The story of Shamgar or how to become a hero with few resources

caravan_unesco.jpg
Caravan in the desert, Mauritania (portal.unesco.org)
Text: Judges 3:31 (5:6-8)

Heroes are considered to be supermen and superwomen: smart, cute, strong, rich. If you really read your Bible will find soon enough that this standard is not favoured by God. The Christian heritage does not have superheroes of this kind, because there is only one: God Himself, Lord of Hosts, Mighty Warrior.

Shamgar might be eligible for the position of the most obscure biblical character: his name is mentioned in only two places. We do not have knowledge whatsoever about his birth, childhood, youth, family, education, career. To him the author of Judges does not allocate any particular hometown, wealth or obituary. His history is framed by the more important stories of Ehud and Deborah-Barak.

Deborah mentions him once and describes the historical background which defined the circumstances which popped her up as a most important person in the leadership of a drifting nation: commerce almost halted, black market was flourishing, idolatry was prefered to the true worship, the people of Israel was defenseless, vulnerable to their enemies assault due to the lack of military training and weapons endowment. It seems that the Philistenes were holding secret the technology of metal processing (1 Sam. 13:19-23).

In spite of all these disadvantages, Shamgar-ben-Anath, an israelite farmer raises against the Philistene occupation forces and have a tremendous succes. His weapon is improvised from an oxgoad (a stick with a sharp iron head). His victims reached the incredible number of 600. Of course those times were much different than ours by that in the Ancient Near East violence was considered the legitimate way to solve conflicts not only at the national level, but also at the personal level. This cannot justify the use of violence, especially by Christians, in families or elsewhere, less so when the cause has no national impact. Shamgar led his folks in a fair fight for freedom. For this reason his contribution to the history of Israel was considered significantly important, and he received the title of “deliverer”.

To have a clear understanding of his great achievement we need to compare it with other similar achievements in those days. Ehud had a great army and exterminated 10,000 Moabites; Barak had ten thousand soldiers and he dismantled an army of 900 chariots and 100 times more infantry; Gideon and his 300 rangers scattered a countless army of nomads; Samson killed once 1,000 Philistenes with a jawbone; at the dawn of his life Samson made a house collapse over 3,000 Philistenes and died with them.

Although we are not to seek being heroes, we might consider the fact that we can be witnesses of dramatic and incredible stories because our God is Almighty. Get ready for His mighty deeds. Do not ever consider yourself insignificant, unimportant, unprepared or unknown. This is exactly the type of material the Lord uses for His deeds. Look at the angels: they are transparent to the point that people are always confusing them with the Lord Himself. Be that vessel which the Lord can use to carry his glory to others.

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