Shamgar Didn’t Leave us Much to Go On
After him was Shamgar the son of Anath, who killed 600 of the Philistines with an oxgoad, and he also saved Israel.
Shamgar doesn’t get much of the book of Judges. This one line is it. Later, somebody will sing about him, but they say even less than this verse.
There are two things we can get from this, though.
- An oxgoad was just a stick with a point on the end. It was one step down from a spear, in that it didn’t have a sharpened point. Just like spurs on cowboy boots jab at a horse without inflicting real pain or injury, an oxgoad was just a little more annoying than a shepherd’s staff. Pokey, yes, but deadly, no.
In the hands of Shamgar, empowered by God to liberate the Israelites from oppression, it was a deadly weapon. The dude was savage. This is like saying he killed 600 men with a broken shovel handle.
We need to note here that Israel is slowly descending into becoming just like the Canaanites around them. When they were delivered from Egypt, not a single Hebrew harmed an Egyptian. Their deliverance came 100% from the Lord. So as these killings get more brutal (more brutal than Eglon yesterday?!) watch and you’ll see the Israelites become more like the world around them.
- He was the son of Anath. On the one hand, Anath can just be someone not named elsewhere and we say attaboy Anath, way to raise a son that served the Lord. The problem is, there is another Anath that has been discovered all over the area of Canaan from the time of the judges.
By Jewish tradition (and they were the guys that wrote Judges, remember) Anath was the name of a warrior goddess that was the wife of Baal. Yes, that Baal. The false god of the Canaanites that Joshua was driving out. The false god that Moses told them not to intermingle with or worship. The false god that demanded child sacrifice and a bunch of other wicked things.
So, if Shamgar is the son of the warrior goddess and nothing in his victory mentions “God gave the land peace for 80 years” like it does for other judges, we can see Israel is still descending. He might have been mighty, he might have been tough, but if his prowess is being credited to him because he was a son of Mrs. Anath Ba’al, it’s not good.
We don’t know for sure. Jewish tradition can be a little funny sometimes, but some of it is accurate enough that Jesus referred to it. (Other things, not Shamgar, unfortunately.)
As far as our day goes, while we aren’t out killing 600 people with a stick, what if we left no question afterward that the work that we did was empowered by God?
What if, even if all history has about us is a one-liner, we lived obvious for Jesus?