The Bible Says What? ‘‘King Eglon was so fat his assassin’s sword disappeared in his body’’

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

The Bible Says What? ‘‘King Eglon was so fat his assassin’s sword disappeared in his body’’

Rabbi Sylvia Rothschild takes a controversial topic from Jewish texts and looks at a progressive response

Torah scroll (Photo by Tanner Mardis on Unsplash)
Torah scroll (Photo by Tanner Mardis on Unsplash)

The Book of Judges has some violent and gory stories, but possibly the strangest is the assassination of the Moabite King Eglon, who had oppressed the Israelites for 18 years.  

Repeatedly, Israel does wrong in the sight of God and, just before our story, we have the tale of their eight-year oppression by the King of Aram-Naharaim after they had practiced Baal worship and turned away from God. 

Otniel, younger brother of Caleb, was chosen by God to save them. Once free they had peaceful times for 40 years until Otniel died and again the people forgot their history and covenant with God. 

Now Israel was again subjugated by a foreign power and cried out to God, who God chose the left-handed Benjaminite Ehud, son of Gera. 

Ehud takes a present to Eglon, but hidden strapped to his right thigh was a double-edged sword measuring a cubit long. He offers the present and the verse ends with the words: “Eglon was very fat”. 

Then he sends away the other Israelites and says to Eglon: “I have a secret present too”. The king dismisses his entourage and when Ehud says: “It’s a message from God,” Eglon stands up.  

Instantly, Ehud draws the hidden sword and buries it deep in the fat of the king. The sword disappears into his body, severing the bowel, which empties. Then Ehud leaves, locking the doors behind him.  

A moment of ‘comedy’ comes now – the servants wait to the point of embarrassment to go into the king because they believe he is on the toilet, rather than enduring an agonising death. Finally, they go in and find him lying dead. After a battle with Moab, the Israelites are free, enjoying peace for 80 years. 

  •  Sylvia Rothschild has been a Reform Community Rabbi in south London for 30 years 

Support your Jewish community. Support your Jewish News

Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.

Unlike other Jewish media, we do not charge for content. That won’t change. Because we are free, we rely on advertising to cover our costs. This vital lifeline, which has dropped in recent years, has fallen further due to coronavirus.

For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.

Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.

You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.

100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...


Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.


There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.


In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.


Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.

Easy access

In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.

Voice of our community to wider society

The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.

We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.

read more: