Incidental Details

The book of Judges notes that Ehud was “a left-handed man” (1) and King “Eglon was a very fat man.” (2) Hmm. 🤔 These are strange details to note in scripture, don’t you think? 🧐 But as a writer, I know that if an author points out something incidental early in the story, it isn’t . . . incidental.  Therefore, as I read these seemingly minor notations, I am officially on alert that these facts will be utterly important.  Let’s see if my writer’s intuition is correct! 🤓

Ehud enters our story when “the people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord.” (3) King Eglon had been ruling (oppressing) the Israelites for 18 years when Ehud came to the king with a gift. Of course, the soldiers searched everyone who approached the king, looking for weapons. They were especially attentive to a man’s left thigh, where a sword would be bound. Being left-handed, however, Ehud hid his sword “on his right thigh under his clothes.” (4) He slipped into the presence of the king armed. So the incidental detail that Ehud was left-handed is quite important in this story.  

Let’s move on to the random mention of King Eglon’s fatness. Once alone with the king, “Ehud said, ‘I have a message from God for you.’ And he arose from his seat. And Ehud reached with his left hand, took the sword from his right thigh, and thrust it into his belly. And the hilt also went in after the blade, and the fat closed over the blade, for he did not pull the sword out of his belly; and the dung came out. Then Ehud went out into the porch and closed the doors of the roof chamber behind him and locked them.” (5)

Okay . . . but how does the king’s obesity really make a difference in this scene? Read on. 😏 “When he had gone, the servants came, and when they saw that the doors of the roof chamber were locked, they thought, ‘Surely he is relieving himself in the closet of the cool chamber.’ And they waited till they were embarrassed. But when he still did not open the doors of the roof chamber, they took the key and opened them, and there lay their lord dead on the floor.” (6)

You see, Ehud was able to bury his sword in the king’s fat belly so that when the attendants finally came in, they did not even see that their king had been assassinated. They saw him on the floor, saw no weapon, saw no blood, but instead saw excrement—all because “the fat closed over the blade” (7) and they paused . . . and pondered what to do. And “Ehud escaped while they delayed.” (8)  So the incidental detail of King Eglon’s excessive weight was quite important in this story. And with the king dead, the Israelites followed Ehud into a great battle “and they killed at that time about 10,000 of the Moabites.” (9)

What’s the point to this dark comedy? Being overweight is dangerous? True—but not the point. Left-handed people are clever? Possibly—but not the point.

The point is this: there is no such thing as an incidental detail. There is nothing minor or irrelevant or random in our lives. There is no inconsequential item, no frivolous feature, no insignificant thing that God cannot use to accomplish his purpose. As a matter of fact, the incidental details in our lives are where God does his greatest work! So, am I saying that Ehud’s left-handedness and Eglon’s obesity was part of the master plan? Yes. 😏 Yes, it was. We do not give God enough credit. His purpose for us is worked out in the details. He is more powerful than we will ever comprehend. So, perhaps the next time something appears incidental in our lives, we should reconsider that it isn’t . . . incidental.

(1) Judges 3:15    (2) Judges 3:17    (3) Judges 3:12   (4) Judges 3:16    (5) Judges 3:20-23   (6) Judges 3:24-25   (7) Judges 3:22    (8) Judges 3:26    (9) Judges 3:29

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