Week of Proper 12, Year Two[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]
Today’s Readings for the Daily Office:
Psalms 72 (morning) // 119:73-96 (evening)
Today’s first reading is not for the squeamish. The hero of the story is a man named Ehud, who is left-handed. He uses this relatively unusual quality to his advantage against King Eglon, who once defeated the Israelites and has been collecting tribute from them for the past eighteen years. Ehud plots to assassinate King Eglon while delivering the Israelites’ final payment of tribute.
Before paying his visit to King Eglon, Ehud ties a small, straight sword on the inside of his right thigh. Presumably, this weapon would escape notice in a pat-down. If Ehud were searched, the guards would probably only examine his left side for weapons, since that’s where they were most accessible for a quick draw with the right hand. Little would the guards know that Ehud would reach for a weapon with his left hand, not his right.
The assassination itself is almost too easy: Ehud meets King Eglon in a private chamber. When Ehud claims to have a secret message for King Eglon, the king sends all of his guards away. Then, Ehud takes the sword from his right thigh into his left hand, stabs King Eglon deep in the gut, and quickly leaves, locking the doors behind him. The story includes the repulsive detail that, when stabbed, King Eglon’s bowels ruptured and emptied their contents into the room.
After Ehud makes his escape, King Eglon’s guards return and find the chamber doors locked. Somewhat comically, the guards assume that King Eglon has locked the doors for privacy as he relieves himself. (Little do they know that he has, in fact, emptied his intestines!) The guards wait for what amounts to an embarrassingly long time outside the door, but you never know how much time a person requires for their basic needs. Finally, they unlock the door and find the king dead. Meanwhile, their polite patience for allowing King Eglon to relieve himself in peace has given Ehud a head start back to his homeland.
Long story short: The Bible is not above toilet humor, even in the middle of a brutal story. But also, we learn from this story that some of our quirks or characteristics, like left-handedness, that usually put us in the minority, might come in very handy for defeating oppressors and lifting up God’s people. While assassinations aren’t usually consistent with the kingdom proclaimed by Jesus, this story’s broader affirmation of our special traits can help us to prepare for the moments when we too, as our unique selves, can be instrumental in victories of freedom and peace.
Lora Walsh blogs about taking risks and seeking grace at A Daily Scandal. She serves as Priest Associate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and assists with adult formation and campus ministry at St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.