart.
70[Notice carefully now] Their heart is as fat as grease; but I delight in thy law.

Notice the phrase, “fat as grease.” A fat heart is a heart that is more interested in materialism than it is in the things of God. Now, if we take all of these typical suggestions and put them together, we could say that Israel's disobedience was an empty profession which resulted from the pursuit of materialism.

An Illustration of Materialism

If you want an accurate description of the spiritual condition of Israel at this particular time, I think you could find it in the book of the Revelation in the description that is given of the church at Laodicea. In Revelation, chapter 3, God spoke to the church at Laodicea and down in verse 17, He said:

Revelation 3

17Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:
18I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.
19As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.

God had to rebuke the church at Laodicea for its materialism and lack of spiritual power, and He had to rebuke the nation of Israel in this second declension for the very same thing. This, then, was their disobedience.

Disobedience Becomes Discipline

Following the outline that we suggested to you, we might ask, “What was their discipline?” God disciplined them in kind–that is, He permitted their disobedience to become their discipline. As we have already pointed out to you, He strengthened Eglon, king of Moab, against Israel because they had done evil in the sight of the Lord.

You may ask the question, “Just what do you mean God disciplined them in kind? What do you mean He let their disobedience become their discipline?” Turn in your Bibles, please, to Paul's first letter to Timothy, as I remind you of what we have often said to you, that sin is its own worst punishment, and in I Timothy, chapter 6, we have an illustration of that very fact. We read, starting with verse 6:

I Timothy 6

6But godliness with contentment is great gain.
7For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.
8And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.
9But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.
10For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

You see, Paul was writing of individuals who said, “We want to be rich. It doesn't matter what it takes, we want to be rich.” God said, “You will be.” And they were, but they were pierced through with many sorrows. The children of Israel, when they were journeying through the wilderness, begged God for meat. They wanted meat. God had provided manna, but they wanted meat. God said, “Meat you shall have,” and God gave them meat to such an extent that it came out their nostrils. God disciplines in the terms of disobedience.

Israel Robbed of Peace

Moab would have been enough disciplining from God's hand, but it was worse, for Moab, you will notice in verse 13 of Judges, chapter 3:

Judges 3

13And he gathered unto him the children of Ammon and Amalek, and went and smote Israel…

The word “Ammon” is typical of heresy. Individuals who become more interested in materialism than spiritual things do go into heresy, and Amalek is a type of the lust of the flesh. Individuals who are materialistically minded find themselves succumbing to the lusts of the flesh. So this threefold rod in the hand of God was more than the Israelites could stand. Robbing them of everything that was real, letting them go off into false teachings, letting them become subject to the lusts of the flesh, they were robbed of the most precious possession they had. Do you notice in verse 13 that when Moab and Ammon and Amalek went and smote Israel, they possessed the city of the palm trees? Palm trees, in the Scripture, are symbolic of peace. They are symbolic of victory. As we pursue our typical study today, we can say that God's discipline was such that the Israelites were robbed of peace. They were robbed of victory. The city of palm trees was taken from them.

Deliverance Provided

Sometimes when men lose the peace of God, they don't miss it at first, but if they have ever known God and ever followed where God has led, they miss His peace. They long for it; they desire to have it. We find the children of Israel doing exactly what they did in their first declension and what they will do in every other declension. We find them becoming tired of their servitude, and so we read in chapter 3, verse 14:

Judges 3

14So the children of Israel served Eglon the king of Moab eighteen years.

Have you noticed that the periods of servitude were not always of the same duration? Notice that there is a difference. There could be any number of reasons for the difference, but I am going to suggest one because of my interest in the numerical study of the Scripture. What was the number? Eighteen. Of what is the number eighteen composed? Of three and of six. Three times six equals eighteen, doesn't it? Three is the number of God; six is the number of discipline. What do we have in this eighteen year period of servitude? God's discipline. God knows exactly how long to apply the rod. God knows exactly how long to suffer disobedience before He applies the rod. This was God's discipline. They suffered; they cried unto the Lord, and in verse 15, we read:

Judges 3

15But when the children of Israel cried unto the LORD, the LORD raised them up a deliverer…

This is what He did, He does, and what He will always do. When the cry comes, the deliverer is provided. Now this deliverer was a man by the name of Ehud, the son of Gera. The man that was raised up and the manner in which he delivered the nation of Israel is but another illustration of the principle that we noticed with you when we began our study of the book of Judges, and that is that God follows His custom to use the weak things of the world to confound the mighty, the base things of the world to confound the mighty.

The Place of Privilege

We are not told anything about Ehud except one interesting thing, and that is that he was a left-handed man. In verse 15, you will notice:

Judges 3

15But when the children of Israel cried unto the LORD, the LORD raised them up a deliverer, Ehud the son of Gera, a Benjamite, a man lefthanded:…

It is an interesting thing to notice that this man was left-handed, because lefthandedness is a handicap, and scripturally, it is a sign of weakness. The interesting thing about this is that in Judges, chapter 20, verse 16, we discover that this left-handedness is a peculiarity which was related to the Benjamites. They were characterized by this matter of left-handedness. In Judges, chapter 20, verse 16, we read:

Judges 20

16Among all this people there were seven hundred chosen men lefthanded [and they were of the children of Benjamin, according to verse 15] ;

Think of it now; the children of Benjamin are characterized by being left-handed. This is very interesting to me, particularly in light of the fact that these men, sons of Benjamin, were really the sons of God's right hand because the word “Benjamin” means “the son of my right hand.” Now the right hand was the place of privilege. Benjamin was given the place of privilege, but as is so often the case, when God gives us a special place of blessing or a special place of recognition, it is necessary for Him to give us a handicap, a thorn in the flesh, to keep us humble. Otherwise, we would be insufferable.

Time does not permit us to turn to II Corinthians, chapter 12, but turn there when you have time and you will see that Paul was given the unusual privilege of being caught up into the third Heaven where God's throne was, and he was ready to come back and tell everything he had seen, but God shut his mouth. Then to keep him humble, because he had this unusual experience, He gave him a thorn in the flesh, which he repeatedly asked God to remove, and which God just as definitely refused to remove. I believe that if Paul had not had the privilege, he would not have had a thorn. I would say that the place of privilege usually comes with a thorn in the flesh. It did with the sons of Benjamin.

However, before we leave this portion in chapter 20 of Judges, I think that we should draw another lesson from it, and that is that where something could be a handicap to people that are not the sons of God's right hand, where something could be a handicap to people that do not know the Lord, people who know the Lord can turn the handicap into a blessing. I would like for you to notice verse 16 of Judges, chapter 20 again, and notice the words:

Judges 20

16Among all this people there were seven hundred chosen men lefthanded; [listen carefully] every one could sling stones at an hair breadth, and not miss.

Think about that. Left-handed men. They could have said, “Well, we can't make good warriors. We're left-handed.” What did they do? They overcame their handicap by becoming skilled with the sling shot, and they could sling a stone so that it would be within a hair's breadth of the target. It's a privilege to be the sons of the right hand, and so handicaps do not necessarily mean defeat.

Restoration to Fellowship

What kind of deliverance did God provide? We saw literally what He provided, how Ehud, with the cunning device that we have already described, obtained deliverance. We have said to you repeatedly that the Holy Spirit has not preserved records such as this just for that kind of information. There is a deeper, underlying spiritual meaning, and it behooves the child of God to dig that spiritual meaning out and find out exactly what it is, and I think that I can do that by suggesting to you that you notice the meaning of the word “Ehud.” It means “confession.” You notice the meaning of the word “Gera,” who was the father of Ehud. It means “meditation,” with a sense of thinking things over.

Gera came before Ehud, and meditation comes before confession, and I would like to suggest to you that these two things are essential to a restoration of fellowship. These two things are absolutely necessary if men are going to be restored to God after they have departed from Him. For example, the prodical, whose life story is given in Luke, chapter 15, meditated. He sat down in the hog pen and looked the situation over. He said, “I'm foolish to be here.” That is meditation. And then you recall he arose and went to his father. What was the first thing that he said to his father? He said, “Father, I have sinned.” That is confession. The Psalmist did the same thing in Psalm 119, verse 59, he said, “ I thought on my ways.” That's meditation. Then he said, “I turned to thy Word, and I kept thy Word, which I had not kept.” That's confession. Beloved, if you keep these two things in mind, you will always find the way of deliverance and you will find the way back to God.

The Weapon of Deliverance

Without getting bogged down in the right or the wrong in Ehud's actions, remember, as we have already pointed out to you, God was the one who raised him up for the purpose of deliverance. Without getting bogged down in his actions, I suggest that there is a typical significance in the weapon that Ehud used to conquer the thing that brought about the downfall of Israel. The word for “dagger” here originally meant “instrument of destruction.” Of course, it was a two-edged dagger, which brings to mind the Word of God. We suggest to you that this dagger should represent the Word of God, as we are reminded in Ephesians, chapter 6, verse 17, that when we go out against our enemy, we are to take the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God; and we are reminded in Hebrews, chapter 4, verse 12, that the Word of God is like a two-edged sword.

Remember in our story that Ehud plunged the dagger into the fat belly of Eglon with such force that it was lost. Now that is an ugly picture, and we are not going to dwell on it, but we would like to remind you that this is exactly the way that we ought to deal with sin in our lives as believers when that sin has separated us from the Word of God. We should take the Word of God and vigorously deal with the sin, for that is the only way that we are going to have any victory over the sin and the only way that we are going to find ourselves completely restored to fellowship.

This dagger, we are told, was a cubit in length. This is not the ordinary word for “cubit.” It is a different word. It is the word gomed , which speaks of a twelve-inch dagger. This twelve-inch dagger was used for deliverance. Twelve is the number of the government of God for in God's government, discipline must be administered if His children are to live as He would have them to live; and God in His government has ordered judging of sin before there can be deliverance, so we are expected to judge our sins.


We would like to drive home this one lesson with all of the energy that we are capable and that is that sin in the believer's life must be dealt with as vigorously as Ehud dealt with Eglon. The way it can be dealt with is first, meditation, then confession, and the use of the Word of God.

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