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. He too saved Israel. Wow!
The Judge just prior to Shamgar, a man named Ehud delivered Israel from subjugation by the king of Moab by stabbing the very obese king of Moab named Eglon with a 16” dagger strapped to his thigh. That one act gave Israel the courage to throw off years of bondage and they were able to enjoy 80 years of peace and self-rule.
But after 80 years, Israel once again faced the prospect of being overtaken by an enemy, one of the 5 kings of the Philistines who had originally 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 in Israel but began to threaten Israel’s very survival. Israel needed a leader to deliver them. This time God called on a man named Shamgar.
We know very little about Shamgar. All that scripture reveals to us about him comes from this short, 20-word description that hints both at his origins and describes his the manner of how he delivered Israel. His name was not of Hebrew origin, but rather Mesopotamian. The term ben Anath, meaning son of Anath, seems to suggest that Shamgar had both a foreign lineage and that it was a feminine name. It was unusual that a son would carry his mother’s name as the custom was for sons to carry their father’s name. Anath was also a well-known name for a goddess in this time period in Israel’s history. This all seems to suggest that Shamgar was a foreigner, quite possibly raised by a single mother, who was living peaceably within the boarders of Israel.
Shamgar’s entire life story comes down to us in his defeat of a Philistine outpost of 600 warriors using an ox goad. An ox goad was a useful tool for a shepherd, but it could also be a formidable weapon. An ox goad could be 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 as literally a “cattle-teacher.” Shamgar used this device in battle as a two-ended stabbing and clubbing weapon. He may not have defeated all 600 Philistines by himself, as he may have been the leader of the raiding party that routed the Philistines, but the outcome we know. Shamgar used the tool he knew best to overcome his enemies.
That is often the recipe for success in life. Use that which God has put in your life and use it to the best of your ability. I find it interesting that Shamgar did not make excuses about his family background, that he needed to protect his mother, or that he was a foreigner to get out of the battle. If you think of it, He could have said he did not have the right weapon or that he did not have a father’s reputation to rely upon to fight the battle. He could have made all sorts of excuses, but he didn’t.
Shamgar used an 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 the nation, people like David, Daniel, Deborah, and Esther. They all wielded the only resource they had, whether it was an ox goad, a sling, a spike, or eyelashes…I’ll let you figure that one out. God used them and whatever they had to deliver His people! So the question I have to ask is, what do you have in your possession that God will use to deliver his people? Is it your job, your family, your computer, or your living room?
God still uses whatever we have to offer. As the old saying goes, “The only ability God needs is our availability.” Let’s do the best we can, with what we have, where we may find ourselves, no matter what our background, with no excuses, and let’s see what God will do! Amen!