“Do the best you can, with what you have, wherever you find yourself, no matter what your history.”
Judges 3:31 After Ehud came Shamgar son of Anath, who struck down six hundred Philistines with an ox-goad. He too saved Israel.
Shamgar was the 3rd Judge mentioned in the book of Judges. Shamgar delivered Israel by striking down 600 Philistines with an ox-goad. What???
Prior to Shamgar, a man named Ehud delivered Israel from subjugation by the king of Moab. Ehud did this by stabbing their very rotund obese king named Egon with a 16” dagger strapped to his thigh. That one act gave Israel courage to throw off their bonds and they were able to enjoy 80 years of peace and self rule.
But after 80 years, Israel once again faced the prospects of being overtaken by an enemy, one of the 5 kings of the Philistines who had come from the island of Crete. This enemy built fortifications on the coast of Israel in order to house 600 warriors. This was a common Greek war-time strategy of this period of time. These Philistines not only created a stronghold within Israel, but began to threaten Israel’s survival. Israel needed a leader and it was at this time that God called on a man named Shamgar to deliver Israel.
We know very little about Shamgar. All that scripture reveals to us about him comes from a this short, 20 word description that hints at his origins and describes his mighty deed. His name was not of Hebrew origin, but rather has Mesopotamian. The term ben Anath (“son of Anath”) also seems to suggest that Shamgar had a foreign linage. The name Anath is a feminine name. It was unusual for a son to carry his mothers name, as the custom of the time was for sons to carry their fathers name. Anath was also a well known name for a goddess in this time period in Israel’s history. This seems to suggest that Shamgar was a foreigner, quite possibly raised by a single mother, who was living peaceably in Israel.
Shamgar’s entire life story comes down to defeating a Philistine outpost of 600 warriors by using an ox-goad, probably because he tended cattle as an occupation. An ox-goad was a useful tool and it could be a formidable weapon. It could have been up to eight feet long with a sharp metal hook on one end and a point on the other. Two Hebrew words are used to describe it; literally as a “cattle-teacher”—hence, ox-goad or cattle prod. Shamgar used this device in battle as a two-ended stabbing and clubbing weapon. We are not sure if He defeated all 600 Philistines by himself, or that he was the leader of the raiding party that routed the Philistines, but what we know is that he used the only resource he owned and used it faithfully to overcome his enemies.
Shamgar’s success was that he did the best with what he had. It did not matter where he found himself nor what his background was nor that he only had a mother to claim allegiance too. He very much could have retreated from the fight being a foreigner. He could have said he did not have the right weapons or that he did not have a father’s reputation to rely upon. He could have made all sorts of excuses, but he didn’t. Shamgar used a ox-goad to save an entire nation. Scripture only uses 20 words to tell us about his life, but in those 20 words his name rises to the ranks of other heroes that saved Israel like David, Daniel, Deborah and Esther. They all wielded whatever weapon they had and God used them to deliver His people!
God will use whatever we have to offer. God empowers us even when we don’t have the right background. As the old saying goes, the only ability God needs is our availability. “Do the best you can, with what you have, wherever you find yourself, no matter what your history.” Amen!