Now Ehud had made a double-edged sword about a cubit long, which he strapped to his right thigh under his clothing. He presented the tribute to Eglon king of Moab, who was a very fat man. (NIV)
So this one is a little bit of work. In Judges 3, the Israelites are being oppressed, as a hero rises up. Ehud makes himself a peculiar little knife.
As Marc Zvi Brettler notes: “The possible sexual significance of Ehud’s sword in v.16, as short and double-sided, namely as a short straight sword, gains importance once we realize that the typical sword of the period had a curved side with which one hacked away at enemies, and this is a much less appropriate phallic symbol.”
Ehud makes a sharp, straight, possibly phallic-looking knife, and goes to meet the king who lords it over them. He hides his knife on his right side, where men don’t usually carry them.
Ehud has a secret. He’s left-handed. In the Bible, that’s the feminine side.
Eglon, the king, is not ‘fat’. The same Hebrew word used in Daniel 1:15, to mean ‘healthy’. Karolien Vermeulen affirms the meaning is “health, beauty, and attractiveness of the animal, or human as in this case.”
So we have Ehud, with his knife, going to see Ehud, who is . . . healthy and beautiful. You see where this is going?
When the translator Robert Alter notes the “deliberate sexual nuance,” however, a Christian reader is probably . . . shocked.
“I have a secret message for you, O king,” Ehud says, and for some reason, the ‘handsome’ king sends all attendants away, so they’re alone.
The king rises from his seat, and approaches. In the usual translations, Ehud moves for the kill. He takes out his ‘sword’ and “plunges it into the king’s belly” — as king’s bowels discharge.
“The number of scholars who have resisted reading this as male-on-male sex is really quite astonishing,” says Christine Mitchell.
Ehud the tribute is raped, then pulls out his secret knife and guts the king. Welcome to Jewish spirituality!