Shamgar is perhaps the most unusual deliverer—and his account the shortest—featured in the book of Judges.
Shamgar was a judge in Israel. According to the author, Shamgar followed Ehud, who sneaked a sword into the palace of Eglon, king of Moab, and killed him. Following the assassination of Moab’s king, Ehud led the Israelites in battle, where they killed around ten thousand Moabite soldiers.
And though the Moabite threat was neutralized, the writer introduced a new danger: the Philistines who lived along the coast. They would prove to be one of Israel’s most persistent and dangerous enemies. To deal with them, God raised up a man named Shamgar.
What makes Shamgar so unusual is his name—it is not a Hebrew name. Nor was his hometown, Beth Anath, a Hebrew town. Located in the territory of Naphtali, Beth Anath was a Canaanite town that was subjugated but not destroyed by the Israelites. The residents of Beth Anath had been allowed to live as forced laborers. While the text yields no further clues about Shamgar’s identity, the strong implication is that he was foreign—in all likelihood a Canaanite.
The text does not bother to clarify whether Shamgar acted specifically in Israel’s defense or simply out of a mutual hatred for the Philistines. In any case, Shamgar used an oxgoad—a wooden device with a sharp metal tip—to great effect, slaying six hundred Philistines. Almost as if anticipating Hebrew skepticism at the thought of a Canaanite deliverer, the writer simply states, “He too saved Israel” (Judges 3:31).
Shamgar is yet another reminder of God’s prerogative to use anyone —even the unlikeliest of people—to achieve His sovereign plan. God’s purposes have always transcended nationality and ethnicity (see Genesis 12:3).